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“ One that hath been a courtier,
he hath strange places cramm'd
SHAKSPEARE: As You Like It.
I SUPPOSE my reader will think I found Brudenell with pen in hand, and an eye rolling in phrensy. No such thing! I had met his two bits of blood with his groom, parading a few yards before the door of his hermitage, and, expressing my surprise, the man informed me his master was that instant setting off for Ascot races. I found him, in fact, in the act of drawing on a pair of top-boots for the purpose.
The farm-house was all in a bustle; for, from vicinity, his landlord and his whole family considered the races as an annual fête; and as he had been an old huntsman, and was actually a yeoman pricker, he had covered his cottage with placards of the horses that were to run, and woodcuts of the jockeys in all proper costume, contesting the race with whip and spur. His wife and daughters, too (the last, by the way, two rosy girls in their teens), had just got into a market-cart with straw-bottomed chairs, to take them to the ground. They were all over cherrycoloured ribbons, the colour of a favourite jockey, and looked themselves very ripe and blooming. I could not help darting a significant look at Brudenell, even before I shook hands with him.
“ This,” said I, “is your mode of moralising in seclusion ! This your method of showing up the vices of the world! These the simplicities you so much prefer to the artificial manners of the town !”
He laughed, and said, “I see what you mean, but you are wrong, and I shall cut no figure in your notes."
" I don't know that,” said I: “for I have not forgot the tirade you uttered not a fortnight ago, on the necessity of flying from the folly and treachery of society; and how do I find you?” “Fi donc,” said he; “these young creatures are as
, innocent as doves, and as ignorant of the world as the daughters of a Welsh parson.”
“ Which ignorance you, no doubt, think yourself bound to dispel by pouring fresh instruction o'er their minds, for which purpose you attend them to races.”
“ And no bad purpose, either,” said he; “ for a race is dangerous ground for a young girl, and she may want a protector.”
" “ Your humble servant,” replied I; “ but are you not afraid of meeting your more refined friends, such as Lady Harriet, and Lady Thomasina herself, who may want a protector too ? They, I know, have planned to be at the Heath to-day, and will murder you with quizzing, should
face with these Blowzelinds." “ Let them look to themselves,” said he.
know that I am come in quest of pure nature, which I have long valued more than all their artificial life; and I have often told them, that an unsophisticated farmer's daughter was a treasure worth all the duchesses in London."
“ Which treasure you have found in one or other, or perhaps both, of these damsels.”
“Truce,” said he ;“ I tell you, you are upon a wrong scent; and though, to be sure, to be going to Ascot is not positively an avoidance of the world, you will find that never was retreat so well chosen as this for my purpose. But we must not lose the race, and as
. your horses are not disposed of, I think the best thing you can do is to accompany us.”
I complied; we mounted, and in a few minutes were in the middle of that world which he had fled from London to avoid.
• What a mob!” exclaimed he. thousands have left their peaceful homes and profitable callings, to waste their spirits and the fruits of their industry upon vanity!” “Why, yes,” said I; “ for a race is something like
; Vanity Fair. But pray inform me, if all these people are so reprehensible, what you yourself do among them.”
“ Why I,” he replied, “as I suppose you, come to observe, and get acquainted with the levities of life, in order the better to lecture upon and avoid them.”
• Of which lecture,” I said, “I shrewdly suspect your cherry-coloured friends there stand at this moment a little in need ;” and I pointed to his two
6 How many
young hostesses, who, in their market-cart drawn up close to the ropes, were chattering, nothing loth, with the jockey with whose colours they had decked themselves, and who was treating them, though so early in the day, with cakes and ale. I observed our philosopher to change colour a little at the sight.
“ I could not have thought this of Sarah,” said he, (the eldest of the girls,) “after all the advice I had given against listening to a racing groom ;
and that Will Summers is perhaps, of all grooms, the most dangerous.” At this he rode on in something very like disgust, which made me curious to probe him on the real state of his mind in his boasted retreat; but the opportunity did not arise till next day; for, with all his objection to a mob of any sort, and (while the fit was on him) his hatred of artificial society (as he now called any thing out of a village), he forced me with him to an ordinary at Sunning Hill, and afterwards to a ball at Lord Montresor's, near Windsor, where he passed great part of the night in dancing, and talking sentiment with several ladies and honourables, old acquaintances whom he met there.
Returned to our farm-house, and having agreed to pass the next day with him, he accompanied his invitation with the warning that he was true to his principles of living a mere life of nature, that is, of confining himself to natural wants; "and therefore,” said he, "you must expect nothing but the plainest and most primitive fare. I always,” continued he gravely, "admired that answer of Cyrus to Astyages, who asked what the Persians drank for, if they drank
nothing but water; “To satisfy their thirst,” said Cyrus, “and that is all.”
I began to be alarmed for my dinner, and particularly for my wine, and said with some seriousness, “You surely do not mean to confine me to nuts and water."
“ Very little more, I assure you,” said he.
“I am here really en vrai hermite, and you may think yourself well off with beans and bacon, and perhaps, as you are a stranger, an egg or so."
“Good," I observed; "and as to drink, I suppose the Persian beverage, though I beg to say I would rather have a little of the Assyrian.”
“Not a drop, I promise you,” answered he; "you know I told you I left the artificial to cultivate the simple life, so brought no wine.”
“ Which was the reason, no doubt," I replied, "for your paying such respect to your claret at the ordinary yesterday, and Lord Montresor's champagne after supper.”
“ Raison de plus,” cried he, "for allowing you at best only some home-brewed ale to-day. But it will be served by Sarah, who will then appear what she is — a Hebe."
“Have you so soon then forgotten her coquetry with Will Summers, the racing groom- of all men you
know the most dangerous ?” “Pooh! pooh!” answered he, “I tell you again, the child is as innocent as I am myself.”
“I have no doubt of it,” said I. “ You are but a dry fellow after all, Mr. Somno