‘What man can do, I do,’ pursued Sir Joseph. ‘I do my duty as the Poor Man’s Friend and Father; and I endeavour to educate his mind, by inculcating on all occasions the one great moral lesson which that class requires. That is, entire Dependence on myself. They have no business whatever with—with themselves. If wicked and designing persons tell them otherwise, and they become impatient and discontented, and are guilty of insubordinate conduct and black-hearted ingratitude; which is undoubtedly the case; I am their Friend and Father still. It is so Ordained. It is in the nature of things.’
With that great sentiment, he opened the Alderman’s letter; and read it.
‘Very polite and attentive, I am sure!’ exclaimed Sir Joseph. ‘My lady, the Alderman is so obliging as to remind me that he has had “the distinguished honour”—he is very good—of meeting me at the house of our mutual friend Deedles, the banker; and he does me the favour to inquire whether it will be agreeable to me to have Will Fern put down.’
‘Most agreeable!’ replied my Lady Bowley. ‘The worst man among them! He has been committing a robbery, I hope?’
‘Why no,’ said Sir Joseph’, referring to the letter. ‘Not quite. Very near. Not quite. He came up to London, it seems, to look for employment (trying to better himself—that’s his story), and being found at night asleep in a shed, was taken into custody, and carried next morning before the Alderman. The Alderman observes (very properly) that he is determined to put this sort of thing down; and that if it will be agreeable to me to have Will Fern put down, he will be happy to begin with him.’
‘Let him be made an example of, by all means,’ returned the lady. ‘Last winter, when I introduced pinking and eyelet-holing among the men and boys in the village, as a nice evening employment, and had the lines,
O let us love our occupations,
Bless the squire and his relations,
Live upon our daily rations,
And always know our proper stations,
set to music on the new system, for them to sing the while; this very Fern—I see him now—touched that hat of his, and said, “I humbly ask your pardon, my lady, but an’t I something different from a great girl?” I expected it, of course; who can expect anything but insolence and ingratitude from that class of people! That is not to the purpose, however. Sir Joseph! Make an example of him!’
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