KUCKY SARSON, THE BARBER;
THE DISCIPLE OF EQUALITY.
ONCE upon a time—and that was when "French
principles," as they were called, were beginning to spread in England, and
here and there one began to profess admiration of the new republic,—the
republic of 1793—the real republic, I
mean—there lived in the little town of Caistor, in North Lincolnshire, a
notable barber of the name of Habakkuk Sarson,—but "Kucky" was the name
by which he was familiarly known; for Lincolnshire folk are a plain folk,
and don't like, nor ever did, to trouble themselves with uttering long
It would be difficult to say how it was, exactly, but somehow
or other, in spite of the alarm which landowners and tenantry alike felt
at the broaching of "Jacobinism,"—that terror terrorum to the
squirearchy and farmers,—Kucky Sarson contrived to keep a fair share of
custom in the matter of clipping hair and scraping beards. Scarcely
an hour of the day but Kucky had a customer; or if customers scanted, he
was sure to have a company for gossip. Perhaps it was chiefly owing
to the frank-heartedness and real courtesy of manner which the barber
mingled with his earnest speech—for he was a very great talker, and a
good one too,—that he was respected by almost all who knew him,
notwithstanding his open profession of the principles of "equality."
Indeed, it was a maxim of Kucky Sarson, that, "if you
believed all men to be equal, you ought to treat every man like a
gentleman." "That is the especial hindrance to the spread of first
principles, sir," said Kucky to a customer one day. "Democrats foolishly
imagine, sir, that democracy consists in barking like a bull-dog, or
growling like a bear, at every man they meet; when, the fact is, that that
is just the way to repel a sensible man from both yourself and your
principles. Don't you think so, sir?"
Kucky's customer would have answered, but Kucky held him at
that moment by the nose, and was applying a keen razor to his upper lip. The earnest shaver did not think of this, but supposed, since his customer
was a stranger, that he was either modest or unacquainted with politics;
and, in the latter case, Kucky was too true an enthusiast to omit the
opportunity of trying to make a convert—so he resumed; after clearing his
throat with a loud "a-hem!"
"If the beautiful principles of equality do not spread, sir,"
he said, resolving to show his best graces of conversational style to a
well-dressed stranger, "in my humble opinion, it will be chiefly
attributable to the miscalculating rudeness of those who affect to
advocate them. These principles, in themselves, are so self-evidently
true, and so happily calculated to ensure the felicity of the human
family, that it is impossible for any unprejudiced man to—"
"Pardon me, friend," said the stranger, extricating his nose
from the barber's fingers somewhat dexterously, "there may be considerable
doubt about the self-evident truth of the principles you are speaking of:
you seem to me to be somewhat too hasty in concluding that every one, from
even a candid review of them, must acknowledge them to be
incontrovertible. Give me leave to say, my good friend, that nothing will
be more stoutly controverted than these same doctrines of human equality."
"Men may controvert them, sir," rejoined the barber, with
some shade of an approach to asperity of manner, "but I cannot, in my
conscience, give them credit for sincerity. Who was ever born into the
world with a star on his shoulder, to signify that he ought to rule his
fellows solely by his own will?—or who was ever created with a crook on
his knee to signify that he ought to bow down to the caprice of others? No, sir, the doctrines of equality are as clear as daylight when opposed
to the darkness of slavery and mastership. In short, sir, 'Right is every
man's, but wrong is no man's right,' was a maxim of my grandfather,—and I
think it settles the question."
"Indeed!" exclaimed the stranger, staring at the barber's
last words, and opening his lips till the lather ran into his mouth.
"Yes, sir—I think so," repeated Kucky, striving to look as
confident as before, but evidently somewhat doubtful, on second thought,
of the conclusiveness of his own odd logic,—"I think so, sir; for, as I
hold it to be a natural right for every man to be governed only by his own
consent, so I conclude it to be wrong for any other man to attempt to rule
him without first asking his will or waiting his choice. I think those two
points are as clear as twice two makes four: the first is a right, and
belongs to every man, and the second is a wrong that should be practised
by no man. Does not my grandfather's precept mean the same thing— 'Right
is every man's, but wrong is no man's right'?"
"Pardon me, my friend," replied the gentleman, unable
entirely to suppress a smile, "if I say that I admire your sincerity more
than your logic. Allow me further to say—"
"Oh, allow, sir!" exclaimed the barber, bowing very low, and
spreading out his hands,—"to be sure, I allow every man to judge for
himself, sir. It would be extremely inconsistent in me, who claim the
fullest freedom of opinion myself, to refuse others the liberty of
thought, sir. I pray you, sir, forgive me if I have been a little too
positive in my manner, I will assure you, sir, I am not a bigot,—indeed,
I am not—"
"Stay, stay, my friend!" cried the stranger, puzzled and
bothered with the superlative politeness of him of the razor, "if you will
finish your operation upon my chin, we will have half-an-hour's talk on
these subjects afterwards. In the mean time, believe me, I am happy to
find you are so truly tolerant of other men's opinions: if we all
cultivated that spirit, this world would speedily be much happier than it
"Excellent—excellent, sir!" exclaimed the honest and
enthusiastic barber, resuming his shaving, but too much excited to leave
his favourite theme—"you speak like a true gentleman, sir. I see we
really agree, although we may seem to differ; for you have just maintained
a sentiment which is purely in accordance with the principles I profess. Some great man once said, 'No man was ever born with a saddle on his back,
nor was any other man brought into the world ready booted and spurred to
ride him.' That was a very true and striking saying: do you recollect it,
"I recollect it, and admire it much," answered the gentleman;
"but I do not just now remember whose it is."
"Nor I, sir," rejoined the garrulous barber; "but that is of
little consequence, sir; truths are valuable solely for their own weight,
and not for the sake of those who utter them."
"There, again, we differ," observed the stranger. "I think
that many truths are doubly valuable;—first, for their intrinsic
excellence, and often, secondarily, for the sake of the great and the good
men who utter them. For instance, the striking saying you have just quoted
becomes, to my mind, as a passionate lover of his own country, increasedly
valuable, when I remember that it is attributed to the illustrious
patriot-martyr, Algernon Sydney."
"Why, sir," resumed Kucky Sarson, who was the soul of
ingenuity at an argument, "the man, and the truth he utters, are very
often one, essentially. Some men's lives—nay, their very deaths,—are
great truths in themselves,—like the life and death of the noble commonwealthsman you have just mentioned: in such cases the man, becomes
so closely and entirely identified with the truths he utters, that he and
they may be said to be one."
"You are now really becoming too refined for me, my friend,"
replied the gentleman, laughing. "But give me the pleasure of your company
for a couple of hours at my inn, if you please, and I will do my best to
discuss these points with you, good-humouredly and charitably, over a
glass of wine."
The barber was making his politest acknowledgments, and was
assuring the gentleman that he felt highly honoured and gratified by his
handsome invitation, when old Farmer Garbutt, a regular customer of
Kucky's for more than thirty years past, although a stout
"church-and-king" man, pushed his burly person in at the little shop door,
and gruffly bidding the barber "good-morning," sat down in the
shaving-chair, which the gentleman had just quitted. Farmer Garbutt could
not have come at a moment when he was less welcome; but Kucky Sarson could
not decline to shave a beard he had shorn for so long a period, and
therefore politely assured the strange gentleman that he would be with
him, at his inn, in the course of a quarter of an hour.
Ere the farmer's beard was cleansed, however, more than one
additional chin had gathered round the chair; and what was most vexing to
Kucky, in his impatient mood, was the "striking fact" that all the chins
and their beards belonged to the most extreme and sturdy opposers of
Kucky's republican principles to be found among his regular customers. With all his acquirement of suave manners, the poor barber was greatly in
danger of going into a passion, as he heard, first one, and then another,
allude, jeeringly, to the persecution that was commencing against Kucky's
favourite doctrines. Yet he kept down the rising storm within, though with
a considerable struggle:—
"Ay, ay—they'll soon hang all the levellers out o' the way,
I'll warrant 'em!" said gruff Garbutt, rolling his eye in wicked waggery
at his neighbours, and then threateningly at Kucky.
"What else can folk expect that side with cutting off kings'
heads?" cried Bobby Sparrow, a dapper little master-tailor, who made and
repaired habits for the parson, and all the genteel people, of Caistor and
"More by token—such folk as would pull down all the parish
churches, and murder all the Protestants!" added old Davy Gregson, a fat
little retired man of business, who liked to enjoy his joke,—sitting in a
corner of the old shop, and thrusting his tongue grotesquely into his
cheek,—although he was nearly fourscore.
"You will please to remember, gentlemen," interjected the
barber, driven to the extremity of his temper, "that I am not an advocate
either for cutting off kings' heads, or pulling down parish churches, or
murdering people of any religion, much more my own."
"But ye take part with rogues that do, neighbour Kucky," said
Bobby Sparrow, with provoking pertness,—"and the more's the shame to
"Ay, marry, good faith—that he does!" exclaimed old Davy Gregson, enjoying the barber's apparent soreness; "and it has always been
held that the abettor is as bad as the thief or the murderer!"
"If you mean to be respected, Kucky Sarson," growled old
farmer Garbutt, "be advised, and give up all your Jacobin notions. The
Squire says it would be ruin for this country to be without a king and an
established church. I had a famous talk with him on all these things at
the rent-day; and so he said: and if such gentlefolk as Squire Pelham
don't know what belongs to good government, I should like to know who
"Squire Pelham's great-grandfather was of a somewhat
different opinion," answered the barber: "Peregrine Pelham was his name;
and he signed the death-warrant of Charles Stuart."
"The Lord be merciful to us!" exclaimed old Davy, beginning
to look really alarmed—"why, that was in the time of the awful troubles
that my grandmother used to talk so sorrowfully about!—Surely you don't
wish that such grievous days were come again, do you, Kucky Sarson?"
"God forbid!" ejaculated farmer Garbutt, solemnly.
"You all know I don't, before you ask me," answered
the barber with some show of dignity. "I defy any one of you, to say that
there is a quieter and more upright citizen in England than I am. Who can
say that I ever injured him? who dares say that I ever cheated any man of
one farthing—ay, or that I owe him one? And do I ever try to compel any
man to think as I think? Speak!—any one of you that can charge me with an
act of wrongfulness, or a single speech of intolerance!"
"Well, well—excuse us, Kucky! We all regard you as an
excellent neighbour. But you seem more short about taking a joke than
usual," answered the dapper little master-tailor. The barber merely bowed,
and said, "Well, well—never mind, never mind, neighbours! we are none the
worse friends for a joke." But he was conscious that he felt
short-tempered, and heartily wished his customers would shorten their
stay, in order that he might visit the gentleman at his inn. Agreeably to
his wish, the farmer, the master-tailor, and the retired man of business
each shook hands heartily with Kucky, after a few more sentences of
restorative kindness, and bid him "good-day." The barber forthwith doffed
his apron and fore-pocket, adjusted his neckerchief, brushed his hat,
exchanged his shop-jacket for his holiday-coat, and crying "Shop, my
dear!" to his wife, hurried away towards the inn, where, according to the
strange gentleman's request, Kucky had promised to meet him.
To the barber's great mortification, when he arrived at the
inn the gentleman had been called out, and had left word that he would be
happy to receive his new acquaintance at six in the evening. Kucky Sarson
felt half disposed to be unhappy with disappointment; for he feared that
he would be unable to leave his shop at that busy hour of the evening. He
was hastening homeward, and striving to banish this unpleasant feeling,
when, passing by the end of a narrow street or lane, he suddenly saw the
strange gentleman in close conversation with a ragged, dirty-looking
female, who seemed by her uncouth garb and sun-burnt complexion to belong
to the wandering race of the gypsies. The barber stopped short and gazed
in astonishment at what he saw. The woman bent her keen eyes upon him; but
the strange gentleman seemed too much absorbed in looking at and talking
to the gypsy to be aware that he was discovered.
The barber passed on to his shop, pondering much upon what he
had observed. "What, in the name of prudence and propriety!" soliloquised
Kucky, "can such a person have to do with a houseless outcast and vagabond
of a gypsy?" The more he thought upon it, the more he wondered; till, in
the course of an hour, seeing that no one stepped into the shop, he felt
so exquisitely curious to know the meaning of what he had seen, that he
once more doffed his apron and shop-coat, put on his holiday covering, and
sallied forth again in search of the strange gentleman's secret.
Turning the first corner of the street, he suddenly ran hard
against his old gossip, Davy Gregson, and nearly knocked him down in his
"Hey-day, Kucky!" exclaimed Davy, "what a hurry you are
in!—I reckon you are posting away to see the gentleman dance with the
Davy Gregson's exclamation operated like lightning upon the
barber: he took to his heels and ran, in the direction from whence Davy
came, with all the mettle he possessed. Just is he was crossing the way,
however, at the end of one street with the intent to run down another, he
was suddenly seized by little Bobby Sparrow, the dapper master-tailor.
"What the dickens are you running so for, Kucky?" asked the
little man; "you'll be too late to see the gentleman huddle the
gypsy—it's all over, and—"
"Huddle the gypsy!" exclaimed Kucky, "I thought he was
dancing with her?"
"So he was: but he fell to kissing and huddling her after
that," answered Sparrow.
"For Heaven's sake let me go see," cried the barber; and
bolted away again at the hazard of tearing his coat, which the tailor had
kept hold of. But before he had stretched one hundred yards, he was once
more stopped; and this time it was by the strong and effectual gripe of
gruff farmer Garbutt.
"Art thou mad, Kucky Sarson?" asked the farmer, "or what is
the reason that thou art scampering away at such a hare-brained rate?"
"The gypsy!" gasped the barber, still striving to run,—"the
gypsy and the gentleman!"
"Pshaw, man!—the gentleman has suddenly found his sister who
was stolen when she was young," said the farmer: "the gentleman has
explained it all himself, and has taken the young woman into the Pelham's
Arms, where he puts up. I thought thou hadst more sense, Kucky, than to
run after any crowd that gathered in the street."
"Crowd!" echoed the barber, "was there a crowd then?"
"A crowd!" repeated the farmer, "that was there, I assure
thee. There: good-bye, Kucky!" and so saying he loosed hold of his
neighbour, who was now in some degree cooled down.
Kucky Sarson did not set off to run again; but walked
musingly or towards the Pelham's Arms Inn, resolved, if possible, to get
at the bottom of the curious incidents just related. He was shown into the
strange gentleman's room at once, when he had intimated that it would be
inconvenient for him to call at six in the evening. And now the barber
felt completely embarrassed, and quite ashamed of his own curiosity, in
having forced himself upon the stranger so suddenly after the affecting
occurrence he had just been informed of by old farmer Garbutt. In fact,
Kucky had begun to stammer forth very odd apologies, and was backing out
of the room with a profusion of bows and scrapes, when the gentleman rose,
and leading his newly-recovered relative by the hand, introduced her to
his humble visitor. Kucky Sarson recognised her face for the same he had
seen in the narrow street a short time before; but the altered dress and
demeanour of the female caused him to take her hand with much greater
reverence than he would have shown had that hand been offered him when he
first saw its owner.
"I saw you a short time ago, when my brother had just
discovered me," observed the female, as the barber took her hand.
"You did, madam," replied he, stammering with confusion, and
surprised at the peculiar grace wherewith, he now thought, the gypsy
"No doubt you felt greatly surprised when you saw us,"
observed the gentleman.
"I must say I did," answered the barber, still looking very
"Did you witness any of my capers in the street, my friend? I
am fearful that I have played a somewhat foolish part, for my elation well
nigh drove me out of my senses. Come, my good friend," concluded the
gentleman, noting the shy look of the barber, "let us sit down, and, over
a comfortable glass of wine, talk over this matter;—not forgetting your
family adage of 'Right is every man's, but Wrong is no man's right."'
They were seated accordingly; and the barber, having been
plied with a couple of glasses of claret, and his shame-facedness having
vanished, the gentleman renewed the conversation, with a look of great
"My good friend," said he, "I remember an observation of
yours which, it strikes me, you cannot always bring to bear upon your mind
with the force of a maxim, although you profess to have made it one: it
was that 'When we believe all men to be equal, we ought to treat every man
like a gentleman.' Now, tell me, frankly, did you not completely forget
your principles of equality at the moment you saw me with this my beloved
and only sister, in the guise of a vagabond gypsy?" The gentleman took the
hand of his recovered relative once more in his own, and they looked with
joy and love upon each other.
The barber felt conscience-stricken with the inconsistency
between his philosophy and his practice, in this notable instance, and,
despite his natural loquacity, remained dumb.
"Nay, my good friend," resumed the, stranger; "do not think
yourself unlike other people. Let me see you rally, and display the spirit
you did this morning: all the world is too prone to fail in the act of
applying principles and professions to practice."
"I do, indeed, feel," said the barber at length, but still
hanging down his head, "that I have not felt and acted as a disciple of
the great doctrine of equality ought to have felt and acted this day."
"And I think you will not fail to draw this great lesson from
your own experience, my friend," rejoined the gentleman, "that, however
intrinsically true it may be that we are all equal in the eye of Him who
made us, yet our birth, our early associations, our habits,—in brief, the
whole complexity of circumstances with which we are every hour, nay, every
moment, surrounded, renders it absolutely impossible for any of us to act
at all times, or even generally, upon the conviction of that most
undeniable and solemn truth."
"You are perfectly right, sir," replied the barber, conscious
that the stranger spoke the language of common sense, and feeling humbled
into willing discipleship.
"And, granting the doctrine of equality to be strictly true,"
continued the gentleman, "yet how long, how very long must it be, ere the
race of mankind shall be able to throw off their prejudices,—their
present artificial condition, shall we call it?—so completely as to reinduce and reinstate that universal equality we have just agreed to be
"Very sensible, sir," interjected Kucky Sarson; but I am just
thinking," he added, feeling some return of his usual confidence, "that
equality never will be reinstated, unless we spread its great doctrines by
all the means in our power. Equality must be enunciated, maintained, and
defended, sir; or, like other truths which have lain hid for ages, it will
not produce any fruit."
"True, my good friend," answered the gentleman; "but permit
me to remind you that practice is more powerful than precept. If we each
sought to act towards our fellow-creatures as if they were really our
brethren and sisters, the principles of a true equality would soon gain a
citadel in each human heart. It is the practice of this deep conviction of
our common brotherhood which is really most worthy of our endeavours. We
may contend against the artificial distinctions which are established
among men till doomsday; but if we do not, on all occasions, display
brotherly feeling towards our fellows, our contention will produce no
"Indeed, sir," said the barber, "I feel you are by far the
more consistent philosopher of the two—"
"Nay," said the gentleman, cutting short the barber's strain
of intended panegyric; "I would not have you suppose that I am a perfect
practiser of the maxims I am recommending. I never yet found a man who
fulfilled his own definition of a philanthropist, a patriot, or a
philosopher,—that is, if his definition were worthy of being termed one. I only press this fact upon your notice, my friend: that I was once in the
habit of talking as loudly about equality as yourself,—nay, even
dogmatically about it, and that is not like your way of talking; but I
have ceased to talk about the name, and am now endeavouring to spread the
spirit of it. I try to do all the good I can, to make every one as happy
as I can, to banish all the misery I can. I cannot always keep in mind
that every human being I meet is my brother or sister; for the force of
old habit is such that a pernicious aristocracy moves within me sometimes,
but I try to keep it down. My friend, I am preaching to you, rather than
conversing with you; but we will now leave this subject for some lighter
theme, if you please; only permit me to say, in conclusion, that you must
never believe yourself to be a thorough disciple of Equality while a grain
of offence arises in your mind on seeing a gentleman converse with a
It would be tiresome to pursue any further the conversation
of the barber and the strange gentleman. Suffice it to say that Kucky Sarson was an altered man from that day, though he never saw the gentleman
again. He subdued the habit of expressing his convictions in terms which
he knew must give offence and create prejudice, rather than advance truth,
couch them as courteously as he might in the flourish of politeness. He
turned his efforts, in the humble sphere of his conventional existence,
rather towards preparing the world for rigid truth, than towards impelling
the people into the acknowledgment and practice of principles of which
they had not as yet learned the alphabet. These changes, to Kucky Sarson's
honour be it spoken, came over his spirit, not through cowardice, for he
possessed enough of strength of mind and principle to have braved a
prison, had he thought his lot cast in the fitting and becoming time: it
was honest conviction which acted as a mollifier of Kucky's manners, and
the usefulness of the change in him was evidenced by the greater good he
effected in his modified character. He preserved his grandfather's
favourite saying to the last day of his life; and, as no one sought more
ardently to fulfil the character of an humble philanthropist,—to
alleviate distress wherever he found it,—to soften and dissipate asperity
of temper, and to create the genuine feeling of brotherhood, and the
practice of self-sacrifice among all men,—so his name and favourite adage
were remembered after his death; insomuch that when a word tending to
difference arose among the plain inhabitants of Caistor-in-Lindsey, it was
usually succeeded, and the difference prevented, by some one observing,
"Why, neighbours, what's the use of wrangling? You know what good Kucky Sarson used to say,—'Right is every man's, and Wrong is no man's right.'"
RAVEN DICK, THE POACHER;
"WHO SCRATCHED THE BULL?"
KIAH DOBSON,—they always called him Kiah "for shortness sake," as we used
to say in Lincolnshire; but his full name was Hezekiah,—Kiah Dobson was a
hearty buck of a farmer, who ploughed about fifty acres, and fed sheep and
bullocks on about fifty others. He was a tenant of good old Squire
Anderson, the ancestor of the Yarboroughs, who are called Lords in these
new-fashioned times. Lindsey and its largest landlord presented, it
need scarcely be said, very different features sixty years ago to those
they present now. Squire Anderson kept a coach, but he had not three
or four, like his successor, the peer: he had one good house at Manby, but
he had not that and a much grander one at Brocklesby, another at
Appuldercome, in the Isle of Wight, and another in town.
The farmers of Lindsey kept each a good nag, for market
service, and so forth; but it was a very, very scarce thing to find a
blood horse in their stables; and when their dames went to market, it was
on the pillion-seat, behind the farmer himself, and not in the modern
kickshaw gig. There were none of your strongholds of starvation,
which famishing men called "Bastiles," a few years ago; and a horn of good
humming ale, and a motherly slice of bread and cheese, awaited the
acceptance of any poor man who happened to be journeying, and called
either at the hall of the squire or at the cottages of any of the farmers
on his extensive estates.
Kiah Dobson was nearing his cottage one November evening, a
little before dusk, when a figure caught his eye, the sight of which
roused his gall,—and yet Kiah was by no means a choleric or hasty-tempered
man. It was Raven Dick, the poacher, that the farmer was so wroth to
see; for Dick was beheld, as the farmer had beheld him nearly fifty times
before,—with a bundle of dead hares under his arm. The farmer turned
to cross the home-close in another direction, willing, as it seemed, to
give Dick another fair opportunity of getting safely away. But "the
devil was in Dick for impudence," as Kiah used often to say,—"if you gave
him an inch, he would be sure to take an ell!" Not content with
imposing on farmer Dobson's good-nature forty-nine times in the course of
his harum-scarum life, he must e'en "try it on" for the fiftieth, and so
made the experiment just once too often.
"Farmer! how d'ye feel yoursen?" said Dick, striding up to
Kiah Dobson, and looking him full in the face, as bold as a bull-dog.
"Better than thou'lt feel, scapegrace! when thou gets thy
hempen collar on!" replied the farmer, snarling as angrily as a mastiff
when he doesn't like you.
"May be the thread of it isn't spun yet," retorted Dick,
mocking the farmer's angry tone.
"Surely, old Nick himself isn't more impudent than his
children that wear his own colour!" exclaimed Kiah, darting a withering
look at Dick's black face, for Dick's skin was even swarthier than a
gypsy's; and I might as well say now as at any other time, that the sable
shade of Dick's countenance, coupled with their knowledge of his wild way
of life, were the emphatic reasons why his neighbours gave him the epithet
Now, above all things, Dick did not like these reflections on
his unfair colour; so, with something in the shape of an oath, Dick turned
his heel in dudgeon, and seemed, not at all to the farmer's displeasure,
to be bent on making his way home.
Dame Dobson, who was a stout country-wife, and was labouring
lustily at her churn, and scolding one of her maids, who had been idling,
just as her husband entered the cottage, caught a sight of the well-known
poacher with the hares under his arm ere the farmer could close the door,
and, with the anger that her maid had kindled, was ill prepared to brook
"Shame on thee, Kiah, for letting that rascal escape so
often!" she exclaimed, screaming so loudly that Dick could hear her words
distinctly, though nearly half way over the close; "it will come to the
Squire's ears at long-last, thou may depend on't! and then thou knowst
what will follow!"
"Hang the villain!" said Kiah, "he really deserves nabbing;
and I've half a mind to go after him and collar him; for, confound him! he
grows more brazenly impudent than a miller's horse! he's getting worse
"You'll ha' no need to do that," said the incorrigibly idle
maiden, who had gone to the window to peep at the poacher, in spite of her
mistress's fierce scolding, "he's turned again, and has been listening to
you, and now he's coming hither as fast as shanks' horse can carry him!"
And so it was, for Dick had changed his intent, and, with a
perverse will, now strode, at full stretch, towards the door of the
"Twist his gallows-neck!" exclaimed farmer Dobson, between
his teeth, when he heard the maiden's words: "has he such a brass face as
that comes to? I'll nab him this time, or I'm a Dutchman else!"
Raven Dick's foot was on the grunsel almost before the farmer
had finished his last sentence: and throwing himself on a chair in the
kitchen, and the hares on the cottage floor, alike with the air and
impudence of one who braves the gallows, he asked for a horn of ale and a
lump of bread and cheese with as little ceremony as if he had been a
squire in his own mansion Dick's audacity, however, had now overstretched
its mark. The farmer's strong fist was on Dick's frock collar in a
moment; the next, the farmer had dragged him from his seat; and, in the
third, Dick was prostrate on the cottage floor. Unluckily, Kiah
Dobson's anger overbalanced his caution; and, with the impetuosity of his
own force upon the poacher, Kiah brought himself, also, to the floor.
Dick had so long careered it over the farmer's fields, by day
and by night, and had so often "snickled," or noosed the hares, as one may
say, under the farmer's nose, and the farmer had all the while taken it so
mildly, that the poacher was never more surprised in his life than at this
portentous assault up his person by mild, good-natured Kiah Dobson.
Had it been for his imaginary security of feeling, the poacher would not
so easily have been overthrown. And, as it was, Dick was not
disposed to believe that all was over with him; he speedily succeeded in
wriggling his body from under the farmer's weight, and, in the course of a
few minutes, had his knee upon Kiah's breast, and began to grab the fanner
so tightly by the throat that he soon grew blacker than Dick himself.
Luckily Dame Dobson's churn-staff came to the rescue. She pommelled
the hard head of the poacher so soundly, and her strokes came so thick and
fast after each other, that he was compelled to loose his hold on the
farmer's throat, in order to catch the churn-staff from the farmer's wife.
The engagement, however, now became more furious. Poor Kiah lay
gasping on the floor, for some moments, unable to rise, much less to aim a
blow at the adversary; but the war was at its height between Raven Dick
and the dame, and two stout maidens of her service. Mops, brooms,
and brushes were successively impelled with no playful force towards the
seasoned skull of the poacher, but were shivered with the rapidity of
lightning, as he dexterously caught hold of them, and wrested them from
the hands of his clamorous assailants. The din of female tongues was
scarcely less than the noise of blows; and when the more effective
ammunition was all expended, the discharge was confined, at last, to the
small shot of epithets, poured in every imaginable shape, from the fair
musketry of the three female belligerents' mouths.
The scene had now become as laughable as previously it had
been serious. Raven Dick stood on a chair in the middle of the
floor, drawing his face into the most whimsical forms and mocking the
women, while they stood around him, each with hands on hip, and tearing
their throats with the effort to abuse and irritate, or otherwise to shame
him. The farmer, seeing what turn the war had taken, had seated
himself on a chair, and forgetting his anger, was shaking his sides with
laughter at the ludicrous and unwonted scene presented that night in his
kitchen. The affray at length shrank into silence; the women's
tongues were fairly wearied; they each sat down to rest; and so Dick sat
"Dang it, Dick, thou'rt a good woolled'un!" said the hearty
farmer; but thou art an idle rogue, after all."
"How so, Maister Kiah?" asked the saucy poacher; "why do you
call me an idle rogue?"
"Because thou art fonder of stealing than working," quickly
replied the farmer.
"Stealing, say you?" rejoined Dick, his brows knitting
together; "I scorn your words, Kiah Dobson!—You lie in your throat!—What
do I steal?"
"The squire's hares, by dozens, thou saucy varlet," answered
"How come they to be the squire's hares?" answered Dick,
fixing his eyes very keenly on the farmer.
"By feeding and breeding on his land," answered Kiah Dobson.
"But don't you plough the land, Farmer Dobson?"
"To be sure I do—"
"And don't you buy the seed to sow upon the land?"
"Sartainly I do —"
"And don't you sow the seed when you have bought it?"
"Ay, and I can sow a breadth with here and there a fellow in
"Pshaw!—don't you watch the corn while it is growing, weed
it, and attend to it till it is ripe? and do not you, with the
sweat of your own brow, and the help of those you hire with your own
purse, reap the corn, and gather it into the stackyard?—and don't you,
afterwards, pay many a shilling in wages for Roger Brown, and Tim Wilson,
and others, to thrash your corn for you?—and don't you consider the corn
yours when you are taking it to market?—and don't you think you
have a right to receive the money for which you sell it?"
"Ay, and I would fain be knowing, Dick, who besides has so
good a right to it as I have," replied the farmer, starting to his feet
with warmth, and not apprehending the drift of Dick's queries.
"Then the corn which those poor hares have eaten during the
summer," said Dick, pointing to the dead animals which lay on the floor,
"was your corn, and not the squire's, for you pay him his rent, don't you,
"Zounds, ay! to the very day," instantly and proudly replied
"And yet you durst not kill a hare, and be seen in doing it,"
said Dick, not permitting a moment's pause to take place.
"Me kill a hare!" exclaimed Kiah, scratching his head, and
colouring very deeply, "Lord! you know, Dick, I've no licence; and,
besides, the squire always reckons the hares his own, you know."
"Does he?" said Dick, with a peculiar sneer, "then he's a
fool for so doing.—Why, Farmer Dobson, don't you remember how, last
latter-end, three parsons came from Lincoln, and went shooting like wild
devils over the whole estate, murdering and bagging all they could see?
And it's more than likely you'll have a greater number of the Lincoln
Minster Jackdaws, as the 'squire called 'em, this month than you had last
November; and will the 'squire be such a fool as to call the hares his own
then, when the black thieves are packing off with them, think you?"
"Dang it! thou talks very odd, Dick!" said the farmer,
sitting down very quietly, fixing his eyes on the floor, and scratching
his head harder than before; "thou talks very odd, but what thou say'st is
as true as the gospel, for all that."
"That it is, as sure as eggs are eggs," added the dame, into
whose mind conviction had been entering a little more quickly than into
that of her husband.
"There now!" exclaimed Dick, springing from his seat, and
feeling proud of the power of his argumentation, when he saw both the
farmer and his wife brought over so triumphantly to his side of the
question. "There now, you see, Kiah Dobson, a man may be judged very
wrongly, and be condemned for a thief and a rogue by many who are
either—saving your presence, farmer—thorough fools or rogues themselves,
and yet, all the while, he may be quite as honest as his neighbours.
Now, don't you think it hard, Kiah, under all the circumstances, that you
are not allowed to kill a hare when you like?"
"I am not thinking so much about that," replied Farmer
Dobson, his eyes still bent very thoughtfully downward—"I'm not thinking
so much about that, as I am wondering how, in the name of Old Nick, these
things came to be as they are. You see, Dick, it was the same in my
father's time, though I've heard him say that my grandfather used to tell
how, in the time of the great troubles, folks killed game when and where
they liked; but that was only owing to the unsettled state of things, for
these laws about the game were made before that time I take it, Dick."
"According to what I've learned about it," said Dick, looking
still more proud than before, and feeling himself superior in information
to the rest of the company, "these Game Laws, as they are called, began
with William the Conqueror, the king that I dare say you've heard of,
farmer, that came from beyond the sea, and got possession of this country,
"Likely, likely," said the farmer, yawning, and growing
wearied of Dick's learning; "I don't care two straws who first made such
laws, Dick; but I'm sure of one thing—that it must be wrong, when one
thinks on it, that the great folk should claim the wild creatures God
Almighty makes Himself as their own, when, all the while, they have no
more right to 'em than other folk."
"To be sure it's wrong, farmer," said Dick. "What right could
any man have, whether he were a king, or a squire, or a parson, to say to
all the people of this country, or any other country, 'You shall none of
you kill a stag, or a hare, or a pheasant, under pain of losing a hand, or
going to prison?' The only wonder is, farmer, that people have
submitted to these laws so long and so quietly."
"Why, you see, Dick," continued the farmer, whose common
sense was of a more solid character than Dick's, though his perceptions
were not quite so acute at the outset of an enquiry "you see, Dick, this
law is contrived, like most other laws, to draw a number of folk into the
love and the liking of it: it isn't simply one man now, whatever it might
have been formerly, that is interested in keeping up these Game Laws.
Rich folks generally think they ought to do no other but uphold 'em.
They say, that all the game would soon be destroyed if everybody was
allowed to kill hares and pheasants when and where they like. The
squire, too, sends presents, you know, to his acquaintances the great folk
in London, and elsewhere; and if hares and pheasants and partridges were
as common with poor folk as with rich, why, the great folk would soon
scorn to have 'em on their tables. 'There are wheels within wheels,'
as the miller says, Dick. Rich folk are sure to hang together on
their side of the wheat-sack; and that is the reason—more than their
money, Dick, mind ye! more than their money—why they are so much more
powerful than the poor. And for the self-same reason that they are
so powerful, Dick," concluded the farmer, seeming determined to finish his
speech in spite of the poacher's evident dislike to it, "I think it is far
better for all who like peace and quietness, and a whole skin, to keep out
of harm's way. You understand me, Dick! Come, dame, fill us a
good jug of ale, and let us have a bit of bread and cheese, or a mouthful
of bacon; and Dick and I will talk these things over a bit, just in a
quiet and sensible way."
The dame hasted to set her hospitality before her spouse and
the poacher; and it soon became hard to say which most excelled in the act
of doing justice to it. The strong ale, however, was most freely
partaken by the poacher, and, under its potency, Dick's tongue soon began
to indulge itself with a tolerably large licence.
"I' faith, farmer," he said, "you gave me a roughish
reception when I crossed your threshold; you must do things gentlier
another time, when you're disposed for a cramp: it's only a fool-hardy
sort of a thing to take a bull by the horns: it's ten times wiser, when he
makes a butt at you, to scratch him a bit, and coax him, and smooth him
The farmer was a little nettled by Raven Dick's taunting tone
and the devilry of his eye; but he thought one scuffle enough for a day,
and so replied with a somewhat forced look of good humour, "I hardly think
it's wisest at all times, Dick. I think, for my own part, the only
way sometimes is to take a bull by the horns. And besides, Dick,
whoever heard o' such a thing as scratching a bull? You may scratch
an angry cur, you know, Dick," he concluded with a laugh, "but a bull—no,
no, Dick, scratching a bull won't do at all!"
"I know what I say, Farmer Dobson," cried Dick aloud,
thumping one hand upon the table, and pouring out ale on the outside of
the horn, instead of into it, with the other, "I know what I say,—and I
"Speak in the house, Dick!" retorted the farmer, colouring,
"thou wilt not talk better sense for shouting. I tell thee that that
bull's only a fool of a bull that will stand scratching! Wilt thou
make me believe, think'st thou, that anybody would be such a goose, for
instance, as to try to scratch my old white bull in the second home-close?
Thou won't venture to scratch him, I'm pretty sartain, Dick, with all thy
brag and bluster to boot!"
"Won't?" cried Dick, fiercely; "why, what do ye fancy is to
hinder me, eh! old clod-pate?"
"Dick, Dick!" said the farmer, cooling himself with the
remembrance that the poacher was a much younger and inexperienced man than
himself, and tapping the wild youth admonishingly on the shoulder, "it is
far wiser for a man to go steadily about getting his bread, than either to
scratch bulls, or to snickle hares, depend on't. I don't say but
that you have as much right to practise one as t'other, if you feel
inclined; only, you are almost sure to repent it in the end, in either
case: you understand me, Dick?"
"'Od dang it!" hiccupped Dick, setting his ragged hat on one
side, and looking at the farmer as if he intended him to understand he was
no ordinary hero, "do ye think, Kiah Dobson, that I fear aught that may
happen? I say I will scratch your bull; ay, and I'll tame him, too,
as I've tamed you!"
"Better not," replied the farmer drily; "better go quietly
home, Dick, and try to earn thy living honestly, like thy father and thy
"To Jericho with 'em both!" roared Raven Dick, bouncing up
from his seat: "they're fools both of 'em! I don't intend to slave
for ever, and never have any fun, like them. No, no! I'll have
a hare when I like; ay, and I'll scratch a bull when I like, too!—so here
goes!" and out sallied the intoxicated poacher, snatching up the dead
hares as he went, and placing them under his arm as before. Farmer
Dobson and the dame followed, for their curiosity was, naturally, too
highly excited to permit their remaining behind.
Just as Dick vaulted over the first hedge, for he was in too
heroic a vein to think of taking the stile, though it was close by, Dick
met one who was no stranger to him. It was the squire's gamekeeper.
The moon shone brightly, and the gamekeeper looked hard at Dick, and still
harder at the hares under his arm. But although the gamekeeper had
his gun with him as usual, he most likely felt unwilling to encounter one
so strong, and withal so reckless as he knew Raven Dick to be, for he did
not speak to him. Dick spoke to the gamekeeper, notwithstanding.
"Heigho!" said he, "brother poacher! how are you for fun?
just stop and look at me, while I scratch Kiah Dobson's old bull, will
ye?" and off he went along the hedge-row in quest of his new game, while
the gamekeeper and the farmer and his wife stood gazing after him in
Scarcely sooner said than done! Dick came up to the
bull as he lay in the pasture, quietly and unsuspectingly chewing the cud,
and Dick began to scratch the bull. It need hardly be said that if
Dick thought this very funny, the horned beast's thoughts were of another
complexion. The bull rose, blurred, and ran bang upon Dick, goring
his ribs, throwing him up, and, bounding to the other side of the field,
left the scratcher senseless upon the grass, and all before you could have
found breath to say, "Jack Robinson!" had you been looking on, like the
gamekeeper and farmer and dame Dobson.
Nothing in the wide world could have given the gamekeeper
greater pleasure than Dick's overthrow. "Farmer Dobson," said he,
"now is the time to nab the rascal: fetch your wheelbarrow, and we'll put
him into it, and take him away to the next constable's, and he shall put
him into the close-hole, till justice can be had upon him: it will do the
squire's heart good, I'm sure, to learn that we have noosed the Raven at
last, after he has noosed so many score brace o' game."
Kiah Dobson's heart felt reluctant to assist in imprisoning
Dick, 'scapegrace although he knew him to be: but how could he refuse
compliance with the request of the squire's gamekeeper, for there lay the
hares by the poacher's side? Besides, as Kiah often used to say,
when he related the story in after years, he reflected that although Dick
was so good a logician on the evils of the Game Laws, yet he had become so
outrageously daring in bidding defiance to danger, that he feared ill
would come of it, if a timely check were not given to his course. So
Kiah went and fetched the barrow, and he and the gamekeeper lifted Dick
into it, and away they wheeled him to the next constable's house. A
surgeon attended to Dick's wounds, when he had brought him to his senses a
little; and, the next week, the squire himself, sitting in judicial state
at the hall of Manby, committed Dick to the House of Correction for six
Dick found the labour of knocking hemp—the usual employ of
prisoners in the gaols of North Lincolnshire at that period—to be but
pitiful "fun." And when he reflected that he would be likely to come
there again, or to some worse place, if he ever afterwards ventured to
renew his practice of "snickling" hares, he steadily resolved to "work
like his father and his brother Ned," as Farmer Dobson advised.
Dick's views on the Game Laws never altered; but he felt, after this
sorrowful experience, it would be worse than folly to dream of violating
them with impunity, in a country where "the rich all hung together on
their own side of the wheat sack," as Kiah Dobson had observed. Now
and then, when he happened to have shaken hands too freely with his old
acquaintance Sir John Barleycorn, even years after his imprisonment, Raven
Dick would be liable to relapse into some shade of his old feeling, and
putting on a "gallows-look," as the landlord of the Harrows and Plough, in
Froddingham, used to call it, he would threaten to return to his old
trade. But there was one saying which, when "passed about" on the
long settle of the public-house, was always sure to raise a hearty chorus
of laughter at Dick's expense, and to have the effect of dispelling, in a
twinkling, all Dick's dreams of having more "fun:" it was—"Who scratched
TIM SWALLOW-WHISTLE, THE TAILOR;
"EVERY DOG HAS HIS DAY."
TIM SWALLOW-WHISTLE, the tailor, lived at Horncastle, a thriving little
agricultural town in the centre of Lincolnshire, and now well-known even
to the verge of Europe for its prodigious yearly horse fair, to which Russ
and Pruss, Netherlander and Austrian, Frenchman, Swiss, and Italian, with
even, at times, the turban'd Turk, may be beheld flocking to purchase from
the rare show of steeds: "but let that pass!" Tim was not one of
your fashionable tailors, it is true, but he was reckoned "an uncommon
neat hand" at his trade. Indeed, old Cocky Davy, who was a very
emperor amongst the Lincolnshire tailors, always declared Tim to be the
cleverest apprentice that ever received his indentures at his hands. Old
Cocky—he was so termed on account of the particular loftiness of his
carriage—Old Cocky had one especial maxim; it was, "Strike your needle
dead, you dog; and make your thread cry 'twang!' "—and no one apprentice
that ever sat upon Davy's shop-board so fully gratified his master by the
gallant and complete style in which he fulfilled this maxim, as did Tim Swallow-Whistle. Cocky Davy was often heard to say—ay, and to swear it
too, when in his cups—that it did his heart good to see the masterly
manner in which Tim used to strike the cloth. And then, for finishing a
button-hole, "Good heavens!"—Cocky Davy would declare in the White Swan
parlour, when the clock was on the stroke of twelve—"why, Tim could turn
the thing off his fingers with every cast of the thread as regular and
exact as if he had worked it by geometry;" and then Cocky would thump his
pewter tankard with vehement force upon mine host's white wooden table,
and call to have it refilled for the last time that night.
It may easily be guessed that Tim Swallow-Whistle was not only a clever
hand, but a hard-working lad, while an apprentice, or otherwise he would
not have worn such excelling commendations from a master who was quite as
frequently found in the parlour of the White Swan as in his own shop, and
therefore found it of incalculable value to himself to possess an
apprentice who would work hard while his master played. Now, as a
loitering apprentice usually makes a worthless, idle man, so a diligent
lad is almost invariably found to carry his early habits of industry into
mature life, and to make a stirring and prosperous citizen, unless some
untoward circumstances arise to bereave him of the power for exertion, or
to deprive him of its legitimate and well-deserved fruits.
Tim Swallow-Whistle did not belie the promise of his youth. He was full
forty years old when the incidents occurred we are about to relate; and up
to that time, as he used himself to say, "Nobody could ever say he had an
idle bone in his skin." But, let a man be as industrious and well-disposed
as he may, ten to one but somebody or other in this crooked world will be
found determined to find fault with him. So it was with Tim: he "minded
his own business" most emphatically; for he was regularly found on his
shop-board every morning, winter or summer, as the clock struck five; and
he seldom quitted it before seven at night, unless on some special holiday
occasion: he "paid every one their own"—that is to say, he kept no
scores, either at the baker's, the butcher's, the grocer's, or at the
ale-house: he had a whole coat on his back—though there was, here and
there, a patch in it of his own neatest style of repair: and, to conclude
the catalogue of his competency in his own language, "he had always
something to eat when other folk went to dinner."
Tim contrived to keep up to this standard of comparative comfort, too, in
spite of a breeding wife, who had stocked his cottage with nine "small
children," though he was not married till he was thirty. With so many
excellences, who could have thought that any one would be bad enough to
attempt to mar Tim's well-earned happiness? But the world is what we have
just termed it, a crooked world; and so poor Tim was doomed to meet with
Just opposite Tim's little shop lived a great professor of sour godliness.
Unluckily, he was not only of the same homely trade with Tim, but was
enabled to hold up his head more loftily among his fellow-tradesmen, by
reason that a maiden aunt happened to die and leave him a neat little
freehold that brought him in £50 a-year, in addition to his earnings by
the shears, needle, and thimble. Jedediah Prim—for so was this fortunate
tailor called—was adjudged by his neighbours to be ill-disposed towards
his poorer brother snip, solely because Tim had always sufficient for
himself and an apprentice, whereas Prim's manners were so uninviting, and
his character so mean, that he barely ensured occupation for his own
Since Prim, at heart, was a worshipper of Mammon above all other gods, it
was not at all wonderful that he felt envious at his neighbour's trade. Nevertheless, Prim ever affected the greatest scorn of these neighbourly
charges of avarice and envy, and most piously averred that he had no other
distaste to "the man over the way," as he called Tim, than that which was
created in his soul by "the ungodly man's profaneness!" "He is every day
selling his soul to Satan by the whistling of the Evil One's own tunes!"
was Prim's godly lamentation over the evil ways of his neighbour. This was
a severe hit at the only kind of recreation in which poor Tim indulged. He
had been a hard whistler, as well as a hard worker, from a lad; and from
the peculiarity of his may of whistling, which very much resembled an
endless twitter, Tim caught the curious sobriquet of "Swallow-whistle "
among his fellow-apprentices at Cocky Davy's, and kept it to his dying
Now, whistling or twittering are but very humble kinds of melody, but I
care not however lowly or merely imitative may be the degree of the divine
faculty of music that a human creature may be endowed with, I'll warrant
him, there will be something like real nobility of heart or mind about
him, let his vocation and whereabouts in this ill-arranged world be what
it may. And truly, so much might, without hesitancy, be affirmed of
twittering Tim the tailor of Horncastle. With all his knowledge of the
ill-will borne towards him by Prim the puritan, Tim Swallow-Whistle would
have sprung off his shop-board like a bounding fawn, and with a bounding
heart of joy, to have done the envious Jedediah a good turn. Yet, with all
his bountiful good-nature, Tim possessed a fair share of shrewdness. He
had lived long enough to learn that over-weening envy usually overshoots
its mark, and most severely punishes its own voluntary slaves. Thus, of
all men in the little town of Horncastle, Tim Swallow-Whistle was least
disturbed at what every one talked of as a scandalous matter, namely, the
envy and malevolence of Jedediah Prim, the religious tailor. "Never mind;
'every dog has his day!' " Tim would reply, and twitter away again, to
every successive tale his neighbours brought him about what Prim said,
and what Prim did: for you never knew of two neighbours being "at outs" in
your life, but a host of voluntary messengers, on either side, could be
found to fetch and carry fuel to maintain the heat between them.
What moved Tim Swallow-Whistle more than any other event in his life was
the fact of Prim the Puritan being made overseer of the poor, and throwing
Tim's poor old grandmother entirely upon his maintenance. The aged woman
had nearly reached a century of years; and, at the mere cost of
half-a-crown per week to the parish, was nursed in her second childhood by
Tim's widowed mother, who lived in a little cottage, hard by her son. Tim
had willingly, nay eagerly, contributed to supply the wants of the two
aged women through all the difficulties felt by a man situated as he was,
with an increasing family, for there was not a grain of sordidness in his
noble nature; but it was no joke for poor Tim to have the entire weight of
the burthen cast upon him. For several days after the announcement was
formally made to him—and pious Prim took care to have the devilish
satisfaction of performing the annoying business himself—poor Tim
suspended his twittering, and "struck his needle dead" in a savage mood of
reflection. Tim's reflection ended, however, in the way that, with such a
heart, it was natural for it to end,—in the manly resolve that he would
work the very skin off his fingers, and go without a meal every day in the
week, rather than permit his old grandmother to want. "Every dog has his
day!" echoed Tim, recovering his wonted elasticity of spirits; "Jedediah
Prim will not be overseer of the poor for the parish of Horncastle to all
eternity;" and away he burst into a mellifluous twitter that floated, in
the form of "Merrily danced the Quakers," gaily across the street, and
entered into the very "porches of the ears" of Prim the Puritan, much to
the deadly annoyance of that heart of envy. During the continuance of
Tim's overture for the day, there entered into his cottage a travelling
tinker, who besought leave of the tailor to light his pipe.
"Ay, lad, and welcome," blithely answered Tim, and away he went twittering
his old burthen of "Merrily danced the Quakers."
"Marry, good faith, maister!" said the tinker, folding his arms and
looking as if inclined for 'a bit of a chat,' as they say in Lincolnshire; "why, that was the very tune my poor old mother was so fond of! I can't
help feeling fond on't, d'ye know, maister; for my mother was a good
mother to me—the Lord rest her soul!" and the hardy tinker's voice
faltered in a way that showed his heart had its tender place,
notwithstanding his rough exterior. Tim's twittering was arrested; the
tinker had touched him on a tender chord, and his whole heart vibrated.
"Sit you down a while, friend, and smoke your pipe quietly," said Tim,
pointing to a seat near his shop-board; "I'll tell our Becky to get out
the copper kettle for you to mend as soon as she comes downstairs; we
haven't used it these three years for want o' mending."
"And times have been too hard for you to have it mended before, I reckon,
maister," said the tinker.
"Nay, as for that," replied Tim with a smile and a shake of the head, "they're not much mended now; I find it to be only a cross-grained world,
I'll assure you, friend; but I always make it a maxim to take things as
easy as I can; for, as I always say, 'Every dog has his day,' and among
the rest of the poor dogs one doesn't know but one's own turn to have a
day may come yet."
"Right, maister, right!" ejaculated the tinker, drawing a full breath at
his pipe, and puffing out a full cloud of satisfaction; "there's sartingly
a comfort in thinking so: yet it isn't a pleasing thing to be striving to
do one's best, and to pay every one their own, and yet be trampled upon,
as poor folks too commonly are in this world."
"Very true, friend," chimed in Tim Swallow-Whistle, assenting readily to a
remark that reminded him so strikingly of his own experience; "very true:
there's nothing that gives an honest man any uneasiness equal to that: for
my part, I've no wish to be richer or loftier than my neighbours; but I
must say the man must feel it hard who's ill-used, after striving to do
the best he can for everybody as well as himself."
"Well, you see, maister, it shows that what the Scripter says is true,
that 'the love of money is the root of all evil,'" rejoined the tinker;
"for you'll always observe that a man begins to trample upon you as soon
as he happens to begin to get on in the world a little better than
"'Tis too often the case, friend," said Tim, not fully approving of the
tinker's sweeping remark, but still feeling the forceful truth of it in
his own case; "and yet I can't understand how it should be so."
"At any rate, maister," said the tinker, interrupting the other, "one can
understand one thing: that if things could be put more on a level in this
world, there wouldn't be such foul dealings as we see now; for if one man
wasn't allowed to be so much stronger in the pocket than another, all men
would be more likely to gain respect; all this bowing and scraping of poor
to rich would be at an end, I mean."
"Why, yes," interjected the tailor, stopping his needle when it was but
half way through the cloth and feeling a disposition to be abstracted;
"that's true enough—true enough, friend: but for my part I don't see how
the vast difference between the rich and the poor is to be remedied. You
see it's the nat'ral course of things: some folk are idle, and others
unlucky; while money makes money, when a man once gets hold on't—that is,
if he tries to turn it over, and takes care of it as it gathers."
"Just so, maister; that's all very true as far as it goes," rejoined the
tinker; "but I think that's not exactly what the parson calls the end o'
the chapter. I'm but a plain man, and no great scholar; but I always take Brimmigem and Sheffield in my yearly round, and one hears a bit o' long
headed-talk, maister, now and then, in such places: you'll excuse me if I
tell you a little of what I think about these things."
"Prythee, don't mention that, in that sort of a way," said Tim, hastily; "
I'll assure thee that there's nobody likes a man that speaks his mind
better than I do."
"Thank ye, maister," continued the tinker; "then I'll tell you what I
think: I think there ought to be a law to compel folk that make money so
fast to use it in making their fellow creatures happy, instead of spending
it on finery and foolishness."
"Why, you would make folks kind and good by law then, friend! Hum! I can't
see," disputed Tim, again suspending his needle, and looking very
metaphysically upon the corner pane of his shop window, "I can't see how
that scheme would be likely to succeed. Excuse me, friend, but I think you
are talking about may-be's that'll never fly."
"Look ye now, maister," resumed the tinker, laying down his pipe, raising
his hand with the fore-finger pointed, and looking greatly in earnest to
substantiate his theory; "this is my point: God Almighty made us all of
the same flesh and blood, not some of china and the rest of brown marl: he
made us to live like brothers; and if one had better wit than the rest, it
was his duty to use it for the benefit of all his brothers and sisters, as
well as for his own benefit. So, if a man by money makes money, since he
can't do that without the help of other folk, I maintain that that money
ought to be distributed, and all that it will buy, for the benefit of all,
but more especially for the comfort of those whom the money-maker made use
of in making his money."
"You mean, if I understand you," said Tim Swallow-whistle, looking as much
like a logician as he knew how, in order to keep the tinker in
countenance—"you mean, my friend, that when men with full pockets employ
men with empty ones, and by the labour of the poor make their full pockets
flow over, there ought to be a fairer division of the profit."
"That's exactly what I mean, maister," answered the tinker, smiling with
enthusiasm, "you have hit the nail on the head, completely: I think there
ought to be a law, ay, and I think it's more needed than any other law, to
prevent the rich from employing the poor just for what wages they please,
and to so order things that every man who makes money by other men's
labour shall be compelled to give his workmen such a share of his profits
as will enable them and their wives and children to live in decency and
comfort, instead of rich men being allowed to grow richer and wantoner
every day, while their poor slaves go, often, with naked backs and hungry
bellies. Ah, maister," concluded the tinker in a tone where the heart was
heard, "you know little about the real suffering there is in England; but
I can tell you one thing,—and that is, that in the manufacturing places,
where this pinch-gut system is most felt, thousands say they won't stand
it much longer!"
The tinker ended this speech in a tone of voice so loud that Tim
Swallow-Whistle felt prompted to look round him for listeners. To his
great chagrin, Prim the Puritan stood pricking up his ears, but a few
yards from Tim's door, with his back towards it, but evidently collecting
every seditious syllable uttered by the travelling tinker. Tim placed his
fore-finger significantly to his lips; and the tinker, marking the
direction of Tim's eyes, took the hint, and immediately turned the
conversation to the subject of the copper tea-kettle. The tailor's wife
was called down-stairs; the kettle was produced; the bargain was readily
struck; and the tinker proceeded, out of doors, with his vocation. Tim
Swallow-Whistle, meanwhile, being left to uninterrupted reflection, turned
over and over again, in his mind, the weighty thoughts which had been
started by the traveller. Tim could not easily quell the indignation
against money-making oppression which the tinker's tale had raised within
him; and the plain man's plain reasoning, respecting the rights of the
labouring poor, appeared to him uncontradictable; yet all his sympathies
for the distressed yielded, at length, to the strength of his common
sense, and the consciousness that, care as much as he might, he could not
alter the state of the oppressed:—
"The world is as it is," said Tim to himself, mustering
up as much
wisdom as he was master of; "it has not been right this many a long year,
if all that our forefathers said can be true: and, what's worse, one
doesn't see much chance of its being speedily set to rights. But what's
the use of grumbling at it, day after day? that would only whitter the
flesh off one's poor bones. No, no; what the man says is true enough, no
doubt," concluded the soliloquising Swallow-Whistle; "but I will not make
myself uneasy about what I can't mend: at least I won't any further than I
can help. Let the world wag! I'll try to make myself as easy as I can in
it, with all its awkwardness. Every dog has his day,—and perhaps mine
will come yet."
This was no elevated moral channel in which Tim's thoughts were running,
when the tinker re-entered; but it was one which had served to drain Tim's
heart from the troublous inundation of discontent, amid the toils and
difficulties of his whole mature life. Tim invited the tinker to take
another pipe, and entered on the old subject in a way, that showed his
mind was made up.
"Well, my good friend," he began, "I have been thinking about what has
fallen to your lot to see; and I must take the liberty to tell you, that
although I cannot help feeling grieved for the distress of others, yet I
very much doubt the wisdom of a man dwelling on these thoughts of sorrow
till he feels a disposition to be discontented with everything around
"So do I, maister," chimed in the tinker, interrupting Tim,—"so do I: but
when one sees and hears of things that one knows to be wrong, one can
hardly prevent one's sen, you know, from turning 'em over in one's mind,
and trying to think how they could be righted. I'm not a man given to low
spirits, mysen, maister; I contrive to keep my heart up and go on; though
I don't think the world's quite right, for all that."
"I'm glad to hear what you said just mow," continued Tim: "I assure you
I've some little rough usage to bear; but I always find cheerfulness, and
a disposition to make the best o' things, by far the wisest way of
"So do I, maister," again burst in the tinker, very much to the annoyance
of the tailor, who wanted to come to the end of his "say," without
interruption—"so do I; only, you know there's no harm in talking about
these things, now and then. And, besides, maister, you know, the world
never will be any better, if we all shut our eyes, and say we see no wrong
"Right, very right," replied Tim, a little bit put out of the path he
intended to take, but still resolved to make direct for his point, if he
could; "I don't deny that: but how long will it be before the world is
bettered, even if we keep our eyes open, and tell aloud of all the wrong
we know in it? You and I are not the first who have discovered the world
to be wrong, depend on't. Tinkers and tailors," continued Tim, smiling as
he proceeded, "have been found in many countries, as far as my little
book-larning informs me, who have imagined they could repair the rents in
the world; but, in too many cases, these fellows were the very greatest
practisers upon the helplessness of their weaker brethren. As for the few
who have been in earnest, they have usually been silenced, in one way or
other, by those whose interest it was to keep up the wrong in the world. That the world never will be better," concluded Tim, "I will not undertake
to say; but the day, I fear, is so far distant, my good friend, that you
and I will neither of us be likely to live to see it. Don't take it amiss;
but I can't help thinking so."
The tinker was ready with an answer; but two customers of Tim's here came
in, and the travelling tinker, thinking that it would be both ill-mannered
and wearisome to the tailor for him to stay, and attempt to renew the
conversation, wished Tim "Good-day," and prepared to set out again on his
journey. Tim extended his hand, and returned the tinker's friendly gripe
in a way that told the traveller his few strong hints would be thought of
on another day.
With all Tim Swallow-Whistle's shrewdness, he was perfectly free from
craft. The thoughts created in his mind by this conversation with the
travelling tinker naturally found their way, now and then, into his
exchanges of opinion with his customers. Prim the Puritan was not slow in
learning this: in fact, his evil nature had plotted Tim's destruction from
the moment that he overheard the conversation between Tim and the tinker. Spies were sent to draw the tailor out; and eventually poor Tim was set
down in the day-book of every influential man in Horncastle as a
"dangerous and seditious fellow." From that day, poor Tim
Swallow-Whistle's business began to decline. The trial was a bitter one to
Tim; for his aged grandmother sank to the grave, beholding the clouds of
adversity gather around her grandchild's dwelling; but in the serenity of
death, steadfastly directed her weeping descendant to trust in
uprightness, and it would be his comfort. Then his mother sickened and
died,—yielding, after a hard struggle, to the Last Enemy, but expiring
with an exultant smile, after assuring her child that her own greatest
consolation was that she had been dutiful to her mother, and she was
confident he would yet see bright days as the reward of his spotless
In vain Tim asked for parochial relief in the hour of his sore straitness,
when his wife's health failed with the labour of waiting upon her sick
relatives, and when Tim's earnings dwindled to a starving pittance by
reason of his being compelled to wait upon those around him that could not
help themselves. Prim held the purse-strings of the parish tight: Tim
fasted often when his neighbours fed, and fed well: but he never
despaired. "Every dog has his day," he still thought, but refrained from
saying much, and still battled with thoughts that would have unmanned him.
Tim was repeating to himself his old adage one afternoon, about six months
after his mother's death, when the clergyman of the parish entered his
cottage, and, to Tim's indescribable surprise, desired Tim to take the
measure of him for a new suit! Now the fact was, that the clergyman was,
necessarily, more than once in Tim's dwelling during the successive
illnesses of his grandmother and mother; and although prejudiced against
the tailor, from the reports circulated to his detriment, yet he was too
sensible a man not to use his opportunities of scrutinizing Tim's real
character, and too much a gentleman, in the best sense of the word, to
permit a poor but worthy man to suffer if his own help could avail to
relieve him. The clergyman saw that Tim wore his heart too much on the
outside of his waistcoat to be a rogue; and the clergyman determined to
help Tim by his patronage and his "good word."
The prejudices against Tim, however, were not dispelled all at once,
though many began to look upon him with new eyes when they heard that the
town-parson had actually given him orders for a new suit. The climax of
the poor tailor's sorrows was now, however, gone by; and the future was
preparing for him its triumphs and joys. One event gave him some trouble;
but what hind of trouble? Ah! it was of that kind which is most truly troublous to a heart which has struggled to train itself into correctness. The termination of Prim's two years of overseership arrived and the
parish vestry would not pass his accounts, having discovered him to be
guilty of an immense embezzlement! Tim had real trouble with his own heart
throughout the whole of the day on which he first learnt this fact. Exultation over his old enemy was the feeling that strove to be uppermost;
but Tim virtuously kept it down.
Succeeding years displayed a striking contrast in the lives of Tim
Swallow-Whistle and Prim the Puritan. The houses which the cheating
overseer had recently bought with the fruits of his fraud were sold to
raise law expenses; even his aunt's freehold went to the hammer for the
same purpose: and Prim only escaped a prison by some technical flaw in the
wording of the proceedings taken out against him. He was ruined, however,
and became comparatively a beggar, while his character sank for life. Tim's honesty and industry, on the other hand, raised him daily in the
estimation of his neighbours. Competence, amounting, at length, well-nigh
to wealth, beamed upon him, and, ere his grey hairs went down to the
grave, he lived to leave a crown-piece, often, at the door of the ragged
and wretched man who was once his envious persecutor and the oppressive
overseer.—Tim Swallow-Whistle preserved, even to his dying day, that
nobility of heart which forbade him to triumph over a fallen enemy; but he
would often repeat, half mechanically, to himself, when passing from the
poverty-stricken door of Prim the Puritan, "Every dog has his day."
DAVY LIDGITT, THE CARRIER;
THE MAN WHO BROUGHT HIS NINEPENCE TO NOUGHT.
LOUTH, sixty years ago, was, no doubt, the handsomest as well as the
largest town in the north of Lincolnshire, though you would not then have
seen in it, as you might say thirty years ago, a dashing mail-coach, with
a dashing red-coated and gold-laced guard, dash out and in daily to and
from Rasen, and Gainsbro', and Sheffield. "Long" Ludforth, too—(they
spell it "Ludford" on the maps; but, doubtless, they who live there know
better the name of the place than your mere map-makers!)—Long Ludforth,
too, was nearly as deserving of its name, then, as now. And, in
default of all other means of conveyance for goods and passengers, Davy
Lidgitt, the carrier, traversed the ten miles of distance between the
village and market-town "every Wednesday and Saturday—twice a week,
regular," as the inscription read on the front of his neat tilted cart;
for your new-fangled way of sticking the carrier's name on one side of his
vehicle had not then been invented by the tax-making gentry at
Davy Lidgitt was excelled in diligence and punctuality by
never a carrier, even in those diligent and punctual times, and gained the
universal respect of his employers, and, what was of more solid value, a
neat little independence, to boot, as the reward of his life of industry
and uprightness. Davy,—it should be "Old Davy;" for that was the
name by which he was known for the greater part of his public life,—Old
Davy would have felt himself to be a happy man could he have regarded
young Davy, his son, as one who was likely to tread, morally as well as
physically, in his steps. But Old Davy Lidgitt, like all other
mortals, lacked the single ingredient in his cup which could give it the
power of making his bliss complete on this side the grave.
Not that young Davy was idle, or profligate, or devoid of
wit, according to some people's acceptation of the term. In fact,
the majority of the plain villagers of Long Ludforth agreed that, "if
aught, young Davy Lidgitt had ower much wit for one of his calling."
And, for activity, few could match young Davy. From a mere child he
aspired to wield his father's long whip, and at ten years old could manage
the brown mare and the black horse that composed the carrier's team as
well as Old Davy himself could manage them. Moreover, he was always
to be found about the cart or the stable, at the market-town, when the
goods were delivered, and could never be tempted to spend either his time,
health, or money at the ale-tap. Up to the age of
five-and-twenty,—when Old Davy, at sixty, fully retired to enjoy the brief
remnant of life in the snug but small cottage he had purchased,—young Davy
had not failed to accompany his father as regularly as Wednesday and
Saturday returned in each week to Louth and back, attending so rigidly and
cleverly to every item of parcel and package, letter and message, that the
villagers would one and all declare "young Davy Lidgitt had a head like an
"Why, what in the world, then, could it be," you will ask,
"that caused old Davy to look upon a lad, with his son's commendations, in
the light of disparagement?" If the truth must be told, we must
begin at the beginning. Young Davy showed sundry symptoms of a
disposition that his father did not like even when a child: he would hook
the gears one day in one mode and another day in another, often to the
provocation of some such harsh exclamation on the part of the senior
Lidgitt, as—"'Od rabbet thee! thou'st been at thy kickshaw tricks again,
with the old mare's belly-band: she'll be kicking thy busy brains out some
of these days!" And many a kick, to say troth, young Davy received
for these "kickshaw" tricks: but he persevered, with the belief that the
way of harnessing a cart-horse might be improved. Yet his father
could never discern that either in this or any other of his displays of
genius, such as clipping or tying the manes of the horses in whimsical
forms, or hanging their collars, and halters, and so forth, in "apple-pie
order," as the old man called it, in the home stable—I say, old Davy could
never arrive at the conclusion that young Davy, in any of these intended
"improvements" ever effected a real one.
"But, Lord love thee, Davy!" Betty Lidgitt would usually say,
when her spouse had been relating his boy's latest whim, in her ears, at
supper-time,—"Lord love thee, Davy, he's only a child; and thou knaws
childer will be childer: one can't set old heads upo' young shouthers:
he'll give over with his meagrims when he grows older: thou wants
patientness, Davy,—patientness! thou knaws I tell'd thee so, before we
These pleasant motherly excuses for the lad quieted the
father for some years; but, one day, when the young "Reformer" had
proceeded so far as to take away the horse-shoe from the door-jamb,—that
mystic surety of good luck to the cottage by the opinions of every
inhabitant of Long Ludforth, and which the parson had never said was
wrong,—old Davy could forbear no longer to put into execution a resolve
that had been for some months forming in his mind.
"Betty! I'll take him to Wise Tom, and have his planet
ruled!" said he, "for I feel sartain and sewer some'at isn't right about
the lad: he's the very devil for mischief! Lord ha' marcy on us, if
the young varment hasn't tucken the horse-shoe away now! some'at will be
happening us I'm sewer!"
And, on the following Monday morning, when his team had
rested a day after their usual Saturday's travel, old Davy Lidgitt arose
betimes, and, calling up his son, set forth with him on the way to Welton,
to visit the astrologer.
It will be long before the memory of old Tom Cussitt, "the
wise man of Welton," will be forgot in Lindsey. "Cusworth" was his
proper name, but old Lindsey folk made it a rule to shorten folks' names
when they had to use them often, and there were few names more frequently
in a peasant's mouth, at that time of the day, for twenty miles round
Louth, than that of "Tom Cussitt." Good Lord! if one were to tell
all the stories one has heard of his discoveries of stolen goods by the
stars; of the marks he was wont to put on the thieves, that the owners of
the goods might know the rogues when they saw 'em; of the wondrous way in
which he could show a love-sick maiden her future husband in the
old-fashioned witch-looking mirror that hung in his darkened room; and of
the strange facts he foretold to some people, when he "cast their
nativities,"—that mystic process in which he never erred a hair's
breadth,—why, it would take a twelvemonth to go through the labour!
But, to attend to old and young Davy. It was but half-a-dozen miles
from Long Ludforth to Welton, and so they and their little team were soon
Young Davy, it may be guessed, gazed hard at the "Wise Man,"
and thought him an awful looking personage, though Tom Cussitt was, at
that time of day, a somewhat handsome-looking man. His fine clear
blue eye was not, as yet, overhung with those bushy, unsightly brows that
marked him in old age; his fair, ruddy skin was not, as yet, disfigured
and concealed by the filthy long gray beard he afterwards wore; nor had
his fine manly height yet contracted a stoop. Old Davy had often
seen Wise Tom before, having frequently conveyed customers to his cottage,
and therefore he did not stare at him with wonder or surprise, like the
lad. As for Tom, he, of course, stared at neither father nor son,
being quite prepared, like Sidrophel, to say to every comer—
"I did expect you here, and knew,
Before you spake, your business, too."
Not that Tom Cussitt was one of your ordinary conjurers,—your
mere schemers who take up the trade to scrape a shilling from the gulls
among mankind. Many a rich man has gone from Tom's door without
being able, although he proffered pounds to the star-gazer, to obtain one
syllable from him in solution of the great problem of futurity which the
rich man desired so much to know. Nor did Tom usually set about the
process of solving a "horary question," or "telling a fortune," with the
imposing forms of books and almanacks. On some special occasions he
would resort, like other clerks of the starry craft, to these learned
appearances; but, more customarily, a single strong pithy remark, or two,
delivered over his pipe, and in the course of a general conversation in
which he engaged his visitors, comprised the gist of his prophecy
respecting the future life of an inquirer, or of his direction for the
recovery of stolen goods or chattels. Whatever might be the wise
man's own confidence in the rules of prognostication by the stars, every
shrewd observer noted that the prophet delivered his oracles rather by the
gauge and admeasurement which his strong common sense enabled him to form
of human character, and the accuracy by which it enabled him to judge of
circumstances, than by any exercise of mathematical or other description
of learned skill.
Old Davy was too full with the budget of young Davy's
vagaries to need much craft on the part of one who wished to draw him out.
The Wise Man quickly kenned what kind of stuff the young chap was made of,
and did not feel that it required any great exercise of his wisdom to ken
it, either. Old Davy, however, with all his fears for the lad's
capricious inclinations, and their probable consequences when he himself
might be lain in the grave, was scarcely prepared for the stunning
severity of the single definitive sentence wherewith Wise Tom summed up
his prophecy of young Davy's "fortune."
"Well, then, Maister Cussitt," said Davy the elder, taking
his pipe from his mouth, after the lapse of an hour's chat, "and so what
do you think of him? I've tell'd you the day, I'm sewer, quite exact; and
I've told you the hour at which Betty brought him into the world, as near
as I can remember."
"Reach us a spell, my lad!" said Cussitt to the younger Davy,
and pointed to a neat wire case that hung against the wall, and contained
long strips of paper wrapped up for pipelighters.
"You'll want two," said the very sharp lad, "for my fayther's
pipe's out, an' all!"
"Is it, lad?" said old Davy, looking eagerly into the head of
his pipe. "Lord! what eyes thou hast! there's nothing can 'scape thee, I
declare!" And he chuckled with pleasure at his boy's acuteness.
"And so what think you, then," he asked again—"what think
you, Maister Cussitt, will be our Davy's luck?"
Young Davy had just lighted the two spells, had held them to
the pipes, severally, and had thrown the papers, neither of them half
consumed, upon the fire.
"Think!" exclaimed the wise man, eyeing the youngster
fiercely, and glancing at the father with a look that seemed to ask if
there was now any need to tell what he thought—"think!" said he; "why,
that he'll bring his ninepence to nought!" And he thrust his middle finger
into the pipe-head to put out the fire in the tobacco, and placed the
pipe, sternly, on the mantel-piece.
Old Davy's face fell; and he also laid down his pipe. Tom Cussitt took his large-skirted hat from the peg, called to his maid for
the milking-kit, and prepared, according to his wont, to go forth and milk
his cows; for he followed husbandry in humble and industrious style during
the greater part of his life, notwithstanding his astrological profession. "Good morning, Davy Lidgitt!" he said; and left father and son, alike
wonder-stricken, by the fire-side.
There, however, they did not remain many minutes, but were on
their way to Ludforth; and a melancholy way it seemed to Old Davy. Betty Lidgitt felt as melancholy as her husband when he had related Tom
Cussitt's laconic prophecy. Yet she strove to comfort her spouse with the
encouraging remembrance, that "the Wise Man had not said much; and, for
the little that he did say, why, belike, it was meant more for caution
than aught worse." Old Davy was willing to think so, but could not succeed
in persuading himself of it; and, indeed, young Davy showed "too much of
the cloven foot," as his father somewhat sourly said, at times, "to lead a
body to think that the imp of mischief would ever leave him;" so that, to
his dying day, poor Old Davy would, ever and anon, sigh over his
remembrance of Tom Cussitt's short but sorrowfully significant saying.
The story would become tiresome by going over the catalogue
of a thousandth part of young Davy Lidgitt's doings in the "improving
way," during the dozen years that intervened between the visit to the Wise
Man of Welton and Old Davy's retirement from business as a carrier. Nor is
it needful to chronicle similar deeds of the son that occurred from that
period to the day of the father's death,—though some of these latter
sorely harassed the old man's temper,—especially young Davy's purchase of
coloured collars for the horses, and a fancy tilt, that cost thrice the
price of the old one, and let in the rain! It was when old Davy was "safe
under the sod," as the sexton said when he had finished the covering of
his grave, and clapped it soundly with his spade in token of admiration
for his own work,—it was then that young Davy began to let all the world
in Long Ludforth see there was a man amongst them that possessed brains.
First, the "reformer" pulled down his father's low cottage,
and engaged a swaggering builder to erect a tall four-storied house of
brick, with a slated roof, on
the same spot, taking in the little spot that had glowed so delightfully
for many a year with roses, and pansies, and marigolds. True, the purse of
two hundred spade-aces, left by his economical parent, did not suffice to
finish the house in the style he had devised; so he warned the bricklayer
to stop at three stories, and to leave out some of the fantastic stone
ornaments he had procured at Louth. He sold the ornaments and some of the
other extra materials which had already been brought upon his premises;
but he permitted a tradesman to take them on credit, and was never paid
for them. Then, finding the house was likely to remain unroofed for lack
of money, he was constrained to go a-borrowing; but the errand and the
reception he met reminded him strongly of one of his old father's sayings,
which he used to think very simple when the old man was alive, "He that
goes a-borrowing goes a-sorrowing!"—but young Davy did not think the
proverb quite so simple, now. The farmers shook their heads at him,
wherever he went, and said "No;" without a syllable of preface or addenda. And as for the moneyed men at Louth, they had all taken their gauge of
young Davy Lidgitt, as well as the Wise Man of Welton; and the "man of
improvements" could only borrow on a hard mortgage.
"And who are you to put into this new house when it is
finished, Mister Lidgitt?" asked Grumley, the grocer, of Louth,
very politely, one day, as he was riding past, and saw young Davy standing
by to look at the builders.
Young Davy looked foolish at the question; for, having
neither father nor mother, brother nor sister in the world, he could only
answer that he had no one to
put into it but himself.
The grocer earnestly begged his company to dinner, when he
next came to Louth; and young Davy felt so much flattered by so unusual an
invitation, that he instantly accepted it. And young Davy found Mr. Grumley very cordial, and Mrs. Grumley exceedingly kind,—but, above all,
the Misses Grumley were the most interesting creatures he had ever seen! The eldest, especially, won his respect,—or, he did not exactly know what
to call it,—for he had thought more about improvements in horses, and
carts, and stables, and houses, than aught else, all his life. But
the eldest Miss—the Miss Grumley, by emphasis of courtesy—talked so sensibly
about the clever improvements that young Mr. Brown had made in his
farmhouse, at Raithby, now his father was dead; and how he had married
Miss Green, the chandler's daughter, and had bought such a nice gig!
To tell the reader at once, what he plainly sees is about
coming to pass, young Mister Davy Lidgitt married Miss Grumley; and
he also bought a nice gig—but it was bought on credit!
Proceeding with his "reforms" and "improvements," Davy turned
daily carrier from Long Ludforth to Louth, in a smart, light van, having
disposed of his father's old cart. But now young Davy began to
willingly, but perforce,—for bills were pouring in upon him that he could
not pay. But Mr. Grumley was ready to join in a note, since young Davy
had already performed that kindness, more than once, for his
father-in-law. Still young Davy was compelled to think; for, more than
once, his grand daily trip in the new van to Louth did not afford
freightage enough to cover the expense of the two toll-gates which "improvement" had set up between Long Ludforth and Louth market-place. So
Davy fell off to "every other day" as a carrier. This was his first
retrograde "reform," but, alas! it was not his last.
Expenses daily became heavier. Mrs. Lidgitt was gay when a
grocer's daughter in a market-town; but she felt it requisite and becoming
to "take the lead" in dress, since her settlement in a village, where the
affair, too, was so comparatively easy. And then, in the course of two
years, two little Lidgitts were squalling about the house; and, in
addition to one regular maid-servant, and an occasional help from a
stableboy, a nurse was introduced as a constant member of Davy's household
The visit of a lawyer, one day, put the family into a
flutter. Davy was taken aside, and informed that Mr. So-and-so had
resolved to call in his mortgage. Davy's heart sank, until he thought he
must have dropped; but how overjoyed he became when Lawyer Gripple so
cheerfully offered himself as mortgagee to succeed his client Mr.
So-and-so! Yet, when the new mortgage-deed was completed, Davy found
himself, somehow or other, a hundred pounds more in debt for his house
Young Davy Lidgitt now began to think more deeply, and
proposed some curtailments of weekly expenditure to his wife; but she wept
so passionately at the mention of them, that Davy's heart smote him for
his cruelty. Then he tried to resolve on lessening his own "appearances;"
but pride got the better of him, and he dashed along, till at the end of
one more year, Lawyer Gripple suddenly "called in his money," and followed
up the call ere Davy could answer it, or procure another friend, by taking
possession of Davy's house, and telling him that thenceforth he ceased to
be anything but a tenant, and for that title must pay him—Lawyer Gripple—twenty
Before Davy could recover his surprise at this rapacious
deed, Mr. Grumley failed in very heavy responsibilities, with very small
assets, and young Davy was sent to prison for the debts to which he had
pledged himself on account of his father-in-law.
To end a sorrowful story as speedily as possible, it remains
but to say, that when poor Davy got out of gaol he found his wife and her
children nearly starving and in rags, and living in a scanty, down-coming
cottage, not half the size of that wherein his father and mother had lived
so many years in contentment and prosperity—his house was not only
entirely gone, but his van and horses were sold, and his business had
passed, months before, into the hands of an industrious stranger.
Penniless, sick, and wretched, poor Davy Lidgitt was
compelled to apply to the parish for bread, and he had no alternative but
to obey their direction, and break stones on the road!
He was beheld in that employ for many years after—a fallen,
broken-spirited man;—and often would the aged women observe to each
other,—as they passed him by to work in the fields, and remembered Tom
Cussitt's prophecy, to which Davy's father would so often recur in his
neighbours' hearing,—"So much for the man who hath brought his ninepence