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instantly provided a substitute, whom he sent to defend his King and Country, even at the hazard of his life.”
This substitute, as it afterwards appears, was drafted into the line. And gallantly did he represent his principal: for his regiment being ordered upon foreign service, he became engaged in many of the battles in the Peninsula; till, on the memorable field of Waterloo, he fell, covered with wounds and glory—“An event,” adds the biographer, “ of which the gallant Nix might justly be proud, though his pride (whenever he was called upon to allude to the subject) was tempered by that modesty which is ever the concomitant of true valour.”
But I am anticipating.
“In the year 1804, the bloodthirsty tyrant, the ferocious monster, the insatiable murderer, the pest and scourge of society, the unjustifiablehomicidal Corsican,* threatened this mighty Empire with invasion, and all Little Pedlington, like one man, flew to arms. Of Pedlingtonia less could not be expected nor less did she do. The corps of Little Pedlington Loyal Volunteers was formed; and Nix, ever foremost to serve his country, took part in it as a simple private. But merit like his could not long remain unnoticed or unrewarded ; and after a few months, behold him elevated up into the exalted rank of Captain! | No sooner was he intrusted with command, than a fierceness more than mortal seemed to take possession of his very soul. The duties of his emporium became to him a matter of secondary consideration. He appeared to grow out of himself, as it were. The conscious pavement resounded to his martial tread. In short (to use a phrase at once expressive and picturesque), Little Pedlington, seemed hardly big enough to hold him. Rapidly spread the intelligence that our hero was now a leader of our band of patriots; that the sword of vengeance was flaming in the grasp of the now sash-bound Nix; consequently, not many days elapsed ere news arrived that the bloodthirsty tyrant, the ferocious ” * [as before) “ had abandoned his execrable project of invasion, and retired, abashed and disconcerted, into the savage wilds of Gallia.”
I turn to Appendix K, by which it appears that the real cause of Nix's promotion was this:--After allowing full credit to Nix for the precision and dexterity with which he went through the manual exercise, Captain Sniggerstone, in a style of narrative easy and unaffected, proceeds :-“ This was all very well so long as we fired with bone Aints to the locks and without any sort of powder in the barrels ; but when it came to firing with real flints, and with gunpowder too, it was a very different sort of thing. Now Nix was nervous, never having fired off a gun with powder in it in his life. So, when the word was given to 'prime and load,' my lamented friend and brother soldier loaded, but, for fear of accident, did not prime; and when the word was given to "Fire' only made believe to pull his trigger; and this he did eight times one after another. Now, when all was over (as this was the first time of our having cartridges served out to us), Serjeant Rattan, who had been sent down to drill us, and who was a real soldier (not a volunteer), and very strict, Serjeant Rattan, I say, went along the line and examined every man's touch-hole, and made him sound his barrel. He also examined our pouches. This was to see that we had
“* To prevent any misunderstanding it may be proper to inform the reader that Boneypart is here meant. F. H.”
" + See Captain Sniggerstone's 'Secret History.' Appendix K.”
all fired off eight rounds a-piece. Finding we had done so, he could not but own we had done our duty like men. Now, when he came to examine Nix, his touch-hole was quite bright, and did not smell of gunpowder in the least. So he looked at his pouch, which was empty. Then he found that Nix had rammed down eight rounds of cartridge into his barrel, to say nothing of the ramrod which he had left sticking in it also. So he complained to Colonel Snargate (the small-beer brewer), who commanded the corps at that time, and told him that if Nix's gun had gone off it must have burst, and blown the whole corps toma very considerable distance. Now, the Colonel being convinced how dangerous it was to trust Nix with a musket, yet not liking that the country should lose his services altogether, instantly made a Captain of him : for, said the Colonel," he will then only carry a sword, and he is not likely ever to do any body the smallest harm with that.” Whereupon, Nix was promoted to a Captaincy. And this is the true history of the affair, for which I can vouch, being, at that time, a simple private in the corps. And, now, lest it should be imagined that he was envied his promotion, I must say that such was not the case : we were a band of brothers : and certain it is no man rejoiced at it more than I did. I had the honour to be my gallant friend's right-hand file."
Had you? Disinterested Sniggerstone!
To multiply extracts would be unfair towards the enterprising publisher of the work; I shall, therefore, content myself with only two or three more. In the Nix Journals, under the date of 31st December, 1814, we find the following mem.-a mem. of the deepest interest, recording, as it does, the termination of the Captain's military career. After the inevitable “8, rose; shaved-9, brekfd.”-it proceeds :
“Boney squizzled, as I call it-put haw de combaw-L.P.L.V. in consequence, this day disbandled-I retire from millintary life, and like St. Cinnatus, convert my sword into a plough-tail.”
And here the history of the public life of Nix might have been concluded, but for the determined part which he took in the famous “Pumpladle Controversy," in 1829. This, Mr. Hoppy has detailed at great length and with a minuteness befitting its importance. Nor is he less communicative upon the subject of his hero's Election, in 1830, to the perpetual Presidency of the “ Cock-and-Bottle Club," of which, for many years, he had been president by Annual Election. But for the particulars of those, as of many other equally important matters, I must refer to the work itself.
A specimen of his Table-talk, as recorded by himself, I have already given. This renders any extracts from the “ obliging and valuable communication” from Mr. Scrawly, the Secretary to the club, unnecessary. I find, however, his exquisite and original pleasantry upon the coat being too short, repeated on three-and-twenty different occasions. These repetitions clearly prove its excellence. Nor was his wisdom inferior to his wit. Upon the arrival of a person, or the occurrence of an event, much after the time expected, he was wont to say, “ Better late than never:” and once, upon so apparently trivial an occasion as giving his glove to his daughter to be mended, he emphatically observed, “A stitch in time saves nine". -an axiom which, as Hoppy truly remarks, “is almost as valuable for its rhyme as for its reason. His memory was truly wonderful: and, when he was “i'th' vein,” he would,
Dec.--VOL, LI, NO. civ.
for hours together, amuse and delight his hearers with an accurate account of where he had dined, what he had eaten for his dinner, and how each meal had “agreed with him," on every day of the preceding month. “ But this,” says Hoppy," he could only be prevailed upon to do when surrounded by a social circle of intimate friends whom he knew to be capable of appreciating and enjoying such a display of his uncommon powers.” In the lives of all extraordinary men, remarkable coincidences must be found (or made). Nix was not without his. Perhaps not the least striking is this: that on the very day when Louis XVI. lost his head in Paris, Nix lost his hat in Little Pedlington; and, says Hoppy, “ though last not least, as it was on a Wednesday he died, so was it on a Wednesday he was buried.”
Here I shall conclude. Hoppy's “Life and Times of Nix" will soon be in the hands of every reader of taste. Excepting the insertion of some dozens of letters which rather degrade than elevate the character of his hero, and of some scores of others, to and from persons still living, and of which the publication must inevitably set all Little Pedlington by the ears:—these slight exceptions allowed, Hoppy has performed his task with a discretion, a tact, and a skill, which at once establish him as a biographer of the highest order.
It was late one night, in the month of March of the present year, that a party was gathered round the fire of the Coach and Horsea small wayside public-house at one of the cross-roads intersecting Salisbury Plain. The day had been wild and tempestuous; and, after carrying on a long struggle with the rain, the wind had at last succumbed; and the lurid and overcharged sky discharged its wrath in torrents that thundered on the ground like the march of armed men. Every now and then, however, the wind gave one of those long, rushing blasts that one may have observed between the intervals of a tremendous rain--something between a howl and a shriek, like the wild, compressed cry of a tiger, dashing itself in vain against the strong iron bars of its prison. Even these sounds, in the course of time, died entirely away, and nothing was heard but the long, dull plash, plash of the ever-pouring rain.
“I wonder, neighbour Hardiman,” said a little old man, puffing out a great quantity of smoke (for he had a huge“ brozier" stuck knowingly in the corner of his mouth)—“I wonder, neighbour Hardiman, if this here is anything like the Dellutch in Master Noah's time ?"
“Shouldn't be surprised if it was the old one come back again," answered Master Hardiman ; “or p'raps it's only a twin-they're as like as peas."
A laugh followed this observation; and it was very evident, from the looks bent on the speaker, that something out of the common way was expected from him when he spoke. He could scarcely indeed look without creating a grin among his companions; and many times when he had no intention whatever to be facetious, his audience thought proper to be convulsed with laughter; for Master Hardiman was one of those established high-priests of Momus to whom it costs no sort of trouble to maintain their reputation.
“Well, it's a lucky thing,” replied the first speaker, “ that I have a good big boat on the Kennet. It will hold me and a few friends that I care about, and the rest may be drowned if they choose.”
“That's right, old Morris," said another of the party; "and if our landlord here will give us a few casks of his ale, I should not at all care to make one of your crew ; Master Hardiman would keep us all alive and cheer the voyage with a song.”
“'Ark away! 'ark away! I suppose ?” said the wit; “but halloo, master, the tankard's out: bring us another jug-lay on fresh coalsand a fig, say I, for the wind and the rain. Here's the health of Captain Noah, gentlemen!”
While the members of his little senate were thus receiving the laws of Master Hardiman and doing justice to his toast, a voice was heard without, but still at some distance, as if crying for assistance.
“Coach upset ! I'll bet a guinea,” exclaimed Hardiman.
“ Likely enough,” replied the old man who had been addressed as Master Morris— likely enough: I always said how it would be when our waywarden insisted in raising that 'ere bank. The passengers are all thrown out on it at this very moment.”
“A reg'lar bank for deposits,” said Hardiman; but without showing any intention of going to offer his assistance. “It is a very dangerous experiment to make a run on the bank.”
The shouts were now heard more distinctly; but they appeared to come from an opposite quarter to the high road, and to proceed from the heath behind the house.
“Nay, then, it can't be the old Star, unless it has lost its way.”
“And become a fixed star again. Well, when that happens we shall have time enough to become star-gazers; so, in the mean time, let them cry a little longer: they can't expect people to wade through such a night as this. As for me, if I leave this fire I'll be"
“Halloo! Halloo !” cried a voice now close to the house, but still at the opposite side from the main road.
“Come, gentlemen," said the landlord, “I really think some of us ought to go out and see what's to be done. Perhaps the poor people are perishing for want of a light :-give me the lantern, Sally, and off
But the bold example thus set by Boniface had no imitators among the group beside the fire. They looked, indeed, at each other, but 'twas “ blank amazement all.” Uneasy glances were thrown every now and then towards the door, but courage always seemed to fail them to open it.
“Why, for my part,” said Master Morris, who had been silent for some time, “I don't half like these cries of distress on the plain. It aint many years since some men near Marlborough were lured out by screams just like these, and every soul of them murdered. Some people say as this horrid fellow, Greenacre, that has escaped from the police, was one of the band.” “Greenacre! has he escaped ?" inquired several voices. “Who told
2 m 2
“ Young Sims, the postboy of the Somerset Arms; he heard it from a lady's maid in Devizes.”
“Greenacre escaped !” echoed the party, in various tones, in several of which might be detected a slight admixture of alarm. “How was it?''
“I know nothing else,” replied the old man. “I wish I did; for Sims says there's a reward of five hundred pounds for his apprehension -it would stock a farm.” This concluding observation seemed to produce a vast effect on the party. “ Perhaps the passengers will be able to tell us something more about it. I wish Mitchell would come in,” continued Morris. "If it wasn't for my rheumatiz I would go myself.”
“ Let us all go !” exclaimed one or two of the younger of the party. “Come, Hardiman, lead the way.
“By no manner of means,” replied the wit. “I hate dogs and cats, and it is raining both at this moment: a bite from either of them is no joke ; the very thought of it gives one the hydrophobia-so, confound me if I get wet on any account whatever.”
While the rest of the party were preparing to sally forth, the door opened, and Master Mitchell, the landlord of the Coach and Horses, walked into the room, accompanied by a stranger, whose dripping condition bore evidence to the pelting of the pitiless storm. He was a tall young man, of four or five-and-twenty; with bright black eyes, shaded by long silken lashes, that gave an appearance of melancholy to his fine features; but a quick glance thrown carelessly round the circle, and a curl of laughter at the corner of the mouth, showed very soon that the melancholy we have noticed could easily be exchanged for a different expression.
“Pray be seated," said the stranger; "and, as my friend who has led me here has offered me a change of clothes, I hope to join your circle in a few minutes, and help to empty a gallon or two in your good company."
“Much need both of beer and rest, Sir," replied the landlord ; “but by the time you have put on my toggery you shall have some bacon and eggs and a foaming tankard--then you can either stop here all night, or go on to London by the Tantivy at twelve o'clock.”
The stranger proceeded up-stairs to avail himself of Mitchell's offer, and the party below were earnest in their inquiries as to all he knew of the gentleman.
“ All I know," said the cautious landlord, “is what he has told me ; and as he is soon coming down to join us, perhaps he will be as communicative to you."
“He's too young by thirty years at least,” said old Morris, after a thoughtful pause;" but, in spite of his fine appearance and surtout coat, he may be one of the gang.'
“What are you thinking of ?" inquired Hardiman.
“Of Greenacre to be sure," responded Morris. “ 'Twould be a good night's work for all of us if we could get hold of him. Five hundred pounds is too good a thing to be thrown away."
“Who the dickens talks of throwing it away? Had not you better catch your fish before you think of putting it in the frying-pan ?”
“I don't know," replied Morris, musingly; “ Sims told me 'twas thought he was making for Bristol; now, you know, Salisbury is just about half way, so that