Seated about a long table, covered with green baize, were a number of men, with papers before them; whilst grouped in different parts of the room were the younger persons, amusing themselves by the accidents of the last meet—if it happened to be the hunting season—or the last duel, or the last female victim to the corruption and profligacy of some of those from whom, the people were to expect justice, and their families protection. Others were whistling or humming some favorite air; and one of them, a poet, was reading a squib which he had prepared for the forthcoming election.
“Deaker, come here,” said the Foreman, “you are up to everything. Here is Lucre, the parson, wants to have a presentment for a new line of road running through his glebe, or to his glebe—for I suppose it is the same thing.”
“Well,” replied Deaker, “and let him have it. Isn’t he as well entitled to a job as any of us? What the devil—why not put a few feathers in his nest, man? The county has a broad back.”
“His nest is better feathered than he deserves. He has two enormous livings, a good private fortune, and now, indeed, he must come to saddle himself upon the county in the shape of a job.”
“He has rendered good service, Mr. Hartley,” replied another of them; “good service to the government, sir, with every respect for your wonderful liberality and honesty.”
“What do you mean, sir?” asked Hartley, sternly; “do you throw out any imputation against my honor or my honesty?”
“Oh, Lord, no—by no means; I have no relish at all for your cold lead, Mr. Hartley—only that I don’t think you stand the best chance in the world of being returned for Castle Cumber, sir—that is all.”
“Hartley,” asked another, with a loud laugh, “is it true that your cousin, on bringing a message to young Phil M’Clutchy, pulled his nose, and kicked him a posteriore round the room?”
“Ask his father, Dick,” said Hartley, smiling; “I have heard he was present, and, of course, he knows best.”
“I say, Vulture,” inquired the other, “is it true?”
“Ay,” returned old Deaker, “as true as the nose on your face. That precious Phil, was a cowardly whelp all his life—so was his father. D—n you, sirra; where did you get your cowardice? I’m sure it was not from me; that is if you be mine, which is a rather problematical circumstance; for I take it you are as likely to be the descent of some rascally turnkey or hatchman, and be hanged to you, as mine.”
“Is it true, Val,” persisted the former querist, “that young Hartley pulled Phil’s nose?”
“We have come here for other purposes, Dick,” said Val. “Certainly Phil did not wish to strike the young man in his own house, and had more sense than to violate the peace in the presence of a magistrate, and that magistrate his own father.”
“How the devil did he put his comether on M’Loughlin’s pretty daughter, Val?” asked another from a different part of the room.