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THE LE PIQUES.–BATTLE OF HASTINGS. THE TRUMPETER.-MADAME
STURGEON'S IDEAS OF ANCESTRY.
DEAN SWIFT, when asked by a barber, whose sign was the “ Pole and Basin," to give him a few lines upon it by way of motto, drew forth his pencil and wrote the following couplet :
“Rove not from pole to pole, but step in here,
Where nought exceeds the shaving but the beer.” Our hero, however, has roved from pole to pole ; been well shaved in crossing both the tropic and the equator; and by way of saving his readers from a similar ordeal, he too begs they will
Not rove from pole to pole, but look in here
Where, p’rhaps, the shaving far exceeds the beer. A few words of Jack Tench's maternal grandmother. The old lady had her whims and her oddities, of which latter, pride of ancestry was the most ridiculous—for few ever heard of any great virtues
possessed by the Le Piques of Normandy, from whom she dated so far back as the year 1070, which was about four years after the memorable battle of Hastings had transferred the diadem from the brow of the undaunted but unfortunate Harold, to the bastard of Normandy, whom his followers at first, and his subjects afterwards, surnamed the “ Conqueror."
Jacques Le Pique had a numerous small fry; of which the second son, Eustache, was the most distinguished, having served with his father in the Norman army, perhaps as trumpeter, for all Jack's grandmother knew to the contrary; but in what rank, unless in the ranks, was a secret from his descendants. Nevertheless he possessed great sense of touch and take, for with a part of the spolia“ maxima,” if not of the “ opima,” he purchased an estate in the West of England, which he called Chatelloisir from another Norman, upon whom the Conqueror was said to have conferred it; but whether this was true or not, possession had then the same legal qualification as at the present day. The name of the estate, time, and local barbarisms have since changed to “ Chaddlehanger," and the family one to “ Pike.”
Jacques Le Pique, the sire of Eustache, as family tradition mentioned, had something to boast of, even if he did not possess the same exquisite taste for plunder that had distinguished his son Eustache ; for he it was who, according to the tradition, with stentorian voice, commenced the soul-inspiring song of the famous Roland, the friend and peer of Charlemagne, with which the Norman army, joining in “ full cry" or chorus, advanced under William and his glorious captains Montgomerie and Martel, against the Kentish men, who, on that ever-memorable, but for Britons, ill-fated day, formed the vanguard of King Harold's army at the battle of Hastings ; the Norman army of that time, like the French of the present, doing nothing without vociferation and noise, by way of keeping up a war-like excitement, equal to the occasion,
"As the worn war horse, at the trumpet's sound
Erects his mane, and neighs, and paws the ground.” The Pikes intermarried with the families of Trejago, Bolt, and Molesworth of Cornwall, with the Arscotts of Tedcott, and with the more modern ones of Salmon and Sturgeon; and from the latter circumstances, the family was never without one consolation, viz : “ that let whatever might happen, it would still be rich in fish, and always have Pike, Salmon, and Sturgeon in it.”
“ Madame Sturgeon,” as the country folks called the old lady after her marriage, was a sort of literary phenomenon in those days, i.e. between the years 1716 and 1800, without specifying any particular period between her entrance into the world and her exit out of it; it is most natural to suppose that her mental qualifications began to develope themselves about the year 1734. She was a blue stocking well read in the Greek and Latin classics, which her father, a sort of medical-know-all, had taught her, finding she was an apt scholar, and not likely to give him much trouble. At that time, a blue stocking was a rare bird indeed, and the chief wonder was, “ how she got anybody to marry her;" for the qualities of a good housewife, in those days, were plain, homely, and useful ones, such, indeed, as many a farmer's daughter now cocks her nose at; but, nevertheless, the best adapted for the intermediate sphere of neither too high nor too low in this world's system of society.
Reading and study had rendered Madame Sturgeon, as she prided herself and believed, above the trammels of superstition; and by those to whom she was known, and the circle was not less than thirty miles in extent, she was looked upon as the last of her sex to be affected by what she considered an extreme of cowardice and folly, -inexcusable in those who had had a liberal education, and only excusable where there had been none.
Nevertheless, the most superstitious notions obtain even now, in the nineteenth century, and shall it be wondered at that they held greater power over the mind in the middle of the last, when, comparatively speaking, the schoolmaster was never abroad, and seldom' to be found at home?
Cowardice was generated in the nursery, superstition its nurse; and impressions of fear established there have been scarcely ever entirely shaken off in after life; never thoroughly eradicated except by liberal education and a knowledge of the world. Have we not in our own recollections a few specimens of the brave over their cups, who, in their moments of jollity have quaffed the intoxi
cating liquid from the brainless but ornamented skull?-have sung,
“ Bibemus cerevisiam
“ Ex concavis craniorum crateribus,” and yet in midnight solitude have been overcome with terror at the obtrusive dreams of some headless figure, praying for the restitution of the goblet, sacrilegiously torn from its hallowed resting-place for the licentious orgies of Bacchanalian debauchery?
JACK'S, UNCLE WALTER'S GHOST.—THE SISTERS.—THE MIDSHIPMAN'S
“That the dead are seen no more,” said Imlac, “I will not undertake to maintain against the concurrent and unvaried testimony of all ages and of all nations. There is no people, rude or learned, among whom apparitions of the dead are not related and believed. This opinion, which perhaps prevails as far as human nature is diffused, could become universal only by its truth: those that never heard of one another could not have agreed in a tale, which nothing but experience can make credible: that it is doubted by single cavillers, can very little lessen the general evidence; and some who deny it with their tongues, confess it by their fears.”
In the rear of Madame Sturgeon's house, for she liked to have every thing called her's, and in every thing her own way, was a long court yard, at the extremity of which, the garden, rising like an amphitheatre, was divided into three parts, connected with each other by wide flights of stone steps; the upper part was devoted to flowers, and in their various seasons, Madame Sturgeon's tulips, auriculas, roses, ranunculuses, hyacinths, carnations, tuberoses, and polyanthes, were the theme of admiration throughout the county. On the left of the court yard from the house, adjoining, but beyond the stable, was the poultry yard; over which a Newfoundland mastiff, dignified with the name of “Cæsar,” mounted guard against cats by day and pigeon stealers by night.
* Let us quaff mead out of the hollow caverns of the brain.