In all probability the kitchen of the Black Lion, from a domestic temple of society and good fellowship, would have been converted into a scene or stage of sanguinary dispute, had not Pallas, or Discretion, interposed in the person of Mr. Fillet, and, with the assistance of the ostler, disarmed the combatants, not only of their arms, but also of their resentment.

The impetuosity of Mr. Clarke was a little checked at sight of the gridiron, which Ferret brandished with uncommon dexterity; a circumstance from whence the company were, upon reflection, induced to believe, that before he plunged into the sea of politics, he had occasionally figured in the character of that facetious droll, who accompanies your itinerant physicians, under the familiar appellation of Merry-Andrew, or Jack-Pudding, and on a wooden stage entertains the populace with a solo on the saltbox, or a sonata on the tongs and gridiron. Be that as it may, the young lawyer seemed to be a little discomposed at the glancing of this extraordinary weapon of offence, which the fair hands of Dolly had scoured, until it had shone as bright as the shield of Achilles; or as the emblem of good old English fare, which hangs by a red ribbon round the neck of that thrice-honoured sage’s head, in velvet bonnet cased, who presides by rotation at the genial board, distinguished by the title of the Beef-steak Club where the delicate rumps irresistibly attract the stranger’s eye, and, while they seem to cry, “Come cut me—come cut me,” constrain, by wondrous sympathy, each mouth to overflow. Where the obliging and humorous Jemmy B——t, the gentle Billy H——d, replete with human kindness, and the generous Johnny B——d, respected and beloved by all the world, attend as the priests and ministers of mirth, good cheer, and jollity, and assist with culinary art the raw, unpractised, awkward guest.

But to return from this digressive simile. The ostler no sooner stept between those menacing antagonists, than Tom Clarke very quietly resumed his clothes, and Mr. Ferret resigned the gridiron without further question. The doctor did not find it quite so easy to release the throat of Captain Crowe from the masculine grasp of the virago Dolly, whose fingers could not be disengaged until the honest seaman was almost at the last gasp. After some pause, during which he panted for breath, and untied his neckcloth, “D—n thee, for a brimstone galley,” cried he; “I was never so grappled withal since I knew a card from a compass.— Adzooks! the jade has so tautened my rigging, d’ye see, that I—Snatch my bowlines, if I come athwart thy hawser, I’ll turn thy keel upwards—or mayhap set thee a-driving under thy bare poles—I will—I will, you hell-fire, saucy—I will.”

Dolly made no reply; but seeing Mr. Clarke sit down again with great composure, took her station likewise at the opposite side of the apartment. Then Mr. Fillet requested the lawyer to proceed with his story, which, after three hems, he accordingly prosecuted in these words:

“I told you, gemmen, that Mr. Greaves was mounted on Scipio, when he saw Miss Darnel and her mother in danger of being hurried over a precipice. Without reflecting a moment, he gave Scipio the spur, and at one spring he cleared five-and-twenty feet, over hedge and ditch and every obstruction. Then he rode full speed, in order to turn the coach-horses; and, finding them quite wild and furious, endeavoured to drive against the counter of the hither horse, which he missed, and staked poor Scipio on the pole of the coach. The shock was so great, that the coach-horses made a full stop within ten yards of the quarry, and Mr. Greaves was thrown forwards towards the coach-box, which mounting with admirable dexterity, he seized the reins before the horses could recover of their fright. At that instant the coachman came running up, and loosed them from the traces with the utmost despatch. Mr. Greaves had now time to give his attention to the ladies, who were well-nigh distracted with fear. He no sooner opened the chariot door than Aurelia, with a wildness of look, sprung into his arms, and, clasping him round the neck, fainted away. I leave you to guess, gemmen, what were his feelings at this instant. The mother was not so discomposed, but that she could contribute to the recovery of her daughter, whom the young squire still supported in his embrace. At length she retrieved the use of her senses, and, perceiving the situation in which she was, the blood revisited her face with a redoubled glow, while she desired him to set her down upon the turf.

“Mrs. Darnel, far from being shy or reserved in her compliments of acknowledgments, kissed Mr. Launcelot without ceremony, the tears of gratitude running down her cheeks; she called him her dear son, her generous deliverer, who, at the hazard of his own life, had saved her and her child from the most dismal fate that could be imagined.

“Mr. Greaves was so much transported on this occasion, that he could not help disclosing a passion, which he had hitherto industriously concealed. ‘What I have done,’ said he, ‘was but a common office of humanity, which I would have performed for any of my fellow-creatures; but for the preservation of Miss Aurelia Darnel, I would at any time sacrifice my life with pleasure.’ The young lady did not hear this declaration unmoved. Her face was again flushed, and her eyes sparkled with pleasure. Nor was the youth’s confession disagreeable to the good lady, her mother, who, at one glance, perceived all the advantages of such an union between the two families.

“Mr. Greaves proposed to send the coachman to his father’s stable for a pair of sober horses, that could be depended upon, to draw the ladies home to their own habitation; but they declined the offer, and chose to walk, as the distance was not great. He then insisted upon his being their conductor; and, each taking him under the arm, supported them to their own gate, where such an apparition filled all the domestics with astonishment. Mrs. Darnel taking him by the hand, led him into the house, where she welcomed him with another affectionate embrace, and indulged him with an ambrosial kiss of Aurelia, saying, ‘But for you, we had both been by this time in eternity. Sure it was Heaven that sent you as an angel to our assistance!’ She kindly inquired if he had himself sustained any damage in administering that desperate remedy to which they owed their lives. She entertained him with a small collation; and, in the course of the conversation, lamented the animosity which had so long divided two neighbouring families of such influence and character. He was not slow in signifying his approbation of her remarks, and expressing the most eager desire of seeing all those unhappy differences removed. In a word, they parted with mutual satisfaction.

“Just as he advanced from the outward gate, on his return to Greavesbury Hall, he was met by Anthony Darnel on horseback, who, riding up to him with marks of surprise and resentment, saluted him with, ‘Your servant, sir.—Have you any commands for me?’ The other replying with an air of indifference, ‘None at all,’—Mr. Darnel asked, what had procured him the honour of a visit. The young gentleman, perceiving by the manner in which he spoke, that the old quarrel was not yet extinguished, answered with equal disdain, that the visit was not intended for him; and that, if he wanted to know the cause of it, he might inform himself by his own servants. ‘So I shall,’ cried the uncle of Aurelia; ‘and perhaps let you know my sentiments of the matter.’—‘Hereafter as it may be,’ said the youth; who, turning out of the avenue, walked home, and made his father acquainted with the particulars of this adventure.

“The old gentleman chid him for his rashness; but seemed pleased with the success of his attempt; and still more so, when he understood his sentiments of Aurelia, and the deportment of the ladies.

“Next day the son sent over a servant with a compliment to inquire about their health; and the messenger, being seen by Mr. Darnel, was told that the ladies were indisposed, and did not choose to be troubled with messages. The mother was really seized with a fever, produced by the agitation of her spirits, which every day became more and more violent, until the physicians despaired of her life. Believing that her end approached, she sent a trusty servant to Mr. Greaves, desiring that she might see him without delay; and he immediately set out with the messenger, who introduced him in the dark.

“He found the old lady in bed almost exhausted, and the fair Aurelia sitting by her overwhelmed with grief, her lovely hair in the utmost disorder, and her charming eyes inflamed with weeping. The good lady beckoning Mr. Launcelot to approach, and directing all the attendants to quit the room, except a favourite maid, from whom I learned the story, she took him by the hand, and fixing her eyes upon him with all the fondness of a mother, shed some tears in silence, while the same marks of sorrow trickled down his cheeks. After this affecting pause, ‘My dear son,’ said she, ‘Oh! that I could have lived to see you so indeed! you find me hastening to the goal of life.’ Here the tender-hearted Aurelia, being unable to contain herself longer, broke out into a violent passion of grief, and wept aloud. The mother, waiting patiently till she had thus given vent to her anguish, calmly entreated her to resign herself submissively to the will of Heaven; then turning to Mr. Launcelot, ‘I had indulged,’ said she, ‘a fond hope of seeing you allied to my family. This is no time for me to insist upon the ceremonies and forms of a vain world. Aurelia looks upon you with the eyes of tender prepossession.’ No sooner had she pronounced these words than he threw himself on his knees before the young lady, and pressing her hand to his lips, breathed the softest expressions which the most delicate love could suggest. ‘I know,’ resumed the mother, ‘that your passion is mutually sincere, and I should die satisfied if I thought your union would not be opposed; but that violent man, my brother-in-law, who is Aurelia’s sole guardian, will thwart her wishes with every obstacle that brutal resentment and implacable malice can contrive. Mr. Greaves, I have long admired your virtues, and am confident that I can depend upon your honour. You shall give me your word, that when I am gone you will take no steps in this affair without the concurrence of your father, and endeavour, by all fair and honourable means, to vanquish the prejudices, and obtain the consent of her uncle; the rest we must leave to the dispensation of Providence.’

“The squire promised, in the most solemn and fervent manner, to obey all her injunctions, as the last dictates of a parent whom he should never cease to honour. Then she favoured them both with a great deal of salutary advice touching their conduct before and after marriage, and presented him with a ring as a memorial of her affection, at the same time he pulled another off his finger, and made a tender of it as a pledge of his love to Aurelia, whom her mother permitted to receive this token. Finally, he took a last farewell of the good matron, and returned to his father with the particulars of this interview.

“In two days Mrs. Darnel departed this life, and Aurelia was removed to the house of a relation, where her grief had like to have proved fatal to her constitution.

“In the meantime, the mother was no sooner committed to the earth, than Mr. Greaves, mindful of her exhortations, began to take measures for a reconciliation with the guardian. He engaged several gentlemen to interpose their good offices, but they always met with the most mortifying repulse, and at last Anthony Darnel declared that his hatred to the house of Greaves was hereditary, habitual, and unconquerable. He swore he would spend his heart’s blood to perpetuate the quarrel, and that, sooner than his niece should match with young Launcelot, he would sacrifice her with his own hand.

“The young gentleman, finding his prejudice so rancorous and invincible, left off making any further advances, and, since he found it impossible to obtain his consent, resolved to cultivate the good graces of Aurelia, and wed her in despite of her implacable guardian. He found means to establish a literary correspondence with her as soon as her grief was a little abated, and even to effect an interview, after her return to her own house; but he soon had reason to repent of his indulgence. The uncle entertained spies upon the young lady, who gave him an account of this meeting, in consequence of which she was suddenly hurried to some distant part of the country, which we never could discover.

“It was then we thought Mr. Launcelot a little disordered in his brain, his grief was so wild, and his passion so impetuous. He refused all sustenance, neglected his person, renounced his amusements, rode out in the rain, sometimes bareheaded; strolled about the fields all night, and became so peevish, that none of the domestics durst speak to him without the hazard of broken bones. Having played these pranks for about three weeks, to the unspeakable chagrin of his father, and the astonishment of all that knew him, he suddenly grew calm, and his good-humour returned. But this, as your seafaring people say, was a deceitful calm, that soon ushered in a dreadful storm.

“He had long sought an opportunity to tamper with some of Mr. Darnel’s servants, who could inform him of the place where Aurelia was confined; but there was not one about the family who could give him that satisfaction, for the persons who accompanied her remained as a watch upon her motions, and none of the other domestics were privy to the transaction. All attempts proving fruitless, he could no longer restrain his impatience, but throwing himself in the way of the uncle, upbraided him in such harsh terms, that a formal challenge ensued. They agreed to decide their difference without witnesses, and one morning, before sunrise, met on that very common where Mr. Greaves had saved the life of Aurelia. The first pistol was fired on each side without any effect, but Mr. Darnel’s second wounded the young squire in the flank; nevertheless, having a pistol in reserve, he desired his antagonist to ask his life. The other, instead of submitting, drew his sword, and Mr. Greaves, firing his piece into the air, followed his example. The contest then became very hot, though of short continuance. Darnel being disarmed at the first onset, our young squire gave him back the sword, which he was base enough to use a second time against his conqueror. Such an instance of repeated ingratitude and brutal ferocity divested Mr. Greaves of his temper and forbearance. He attacked Mr. Anthony with great fury, and at the first lunge ran him up to the hilt, at the same time seized with his left hand the shell of his enemy’s sword, which he broke in disdain. Mr. Darnel having fallen, the other immediately mounted his horse, which he had tied to a tree before the engagement, and, riding full speed to Ashenton, sent a surgeon to Anthony’s assistance. He afterwards ingenuously confessed all these particulars to his father, who was overwhelmed with consternation, for the wounds of Darnel were judged mortal; and, as no person had seen the particulars of the duel, Mr. Launcelot might have been convicted of murder.

“On these considerations, before a warrant could be served upon him, the old knight, by dint of the most eager entreaties, accompanied with marks of horror and despair, prevailed upon his son to withdraw himself from the kingdom until such time as the storm should be overblown. Had his heart been unengaged, he would have chose to travel, but at this period, when his whole soul was engrossed, and so violently agitated by his passion for Aurelia, nothing but the fear of seeing the old gentleman run distracted would have induced him to desist from the pursuit of that young lady, far less quit the kingdom where she resided.

“Well then, gemmen, he repaired to Harwich, where he embarked for Holland, from whence he proceeded to Brussels, where he procured a passport from the French king, by virtue of which he travelled to Marseilles, and there took a tartan for Genoa. The first letter Sir Everhard received from him was dated at Florence. Meanwhile the surgeon’s prognostic was not altogether verified. Mr. Darnel did not die immediately of his wounds, but he lingered a long time, as it were in the arms of death, and even partly recovered, yet, in all probability, he will never be wholly restored to the enjoyment of his health, and is obliged every summer to attend the hot-well at Bristol. As his wounds began to heal, his hatred to Mr. Greaves seemed to revive with augmented violence, and he is now, if possible, more than ever determined against all reconciliation.

“Mr. Launcelot, after having endeavoured to amuse his imagination with a succession of curious objects, in a tour of Italy, took up his residence at a town called Pisa, and there fell into a deep melancholy, from which nothing could rouse him but the news of his father’s death.

“The old gentleman, God rest his soul, never held up his head after the departure of his darling Launcelot, and the dangerous condition of Darnel kept up his apprehension. This was reinforced by the obstinate silence of the youth, and certain accounts of his disordered mind, which he had received from some of those persons who take pleasure in communicating disagreeable tidings. A complication of all these grievances, co-operating with a severe fit of the gout and gravel, produced a fever, which, in a few days, brought Sir Everhard to his long home, after he had settled his affairs with heaven and earth, and made his peace with God and man. I’ll assure you, gemmen, he made a most edifying and Christian end; he died regretted by all his neighbours except Anthony, and might be said to be embalmed by the tears of the poor, to whom he was always a bounteous benefactor.

“When the son, now Sir Launcelot, came home, he appeared so meagre, wan, and hollow-eyed, that the servants hardly knew their young master. His first care was to take possession of his fortune, and settle accounts with the steward who had succeeded my father. These affairs being discussed, he spared no pains to get intelligence concerning Miss Darnel; and soon learned more of that young lady than he desired to know; for it was become the common talk of the country, that a match was agreed upon between her and young Squire Sycamore, a gentleman of a very great fortune. These tidings were probably confirmed under her own hand, in a letter which she wrote to Sir Launcelot. The contents were never exactly known but to the parties themselves; nevertheless, the effects were too visible, for, from that blessed moment, he spoke not one word to any living creature for the space of three days; but was seen sometimes to shed a flood of tears, and sometimes to burst out into a fit of laughing. At last he broke silence, and seemed to wake from his disorder. He became more fond than ever of the exercise of riding, and began to amuse himself again with acts of benevolence.

“One instance of his generosity and justice deserves to be recorded in brass or marble. You must know, gemmen, the rector of the parish was lately dead, and Sir Everhard had promised the presentation to another clergyman. In the meantime, Sir Launcelot chancing one Sunday to ride through a lane, perceived a horse saddled and bridled, feeding on the side of a fence; and, casting his eyes around, beheld on the other side of the hedge an object lying extended on the ground, which he took to be the body of a murdered traveller. He forthwith alighted, and, leaping into the field, descried a man at full length, wrapped in a greatcoat and writhing in agony. Approaching nearer, he found it was a clergyman, in his gown and cassock. When he inquired into the case, and offered his assistance, the stranger rose up, thanked him for his courtesy, and declared that he was now very well. The knight who thought there was something mysterious in this incident, expressed a desire to know the cause of his rolling in the grass in that manner, and the clergyman, who knew his person, made no scruple in gratifying his curiosity. ‘You must know, sir,’ said he, ‘I serve the curacy of your own parish, for which the late incumbent paid me twenty pounds a year; but this sum being scarce sufficient to maintain my wife and children, who are five in number, I agreed to read prayers in the afternoon at another church, about four miles from hence; and for this additional duty I receive ten pounds more. As I keep a horse, it was formerly an agreeable exercise rather than a toil; but of late years I have been afflicted with a rupture, for which I consulted the most eminent operators in the kingdom; but I have no cause to rejoice in the effects of their advice, though one of them assured me I was completely cured. The malady is now more troublesome than ever, and often comes upon me so violently while I am on horseback, that I am forced to alight, and lie down upon the ground, until the cause of the disorder can for the time be reduced.’

“Sir Launcelot not only condoled with him upon his misfortune, but desired him to throw up the second cure, and he would pay him ten pounds a year out of his own pocket. ‘Your generosity confounds me, good sir,’ replied the clergyman; ‘and yet I ought not to be surprised at any instance of benevolence in Sir Launcelot Greaves; but I will check the fulness of my heart. I shall only observe, that your good intention towards me can hardly take effect. The gentleman, who is to succeed the late incumbent, has given me notice to quit the premises, as he hath provided a friend of his own for the curacy.’ ‘What!’ cried the knight, ‘does he mean to take your bread from you, without assigning any other reason?’ ‘Surely, sir,’ replied the ecclesiastic, ‘I know of no other reason. I hope my morals are irreproachable, and that I have done my duty with a conscientious regard; I may venture an appeal to the parishioners among whom I have lived these seventeen years. After all, it is natural for every man to favour his own friends in preference to strangers. As for me, I propose to try my fortune in the great city, and I doubt not but Providence will provide for me and my little ones.’

“To this declaration Sir Launcelot made no reply; but, riding home, set on foot a strict inquiry into the character of this man, whose name was Jenkins. He found that he was a reputed scholar, equally remarkable for his modesty and good life; that he visited the sick, assisted the needy, compromised disputes among his neighbours, and spent his time in such a manner as would have done honour to any Christian divine. Thus informed, the knight sent for the gentleman to whom the living had been promised, and accosted him to this effect: ‘Mr. Tootle, I have a favour to ask of you. The person who serves the cure of this parish is a man of good character, beloved by the people, and has a large family. I shall be obliged to you if you will continue him in the curacy.’ The other told him he was sorry he could not comply with his request, being that he had already promised the curacy to a friend of his own. ‘No matter,’ replied Sir Launcelot, ‘since I have not interest with you, I will endeavour to provide for Mr. Jenkins in some other way.’

“That same afternoon he walked over to the curate’s house, and told him that he had spoken in his behalf to Dr. Tootle, but the curacy was pre-engaged. The good man having made a thousand acknowledgments for the trouble his honour had taken; ‘I have not interest sufficient to make you curate,’ said the knight, ‘but I can give you the living itself, and that you shall have.’ So saying, he retired, leaving Mr. Jenkins incapable of uttering one syllable, so powerfully was he struck with this unexpected turn of good fortune. The presentation was immediately made out, and in a few days Mr. Jenkins was put in possession of his benefice, to the inexpressible joy of the congregation.

“Hitherto everything went right, and every unprejudiced person commended the knight’s conduct; but in a little time his generosity seemed to overleap the bounds of discretion, and even in some cases might be thought tending to a breach of the king’s peace. For example, he compelled, vi et armis, a rich farmer’s son to marry the daughter of a cottager, whom the young fellow had debauched. Indeed, it seems there was a promise of marriage in the case, though it could not be legally ascertained. The wench took on dismally, and her parents had recourse to Sir Launcelot, who, sending for the delinquent, expostulated with him severely on the injury he had done the young woman, and exhorted him to save her life and reputation by performing his promise, in which case he, Sir Launcelot, would give her three hundred pounds to her portion. Whether the farmer thought there was something interested in this uncommon offer, or was a little elevated by the consciousness of his father’s wealth, he rejected the proposal with rustic disdain, and said, if so be as how the wench would swear the child to him, he would settle it with the parish; but declared, that no squire in the land should oblige him to buckle with such a cracked pitcher. This resolution, however, he could not maintain; for, in less than two hours the rector of the parish had direction to publish the banns, and the ceremony was performed in due course.

“Now, though we know not precisely the nature of the arguments that were used with the farmer, we may conclude they were of the minatory species, for the young fellow could not, for some time, look any person in the face.

“The knight acted as the general redresser of grievances. If a woman complained to him of being ill-treated by her husband, he first inquired into the foundation of the complaint, and, if he found it just, catechised the defendant. If the warning had no effect, and the man proceeded to fresh acts of violence, then his judge took the execution of the law in his own hand, and horsewhipped the party. Thus he involved himself in several law-suits, that drained him of pretty large sums of money. He seemed particularly incensed at the least appearance of oppression; and supported divers poor tenants against the extortion of their landlords. Nay, he has been known to travel two hundred miles as a volunteer, to offer his assistance in the cause of a person, who he heard was by chicanery and oppression wronged of a considerable estate. He accordingly took her under his protection, relieved her distresses, and was at a vast expense in bringing the suit to a determination; which being unfavourable to his client, he resolved to bring an appeal into the House of Lords, and certainly would have executed his purpose, if the gentlewoman had not died in the interim.”

At this period Ferret interrupted the narrator, by observing that the said Greaves was a common nuisance, and ought to be prosecuted on the statute of barratry.

“No, sir,” resumed Mr. Clarke, “he cannot be convicted of barratry, unless he is always at variance with some person or other, a mover of suits and quarrels, who disturbs the peace under colour of law. Therefore he is in the indictment styled, Communis malefactor, calumniator, et seminator litium.”

“Pr’ythee, truce with thy definitions,” cried Ferret, “and make an end to thy long-winded story. Thou hast no title to be so tedious, until thou comest to have a coif in the Court of Common Pleas.”

Tom smiled contemptuous, and had just opened his mouth to proceed, when the company were disturbed by a hideous repetition of groans, that seemed to issue from the chamber in which the body of the squire was deposited. The landlady snatched the candle, and ran into the room, followed by the doctor and the rest; and this accident naturally suspended the narration. In like manner we shall conclude the chapter, that the reader may have time to breathe and digest what he has already heard.

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