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THE OLD LEDGER.-No. I.
THE GREY MARE.
EVERY little place in the country has its great man, who stands as conspicuously among the smaller folk as a pear-tree in the midst of a plantation of cabbages.
Mr. Josiah Greene had by his extraordinary tact and ability obtained this enviable pre-eminence in the town of B. He was a tall, brown, bony, gawky man, measuring about six feet in his stockings, with sharp, angular features, illuminated with a pair of penetrating grey eyes; although the precise colour of his optics was a matter of dispute among the ladies, arising from the reflection of his green spectacles.
He usually wore a slouching drab hat, turned up with green; a "pudding" neckcloth, encompassing his long, skinny neck his sober suit was large and ill-fitting, and his drab gaiters hung loosely upon his calfless legs. A pair of wide, easy, lack-lustre shoes completed his attire. His literary pursuits were peculiar, but not uncommon devouring with avidity the miscellaneous "hotch-potch" of newspapers and magazines, he was reported to know "everything." He was in the enjoyment of a tolerable income, and was respectfully
called by his inferiors "Squire;" whilst his familiars dubbed him" Doctor," although he had really no more pretensions to the M.D. than he had to the D.D.
Having lately"taken" to geology, he might be daily seen in the neighbourhood with his bag and hammer, macadamizing the unoffending pebbles with all the assiduity of a parish-pauper labouring for his eightpence per diem.
In this harmless pursuit he had accumulated materials almost sufficient to pave a carriage-sweep.
His establishment was upon a very economical scale, consisting of one "girl," as he termed her, (although poor Mary had long since passed her fortieth summer,) and an occasional" man, who served him in the double capacity of groom and gardener; for, albeit Mr. Josiah Greene had no horse, he possessed a "mare," which in point of bone was matchless; such a square head, and straight neck, and angles enough for the illustration of a whole book of trigonometry. Indeed, his grey mare was very like a wooden one animated; and, in point of flesh, the dogs in the neighbourhood had, in truth, but a sorry prospect.
But her worth and virtues outweighed, in the Doctor's mind, her deplorable want of personal beauty; for he was frequently heard to declare that she was so safe and sure-footed, and withal so docile, that he could guide her with a pack-thread; and then, as for starting or shying, it was a perfect insult to her general propriety of conduct to imagine her capable of freaks so unbecoming in one of her "condition!"
Though not far advanced in years, " Mimmy" (so called by her sponsors) was "grey," with tail and ears uncropped, in all the length and luxuriance of their natural beauty.
In his habits Josiah himself was perfectly mechanical, dividing his time, like a musician, into thirds. The morning was usually devoted latterly to geological pursuits, his afternoon to riding, whilst his evenings were customarily spent at one or other of his acquaintances'.
With the males he smoked his cool pipe, and quaffed hom rewed, and discussed the business and affairs of the parish or the county. In elections he became an orator, although his warm and eloquent harangues were confined to the circle in which he revolved.
He was a staunch Tory in his politics, and successfully brought over the whole "clique" to his way of thinking, notwithstanding the opposition of the villagelawyer, who was a red-hot Radical, and nightly held forth in the tap-room of the principal, and indeed only, inn of the place; but who failed, from his want of character, in making any converts, except amongst the lowest class, who, fortunately for the safety of the country, as Greene asserted, had no voice, albeit they were loud and liberal enough in their applause of the lawyer's levelling opinions.
With the female portion of the community Josiah was a great favourite, for he had a "world of smalltalk," and could, moreover, join in all their snug cribbage and whist parties, and was ever ready to give his opinion as well of muslins, chintzes, or silks, as of
flower-roots. And then, he had such taste that his judgment was as infallibly taken in ribbons as in politics.
His tame "lionism," however, was doomed to suffer a partial eclipse. Two dashing youths from College came to spend a few days at the residence of a maiden aunt in the village; and the novelty and brilliancy of their vivacious conversation threw Josiah completely into the shade, and the great leader-the Paganini of the little coterie-was compelled to play second fiddle. Notwithstanding his boasted philosophy, he could not refrain from exhibiting evident symptoms of uneasiness, and, like a carp thrown suddenly out of his natural element, he opened his mouth, and gasped, and—said nothing!
If his personal consequence was diminished, his character, too, at this juncture was assailed by suspicions of the most flagrant and unseemly conduct. Scandal was busy with his name, and he began to suffer from the coldness and neglect of his former associates.
As usual, Detraction only uttered her blighting innuendoes in the most inaudible whispers, giving him no chance of reply or justification; he consequently only felt the effect without suspecting the true cause, and he hammered away more furiously than ever at the stones in the neighbourhood.
"Well, Mary," said old Andrews, the groomgardener, twirling a potato-dibble in his hand, and hanging over the half-door which led into her sanctum, the kitchen.
"Well, Master Andrews," said Mary, resting
a while from her labours, for she was trying hard to restore the "shine to a smoked saucepan, which time and her industry had united to deprive of its 66 tin.”
"It's main hot, Mary," continued Andrews; " and this 'tato' plantin's dry work."
"Will thee have a drink, Andrews ?"
"Why, thank ye, I don't care much if I do," replied he.
"I've nothing but the weak small."
"Oh! it'll wet where it goes," said he, “and that's enough."
So Mary drew him a pint mug of the poor liquor, and presented it to him.
"Will thee like a slice o' cold meat or so?" inquired Mary.
"Why, I don't think as how 'twill hurt me if so be I do," answered Andrews; "for I'd nothin' but knobs o' chairs and pump-handles for dinner, and I've got an appetite which comes and goes like a
The meat was forthwith produced, and the couple had what Andrews termed a "confab."
"It was my birthday yesterday," said he.
"Dear me!" exclaimed Mary, as if it were really an extraordinary thing for a man to have a birthday;
and, pray, how old may you be?"
Fifty-two," replied Andrews.
"Fifty-two!" echoed Mary emphatically. "Ay,-a good age for a hog, ain't it?" and then they broke forth into a simultaneous laugh.