The knight had not enjoyed his repose above two hours, when he was disturbed by such a variety of noises, as might have discomposed a brain of the firmest texture. The rumbling of carriages, and the rattling of horses’ feet on the pavement, was intermingled with loud shouts, and the noise of fiddle, French horn, and bagpipe. A loud peal was heard ringing in the church tower, at some distance, while the inn resounded with clamour, confusion, and uproar.

Sir Launcelot being thus alarmed, started from his bed, and running to the window, beheld a cavalcade of persons well mounted, and distinguished by blue cockades. They were generally attired like jockies, with gold-laced hats and buckskin breeches, and one of them bore a standard of blue silk, inscribed in white letters, LIBERTY AND THE LANDED INTEREST. He who rode at their head was a jolly figure, of a florid complexion and round belly, seemingly turned of fifty, and, in all appearance, of a choleric disposition. As they approached the market-place, they waved their hats, huzzaed, and cried aloud, NO FOREIGN CONNEXIONS!—OLD ENGLAND FOR EVER! This acclamation, however, was not so loud or universal, but that our adventurer could distinctly hear a counter-cry from the populace of, NO SLAVERY!—NO POPISH PRETENDER! an insinuation so ill relished by the cavaliers, that they began to ply their horsewhips among the multitude, and were, in their turn, saluted with a discharge or volley of stones, dirt, and dead cats; in consequence of which some teeth were demolished, and many surtouts defiled.

Our adventurer’s attention was soon called off from this scene, to contemplate another procession of people on foot, adorned with bunches of orange ribbons, attended by a regular band of music, playing God save great George our King, and headed by a thin swarthy personage, of a sallow aspect, and large goggling eyes, arched over with two thick semicircles of hair, or rather bristles, jet black, and frowsy. His apparel was very gorgeous, though his address was very awkward; he was accompanied by the mayor, recorder, and heads of the corporation, in their formalities. His ensigns were known by the inscription, Liberty of Conscience, and the Protestant Succession; and the people saluted him as he passed with repeated cheers, that seemed to prognosticate success. He had particularly ingratiated himself with the good women, who lined the street, and sent forth many ejaculatory petitions in his favour.

Sir Launcelot immediately comprehended the meaning of this solemnity. He perceived it was the prelude to the election of a member to represent the county in parliament, and he was seized with an eager desire to know the names and characters of the competitors.

In order to gratify this desire, he made repeated application to the bell-rope that depended from the ceiling of his apartment; but this produced nothing, except the repetition of the words, “Coming, sir,” which echoed from three or four different corners of the house. The waiters were so distracted by a variety of calls, that they stood motionless, in the state of the schoolman’s ass between two bundles of hay, incapable of determining where they should first offer their attendance.

Our knight’s patience was almost exhausted, when Crabshaw entered the room, in a very strange equipage. One half of his face appeared close shaved, and the other covered with lather, while the blood trickled in two rivulets from his nose, upon a barber’s cloth that was tucked under his chin; he looked grim with indignation, and under his left arm carried his cutlass, unsheathed. Where he had acquired so much of the profession of knight-errantry we shall not pretend to determine; but certain it is, he fell on his knees before Sir Launcelot, crying, with an accent of grief and distraction, “In the name of St. George for England, I beg a boon, Sir Knight, and thy compliance I demand, before the peacock and the ladies.”

Sir Launcelot, astonished at this address, replied in a lofty strain, “Valiant squire, thy boon is granted, provided it doth not contravene the laws of the land, and the constitution of chivalry.” “Then I crave leave,” answered Crabshaw, “to challenge and defy to mortal combat that caitiff barber who hath left me in this piteous condition; and I vow by the peacock, that I will not shave my beard, until I have shaved his head from his shoulders. So may I thrive in the occupation of an arrant squire.”

Before his master had time to inquire into particulars, they were joined by a decent man in boots, who was likewise a traveller, and had seen the rise and progress of Timothy’s disaster. He gave the knight to understand, that Crabshaw had sent for a barber, and already undergone one half of the operation, when the operator received the long-expected message from both the gentlemen who stood candidates at the election. The double summons was no sooner intimated to him, than he threw down his bason, and retired with precipitation, leaving the squire in the suds. Timothy, incensed at this desertion, followed him with equal celerity into the street, where he collared the shaver, and insisted upon being entirely trimmed, on pain of the bastinado. The other finding himself thus arrested, and having no time to spare for altercation, lifted up his fist, and discharged it upon the snout of Crabshaw with such force, that the unfortunate aggressor was fain to bite the ground, while the victor hastened away, in hope of touching the double wages of corruption.

The knight being informed of these circumstances, told Timothy with a smile, that he should have liberty to defy the barber; but, in the meantime, he ordered him to saddle Bronzomarte, and prepare for immediate service. While the squire was thus employed, his master engaged in conversation with the stranger, who happened to be a London dealer travelling for orders, and was well acquainted with the particulars which our adventurer wanted to know.

It was from this communicative tradesman he learned, that the competitors were Sir Valentine Quickset and Mr. Isaac Vanderpelft; the first a mere fox-hunter, who depended for success in his election upon his interest among the high-flying gentry; the other a stock jobber and contractor of foreign extract, not without a mixture of Hebrew blood, immensely rich, who was countenanced by his Grace of——, and supposed to have distributed large sums in securing a majority of votes among the yeomanry of the county, possessed of small freeholds, and copyholders, a great number of which last resided in this borough. He said these were generally dissenters and weavers; and that the mayor, who was himself a manufacturer, had received a very considerable order for exportation, in consequence of which it was believed he would support Mr. Vanderpelft with all his influence and credit.

Sir Launcelot, roused at this intelligence, called for his armour, which being buckled on in a hurry, he mounted his steed, attended by Crabshaw on Gilbert, and rode immediately into the midst of the multitude by which the hustings were surrounded, just as Sir Valentine Quickset began to harangue the people from an occasional theatre, formed of a plank supported by the upper board of the public stocks, and an inferior rib of a wooden cage pitched also for the accommodation of petty delinquents.

Though the singular appearance of Sir Launcelot at first attracted the eyes of all the spectators, yet they did not fail to yield attention to the speech of his brother-knight, Sir Valentine, which ran in the following strain:—“Gentlemen vreeholders of this here county, I shan’t pretend to meake a vine flourishing speech—I’m a plain-spoken man, as you all know. I hope I shall always speak my maind without vear or vavour, as the zaying is. ‘T is the way of the Quicksets—we are no upstarts, nor vorreigners, nor have we any Jewish blood in our veins; we have lived in this here neighbourhood time out of mind, as you all know, and possess an estate of vive thousand clear, which we spend at whoam, among you, in old English hospitality. All my vorevathers have been parliament-men, and I can prove that ne’er a one o’ um gave a zingle vote for the court since the Revolution. Vor my own peart, I value not the ministry three skips of a louse, as the zaying is—I ne’er knew but one minister that was an honest man, and vor all the rest, I care not if they were hanged as high as Haman, with a pox to’ un. I am, thank God, a vree-born, true-hearted Englishman, and a loyal, thof unworthy, son of the Church—vor all they have done vor H——r, I’d vain know what they have done vor the Church, with a vengeance—vor my own peart, I hate all vorreigners and vorreign measures, whereby this poor nation is broken-backed with a dismal load of debt, and the taxes rise so high that the poor cannot get bread. Gentlemen vreeholders of this county, I value no minister a vig’s end, d’ye see; if you will vavour me with your votes and interest, whereby I may be returned, I’ll engage one half of my estate that I never cry yea to your shillings in the pound, but will cross the ministry in everything, as in duty bound, and as becomes an honest vreeholder in the ould interest—but, if you sell your votes and your country for hire, you will be detested in this here world, and damned in the next to all eternity: so I leave every man to his own conscience.”

This eloquent oration was received by his own friends with loud peals of applause, which, however, did not discourage his competitor, who, confident of his own strength, ascended the rostrum, or, in other words, an old cask, set upright for the purpose. Having bowed all round to the audience, with a smile of gentle condescension, he told them how ambitious he was of the honour to represent this county in parliament, and how happy he found himself in the encouragement of his friends, who had so unanimously agreed to support his pretensions. He said, over and above the qualifications he possessed among them, he had fourscore thousand pounds in his pocket, which he had acquired by commerce, the support of the nation, under the present happy establishment, in defence of which he was ready to spend the last farthing. He owned himself a faithful subject to his Majesty King George, sincerely attached to the Protestant succession, in detestation and defiance of a popish, an abjured, and outlawed Pretender; and declared that he would exhaust his substance and his blood, if necessary, in maintaining the principles of the glorious Revolution. “This,” cried he, “is the solid basis and foundation upon which I stand.”

These last words had scarce proceeded from his mouth, when the head of the barrel or puncheon on which he stood, being frail and infirm, gave way, so that down he went with a crash, and in a twinkling disappeared from the eyes of the astonished beholders. The fox-hunters, perceiving his disaster, exclaimed, in the phrase and accent of the chase, “Stole away! stole away!” and with hideous vociferation, joined in the sylvan chorus which the hunters halloo when the hounds are at fault.

The disaster of Mr. Vanderpelft was soon repaired by the assiduity of his friends, who disengaged him from the barrel in a trice, hoisted him on the shoulders of four strong weavers, and, resenting the unmannerly exultation of their antagonists, began to form themselves in order of battle.

An obstinate fray would have undoubtedly ensued, had not their mutual indignation given way to their curiosity, at the motion of our knight, who had advanced into the middle between the two fronts, and waving his hand as a signal for them to give attention, addressed himself to them, with graceful demeanour, in these words:—“Countrymen, friends, and fellow-citizens, you are this day assembled to determine a point of the utmost consequence to yourselves and your posterity; a point that ought to be determined by far other weapons than brutal force and factious clamour. You, the freemen of England, are the basis of that excellent constitution which hath long flourished the object of envy and admiration. To you belongs the inestimable privilege of choosing a delegate properly qualified to represent you in the High Court of Parliament. This is your birthright,—inherited from your ancestors, obtained by their courage, and sealed with their blood. It is not only your birthright, which you should maintain in defiance of all danger, but also a sacred trust, to be executed with the most scrupulous care and fidelity. The person whom you trust ought not only to be endued with the most inflexible integrity, but should likewise possess a fund of knowledge that may enable him to act as a part of the legislature. He must be well acquainted with the history, the constitution, and the laws of his country; he must understand the forms of business, the extent of the royal prerogative, the privilege of parliament, the detail of government, the nature and regulation of the finances, the different branches of commerce, the politics that prevail, and the connexions that subsist among the different powers of Europe; for on all these subjects the deliberations of a House of Commons occasionally turn.

“But these great purposes will never be answered by electing an illiterate savage, scarce qualified, in point of understanding, to act as a country justice of peace, a man who has scarce ever travelled beyond the excursion of a fox-chase, whose conversation never rambles farther than his stable, his kennel, and the barnyard; who rejects decorum as degeneracy, mistakes rusticity for independence, ascertains his courage by leaping over gates and ditches, and founds his triumph on feats of drinking; who holds his estate by a factious tenure, professes himself the blind slave of a party, without knowing the principles that gave it birth, or the motives by which it is actuated, and thinks that all patriotism consists in railing indiscriminately at ministers, and obstinately opposing every measure of the administration. Such a man, with no evil intentions of his own, might be used as a dangerous tool in the hands of a desperate faction, by scattering the seeds of disaffection, embarrassing the wheels of government, and reducing the whole kingdom to anarchy.”

Here the knight was interrupted by the shouts and acclamations of the Vanderpelfites, who cried aloud, “Hear him! hear him! long life to the iron-cased orator.” This clamour subsiding, he prosecuted his harangue to the following effect:—

“Such a man as I have described may be dangerous from ignorance, but is neither so mischievous, nor so detestable as the wretch who knowingly betrays his trust, and sues to be the hireling and prostitute of a weak and worthless minister; a sordid knave, without honour or principle, who belongs to no family whose example can reproach him with degeneracy, who has no country to command his respect, no friend to engage his affection, no religion to regulate his morals, no conscience to restrain his iniquity, and who worships no God but Mammon; an insinuating miscreant, who undertakes for the dirtiest work of the vilest administration; who practises national usury, receiving by wholesale the rewards of venality, and distributing the wages of corruption by retail.”

In this place our adventurer’s speech was drowned in the acclamations of the fox-hunters, who now triumphed in their turn, and hoicksed the speaker, exclaiming, “Well opened, Jowler—to’ un, to’ un again, Sweetlips! hey, Merry, Whitefoot!” After a short interruption, he thus resumed his discourse:—

“When such a caitiff presents himself to you, like the devil, with a temptation in his hand, avoid him as if he were in fact the devil—it is not the offering of disinterested love, for what should induce him, who has no affections, to love you, to whose persons he is an utter stranger? alas! it is not a benevolence, but a bribe. He wants to buy you at one market that he may sell you at another. Without doubt his intention is to make an advantage of his purchase, and this aim he cannot accomplish but by sacrificing, in some sort, your interest, your independency, to the wicked designs of a minister, as he can expect no gratification for the faithful discharge of his duty. But, even if he should not find an opportunity of selling you to advantage, the crime, the shame, the infamy, will still be the same in you, who, baser than the most abandoned prostitutes, have sold yourselves and your posterity for hire—for a paltry price, to be refunded with interest by some minister, who will indemnify himself out of your own pockets; for, after all, you are bought and sold with your own money—the miserable pittance you may now receive is no more than a pitcher full of water thrown in to moisten the sucker of that pump which will drain you to the bottom. Let me therefore advise and exhort you, my countrymen, to avoid the opposite extremes of the ignorant clown and the designing courtier, and choose a man of honesty, intelligence, and moderation, who will”——

The doctrine of moderation was a very unpopular subject in such an assembly; and, accordingly, they rejected it as one man. They began to think the stranger wanted to set up for himself; a supposition that could not fail to incense both sides equally, as they were both zealously engaged in their respective causes. The Whigs and the Tories joined against this intruder, who, being neither, was treated like a monster, or chimera in politics. They hissed, they hooted, and they hallooed; they annoyed him with missiles of dirt, sticks, and stones; they cursed, they threatened and reviled, till, at length, his patience was exhausted.

“Ungrateful and abandoned miscreants!” he cried, “I spoke to you as men and Christians—as free-born Britons and fellow-citizens; but I perceive you are a pack of venal, infamous scoundrels, and I will treat you accordingly.” So saying, he brandished his lance, and riding into the thickest of the concourse, laid about him with such dexterity and effect, that the multitude was immediately dispersed, and he retired without further molestation.

The same good fortune did not attend squire Crabshaw in his retreat. The ludicrous singularity of his features, and the half-mown crop of hair that bristled from one side of his countenance, invited some wags to make merry at his expense; one of them clapped a furze-bush under the tail of Gilbert, who, feeling himself thus stimulated a posteriori, kicked and plunged, and capered in such a manner, that Timothy could hardly keep the saddle. In this commotion he lost his cap and his periwig, while the rabble pelted him in such a manner, that, before he could join his master, he looked like a pillar, or rather a pillory of mud.

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