“And on what other principle is Lucre himself now proceeding, or has ever proceeded?” replied Val’s friends—for Val himself had always a wholesome repugnance to personal discussion.
In fact, one would have imagined, on hearing Val’s party declaiming against the selfishness of Lucre, that they themselves entertained a most virtuous horror against jobs and corruptions of all kinds, and had within them an actual bona fide regard for religion, in all its purity, spiritual beauty, and truth; whilst on the contrary, the Lucreites, who certainly had the worst cause, seemed to think that M’Clutchy, in preferring his own corruption to that of the parson, was guilty of a complete desertion of that sterling and mutually concessive Protestant feeling which they considered to constitute its highest principle, and absolutely to merge into the manifestation of something inimical to a Protestant government.
At length it was suggested by him of the bridge, that in order to meet the wishes of two such excellent men, and such admirable representatives of pure Protestant virtue and spirit, it would be best to pass both presentments on the present occasion, and drop or postpone some of the minor ones until next term—a suggestion which was eagerly received by both parties, inasmuch as it satisfied the rapacity of each, without giving a victory to either. This, however, was far from terminating either the business or the debates that arose out of the minor conflicting interests of the jurors. A good deal of hanging fire there was also, but given and returned in a better spirit, between. Val’s friends and Lucre’s.
“Why doesn’t Lucre,” said the former, “afford us a little more of his company in the parish?”
“Ah,” replied the Lucreites, “we suppose if he gave you more of his venison and claret, he would experience less of your opposition.”
“I really am afraid to go to church,” said Val, who, now that the storm had passed, resumed his usual insinuating habit of light sarcasm: “I am afraid to go, lest the crazy old church, which really, between ourselves—I speak of course in a friendly way now—is in a most shameful and dangerous state, should fall upon me.”
“I did not think,” said M’Small, “that you had such a strong sense of your own deserts left, Val!—I have some hopes of you yet.”
“Ah,” said Val, “I fear that on your way to heaven, if you meet a difficulty, you will not be likely to find a grand jury to build a bridge for you across it.”
“I perfectly agree with you,” replied M’Small, “the face of a grand juror will be a novel sight in that direction.”
“And in the other direction,” observed Hartley, “no bridges will be wanted.”
“Why so?” said M’Small.
“Because,” he replied, “there will be such an absence of water as will render them unnecessary.”
“Ay,” retorted another, “but as there will be plenty of grand jurors we may do then as we did now, build the bridge without the water, and trouble ourselves no further with the consequences.”