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Letters from Margaret Muckworth to Emily Greenfield. Episodical to
1, 97, 189, 281, 377, 473
Life of William Shakspeare, the. By James Orchard Halliwell, Esq.
BY DOUGLAS JERROLD.
A SHORT RIDE THROUGH TWIDDLETHUMB.-TIIE DUKE'S MAGPIE.
THE DUKE'S OATH.-BLACK ART OF HERALDRY. It was the Duke's coach. They who beheld it, knew two reasons for knowing it. Reason the first, was the magpie on the panel ; cocking his head sagaciously doubtful of the vulgar. The second reason? There was no other coach permitted throughout the township of Twiddlethumb. It was a grief, core-deep in the heart of the Duke de Bobs, that his coachman rode on the same wheels as himself. Many an hour had that mighty lord pondered the means of reforming so ancient an abuse. More than once or twice he had caught the secret ; and then, like grasped quicksilver, it ran through his fingers. After this fashion, what a deal of wisdom is every day lost to us!
When the people saw the magpie leering from the panel—a magpie, painted so to the life, that the wind seemed to blow among his down—the people straightway left nothing 'twixt their heads and heaven, and instinctively felt a loyal weakness of the ham-strings. There was not a Twiddlethumber stark enough to stand upright before the Duke's magpie. Strange stories were told of the bird. Huddling together, with bent and lifted eyebrows, and muttered, murmured words, the folks of Twiddlethumb would discourse of the winged wickedness ; hatching for it broods of hungry wrong. And the magpie appeared to know his reputation, and even from the coach-panel of his master, to rejoice in it. He seemed to fatten on the poison of an evil name.
NO. XXXVII. VOL. VII.
he was most cursed, his feathers seemed best burnished. Courageous folks swore at him in an under tone, as he rolled by them ; and his eye burnt sulphur-blue at the oath, and his head took a more defying cock.
For the magpie—the crest of the blood of the De Bobs—was of ancient nest. His ancestress, much put to her wits for materials, had built and set in the Ark; her husband, it may be, looking curiously at the sea-gulls through the windows, and wishing himself for a short time web-footed, aquatic. The De Bobs’ magpie could trace a progenitor to Babel ; a magpie in the possession of a hod-man ; a bird that, flying from his master with his master's confounded tongue, brought Irish to the children of Erin, at that early day seated upon thrones of ivory, and carrying walking-sticks of virgin gold.
It could only be such a magpie, hatched in such a genealogical tree, that could be borne by a Duke de Bobs. The bird had been the crest of his family for many, many ages,
An officer of the herald's college of Twiddlethumb-a pious looking man, with so smooth a cheek that no lie for any money could be made to hang
a herald's officer declared that he had traced the De Bobs' magpie to so early an age, that he found Time himself a very little boy, feeding the bird with grubs and caterpillars. Was it not a virtue in the Duke de Bobs to be proud of such a magpie ?
The Duke de Bobs swore by his magpie.
A big, solemn book has yet to be written on the oaths of the high and mighty swearers of the earth. Oftimes, curious and precious oaths. Sometimes, too, curious and serviceable as old china, that however cracked and flawed, still serves for customary, household use, as well as the soundest. The oaths of emperors and kings-oaths of the old fashion—are instructive, provoking meditation. We think of them with wonder when unbroken. We consider them with astonishment : even as we should contemplate a silken thread that had tethered rhinoceros-a trout-hook once holding leviathan.
The Duke de Bobs swore by the magpie ; for his oath, inspired by his tutelary bird, ran ever thus, “By Black or White." A good, serviceable, working-day oath, befitting the dukedom of a De Bobs ; an oath that it was impossible to break. For the Duke de Bobs, though he took the oath sometimes as often as he winked, was never known to be forsworn. By Black or White was, in sooth, an oath made very easy.