Such is the distracted state of politics, in the domestic empire of Ready-Money Jack; which only shows the intrigues and internal dangers to which the best-regulated governments are liable. In this perplexed situation of their affairs, both mother and son have applied to Master Simon for counsel; and, with all his experience in meddling with other people’s concerns, he finds it an exceedingly difficult part to play, to agree with both parties, seeing that their opinions and wishes are so diametrically opposite.
A coach was a strange monster in those days, and the sight put both horse and man into amazement. Some said it was a great crabshell brought out of China, and some imagined it to be one of the pagan temples, in which the canibals adored the divell.
—TAYLOR, THE WATER POET.
I have made casual mention, more than once, of one of the Squire’s antiquated retainers, old Christy, the huntsman. I find that his crabbed humour is a source of much entertainment among the young men of the family; the Oxonian, particularly, takes a mischievous pleasure, now and then, in slyly rubbing the old man against the grain, and then smoothing him down again; for the old fellow is as ready to bristle up his back as a porcupine. He rides a venerable hunter called Pepper, which is a counterpart of himself, a heady cross-grained animal, that frets the flesh off its bones; bites, kicks, and plays all manner of villainous tricks. He is as tough, and nearly as old as his rider, who has ridden him time out of mind, and is, indeed, the only one that can do any thing with him. Sometimes, however, they have a complete quarrel, and a dispute for mastery, and then, I am told, it is as good as a farce to see the heat they both get into, and the wrong-headed contest that ensues; for they are quite knowing in each other’s ways, and in the art of teasing and fretting each other. Notwithstanding these doughty brawls, however, there is nothing that nettles old Christy sooner than to question the merits of the horse; which he upholds as tenaciously as a faithful husband will vindicate the virtues of the termagant spouse, that gives him a curtain lecture every night of his life.
The young men call old Christy their “professor of equitation;” and in accounting for the appellation, they let me into some particulars of the Squire’s mode of bringing up his children. There is an odd mixture of eccentricity and good sense in all the opinions of my worthy host. His mind is like modern Gothic, where plain brick-work is set off with pointed arches and quaint tracery. Though the main ground-work of his opinions is correct, yet he has a thousand little notions, picked up from old books, which stand out whimsically on the surface of his mind.
Thus, in educating his boys, he chose Peachem, Markam, and such like old English writers, for his manuals. At an early age he took the lads out of their mother’s hands, who was disposed, as mothers are apt to be, to make fine, orderly children of them, that should keep out of sun and rain and never soil their hands, nor tear their clothes.