When the landlady entered the room from whence the groaning proceeded, she found the squire lying on his back, under the dominion of the nightmare, which rode him so hard that he not only groaned and snorted, but the sweat ran down his face in streams. The perturbation of his brain, occasioned by this pressure, and the fright he had lately undergone, gave rise to a very terrible dream, in which he fancied himself apprehended for a robbery. The horror of the gallows was strong upon him, when he was suddenly awaked by a violent shock from the doctor; and the company broke in upon his view, still perverted by fear, and bedimmed by slumber. His dream was now realised by a full persuasion that he was surrounded by the constable and his gang. The first object that presented itself to his disordered view was the figure of Ferret, who might very well have passed for the finisher of the law; against him, therefore, the first effort of his despair was directed. He started upon the floor, and seizing a certain utensil, that shall be nameless, launched it at the misanthrope with such violence, that had he not cautiously slipt his head aside, it is supposed that actual fire would have been produced from the collision of two such hard and solid substances. All future mischief was prevented by the strength and agility of Captain Crowe, who, springing upon the assailant, pinioned his arms to his sides, crying, “O, d—n ye, if you are for running a-head, I’ll soon bring you to your bearings.”

The squire, thus restrained, soon recollected himself, and gazing upon every individual in the apartment, “Wounds!” said he, “I’ve had an ugly dream. I thought, for all the world, they were carrying me to Newgate, and that there was Jack Ketch coom to vetch me before my taim.”

Ferret, who was the person he had thus distinguished, eyeing him with a look of the most emphatic malevolence, told him it was very natural for a knave to dream of Newgate; and that he hoped to see the day when his dream would be found a true prophecy, and the commonwealth purged of all such rogues and vagabonds. But it could not be expected that the vulgar would be honest and conscientious, while the great were distinguished by profligacy and corruption. The squire was disposed to make a practical reply to this insinuation, when Mr. Ferret prudently withdrew himself from the scene of altercation. The good woman of the house persuaded his antagonist to take out his nap, assuring him that the eggs and bacon, with a mug of excellent ale, should be forthcoming in due season. The affair being thus fortunately adjusted, the guests returned to the kitchen, and Mr. Clarke resumed his story to this effect:—

“You’ll please to take notice, gemmen, that, besides the instances I have alleged of Sir Launcelot’s extravagant benevolence, I could recount a great many others of the same nature, and particularly the laudable vengeance he took of a country lawyer. I’m sorry that any such miscreant should belong to the profession. He was clerk of the assize, gemmen, in a certain town, not a great way distant; and having a blank pardon left by the judges for some criminals whose cases were attended with favourable circumstances, he would not insert the name of one who could not procure a guinea for the fee; and the poor fellow, who had only stole an hour-glass out of a shoemaker’s window, was actually executed, after a long respite, during which he had been permitted to go abroad, and earn his subsistence by his daily labour.

“Sir Launcelot being informed of this barbarous act of avarice, and having some ground that bordered on the lawyer’s estate, not only rendered him contemptible and infamous, by exposing him as often as they met on the grand jury, but also, being vested with the property of the great tithe, proved such a troublesome neighbour, sometimes by making waste among his hay and corn, sometimes by instituting suits against him for petty trespasses, that he was fairly obliged to quit his habitation, and remove into another part of the kingdom.

“All these avocations could not divert Sir Launcelot from the execution of a wild scheme, which has carried his extravagance to such a pitch that I am afraid, if a statute—you understand me, gemmen—were sued, the jury would—I don’t choose to explain myself further on this circumstance. Be that as it may, the servants at Greavesbury Hall were not a little confounded, when their master took down from the family armoury a complete suit of armour, which belonged to his great-grandfather, Sir Marmaduke Greaves, a great warrior, who lost his life in the service of his king. This armour being scoured, repaired, and altered, so as to fit Sir Launcelot, a certain knight, whom I don’t choose to name, because I believe he cannot be proved compos mentis, came down, seemingly on a visit, with two attendants; and, on the evening of the festival of St. George, the armour being carried into the chapel. Sir Launcelot (Lord have mercy upon us!) remained all night in that dismal place alone, and without light, though it was confidently reported all over the country, that the place was haunted by the spirit of his great-great-uncle, who, being lunatic, had cut his throat from ear to ear, and was found dead on the communion table.”

It was observed, that while Mr. Clarke rehearsed this circumstance his eyes began to stare and his teeth to chatter; while Dolly, whose looks were fixed invariably on this narrator, growing pale, and hitching her joint-stool nearer the chimney, exclaimed, in a frightened tone, “Moother, moother, in the neame of God, look to ‘un! how a quakes! as I’m a precious saoul, a looks as if a saw something.” Tom forced a smile, and thus proceeded:—

“While Sir Launcelot tarried within the chapel, with the doors all locked, the other knight stalked round and round it on the outside, with his sword drawn, to the terror of divers persons who were present at the ceremony. As soon as day broke he opened one of the doors, and going in to Sir Launcelot, read a book for some time, which we did suppose to be the constitutions of knight-errantry. Then we heard a loud slap, which echoed through the whole chapel, and the stranger pronounce, with an audible and solemn voice, ‘In the name of God, St. Michael, and St. George, I dub thee knight—be faithful, bold, and fortunate.’ You cannot imagine, gemmen, what an effect this strange ceremony had upon the people who were assembled. They gazed at one another in silent horror, and when Sir Launcelot came forth completely armed, took to their heels in a body, and fled with the utmost precipitation. I myself was overturned in the crowd; and this was the case with that very individual person who now serves him as squire. He was so frightened that he could not rise, but lay roaring in such a manner that the knight came up and gave him a thwack with his lance across the shoulders, which roused him with a vengeance. For my own part I freely own I was not unmoved at seeing such a figure come stalking out of a church in the grey of the morning; for it recalled to my remembrance the idea of the ghost in Hamlet, which I had seen acted in Drury Lane, when I made my first trip to London, and I had not yet got rid of the impression.

“Sir Launcelot, attended by the other knight, proceeded to the stable, from whence, with his own hands, he drew forth one of his best horses, a fine mettlesome sorrel, who had got blood in him, ornamented with rich trappings. In a trice, the two knights, and the other two strangers, who now appeared to be trumpeters, were mounted. Sir Launcelot’s armour was lacquered black; and on his shield was represented the moon in her first quarter, with the motto, Impleat orbem. The trumpets having sounded a charge, the stranger pronounced with a loud voice, ‘God preserve this gallant knight in all his honourable achievements; and may he long continue to press the sides of his now adopted steed, which I denominate Bronzomarte, hoping that he will rival in swiftness and spirit, Bayardo, Brigliadoro, or any other steed of past or present chivalry!’ After another flourish of the trumpets, all four clapped spurs to their horses, Sir Launcelot couching his lance, and galloped to and fro, as if they had been mad, to the terror and astonishment of all the spectators.

“What should have induced our knight to choose this here man for his squire, is not easy to determine; for, of all the servants about the house, he was the least likely either to please his master, or engage in such an undertaking. His name is Timothy Crabshaw, and he acted in the capacity of whipper-in to Sir Everhard. He afterwards married the daughter of a poor cottager, by whom he has several children, and was employed about the house as a ploughman and carter. To be sure, the fellow has a dry sort of humour about him; but he was universally hated among the servants, for his abusive tongue and perverse disposition, which often brought him into trouble; for, though the fellow is as strong as an elephant, he has no more courage naturally than a chicken; I say naturally, because, since his being a member of knight-errantry, he has done some things that appear altogether incredible and preternatural.

“Timothy kept such a bawling, after he had received the blow from Sir Launcelot, that everybody on the field thought that some of his bones were broken; and his wife, with five bantlings, came snivelling to the knight, who ordered her to send the husband directly to his house. Tim accordingly went thither, groaning piteously all the way, creeping along, with his body bent like a Greenland canoe. As soon as he entered the court, the outward door was shut; and Sir Launcelot coming downstairs with a horsewhip in his hand, asked what was the matter with him that he complained so dismally? To this question he replied, that it was as common as duck-weed in his country for a man to complain when his bones were broke. ‘What should have broke your bones?’ said the knight. ‘I cannot guess,’ answered the other, ‘unless it was that delicate switch that your honour in your mad pranks handled so dexterously upon my carcass.’ Sir Launcelot then told him, there was nothing so good for a bruise, as a sweat; and he had the remedy in his hand. Timothy, eyeing the horsewhip askance, observed that there was another still more speedy, to wit, a moderate pill of lead, with a sufficient dose of gunpowder. ‘No, rascal,’ cried the knight; ‘that must be reserved for your betters.’ So saying, he employed the instrument so effectually, that Crabshaw soon forgot his fractured ribs, and capered about with great agility.

“When he had been disciplined in this manner to some purpose, the knight told him he might retire, but ordered him to return next morning, when he should have a repetition of the medicine, provided he did not find himself capable of walking in an erect posture.

“The gate was no sooner thrown open, than Timothy ran home with all the speed of a greyhound, and corrected his wife, by whose advice he had pretended to be so grievously damaged in his person.

“Nobody dreamed that he would next day present himself at Greavesbury Hall; nevertheless, he was there very early in the morning, and even closeted a whole hour altogether with Sir Launcelot. He came out, making wry faces, and several times slapped himself on the forehead, crying, ‘Bodikins! thof he be crazy, I an’t, that I an’t?’ When he was asked what was the matter, he said, he believed the devil had got in him, and he should never be his own man again.

“That same day the knight carried him to Ashenton, where he bespoke those accoutrements which he now wears; and while these were making, it was thought the poor fellow would have run distracted. He did nothing but growl, and curse and swear to himself, run backwards and forwards between his own hut and Greavesbury Hall, and quarrel with the horses in the stable. At length, his wife and family were removed into a snug farmhouse, that happened to be empty, and care taken that they should be comfortably maintained.

“These precautions being taken, the knight, one morning, at daybreak, mounted Bronzomarte, and Crabshaw, as his squire, ascended the back of a clumsy cart-horse, called Gilbert. This, again, was looked upon as an instance of insanity in the said Crabshaw; for, of all the horses in the stable, Gilbert was the most stubborn and vicious, and had often like to have done mischief to Timothy while he drove the cart and plough. When he was out of humour, he would kick and plunge as if the devil was in him. He once thrust Crabshaw into the middle of a quick-set hedge, where he was terribly torn; another time he canted him over his head into a quagmire, where he stuck with his heels up, and must have perished, if people had not been passing that way; a third time he seized him in the stable with his teeth by the rim of the belly, and swung him off the ground, to the great danger of his life; and I’ll be hanged, if it was not owing to Gilbert, that Crabshaw was now thrown into the river.

“Thus mounted and accoutred, the knight and his squire set out on their first excursion. They turned off from the common highway, and travelled all that day without meeting anything worthy recounting; but, in the morning of the second day, they were favoured with an adventure. The hunt was upon a common through which they travelled, and the hounds were in full cry after a fox, when Crabshaw, prompted by his own mischievous disposition, and neglecting the order of his master, who called aloud to him to desist, rode up to the hounds, and crossed them at full gallop. The huntsman, who was not far off, running towards the squire, bestowed upon his head such a memento with his pole, as made the landscape dance before his eyes; and, in a twinkling he was surrounded by all the fox-hunters, who plied their whips about his ears with infinite agility. Sir Launcelot, advancing at an easy pace, instead of assisting the disastrous squire, exhorted his adversaries to punish him severely for his insolence, and they were not slow in obeying this injunction. Crabshaw, finding himself in this disagreeable situation, and that there was no succour to be expected from his master, on whose prowess he had depended, grew desperate, and, clubbing his whip, laid about him with great fury, wheeling about Gilbert, who was not idle; for he, having received some of the favours intended for his rider, both bit with his teeth and kicked with his heels; and, at last, made his way through the ring that encircled him, though not before he had broke the huntsman’s leg, lamed one of the best horses on the field, and killed half a score of the hounds.

“Crabshaw, seeing himself clear of the fray, did not tarry to take leave of his master, but made the most of his way to Greavesbury Hall, where he appeared hardly with any vestige of the human countenance, so much had he been defaced in this adventure. He did not fail to raise a great clamour against Sir Launcelot, whom he cursed as a coward in plain terms, swearing he would never serve him another day. But whether he altered his mind on cooler reflection, or was lectured by his wife, who well understood her own interest, he rose with the cock, and went again in quest of Sir Launcelot, whom he found on the eve of a very hazardous enterprise.

“In the midst of a lane, the knight happened to meet with a party of about forty recruits, commanded by a serjeant, a corporal, and a drummer, which last had his drum slung at his back; but seeing such a strange figure mounted on a high-spirited horse, he was seized with an inclination to divert his company. With this view, he braced his drum, and, hanging it in its proper position, began to beat a point of war, advancing under the very nose of Bronzomarte; while the corporal exclaimed, ‘D—n my eyes, who have we got here?—old King Stephen, from the horse armoury in the Tower, or the fellow that rides armed at my Lord Mayor’s show?’ The knight’s steed seemed, at least, as well pleased with the sound of the drum, as were the recruits that followed it; and signified his satisfaction in some curvetings and caprioles, which did not at all discompose the rider, who, addressing himself to the serjeant, ‘Friend,’ said he, ‘you ought to teach your drummer better manners. I would chastise the fellow on the spot for his insolence, were it not out of the respect I bear to his majesty’s service.’ ‘Respect mine a—!’ cried this ferocious commander; what, d’ye think to frighten us with your pewter piss-pot on your skull, and your lacquered pot-lid on your arm? Get out of the way, and be d—ned, or I’ll raise with my halbert such a clatter upon your target, that you’ll remember it the longest day you have to live.’ At that instant, Crabshaw arriving upon Gilbert, ‘So, rascal,’ said Sir Launcelot, ‘you are returned. Go and beat in that scoundrel’s drum-head.’

“The squire, who saw no weapons of offence about the drummer but a sword, which he hoped the owner durst not draw, and being resolved to exert himself in making atonement for his desertion, advanced to execute his master’s orders; but Gilbert, who liked not the noise, refused to proceed in the ordinary way. Then the squire, turning his tail to the drummer, he advanced in a retrograde motion, and with one kick of his heels, not only broke the drum into a thousand pieces, but laid the drummer in the mire, with such a blow upon his hip-bone, that he halted all the days of his life. The recruits, perceiving the discomfiture of their leader, armed themselves with stones; the serjeant raised his halbert in a posture of defence, and immediately a severe action ensued. By this time, Crabshaw had drawn his sword, and begun to lay about him like a devil incarnate; but, in a little time, he was saluted by a volley of stones, one of which knocked out two of his grinders, and brought him to the earth, where he had like to have found no quarter; for the whole company crowded about him, with their cudgels brandished; and perhaps he owed his preservation to their pressing so hard that they hindered one another from using their weapons.

“Sir Launcelot, seeing with indignation the unworthy treatment his squire had received, and scorning to stain his lance with the blood of plebeians, instead of couching it at the rest, seized it by the middle, and fetching one blow at the serjeant, broke in twain the halbert which he had raised as a quarter-staff for his defence. The second stroke encountered his pate, which being the hardest part about him, sustained the shock without damage; but the third, lighting on his ribs, he honoured the giver with immediate prostration. The general being thus overthrown, Sir Launcelot advanced to the relief of Crabshaw, and handled his weapon so effectually, that the whole body of the enemy were disabled or routed, before one cudgel had touched the carcass of the fallen squire. As for the corporal, instead of standing by his commanding officer, he had overleaped the hedge, and run to the constable of an adjoining village for assistance. Accordingly, before Crabshaw could be properly remounted, the peace officer arrived with his posse; and by the corporal was charged with Sir Launcelot and his squire, as two highwaymen. The constable, astonished at the martial figure of the knight, and intimidated at sight of the havoc he had made, contented himself with standing at a distance, displaying the badge of his office, and reminding the knight that he represented his majesty’s person.

“Sir Launcelot, seeing the poor man in great agitation, assured him that his design was to enforce, not violate the laws of his country; and that he and his squire would attend him to the next justice of peace; but, in the meantime, he, in his turn, charged the peace officer with the serjeant and drummer, who had begun the fray.

“The justice had been a pettifogger, and was a sycophant to a nobleman in the neighbourhood, who had a post at court. He therefore thought he should oblige his patron, by showing his respect for the military; but treated our knight with the most boorish insolence; and refused to admit him into his house, until he had surrendered all his weapons of offence to the constable. Sir Launcelot and his squire being found the aggressors, the justice insisted upon making out their mittimus, if they did not find bail immediately; and could hardly be prevailed upon to agree that they should remain at the house of the constable, who, being a publican, undertook to keep them in safe custody, until the knight could write to his steward. Meanwhile he was bound over to the peace; and the serjeant with his drummer were told they had a good action against him for assault and battery, either by information or indictment.

“They were not, however, so fond of the law as the justice seemed to be. Their sentiments had taken a turn in favour of Sir Launcelot, during the course of his examination, by which it appeared that he was really a gentleman of fashion and fortune; and they resolved to compromise the affair without the intervention of his worship. Accordingly, the serjeant repaired to the constable’s house, where the knight was lodged; and humbled himself before his honour, protesting with many oaths, that, if he had known his quality, he would have beaten the drummer’s brains about his ears, for presuming to give his honour or his horse the least disturbance; thof the fellow, he believed, was sufficiently punished in being a cripple for life.

“Sir Launcelot admitted of his apologies; and taking compassion on the fellow who had suffered so severely for his folly, resolved to provide for his maintenance. Upon the representation of the parties to the justice, the warrant was next day discharged; and the knight returned to his own house, attended by the serjeant and the drummer mounted on horseback, the recruits being left to the corporal’s charge.

“The halberdier found the good effects of Sir Launcelot’s liberality; and his companion being rendered unfit for his majesty’s service, by the heels of Gilbert, is now entertained at Greavesbury Hall, where he will probably remain for life.

“As for Crabshaw, his master gave him to understand, that if he did not think him pretty well chastised for his presumption and flight, by the discipline he had undergone in the last two adventures, he would turn him out of his service with disgrace. Timothy said he believed it would be the greatest favour he could do him to turn him out of a service in which he knew he should be rib-roasted every day, and murdered at last.

“In this situation were things at Greavesbury Hall about a month ago, when I crossed the country to Ferrybridge, where I met my uncle. Probably, this is the first incident of their second excursion; for the distance between this here house and Sir Launcelot’s estate does not exceed fourscore or ninety miles.”

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