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he confessed there was much difficulty in it; but he said he hoped there might be a latitude granted to soldiers in this one instance ; and to be sure it is our duty to hope so; for who would bear to live without his honor? No, no, my dear boy, be a good Christian as long as you live; but be a man of honor too, and never put up an affront; not all the books, nor all the parsons in the world, shall ever persuade me to that. I love my religion very well, but I love my honor more. There must be some mistake in the wording the text, or in the translation, or in the understanding it, or somewhere or other. But however that be, a man must run the risk, for he must preserve his honor. So compose yourself to-night, and I promise you you shall have an opportunity of doing yourself justice.” Here he
gave Jones a hearty buss, shook him by the hand, and took his leave.
But though the lieutenant's reasoning was very satisfactory to himself, it was not entirely so to his friend. Jones, therefore, having revolved this matter much in his thoughts, at last came to a resolution, which the reader will find in the next chapter.
A Most DREADFUL CHAPTER INDEED; AND WHICH FEW
READERS OUGHT TO VENTURE UPON IN AN EVENING, ESPECIALLY WHEN ALONE.
Jones swallowed a large mess of chicken, or rather cock, broth, with a very good appetite, as indeed he would have done the cock it was made of, with a pound of bacon into the bargain ; and now, finding in himself no deficiency of either health or spirit, he resolved to get up and seek his enemy.
But first he sent for the sergeant, who was his first acquaintance among these military gentlemen. Unluckily that worthy officer having, in a literal sense, taken his fill of liquor, had been some time retired to his bolster, where he was snoring so loud that it was not easy to convey a noise in at his ears capable of drowning that which issued from his nostrils.
However, as Jones persisted in his desire of seeing him, a vociferous drawer at length found means to disturb his slumbers, and to acquaint him with the message. Of which the sergeant was no sooner made sensible than he arose from his bed, and having his clothes already on, immediately attended. Jones did not think fit to acquaint the sergeant with his design; though he might have done it with great safety, for the halberdier was himself a man of honor, and had killed his man. He would therefore have faithfully kept this secret, or indeed any other which no reward was published for discovering. But as Jones knew not those virtues in so short an acquaintance, his caution was perhaps prudent and commendable enough.
He began, therefore, by acquainting the sergeant that as he was now entered into the army, he was ashamed of being without what was perhaps the most necessary implement of a soldier, namely, a sword, adding that he should be infinitely obliged to him if he could procure one. “ For which,” says he, “ I will give you any reasonable price ; nor do I insist upon its being silver-hilted ; only a good blade, and such as may become a soldier's thigh."
The sergeant, who well knew what had happened, and had heard that Jones was in a very dangerous condition, immediately concluded, from such a message, at such a time of night, and from a man in such a situation, that he was light-headed. Now as he had his wit (to use that word in its common signification) always ready, he bethought himself of making his advantage of this humor in the sick man. “Sir," says he, “I believe I can fit you. I have a most excellent piece of stuff by me. It is not indeed silver-hilted, which, as you say, doth not become a soldier; but the handle is decent enough, and the blade one of the best in Europe. It is a blade that — a blade that — in short, I will fetch it you this instant, and you shall
see it and handle it. I am glad to see your honor so well with all my heart."
Being instantly returned with the sword, he delivered it to Jones, who took it and drew it, and then told the sergeant it would do very well, and bid him name his price.
The sergeant now began to harangue in praise of his goods. He said (nay, he swore very heartily) “ that the blade was taken from a French officer, of very high rank, at the battle of Dettingen. I took it myself,” says he, “ from his side, after I had knocked him o' the head. The hilt was a golden one. o
That I sold to one of our fine gentlemen; for there are some of them, an't please your honor, who value the hilt of a sword more than the blade.”
Here the other stopped him, and begged hiin to name a price. The sergeant, who thought Jones absolutely out of his senses, and very near his end, was afraid lest he should injure his
family by asking too little. However, after a moment's hesitation, he contented himself with naming twenty guineas, and swore he would not sell it for less to his own brother.
Twenty guineas ! ” says Jones, in the utmost surprise ; “sure you think I am mad, or that I never saw a sword in my life. Twenty guineas, indeed ! I did not imagine you would endeavor to impose upon me.
Here, take the sword - no, now ,
- , I think on't, I will keep it myself, and show it your officer in the morning, acquainting him, at the same time, what a price you
asked me for it.”
The sergeant, as we have said, had always his wit (in sensu prædicto) about him, and now plainly saw that Jones was not in the condition he had apprehended him to be; he now, therefore, counterfeited as great surprise as the other had shown, and said, “I am certain, sir, I have not asked you so much out of the way. Besides, you are to consider it is the only sword I have, and I must run the risk of my officer's displeasure by going without one myself. And truly, putting all this together, I don't think twenty shillings was so much out of the way.”
“ Twenty shillings!” cries Jones; “ why, you just now asked me twenty guineas. “ How !” cries the sergeant; “sure your honor must have mistaken me, or else I mistook myself — and indeed I am but half awake. Twenty guineas, indeed ! no wonder your honor flew into such a passion. I say twenty guineas too. No, no, I mean twenty shillings, I assure you. . And when your honor comes to consider everything, I hope you will not think that so extravagant a price. It is indeed true you may buy a weapon which looks as well for less money. But
Here Jones interrupted him, saying, “I will be so far from making any words with you that I will give you a shilling more than your demand.” He then gave him a guinea, bid him return to his bed, and wished him a good march, adding he hoped to overtake them before the division reached Worcester.
The sergeant very civilly took his leave, fully satisfied with his merchandise, and not a little pleased with his dexterous recovery from that false step into which his opinion of the sick man's light-headedness had betrayed him.
As soon as the sergeant was departed, Jones rose from his bed, and dressed himself entirely, putting on even his coat, which, as its color was white, showed very visibly the streams of blood which had flowed down it; and now, having grasped his
new-purchased sword in his hand, he was going to issue forth, when the thought of what he was about to undertake laid suddenly hold of him, and he began to reflect that in a few minutes he might possibly deprive a human being of life, or might lose his own. Very well,” said he, “and in what cause do I venture my life? Why, in that of my honor. And who is this human being? A rascal who hath injured and insulted me without provocation. But is not revenge forbidden by heaven? Yes, but it is enjoined by the world. Well, but shall I obey the world in opposition to the express commands of heaven? Shall I incur the Divine displeasure rather than be called — ha — coward — scoundrel ? — I'll think no more; I am resolved, and must fight him.”
The clock had now struck twelve, and every one in the house were in their beds, except the sentinel who stood to guard Northerton, when Jones softly opening his door, issued forth in pursuit of his enemy, of whose place of confinement he had received a perfect description from the drawer. It is not easy to conceive a much more tremendous figure than he now exhibited. He had on, as we have said, a light-colored coat, covered with streams of blood. His face, which missed that very blood, as well as twenty ounces more drawn from him by the surgeon, was pallid. Round his head was a quantity of bandage, not unlike a turban.
turban. In the right hand he carried a sword, and in the left a candle. So that the bloody Banquo was not worthy to be compared to him. In fact, I believe a more dreadful apparition was never raised in a churchyard nor in the imagination of any good people met in a winter evening over a Christmas fire in Somersetshire.
When the sentinel first saw our hero approach, his hair began gently to lift up his grenadier cap; and in the same instant his knees fell to blows with each other. Presently his whole body was seized with worse than an ague fit. He then fired his piece, and fell flat on his face.
Whether fear or courage was the occasion of his firing, or whether he took aim at the object of his terror, I cannot say. If he did, however, he had the good fortune to miss his man.
Jones seeing the fellow fall, guessed the cause of his fright, at which he could not forbear smiling, not in the least reflecting on the danger from which he had just escaped. He then passed by the fellow, who still continued in the posture in which he fell, and entered the room where Northerton, as he had heard, was confined. Here, in a solitary situation, he found — an empty quart pot standing on the table, on which some beer being spilt, it looked as if the room had lately been inhabited; but at present it was entirely vacant.
Jones then apprehended it might lead to some other apartment; but upon searching all round it, he could perceive no other door than that at which he entered, and where the sentinel had been posted. He then proceeded to call Northerton several times by his name, but no one answered ; nor did this serve to any other purpose than to confirm the sentinel in his terrors, who was now convinced that the volunteer was dead of his wounds, and that his ghost was come in search of the murderer: he now lay in all the agonies of horror; and I wish, with all my heart, some of those actors who are hereafter to represent a man frighted out of his wits had seen him, that they might be taught to copy nature, instead of performing several antic tricks and gestures for the entertainment and applause of the galleries.
Perceiving the bird was flown, at least despairing to find him, and rightly apprehending that the report of the firelock would alarm the whole house, our hero now blew out his candle, and gently stole back again to his chamber, and to his bed, whither he would not have been able to have gotten undiscovered had any other person been on the same staircase, save
, only one gentleman, who was confined to his bed by the gout; for before he could reach the door to his chamber the hall where the sentinel had been posted was half full of people, some in their shirts, and others not half dressed, all very earnestly inquiring of each other what was the matter.
The soldier was now found lying in the same place and posture in which we just now left him. Several immediately applied themselves to raise him, and some concluded him dead ; but they presently saw their mistake, for he not only struggled with those who laid their hands on him, but fell a roaring like a bull. In reality, he imagined so many spirits or devils were handling him; for his imagination being possessed with the horror of an apparition, converted every object he saw or felt into nothing but ghosts and specters.
At length he was overpowered by numbers, and got upon his legs; when candles were brought, and seeing two or three of his comrades present, he came a little to himself; but when they asked him what was the matter, he answered, “I am a