The Highwayman is taken—we are detained as Evidence against him—proceed to the next village—he escapes—we arrive at another inn, where we go to Bed—in the Night we are awaked by a dreadful Adventure—next night we lodge at the house of a Schoolmaster—our Treatment there
Strap and I were about to depart on our journey, when we perceived a crowd on the road coming towards us, shouting and hallooing all the way. As it approached, we could discern a man on horseback in the middle, with his hands tied behind him, whom we soon knew to be Rifle. The highwayman, not being so well mounted as the two servants who went in pursuit of him, was soon overtaken, and, after having discharged his pistols, made prisoner without any further opposition. They were carrying him in triumph, amidst the acclamations of the country people, to a justice of peace in a neighbouring village, but stopped at our inn to join their companions and take refreshment.
When Rifle was dismounted and placed in the yard, within a circle of peasants, armed with pitchforks, I was amazed to see what a pitiful dejected fellow he now appeared, who had but a few hours before filled me with such terror and confusion. My companion was so much encouraged by this alteration in his appearance that, going up to the thief, he presented his clenched fists to his nose, and declared he would either cudgel or box with the prisoner for a guinea, which he immediately produced, and began to strip, but was dissuaded from this adventure by me, who represented to him the folly of the undertaking, as Rifle was now in the hands of justice, which would, no doubt, give us all satisfaction enough.
But what made me repent of our impertinent curiosity was our being detained by the captors, as evidence against him, when we were just going to set forward. However, there was no remedy; we were obliged to comply, and accordingly joined in the cavalcade, which luckily took the same road that we had proposed to follow. About the twilight we arrived at the place of our destination, but as the justice was gone to visit a gentleman in the country, with whom (we understood) he would probably stay all night, the robber was confined in an empty garret, three stories high, from which it seemed impossible for him to escape; this, nevertheless, was the case; for next morning when they went up stairs to bring him before the justice, the bird was flown, having got out at the window upon the roof from whence he continued his route along the tops of the adjoining houses, and entered another garret where he skulked until the family were asleep; at which time he ventured down stairs, and let himself out by the street-door, which was open.
This event was a great disappointment to those that apprehended him, who were flushed with the hopes of the reward; but gave me great joy, as I was permitted now to continue my journey, without any further molestation. Resolving to make up for the small progress we had hitherto made, we this day travelled with great vigour and before night reached a market town twenty miles from the place from whence we set out in the morning, without meeting any adventure worth notice. Here having taken up our lodging at an an inn, I found myself so fatigued that I began to despair of performing our journey on foot, and desired Strap to inquire if there were any waggon, return horses, or any cheap carriage in this place, to depart for London next day. He was informed that the waggon from Newcastle to London had halted there two nights ago, and that it would be an easy matter to overtake it, if not the next day, at farthest, the day after the next. This piece of news gave us some satisfaction; and, after having made a hearty supper on hashed mutton, we were shown to our room, which contained two beds, the one allotted for us, and the other for a very honest gentleman, who, we were told, was then drinking below. Though we could have very well dispensed with his company, we were glad to submit to this disposition, as there was not another bed empty in the house; and accordingly went to rest, after having secured our baggage under the bolster. About two or three o’clock in the morning I was awaked out of a very profound sleep by a dreadful noise in the chamber, which did not fail to throw me into an agony of consternation, when I heard these words pronounced with a terrible voice: “Blood and wounds! run the halbert into the guts of him that’s next you, and I’ll blow the other’s brains out presently.”
This dreadful salutation had no sooner reached the ears of Strap than, starting out of bed, he ran against somebody in the dark, and overturned him in an instant; at the same time bawling out, “Fire! murder! fire!” a cry which in a moment alarmed the whole house, and filled our chamber with a crowd of naked people. When lights were brought, the occasion of all this disturbance soon appeared; which was no other than a fellow lodger, whom we found lying on the floor, scratching his head, with a look testifying the utmost astonishment at the concourse of apparitions that surrounded him.
This honest gentleman was, it seems, a recruiting sergeant, who, having listed two country fellows over night, dreaded they had mutinied, and threatened to murder him and the drummer who was along with him. This made such an impression on his imagination, that he got up in his sleep and expressed himself as above. When our apprehension of danger vanished, the company beheld one another with great surprise and mirth; but what attracted the notice of everyone was our landlady, with nothing on her but her shift and a large pair of buckskin breeches, with the backside before, which she had slipped on in the hurry, and her husband with her petticoat about his shoulders; one had wrapped himself in a blanket, another was covered with a sheet, and the drummer, who had given his only shirt to be washed, appeared in cuerpo with a bolster rolled about his middle.
When this affair was discussed, everybody retired to his own apartment, the sergeant slipped into bed, and my companion and I slept without any further disturbance till morning, when we got up, went to breakfast, paid our reckoning, and set forward in expectation of overtaking the waggon; in which hope, however, we were disappointed for that day. As we exerted ourselves more than usual, I found myself quite spent with fatigue, when we entered a small village in the twilight. We inquired for a public-house, and were directed to one of a very sorry appearance. At our entrance the landlord, who seemed to be a venerable old man, with long gray hair, rose from a table placed by a large fire in a very neat paved kitchen, and with a cheerful countenance accosted us in these words: “Salvete, pueri. Ingredimini.” I was not a little pleased to hear our host speak Latin, because I was in hope of recommending myself to him by my knowledge in that language; I therefore answered, without hesitation, “Dissolve frigus, ligna super foco—large reponens.” I had no sooner pronounced these words, than the old gentleman, running towards me, shook me by the hand, crying, “Fili mi dilectissime! unde venis?—a superis, ni fallor?” In short, finding we were both read in the classics, he did not know how to testify his regard enough; but ordered his daughter, a jolly rosy-cheeked damsel who was his sole domestic, to bring us a bottle of his quadrimum, repeating from Horace at the same time, “Deprome quadrimum sabina, O Tholiarche, merum diota.” This was excellent ale of his own brewing, of which he told us he had always an amphora four years old, for the use of himself and friends.
In the course of our conversation, which was interlarded with scraps of Latin, we understood that this facetious person was a schoolmaster, whose income being small, he was fain to keep a glass of good liquor for the entertainment of passengers by which he made shift to make the two ends of the year meet. “I am this day,” said he, “the happiest old fellow in his majesty’s dominions. My wife, rest her soul, is in heaven. My daughter is to be married next week; but the two chief pleasures of my life are these (pointing to the bottle and a large edition of Horace that lay on the table). I am old, ’tis true—what then? the more reason I should enjoy the small share of life that remains, as my friend Flaccus advises: ‘Tu ne quaesieris (scire nefas) quem mihi, quem tibi finem dii dederint. Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.’”
As he was very inquisitive about our affairs, we made no scruple of acquainting him with our situation, which when he had learned, he enriched us with advices how to behave in the world, telling us that he was no stranger to the deceits of mankind. In the meantime he ordered his daughter to lay a fowl to the fire for supper, for he was resolved this night to regale his friends—permittens divis caetera. While our entertainment was preparing, our host recounted the adventures of his own life, which, as they contained nothing remarkable, I forbear to rehearse. When we had fared sumptuously, and drunk several bottles of his I expressed a desire of going to rest, which was with some difficulty complied with, after he had informed us that we should overtake the waggon by noon next day; and that there was room enough in it for half-a-dozen, for there were only four passengers as yet in that convenience.
Before my comrade and I fell asleep, we had some conversation about the good humour of our landlord, which gave Strap such an idea of his benevolence, that he positively believed we should pay nothing for our lodging and entertainment. “Don’t you observe,” said he, “that he has conceived a particular affection for us—nay, even treated us at supper with extraordinary fare, which, to be sure, we should not of ourselves have called for?”
I was partly of Strap’s opinion; but the experience I had of the world made me suspend my belief till the morning, when, getting up betimes, we breakfasted with our host and his daughter on hasty-pudding and ale, and desired to know what we had to pay. “Biddy will let you know, gentlemen,” said he; “for I never mind these matters. Money matters are beneath the concern of one who lives upon the Horatian plan—Crescentum sequitur cura pecuniam.” Meanwhile, Biddy, having consulted a slate that hung in the corner, told us our reckoning came to 8s. 7d. “Eight shillings and seven pence!” cried Strap, “’tis impossible! you must be mistaken, young woman.” “Reckon again, child,” says her father, very deliberately; “perhaps you have miscounted.” “No, indeed,” replied she, “I know my business better.” I could contain my indignation no longer, but said it was an unconscionable bill, and demanded to know the particulars; upon which the old man got up, muttering, “Ay, ay, let us see the particulars—that’s but reasonable.” And, taking pen, ink, and paper, wrote the following items:
As he had not the appearance of a common publican, and had raised a sort of veneration in me by his demeanour the preceding night, it was not in my power to upbraid him as he deserved; therefore, I contented myself with saying I was sure he did not learn to be an extortioner from Horace. He answered, I was but a young man and did not know the world, or I would not tax him with extortion, whose only aim was to live contentus parvo, and keep off importuna pauperies. My fellow traveller could not so easily put up with this imposition; but swore he should either take one-third of the money or go without. While we were engaged in this dispute, I perceived the daughter go out, and, conjecturing the occasion, immediately paid the exorbitant demand, which was no sooner done than Biddy returned with two stout fellows, who came in on pretence of taking their morning draught, but in reality to frighten us into compliance. Just as we departed, Strap, who was half-distracted on account of this piece of expense, went up to the schoolmaster, and, grinning in his face, pronounced with great emphasis—“Semper avarus eget.” To which the pedant replied, with a malicious smile—“Animum rege, qui, nisi paret, imperat.”