’I know your brother; he lives with Mr. Mordicai, in Long Acre, in London.’
‘Oh, God bless you for that!’
They came at this time within view of a range of about four-and-twenty men and boys, sitting astride on four-and-twenty heaps of broken stones, on each side of the road; they were all armed with hammers, with which they began to pound with great diligence and noise as soon as they saw the carriage. The chaise passed between these batteries, the stones flying on all sides.
‘How are you, Jem?—How are you, Phil?’ said Larry. ’But hold your hand, can’t ye, while I stop and get the stones out of the horses’ feet. So you’re making up the rent, are you, for St. Dennis?’
‘Whoosh!’ said one of the pounders, coming close to the postillion, and pointing his thumb back towards the chaise. ‘Who have you in it?’
’Oh, you need not scruple, he’s a very honest man; he’s only a man from North Wales, one Mr. Evans, an innocent jantleman, that’s sent over to travel up and down the country, to find is there any copper mines in it.’
‘How do you know, Larry?’
’Because I know very well, from one that was tould, and I seen him tax the man of the King’s Head, with a copper half-crown, at first sight, which was only lead to look at, you’d think, to them that was not skilful in copper. So lend me a knife, till I cut a linch-pin out of the hedge, for this one won’t go far.’
Whilst Larry was making the linch-pin, all scruple being removed, his question about St. Dennis and the rent was answered.
’Ay, it’s the rint, sure enough, we’re pounding out for him; for he sent the driver round last-night-was-eight days, to warn us old Nick would be down a’-Monday, to take a sweep among us; and there’s only six clear days, Saturday night, before the assizes, sure; so we must see and get it finished anyway, to clear the presentment again’ the swearing day, for he and Paddy Hart is the overseers themselves, and Paddy is to swear to it.’
’St. Dennis, is it? Then you’ve one great comfort and security—that he won’t be particular about the swearing; for since ever he had his head on his shoulders, an oath never stuck in St. Dennis’s throat, more than in his own brother, old Nick’s.’
‘His head upon his shoulders!’ repeated Lord Colambre. ’Pray, did you ever hear that St. Dennis’s head was off his shoulders?’
‘It never was, plase your honour, to my knowledge.’
’Did you never, among your saints, hear of St. Dennis carrying his head in his hand?’ said Colambre.
‘The Rael saint!’ said the postillion, suddenly changing his tone, and looking shocked. ’Oh, don’t be talking that way of the saints, plase your honour.’
’Then of what St, Dennis were you talking just now?—Whom do you mean by St. Dennis, and whom do you call old Nick?’