“And what did they do with him—did they hang him?” resumed the questioner.
“Hang him?—how could they?” exclaimed a beetle-browed barrister, with a hawk’s nose—“the offence was not capital—no robbery nor assault had been committed—no forcible entry or breaking into the premises—”
“My aunt,” said the narrator, “was a woman of spirit, and apt to take the law into her own hands. She had her own notions of cleanliness also. She ordered the fellow to be drawn through the horsepond to cleanse away all offences, and then to be well rubbed down with an oaken towel.”
“And what became of him afterwards?” said the inquisitive gentleman.
“I do not exactly know—I believe he was sent on a voyage of improvement to Botany Bay.”
“And your aunt—” said the inquisitive gentleman—“I’ll warrant she took care to make her maid sleep in the room with her after that.”
“No, sir, she did better—she gave her hand shortly after to the roystering squire; for she used to observe it was a dismal thing for a woman to sleep alone in the country.”
“She was right,” observed the inquisitive gentleman, nodding his head sagaciously—“but I am sorry they did not hang that fellow.”
It was agreed on all hands that the last narrator had brought his tale to the most satisfactory conclusion; though a country clergyman present regretted that the uncle and aunt, who figured in the different stories, had not been married together. They certainly would have been well matched.
“But I don’t see, after all,” said the inquisitive gentleman, “that there was any ghost in this last story.”
“Oh, if it’s ghosts you want, honey,” cried the Irish captain of dragoons, “if it’s ghosts you want, you shall have a whole regiment of them. And since these gentlemen have been giving the adventures of their uncles and aunts, faith and I’ll e’en give you a chapter too, out of my own family history.”
THE BOLD DRAGOON;
OR THE ADVENTURE OF MY GRANDFATHER.
My grandfather was a bold dragoon, for it’s a profession, d’ye see, that has run in the family. All my forefathers have been dragoons and died upon the field of honor except myself, and I hope my posterity may be able to say the same; however, I don’t mean to be vainglorious. Well, my grandfather, as I said, was a bold dragoon, and had served in the Low Countries. In fact, he was one of that very army, which, according to my uncle Toby, “swore so terribly in Flanders.” He could swear a good stick himself; and, moreover, was the very man that introduced the doctrine Corporal Trim mentions, of radical heat and radical moisture; or, in other words, the mode of keeping out the damps of ditch water by burnt brandy. Be that as it may, it’s nothing to the purport of my story. I only tell it to show you that my grandfather was a man not easily to be humbugged. He had seen service; or, according to his own phrase, “he had seen the devil”—and that’s saying everything.