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,
‘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.’
‘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!’