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the-Wisps, and when they scoured away turning their grey hips to the sky, Blue-cap and Barmaid had generally enough to do to overtake them. It was pleasant though to have some object in riding out, and if he did not on each occasion ensure the rôti, or the stew on the morrow, a hallo ! and a good gallop, were better than moping at home, and in palling listlessness acquiring the blues. Everything in its turn, that was the axiom which he acted up to; you can't feed on plum pudding every day, and the intervention of plainer fare confers a zest to the more seldom luxuries. A good course and a kill are not to be despised, and a good course without a kill is preferable to sitting at home, twirling your thumbs, and acquiring the green and yellow melancholy—at least so thought the rector of Elleringay; and then he had a sort of authority for killing the beast of the field, as St. Denis told Charlemagne, that the flesh of hunted animals was good for sick monks, and that their skins came in very usefully to bind their books.
Whenever a few guests were gathered
together at the
parsonage, the curate was, of course, a unit in the numerical totality. If, ingenuous and simple-hearted man, he could not fluently discuss the topics conned over by bucolic squires, he was enabled to talk on more congenial subjects, and whenever the conversation did by any chance veer towards books and learning, he started off at a brisk pace. But it cannot be stated that the discussions frequently took such a dry turn, for the rural gentlemen in question had not very elevated souls; no minds that were “pregnant with intellectual fire.” It was not their wont to soar into the regions of fancy, nor indulge in metaphysical speculations. Their topics were not on Titians, Rembrandts, and Raphaels; nor on the galleries of the Vatican or the Louvre, not on the breathing blocks of Bernini and Canova, nor of fancyings less tangible from the Iliad to Tam O'Shanter. If political matters were reviewed, illustration was not sought for in the past, and it was more than ten to one that the majority had never heard of the revolutions of Achaia, nor yet the speech of
Archidamus. They did not base arguments in favour of the law-makers from an appeal to the Justinian code, or to such by-gone questions as those which made the Gracchi divide on the agrarian laws. Indeed, it was even doubtful whether the rector himself remembered the names of the Cabal, or who was the first of the Trimmers; he knew, however, that his political colour was blue, that he hated yellow, all innovations, and socalled improvements. Had he been a baron at Merton, he would, as lustily as any there, have called out, Nolumus leges Angliæ mutari, and he was precisely the man to have opposed and scoffed at such modern phantasms as railways, electric telegraphs, and lucifer-matches; in truth he was, as he said, no half-and-half, milk-and-water person; and he might have added, that he was a red-hot, ultra, rabid Tory.
The talk of these gatherings rather went on towards natural history, such as horses and dogs, and foxes and pheasants, and so forth, on which specimens of the animal creation the bucolic squires could eloquently dilate, and Cuvier or Audubon might have envied the correct knowledge which they had touching their habitats ; and there were certain others, even some of the migratory species, with whose peculiarities they were marvellously conversant.
Now the curate knew little or nothing either on the modes of sporting, or of the pursued in the sport—he rather had a taste for polemical disputation, and had he lived at the time we write this, he would have gloated over such vexed questions as have latterly, with no very creditable animus, been discussed by Gorhams and Henries of Exeter. This predilection on the part of the curate had, at one time, well-nigh proved detrimental to his interests. When dining at the parsonage a theological question promiscuously turned up, and he and the rector imperceptibly became pitted ; the curate was not without his leaven of human pride, and he manifestly had a desire to show off in the conquest of a disputant whom he knew full well that he could with facility overcome. The rector had, unfortunately become inflamed with wine,-he lost his temper, and
when he found his feet slip in the intellectual arena, he commenced in a rude manner to hurl unfair missiles at the head of his antagonist, which made the curate very irate, and even wince under the volunteered indignities. The latter followed
names, and very obstruse arguments, until his opponent was lost in the miz-maze of diction as well as ideas. The bucolic squires were highly amused; but the rector was run to ground, and he ended up by saying
“Sir, I fought nine battles at Eton, and won eight-I challenged to scull any boy from Windsor-bridge to Surley. There was not a man who stepped across the Quad at Brazenose who could beat me at tennis; and I, sir-I was brought up at the foot of Gamaliel; and you, sir, are only a literate !"
The coadjutor in his spiritual offices was abashed, but he could not concatenate pugilism, sculling to Surley, and tennis, with the doctrine of transubstantiation which they had been discussing This dispute had wellnigh terminated in their separation; how