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mild importance, a diplomatic reserve on some points, great smoothness of speech, and that gentleness which is so often the result of conscious power, made him there an absolute ruler. Perhaps the effect of these causes might be a little aided by the latent dread which that power inspired in others. Many an exploit had proved that Tom Cordery's one arm was fairly worth any two on the common. The pommeling of Bob Arlott, and the levelling of Jem Serle to the earth by one swing of a huge old hare (which unusual weapon was, by the way, the first slain of May-flower, on its way home to us in that walking cupboard, his pocket, when the unlucky rencontre with Jem Serle broke two heads, the dead and the living), arguments such as these might have some cogency at the Red Lion.
But he managed every body, as your gentle mannered person is apt to do. Even the rude squires and rough farmers, his temporary masters, he managed, particularly as far as concerned the beat, and was sure to bring them round to his own peculiar fancies or prejudices, however strongly their own wishes might turn them aside from the direction indicated, and however often Tom's sagacity in that instance might have been found at fault. Two spots in the large wild enclosures, into which the heath had been divided, were his special favourites; the Hundred Acres, alias the Poor Allotment, alias the Burnt Common.—Do any or all of these titles convey any notion of the real destination of that many-named place? A piece of moorland (portioned out to serve for fuel to the poor of the parish)—this was one. Oh! the barrenness of this miserable moor! Flat, marshy, dingy bare. Here that piece of green treachery, a bog; there, parched and pared, and shriveled, and black with smoke and ashes; utterly desolate and wretched every where, except where, amidst the desolation, blossomed, as in mockery, the enameled gentianella. No hares ever came there; they had too much taste. Yet thither would Tom lead his unwary employers; thither, however warned, or cautioned, or experienced, would he by reasoning, or induction, or gentle persuasion, or actual fraud, entice the hapless gentleman; and then to see him, with his rabble of finders, pacing up and down this precious " setting ground" (for so was Tom, thriftless liar, wont to call it), pretending to look for game, counterfeiting a meuse; forging a form; and telling a story some ten years old of a famous hare once killed in that spotby his honour's favourite bitch Marygold. I never could thoroughly understand whether it were design, a fear that too many hares might be killed, or a real or honest mistake, a genuine prejudice in favour of the place, that influenced Tom Cordery in this point. Half the one, perhaps, and half the other. Mixed motives, let Pope and his disciples say what they will, are by far the commonest in this particoloured world. Or he had shared the fate of greater men, and lied till he believed—a coursing Cromwell, beginning in hypocrisy and ending in fanaticism. Another pet spot was the Gallows-piece, an enclosure almost as large as the Hundred Acres, where a gibbet had once borne the bodies of two murderers, with the
chains and bones, even in my remembrance, clanking and creaking in the wind. The gibbet was gone now; but the name remained, and the feeling, deep, sad, and shuddering. The place, too, was wild, awful, fearful; a heathy, furzy spot, sinking into broken hollows, where murderers might lurk; a few withered pines at the upper end, and amongst them, half hidden by the brambles, the stone in which the gallows had been fixed;—the bones must have been mouldering beneath. All Tom's eloquence, seconded by two capital coursers, failed to drag me hither a second time.
Tom was not, however, without that strong sense of natural beauty which they who live amongst the wildnesses and fastnesses of nature so often exhibit. One spot, where the common trenches on the civilized world, was scarcely less his admiration than mine. It is a high hill, half covered with furze, and heath, and broom, and sinking abruptly down to a large pond, almost a lake, covered with wild water fowl. The ground, richly clothed with wood, oak and beech and elm, rises on the other side with equal abruptness, as if shutting in those glassy waters from all but the sky, which shines so brightly in their clear bosom: just in the bottom peeps a small sheltered farm, whose wreaths of light smoke, and the white glancing wings of the wild ducks, as they flit across the lake, are all that give tokens of motion or of life. I have stood there in utter oblivion of greyhound, or of hare, till moments have swelled to minutes, and minutes to hours; and so has Tom, conveying, by his ex
clamations of delight at its " pleasantness," exactly the same feeling which a poet or a painter (for it breathes the very spirit of calm and sunshiny beauty that a master painter loves) would express by different, but not finer praise. He called his own home " pleasant" too; and there, though one loves to hear any home so called— there, I must confess, that favourite phrase, which I love almost as well as they who have no other, did seem rather misapplied. And yet it was finely placed, very finely. It stood in a sort of defile, where a road almost perpendicular wound from the top of a steep, abrupt hill, crowned with a tuft of old Scotish firs, into a dingle of fern and wild brushwood. A shallow, sullen stream oozed from the bank on one side, and after forming a rude channel across the road, sank into a dark, deep pool, half hidden amongst the sallows. Behind these sallows, in a nook between them and the hill, rose the uncouth and shapeless cottage of Tom Cordery. It is a scene which hangs upon the eye and the memory, striking, grand, almost sublime, and above all, eminently foreign. No English painter would choose such a subject for an English landscape; no one in a picture would take it for English. It might pass for one of the scenes which have furnished models to Salvator Rosa. Tom's cottage was, however, very thoroughly national and characteristic; a low, ruinous hovel, the door of which was fastened with a sedulous attention to security, that contrasted strangely with the tattered thatch of the roof, and the half broken windows. No garden, no pigsty, no pens for geese, none of the
visual signs of cottage habitation :—yet the house was covered with nondescript dwellings, and the very walls were animate with their extraordinary tenants; pheasants, partridges, rabbits, tame wild ducks, half tame hares, and their enemies by nature and education, the ferrets, terriers, and mongrels, of whom his retinue consisted. Great ingenuity had been evinced in keeping separate these jarring elements; and by dint of hutches, cages, fences, kennels, and half a dozen little hurdled enclosures, resembling the sort of courts which children are apt to build round their card houses, peace was in general tolerably well preserved. Frequent sounds, however, of fear or of anger, as their several instincts were aroused, gave token that it was but a forced and hollow truce, and at such times the clamour was prodigious. Tom had the remarkable tenderness for animals when domesticated, which is so often found in those whose sole avocation seems to be their destruction in the field; and the one long, straggling, unceiled, barnlike room, which served for kitchen, bedchamber, and hall, was cumbered with bipeds and quadrupeds of all kinds and descriptions—the sick, the delicate, the newly caught, the lying-in. In the midst of this menagerie sate Tom's wife (for he was married, though without a family—married to a woman lame of a leg, as he himself was minus an arm), now trying to quiet her noisy inmates, now to outscold them. How long his friend the keeper would have continued to wink at this den of live game, none can say: the roof fairly fell in during the deep snow of last winter, VOL. III. 3 A