Our hero little dreamed that he had a formidable rival in the person of the knight, who arrived about eleven, at the sign of the St. George, and, by the noise he made, gave intimation of his importance. This was no other than Squire Sycamore, who, having received advice that Miss Aurelia Darnel had eloped from the place of her retreat, immediately took the field in quest of that lovely fugitive; hoping that, should he have the good fortune to find her in present distress, his good offices would not be rejected. He had followed the chase so close, that, immediately after our adventurer’s departure, he alighted at the inn, from whence Aurelia had been conveyed; and there he learned the particulars which we have related above.

Mr. Sycamore had a great deal of the childish romantic in his disposition, and, in the course of his amours, is said to have always taken more pleasure in the pursuit than in the final possession. He had heard of Sir Launcelot’s extravagance, by which he was in some measure infected, and he dropped an insinuation, that he could eclipse his rival, even in his own lunatic sphere. This hint was not lost upon his companion, counsellor, and buffoon, the facetious Davy Dawdle, who had some humour, and a great deal of mischief, in his composition. He looked upon his patron as a fool, and his patron knew him to be both knave and fool; yet, the two characters suited each other so well, that they could hardly exist asunder. Davy was an artful sycophant, but he did not flatter in the usual way; on the contrary, he behaved en cavalier, and treated Sycamore, on whose bounty he subsisted, with the most sarcastic familiarity. Nevertheless, he seasoned his freedom with certain qualifying ingredients, that subdued the bitterness of it, and was now become so necessary to the squire, that he had no idea of enjoyment with which Dawdle was not somehow or other connected.

There had been a warm dispute betwixt them about the scheme of contesting the prize with Sir Launcelot in the lists of chivalry. Sycamore had insinuated, that if he had a mind to play the fool, he could wear armour, wield a lance, and manage a charger, as well as Sir Launcelot Greaves. Dawdle, snatching the hint, “I had, some time ago,” said he, “contrived a scheme for you, which I was afraid you had not address enough to execute. It would be no difficult matter, in imitation of the bachelor, Sampson Carrasco, to go in quest of Greaves, as a knight-errant, defy him as a rival, and establish a compact, by which the vanquished should obey the injunctions of the victor.”—“That is my very idea,” cried Sycamore. “—Your idea!” replied the other; “had you ever an idea of your own conception?” Thus the dispute began, and was maintained with great vehemence, until other arguments failing, the squire offered to lay a wager of twenty guineas. To this proposal, Dawdle answered by the interjection pish! which inflamed Sycamore to a repetition of the defiance. “You are in the right,” said Dawdle, “to use such an argument as you know is by me unanswerable. A wager of twenty guineas will at any time overthrow and confute all the logic of the most able syllogist, who has not got a shilling in his pocket.”

Sycamore looked very grave at this declaration, and, after a short pause, said, “I wonder, Dawdle, what you do with all your money?”—“I am surprised you should give yourself that trouble—I never ask what you do with yours.”—“You have no occasion to ask; you know pretty well how it goes.”—“What, do you upbraid me with your favours?—‘t is mighty well, Sycamore.”—“Nay, Dawdle, I did not intend to affront.”—“Z——s! affront! what d’ye mean?” “I’ll assure you, Davy, you don’t know me, if you think I could be so ungenerous as to—a—to——“—“I always thought, whatever faults or foibles you might have, Sycamore, that you was not deficient in generosity,—though to be sure it is often very absurdly displayed.”—“Ay, that’s one of my greatest foibles; I can’t refuse even a scoundrel, when I think he is in want.—Here, Dawdle, take that note.” —“Not I, sir,—what d’ye mean?—what right have I to your notes?” —“Nay, but Dawdle,—come.”—“By no means; it looks like the abuse of good-nature;—all the world knows you’re good-natured to a fault.” —“Come, dear Davy, you shall—you must oblige me.”—Thus urged, Dawdle accepted the bank-note with great reluctance, and restored the idea to the right owner.

A suit of armour being brought from the garret or armoury of his ancestors, he gave orders for having the pieces scoured and furbished up; and his heart dilated with joy, when he reflected upon the superb figure he should make when cased in complete steel, and armed at all points for the combat.

When he was fitted with the other parts, Dawdle insisted on buckling on his helmet, which weighed fifteen pounds; and, the headpiece being adjusted, made such a clatter about his ears with a cudgel, that his eyes had almost started from their sockets. His voice was lost within the vizor, and his friend affected not to understand his meaning when he made signs with his gauntlets, and endeavoured to close with him, that he might wrest the cudgel from his hand. At length he desisted, saying, “I’ll warrant the helmet sound by its ringing”; and taking it off, found the squire in a cold sweat. He would have achieved his first exploit on the spot, had his strength permitted him to assault Dawdle; but what with want of air, and the discipline he had undergone, he had well-nigh swooned away; and before he retrieved the use of his members, he was appeased by the apologies of his companion, who protested he meant nothing more than to try if the helmet was free of cracks, and whether or not it would prove a good protection for the head it covered.

His excuses were accepted; the armour was packed up, and next morning Mr. Sycamore set out from his own house, accompanied by Dawdle, who undertook to perform the part of his squire at the approaching combat. He was also attended by a servant on horseback, who had charge of the armour, and another who blowed the trumpet. They no sooner understood that our hero was housed at the George, than the trumpeter sounded a charge, which alarmed Sir Launcelot and his company, and disturbed honest Captain Crowe in the middle of his first sleep. Their next step was to pen a challenge, which, when the stranger departed, was by the trumpeter delivered with great ceremony into the hands of Sir Launcelot, who read it in these words:—“To the knight of the Crescent, greeting. Whereas I am informed you have the presumption to lay claim to the heart of the peerless Aurelia Darnel, I give you notice that I can admit no rivalship in the affection of that paragon of beauty; and I expect that you will either resign your pretensions, or make it appear in single combat, according to the law of arms and the institutions of chivalry, that you are worthy to dispute her favour with him of the Griffin.—POLYDORE.”

Our adventurer was not a little surprised at this address, which however he pocketed in silence, and began to reflect, not without mortification, that he was treated as a lunatic by some person, who wanted to amuse himself with the infirmities of his fellow-creatures. Mr. Thomas Clarke, who saw the ceremony with which the letter was delivered, and the emotions with which it was read, hied him to the kitchen for intelligence, and there learned that the stranger was Squire Sycamore. He forthwith comprehended the nature of the billet, and, in the apprehension that bloodshed would ensue, resolved to alarm his uncle, that he might assist in keeping the peace. He accordingly entered the apartment of the captain, who had been waked by the trumpet, and now peevishly asked the meaning of that d—ned piping, as if all hands were called upon deck? Clarke having imparted what he knew of the transaction, together with his own conjectures, the captain said, he did not suppose as how they would engage by candlelight; and that, for his own part, he should turn out in the larboard watch, long enough before any signals could be hove out for forming the line.

With this assurance the lawyer retired to his nest, where he did not fail to dream of Mrs. Dolly Cowslip, while Sir Launcelot passed the night awake, in ruminating on the strange challenge he had received. He had got notice that the sender was Mr. Sycamore, and hesitated with himself whether he should not punish him for his impertinence; but when he reflected on the nature of the dispute, and the serious consequences it might produce, he resolved to decline the combat, as a trial of right and merit founded upon absurdity. Even in his maddest hours, he never adopted those maxims of knight-errantry which related to challenges. He always perceived the folly and wickedness of defying a man to mortal fight, because he did not like the colour of his beard, or the complexion of his mistress; or of deciding by homicide whether he or his rival deserved the preference, when it was the lady’s prerogative to determine which should be the happy lover. It was his opinion that chivalry was an useful institution while confined to its original purposes of protecting the innocent, assisting the friendless, and bringing the guilty to condign punishment. But he could not conceive how these laws should be answered by violating every suggestion of reason, and every precept of humanity.

Captain Crowe did not examine the matter so philosophically. He took it for granted that in the morning the two knights would come to action, and slept sound on that supposition. But he rose before it was day, resolved to be somehow concerned in the fray; and understanding that the stranger had a companion, set him down immediately for his own antagonist. So impatient was he to establish this secondary contest, that by daybreak he entered the chamber of Dawdle, to which he was directed by the waiter, and roused him with a hilloah, that might have been heard at the distance of half a league. Dawdle, startled by this terrific sound, sprung out of bed, and stood upright on the floor, before he opened his eyes upon the object by which he had been so dreadfully alarmed. But when he beheld the head of Crowe, so swelled and swathed, so livid, hideous, and grisly, with a broadsword by his side, and a case of pistols in his girdle, he believed it was the apparition of some murdered man; his hair bristled up, his teeth chattered, and his knees knocked; he would have prayed, but his tongue denied its office. Crowe seeing his perturbation, “Mayhap, friend,” said he, “you take me for a buccaneer; but I am no such person. —My name is Captain Crowe.—I come not for your silver nor your gold, your rigging nor your stowage; but hearing as how your friend intends to bring my friend Sir Launcelot Greaves to action, d’ye see, I desire in the way of friendship, that, while they are engaged, you and I, as their seconds, may lie board and board for a few glasses to divert one another, d’ye see.” Dawdle hearing this request, began to retrieve his faculties, and throwing himself into the attitude of Hamlet when the ghost appears, exclaimed in theatrical accent,

     Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
     Art thou a spirit of grace, or goblin damn’d?

As he seemed to bend his eye on vacancy, the captain began to think that he really saw something preternatural, and stared wildly round. Then addressing himself to the terrified Dawdle, “D—n’d,” said he, “for what should I be d—n’d? If you are afeard of goblins, brother, put your trust in the Lord, and he’ll prove a sheet-anchor to you.” The other having by this time recollected himself perfectly, continued notwithstanding to spout tragedy, and, in the words of Macbeth, pronounced,

     What man dare, I dare:
     Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear,
     The arm’d rhinoceros, or Hyrcanian tiger;
     Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves
     Shall never tremble.

“‘Ware names, Jack,” cried the impatient mariner, “if so be as how you’ll bear a hand and rig yourself, and take a short trip with me into the offing, we’ll overhaul this here affair in the turning of a capstan.”

At this juncture they were joined by Mr. Sycamore in his night-gown and slippers. Disturbed by Crowe’s first salute, he sprung up, and now expressed no small astonishment at first sight of the novice’s countenance. After having gazed alternately at him and Dawdle, “Who have we got here?” said he; “raw head and bloody bones?” When his friend, slipping on his clothes, gave him to understand that this was a friend of Sir Launcelot Greaves, and explained the purport of his errand, he treated him with more civility. He assured him that he should have the pleasure to break a spear with Mr. Dawdle; and signified his surprise that Sir Launcelot had made no answer to his letter. It being by this time clear daylight, and Crowe extremely interested in this affair, he broke without ceremony into the knight’s chamber, and told him abruptly that the enemy had brought to, and waited for his coming up, in order to begin the action. “I’ve hailed his consort,” said he, “a shambling, chattering fellow. He took me first for a hobgoblin, then called me names, a tiger, a wrynoseo’ross, and a Persian bear; but egad, if I come athwart him, I’ll make him look like the bear and ragged staff before we part,—I wool.”

This intimation was not received with that alacrity which the captain expected to find in our adventurer, who told him in a peremptory tone, that he had no design to come to action, and desired to be left to his repose. Crowe forthwith retired crestfallen, and muttered something, which was never distinctly heard.

About eight in the morning Mr. Dawdle brought him a formal message from the knight of the Griffin, desiring he would appoint the lists, and give security of the field. To which request he made answer in a very composed and solemn accent, “If the person who sent you thinks I have injured him, let him without disguise or any such ridiculous ceremony, explain the nature of the wrong; and then I shall give such satisfaction as may suit my conscience and my character. If he hath bestowed his affection upon any particular object, and looks upon me as a favourite rival, I shall not wrong the lady so much as to take any step that may prejudice her choice, especially a step that contradicts my own reason as much as it would outrage the laws of my country. If he who calls himself knight of the Griffin is really desirous of treading in the paths of true chivalry, he will not want opportunities of signalising his valour in the cause of virtue.—Should he, notwithstanding this declaration, offer violence to me in the course of my occasions, he will always find me in a posture of defence. Or, should he persist in repeating his importunities, I shall without ceremony chastise the messenger.” His declining the combat was interpreted into fear by Mr. Sycamore, who now became more insolent and ferocious, on the supposition of our knight’s timidity. Sir Launcelot meanwhile went to breakfast with his friends, and, having put on his armour, ordered the horses to be brought forth. Then he paid the bill, and walking deliberately to the gate, in presence of Squire Sycamore and his attendants, vaulted at one spring into the saddle of Bronzomarte, whose neighing and curveting proclaimed the joy he felt in being mounted by his accomplished master.

Though the knight of the Griffin did not think proper to insult his rival personally, his friend Dawdle did not fail to crack some jokes on the figure and horsemanship of Crowe, who again declared he should be glad to fall in with him upon the voyage. Nor did Mr. Clarke’s black patch and rueful countenance pass unnoticed and unridiculed. As for Timothy Crabshaw, he beheld his brother squire with the contempt of a veteran; and Gilbert paid him his compliments with his heels at parting. But when our adventurer and his retinue were clear of the inn, Mr. Sycamore ordered his trumpeter to sound a retreat, by way of triumph over his antagonist.

Perhaps he would have contented himself with this kind of victory, had not Dawdle further inflamed his envy and ambition, by launching out in praise of Sir Launcelot. He observed that his countenance was open and manly; his joints strong knit, and his form unexceptionable; that he trod like Hercules, and vaulted into the saddle like a winged Mercury. Nay, he even hinted it was lucky for Sycamore that the knight of the Crescent happened to be so pacifically disposed. His patron sickened at these praises, and took fire at the last observation. He affected to undervalue personal beauty, though the opinion of the world had been favourable to himself in that particular. He said he was at least two inches taller than Greaves; and as to shape and air, he would make no comparisons; but with respect to riding, he was sure he had a better seat than Sir Launcelot, and would wager five hundred to fifty guineas, that he would unhorse him at the first encounter. “There is no occasion for laying wagers,” replied Mr. Dawdle; “the doubt may be determined in half an hour—Sir Launcelot is not a man to avoid you at full gallop.” Sycamore, after some hesitation, declared he would follow and provoke him to battle, on condition that Dawdle would engage Crowe; and this condition was accepted. For, though Davy had no stomach to the trial, he could not readily find an excuse for declining it. Besides, he had discovered the captain to be a very bad horseman, and resolved to eke out his own scanty valour with a border of ingenuity. The servants were immediately ordered to unpack the armour, and, in a little time, Mr. Sycamore made a very formidable appearance. But the scene that followed is too important to be huddled in at the end of a chapter; and therefore we shall reserve it for a more conspicuous place in these memoirs.

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