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also, especially as he, too, was a brother pedlar, if not a brother thief, traced from the Jolly Angler at Thatcham, where he had shewn a purse of gold, and treated the whole house, which shewed that the gold could not have been honestly come by.
This, thought I, is acquiring a knowledge of the world with a vengeance; and I became a little uneasy. Presently, however, my ear caught the name of Firebrass. Depend upon it, that reformer,” said one of the clerks, as he gulped down his tea, “ is at the bottom of this. How many robberies has he not instigated by his rascally lectures.”
“I don't agree with you, Styles,” said a brother clerk. “What you call rascally, I call enlightened ; and robbery, as Firebrass says, may not per se be a crime against the law of nature. All must depend upon
the circumstances of the case.” “And pray, Hopkins,” replied Styles, “what justified the pedlar for breaking open the Wallingford Bank ?”
“ There you go again,” returned Hopkins. “ How do we know that he broke open the bank ? The poor man is only now under examination, and yet you have already found him guilty, and, no doubt, hanged him in your own mind, because he is a poor pedlar. Had he been the rich mayor, who shot the man last week for merely coming in at his window, and it was found justifiable homicide, he would, by you, be at once acquitted. See what it is to be a damned Tory!”
“And you,” replied Styles, “would let every robber go free, provided the person he robbed had a title,
or was richer than himself. See what it is to be a damned Whig !"
“ Let's ask Mr. Jellybrand,” said Hopkins, “what he thinks of the question.”
“ I know no more what the question is,” said a staid and sensible-looking person, “ than you seem to do yourselves; but if you ask me my opinion of you two, I think you are a couple of blockheads."
At this the gentlemen travellers, or as, near London, they are called, the commercial gentlemen, laughed heartily, in which I could not help joining, though unwilling to bring myself into notice, especially among lawyers.
Another man of law, however, now came in, straight from the magistrates' chamber, and told us that Handcock had implicated Dr. Firebrass, the lecturer on political economy, in the robbery at Wallingford.
“ That's the best news I have heard yet,” cried Styles ; “ I hope it's true.”
“I hope not,” said Hopkins. “But Firebrass is too prudent a man, even if he was not too high principled, to commit a robbery."
“But he may instigate others," responded Styles, 66 which is quite as bad.”
6 What was the case ?” asked Jelly brand, who seemed to have much weight with the young men, being, as I was afterwards told, the managing clerk of their master. - This," said the new-comer.
"A written paper was found in Handcock's pack, signed by Firebrass, whose hand-writing was proved, which ran thus :
Being applied to for my opinion, whether it is lawful for a destitute man, or one of inferior condition, to help himself out of the superfluities of another superior to himself, I hold, from undeniable truths of the law of nature and the equality of mankind, that he may so act, if he pleases, and thinks it expedient, without being guilty of a crime. But of the expediency, he himself, and he only, is to judge.'”
“A very convenient doctrine,” said Jellybrand, “and likely to do a great deal of good. No wonder the doctor has established a sect, which daily spreads, and has such disciples as Hopkins. But how does this implicate him in the robbery at the bank ?"
" Aye; make out that if you can,” said Hopkins. Depend upon it, the law cannot reach him."
“ It has at least excited suspicion," said he from the court, whose name I found was Catchpole ; “ for Handcock being asked, who had required this opinion from the doctor, and how he came by it, first prevaricated, and then refused to answer ; so he is remanded, and Firebrass is ordered to attend. Moreover, fifty pounds of the bank paper were also found in his pack, which he said he had taken in the way of his trade."
“And why not ?” asked Hopkins. “If he or Firebrass are convicted, they will die martyrs to the tyranny of the laws.”
“ They both deserve to be hanged,” said Styles.
“ I should tell you, however,” proceeded Catchpole, 66 that the
person who was with Handcock when he was arrested is also to be apprehended, if he can be found;
for though Handcock did not know his name, he let out that he was acquainted with Firebrass, and was proceeding hither on purpose to attend his lectures.”
This completely decided my plan of proceeding, and altered my design of remaining a day or two at Reading, which I found was no place for me. As soon, therefore, as the lawyers had paid for their breakfasts and retired, I did the same; for I waited their retreat, not liking to shew my knapsack to people who studied the Hue-and-Cry. When gone,
however, I took it off the peg on which I had hung it, and, in order to avoid danger, resolved to make it part company with my shoulders for a time, and proceed per coach, if I could find one, to the next town I meant to visit. This was about seven miles off, and I luckily succeeded, as what was called the Forest coach was just setting off. Bidding, therefore, adieu to Reading almost before I had seen it, I took the road to Oakingham, in Windsor Forest.
I FALL IN WITH ANOTHER LANDLORD, VERY DIF
FERENT FROM HIM OF THE JOLLY ANGLER.
My crown is in my heart, not on my head,
SHAKSPEARE. -Henry VI,
Are you a courtier an 't like you.
Winter's Tale. WINDSOR forest! Ah! dear and delightful region ! seat of my youth, and always of happiness ! where I have wandered, careless of restraint, a votary of nature, through paths, and fields, and woods, literally strewed with flowers! Where, “ under the shade of not melancholy boughs,” I have lost, but not neglected “the creeping hours of time!" Ah ! blissful retreat, where in delicious solitude (to me delicious from being satiated with crowds) I have wooed and found the not unwilling Muse, who gave me gifts, which far
“ Outshone the wealth of Ormus or of Ind ! "
Ever didst thou soothe and restore my mind to health, when scorched by ambition, or plunged too deeply in reckless pleasure.