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Chapter 30

  • A homely proverb recognises the existence of a troublesome class of person_ho, having an inch conceded them, will take an ell. Not to quote th_llustrious examples of those heroic scourges of mankind, whose amiable pat_n life has been from birth to death through blood, and fire, and ruin, an_ho would seem to have existed for no better purpose than to teach mankin_hat as the absence of pain is pleasure, so the earth, purged of thei_resence, may be deemed a blessed place—not to quote such mighty instances, i_ill be sufficient to refer to old John Willet.
  • Old John having long encroached a good standard inch, full measure, on th_iberty of Joe, and having snipped off a Flemish ell in the matter of th_arole, grew so despotic and so great, that his thirst for conquest knew n_ounds. The more young Joe submitted, the more absolute old John became. Th_ll soon faded into nothing. Yards, furlongs, miles arose; and on went ol_ohn in the pleasantest manner possible, trimming off an exuberance in thi_lace, shearing away some liberty of speech or action in that, and conductin_imself in his small way with as much high mightiness and majesty, as the mos_lorious tyrant that ever had his statue reared in the public ways, of ancien_r of modern times.
  • As great men are urged on to the abuse of power (when they need urging, whic_s not often), by their flatterers and dependents, so old John was impelled t_hese exercises of authority by the applause and admiration of his Maypol_ronies, who, in the intervals of their nightly pipes and pots, would shak_heir heads and say that Mr Willet was a father of the good old English sort;
  • that there were no new-fangled notions or modern ways in him; that he put the_n mind of what their fathers were when they were boys; that there was n_istake about him; that it would be well for the country if there were mor_ike him, and more was the pity that there were not; with many other origina_emarks of that nature. Then they would condescendingly give Joe to understan_hat it was all for his good, and he would be thankful for it one day; and i_articular, Mr Cobb would acquaint him, that when he was his age, his fathe_hought no more of giving him a parental kick, or a box on the ears, or a cuf_n the head, or some little admonition of that sort, than he did of any othe_rdinary duty of life; and he would further remark, with looks of grea_ignificance, that but for this judicious bringing up, he might have neve_een the man he was at that present speaking; which was probable enough, as h_as, beyond all question, the dullest dog of the party. In short, between ol_ohn and old John’s friends, there never was an unfortunate young fellow s_ullied, badgered, worried, fretted, and brow-beaten; so constantly beset, o_ade so tired of his life, as poor Joe Willet.
  • This had come to be the recognised and established state of things; but a_ohn was very anxious to flourish his supremacy before the eyes of Mr Chester,
  • he did that day exceed himself, and did so goad and chafe his son and heir,
  • that but for Joe’s having made a solemn vow to keep his hands in his pocket_hen they were not otherwise engaged, it is impossible to say what he migh_ave done with them. But the longest day has an end, and at length Mr Cheste_ame downstairs to mount his horse, which was ready at the door.
  • As old John was not in the way at the moment, Joe, who was sitting in the ba_uminating on his dismal fate and the manifold perfections of Dolly Varden,
  • ran out to hold the guest’s stirrup and assist him to mount. Mr Chester wa_carcely in the saddle, and Joe was in the very act of making him a gracefu_ow, when old John came diving out of the porch, and collared him.
  • ‘None of that, sir,’ said John, ‘none of that, sir. No breaking of patroles.
  • How dare you come out of the door, sir, without leave? You’re trying to ge_way, sir, are you, and to make a traitor of yourself again? What do you mean,
  • sir?’
  • ‘Let me go, father,’ said Joe, imploringly, as he marked the smile upon thei_isitor’s face, and observed the pleasure his disgrace afforded him. ‘This i_oo bad. Who wants to get away?’
  • ‘Who wants to get away!’ cried John, shaking him. ‘Why you do, sir, you do.
  • You’re the boy, sir,’ added John, collaring with one band, and aiding th_ffect of a farewell bow to the visitor with the other, ‘that wants to snea_nto houses, and stir up differences between noble gentlemen and their sons,
  • are you, eh? Hold your tongue, sir.’
  • Joe made no effort to reply. It was the crowning circumstance of hi_egradation. He extricated himself from his father’s grasp, darted an angr_ook at the departing guest, and returned into the house.
  • ‘But for her,’ thought Joe, as he threw his arms upon a table in the commo_oom, and laid his head upon them, ‘but for Dolly, who I couldn’t bear shoul_hink me the rascal they would make me out to be if I ran away, this house an_ should part to-night.’
  • It being evening by this time, Solomon Daisy, Tom Cobb, and Long Parkes, wer_ll in the common room too, and had from the window been witnesses of what ha_ust occurred. Mr Willet joining them soon afterwards, received th_ompliments of the company with great composure, and lighting his pipe, sa_own among them.
  • ‘We’ll see, gentlemen,’ said John, after a long pause, ‘who’s the master o_his house, and who isn’t. We’ll see whether boys are to govern men, or me_re to govern boys.’
  • ‘And quite right too,’ assented Solomon Daisy with some approving nods; ‘quit_ight, Johnny. Very good, Johnny. Well said, Mr Willet. Brayvo, sir.’
  • John slowly brought his eyes to bear upon him, looked at him for a long time,
  • and finally made answer, to the unspeakable consternation of his hearers,
  • ‘When I want encouragement from you, sir, I’ll ask you for it. You let m_lone, sir. I can get on without you, I hope. Don’t you tackle me, sir, if yo_lease.’
  • ‘Don’t take it ill, Johnny; I didn’t mean any harm,’ pleaded the little man.
  • ‘Very good, sir,’ said John, more than usually obstinate after his lat_uccess. ‘Never mind, sir. I can stand pretty firm of myself, sir, I believe,
  • without being shored up by you.’ And having given utterance to this retort, M_illet fixed his eyes upon the boiler, and fell into a kind of tobacco-trance.
  • The spirits of the company being somewhat damped by this embarrassing line o_onduct on the part of their host, nothing more was said for a long time; bu_t length Mr Cobb took upon himself to remark, as he rose to knock the ashe_ut of his pipe, that he hoped Joe would thenceforth learn to obey his fathe_n all things; that he had found, that day, he was not one of the sort of me_ho were to be trifled with; and that he would recommend him, poeticall_peaking, to mind his eye for the future.
  • ‘I’d recommend you, in return,’ said Joe, looking up with a flushed face, ‘no_o talk to me.’
  • ‘Hold your tongue, sir,’ cried Mr Willet, suddenly rousing himself, an_urning round.
  • ‘I won’t, father,’ cried Joe, smiting the table with his fist, so that th_ugs and glasses rung again; ‘these things are hard enough to bear from you;
  • from anybody else I never will endure them any more. Therefore I say, Mr Cobb,
  • don’t talk to me.’
  • ‘Why, who are you,’ said Mr Cobb, sneeringly, ‘that you’re not to be talke_o, eh, Joe?’
  • To which Joe returned no answer, but with a very ominous shake of the head,
  • resumed his old position, which he would have peacefully preserved until th_ouse shut up at night, but that Mr Cobb, stimulated by the wonder of th_ompany at the young man’s presumption, retorted with sundry taunts, whic_roved too much for flesh and blood to bear. Crowding into one moment th_exation and the wrath of years, Joe started up, overturned the table, fel_pon his long enemy, pummelled him with all his might and main, and finishe_y driving him with surprising swiftness against a heap of spittoons in on_orner; plunging into which, head foremost, with a tremendous crash, he lay a_ull length among the ruins, stunned and motionless. Then, without waiting t_eceive the compliments of the bystanders on the victory be had won, h_etreated to his own bedchamber, and considering himself in a state of siege,
  • piled all the portable furniture against the door by way of barricade.
  • ‘I have done it now,’ said Joe, as he sat down upon his bedstead and wiped hi_eated face. ‘I knew it would come at last. The Maypole and I must par_ompany. I’m a roving vagabond—she hates me for evermore—it’s all over!’