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“Well, Sir !" cried Mattocks, am I to blame ?"
“Certainly—most certainly. I own I ordered the men to be stationed there-I ordered them to be armed; but, Sir, I–I didn't order them to use their arms. I thought, naturally enough, every reasonable person would have thought so, that putting weapons in their hands would be going quite far enough.”
"I don't believe, by what I have heard, that the mischief is very great,” said the steward.
“I hope not-I hope not. See—but don't let it be known that the man's attended to; and, hark ye, Mr. Mattocks, let the keeper discharge all his followers."
“And ar'n't the man-traps to be kept set, Sir ?"
“Kept set!” exclaimed Jones, in astonishment_“what! have they been set at all ?”
Carefully set, Sir,” answered the steward. “Mr. Mattocks, I'll have no such doings on my estate, Sir. It's all very well that the boards should remain; but, on second thoughts, I think that's going quite far enough.'
“And then the mastiffs, Sir ?” “They can't bite—and they may frighten trespassers,” said Jones. “ Can't bite, Sir!” cried the astonished steward. Why not, Sir?”
Why not? Because, of course, you muzzled them. The look of the dogs will be found quite sufficient-yes, that will be going quite far enough.
But the mischief was done; and Jones, despite his pacific intentions, had for ever forfeited the confidence of his dependants. He took refuge in Parliament from the weariness of rustic life, and, to his own astonishment, distinguished himself as a very eloquent member. At a dissolution he again presented himself to his constituents, who, with little ceremony, rejected him.
The disappointment was too much for Jones: he was mortally wounded by the ingratitude of man. He pined, and pined, and died-a rejected member.
“Ha, Doctor !" he would say, “I don't know who would serve his country. You see how I have been treated! Rejected for—but no matter. And yet I should like to know what complaint they could have against me?”
“Why, I–I have heard, 'Squire, that they charge you with inconsistency. “Inconsistency !" cried Jones.
Yes, on the the Bill,” said the doctor. “Why, I spoke and voted for it on the first reading, didn't I ?” " You did.” " And on the second ?" “ Assuredly; but then you spoke and voted against it on the third.”
“I confess it; for,” exclaimed the dying patriot, “I thought I had gone quite far enough."
Jones was never married, yet have we heard it stoutly maintained that he has had sons and grandsons in all parliaments downwards.
“ ROBINSON," the last of the three boys, will, in due season, appear.
THE EVIL EYE OF THE OXFORD ROAD.
BY A NERVOUS GENTLEMAN,
Few are the individuals who are so fortunate as to pass through life without some temporary occasion for personal concealment. Debts and duns are not the sole motives for occasional seclusion; a fair companion of one sex, or a black companion of the other—associates who will not be privately shaken off, and cannot be publicly avowed--a vindictive wife-an angry father-an election manæuvre--a literary production recently damned-nay, even the disfigurement of some cutaneous blemish defying the powers of Gowland and Rowland, may induce the most audacious of mankind to skulk for a time. To the unfortunate majority of my readers who may have submitted to similar necessity, I appeal for confirmation of my own experience, that however insignificant at other periods—however diminutive in stature or trivial in importance-the fatal necessity for passing unobserved, like the charm of histrionic talent, makes
“ Prichard genteel, and Garrick six feet high ;" invests a pigmy with gigantic eminence, and endows the shadow of a shade with the substantial muscularity of the Farnesian Hercules. The shrinking incognito finds himself expanding and expanding till, like Alphonso's phantom in the “ Castle of Otranto," no earthly dwelling will limit his dimensions, and the eyes of the whole world become riveted on his superhuman immensity. For him there exists no shade, no obscurity; the thickest veil grows transparent, and the darkest night seems illuminated by some miraculous aurora borealis; every crow becomes an Argus pheasant as it perches by his side, and the very peacocks, as they spread their tails in the sun, seem to regard him with a thousand peering eyes.
It matters little to the world by what disastrous concatenation of circumstances I found myself in the spring of 1830 reduced to the necessity for a partial eclipse-I say partial, because, even in the extremity of the case, I might have sat in the centre and enjoyed clear day, or walked unfearingly in the brightness of meridian sunshine through every metropolis from one end of Europe to the other. A sidebox at Covent-garden, a chair in the Tuileries gardens, a stall at the Kärnthner Thor, a lounge on the Prado or the Corso, would have wrought me no manner of evil: I might have smoked a cigar on St. Stephen's Green, or confronted the literary mists of Prince's-street, without apprehension or annoyance. Nevertheless, I had my vulnerable heel. Why should I blush to own it? Troy, Marathon, Waterloo, Varna, have witnessed the defeat of heroes; and I am free to admit, that one city of the United Kingdom--one fatal and inevitable citycontained for myself the elements of personal disaster-Granta, or in plain English, Oxford.
Such, too, was the contrariety of my destiny, that circumstances of great moment actually compelled me to march to the field of action, to carry myself and my presentiments to the scene of annoyance, to dare
detection among ten thousand observant individuals. Nay, to make the matter worse, I had a whole month to contemplate the approaching catastrophe; thirty miserable nights wherein to shape detection in every variety of annoyance which nightmare could devise; thirty tedious days wherein to ponder, and grieve, and despond over the probabilities of speedy and public recognition ! Sometimes I started from my pillow as a voice, shrill as that of a guinea-fowl before a storm, seemed to shout my name from some mysterious concealment; sometimes a detestable dear old friend appeared to seize me by the arm with officious fervour as I sought to pass him by and make no sign; sometimes a stray cur fixing its fangs into my leg, and piercing through boots and overalls as though they had been manufactured, like the garments of Tom Thumb, of an oak-leaf and a spider's web, forced me to shriek out for mercy, and raise the slouched hat from my agonized brows. From these and similar dreams, I used to wake to the dreadful certainty that all these pains must actually be endured in the flesh as well as the spirit; that
Airy tongues, which syllable men's names," were very likely to vociferate mine from some attic story—that officious friends and yelping puppy-dogs were waiting for me by dozens in my unsatisfactory destination-and that I had no better chance of evading their united detection than such as might be attained through the assistance of a coat un-fitted by my ordinary tailor; a hat of anything but my usual form and dimensions; and a gait as little resembling my accustomed frank and fearless dignity of demeanour, as if it had been trained under the tutorage of a mincing French dancing-master.
At length the fatal hour of trial approached. April was the latest month to which I could procrastinate my visit; and as the boisterous winds of March howled around me with that leonine voice which is ever said to mark their oriental origin, I attempted to elevate my spirit to their uproarious level, and bully myself into courage. After due consideration, I resolved, that as redundance of precaution often oversteps its mark, I would treat the matter cavalierly; and whereas a scudding step and downcast visage are apt to attract the notice and puzzle the curiosity of the Paul Prys of the creation, I promised myself to assume the lofty port of the Place Vendome column, and wear out the everlasting flint with the step of a recruiting serjeant. And yet my first manouvre was scarcely that of a hero. After reflecting that a midnight journey in his Majesty's mail would bring me to the dreaded spot in company with the rosy dawn, I could by no means make up my mind to confront day's garish eye in the onset of the business ;-to rush into a mob of ostlers, cads, waiters, bootses, and all the Centaurean monsters who hang about the stables of an inni, appeared little less than madness. I was sure to be accosted on the very step of the leathern conveniency with “ Mr. Sir, please to let me take the portmanty;” or “ Mr.
Sir, I've always had the job of your honour's luggage.” Fool that I was! I accordingly determined to travel down by a daycoach ; omitting from my calculations that the same number of miles and hours which sufficed to convey me from the Bull and Mouth to Oxford, between eight of the clock and sunrise, would not extend themselves to detain me between the Spread Eagle and the same destination
from seven in the morning till dusk of the evening. I had, in short, completely miscalculated the affair! The morning twilight would have presented me only to some half-dozen ragamuffins, engrossed by the extortion of “ tizzies” from coach-passengers; whereas, the setting sun was sure to expose me to shoals of my lounging friends and acquaintance, to whom the High-street affords an unfailing close to the monotony of a long afternoon, and to whom the arrival of the London coach is as refreshing as tidings of the Spring fleet to the exiles of the Hooghly.
Journeys in stage-coaches are usually treated with great humour by writers of fiction ; but I, alas! who am simply an autobiographer, must own that I have hitherto journeyed from Dan to Beersheba, from 'Truro to Berwick-upon-Tweed, 'in these miscellaneous vehicles, and “ found all barren." "I never had the luck to stumble on a beauty, a wit, or a wonder, in the course of my public-conveyance experience. On this occasion, my companions consisted of a female servant out of place, returning on a visit to her friends in the country, in a pair of very moistened cotton gloves and a cast-off bonnet of her last lady's; and an elderly man in gaiters, who was fast asleep when I placed myself by his side. All this suited me very well. The ex-housemaid was evidently a villager, and could have no concern in mine: and the old gentleman seated beside me, even if he should awake, could obtain only such a view of my countenance as I chose to afford. He might have been the leading grocer of the High-street of Oxford for anything I cared to the contrary. But again my calculations were erroneous ! I had not progressed five-and-twenty miles beyond the last turnpike of the last suburb of the metropolis before I discovered that our Cowslip was not only bent upon acquainting me with every incident of her own life, but upon rendering herself cognizant of mine. With the most unbewitching frankness, and artless impertinence, she perplexed me with such plain questions as it was impossible to answer except by naked truths, or naked untruths; such as whether I was married or single, - a father or childless,-a Londoner or Agrestian ;-whether I was going to Oxford or further, and whether I had ever been there before. There was a degree of simplicity in this audacious spirit of investigation which almost set me at my ease !-and I managed to reply to her early interrogatories without much expenditure of patience or veracity, when, just at the crisis of the catechism-just as I was at the point of uttering a monstrous fabrication, I perceived that my somnolent neighbour had not only shaken off his lethargy, but that nature having inserted his optics transversely, after the fashion commonly called swivel-eyed, the near eye of these obliquitous features, instead of being directed in an honest position towards the maiden in the calico gloves, was most nefariously fixed on myself! There it glared !- a fish-like, cold, unmoving, accusatory orb!—forming, as well as my fancy can conjecture, the moral antipodes of the insinuating pupil of the widow Wadman. No—I dared not hare uttered another equivocation for the world!
I verily believe the respectable gentleman in gaiters was innocent of any intention to annoy me ; for instead of pushing still further the cross-examination which had already so severely taxed my inventive faculties, he began to talk in the most desultory style of times and places, stock and stocks, Catholics and corn; nor did his conversation assume anything of a perplexing form, till the discussion upon place and time resolved itself into the shape of a calculation touching the probable period of our arrival at Oxford. Taking from his corduroys a globular tortoise-shell watch, of the date of the battle of Dettingen, he began to enlarge, with chuckling exultation, on the prolongation of daylight this fine spring weather; assuring us that we should reach the Angel by half-past four; or in other words, that I should find myself landed in the High-street with full two hours of daylight, as well as all my misfortunes before me !
What was to be done? To encounter the high tide of the lounging population at such an hour, in such a spot, was not to be thought of. I half resolved to stop at some village of the environs, on pretence of indisposition, or hunger, and proceed on my journey towards nightfall. But it is not every village which reckons “neat post-chaises
among its natural or artificial productions; and the act of discussion with coachee, the examination of the way-bill, and the search after and appropriation of the luggage addressed to
Esq., passenger, would expose my patronymic to a thousand perilous chances among my fellowtravellers. “After a renewal of my original resolve to meet the enemy with heroism, I threw myself once more into the corner of the coach, fancying that my perturbation could not have escaped the scrutiny of the swivel-eye which was fixed on all my movements with a sort of demoniacal bewitchment, and heartily praying that the clear chilly sky which overhung the road before us, might become obscured with clouds; that a hail-storm, or a thunder-storm, or any other kind of storm, might inundate the streets of Oxford previous to our arrival. But from the moment I formed this wish resplendent April sun shed forth its radiance in the heavens; and as its beams reached my disordered countenance, methought they seemed to waken a glance of fiendish and malignant triumph in the projecting grey swivel-eye, which interposed between my own and the window of the coach. Every minute I was growing more uneasy, more agitated, more conscious of impending evil; and right glad was I when, on drawing up at Wycombe, before the colossal effigy of a vermilion lion, with a beard spiked with iron palisadoes, I found that we were to stop dine, and that I should be for a time relieved from the unnatural glare of that perverted organ of vision.
Without being a curious epicurean, I must own that I entertain no peculiar predilection for stage-coach dinners. The sirloin of a superannuated draught-ox-an acidulated draught of stale ale--a pigeonpie made of rooks—and an apple-tart made of putty—are viands by no means inviting. Yet on the present occasion, intent upon prolonging the rich repast to the latest possible moment admissible by the patience of my companions, I set about demolishing two gigantic specimens of the gallinaceous tribe, which had probably crowed at the barn-door of the Red-Lion from the first sprouting of its ferruginous whiskers. While the individual in gaiters kept consulting, from minute to minute, his ponderous chronometer, I attacked wing after wing, drumstick after drumstick, tugged, twisted, hacked, and finally dismembered every limb of the unfortunate old fowls, till at length the uncompromising cry of “ Coach a-waiting gem'men,” admitted of no further effort. Nothing