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“ Your petitioner, therefore, hopes, that, the premises tenderly considered, your worship will not deprive him of so useful and so necessary a support.
“ And your petitioner shall ever, &c.”
Upon the hearing of this case, I was touched with some compassion, and the more so, when, upon observing him nearer, I found he was a prig. I bid him produce his cane in court, which he had left at the door. He did so, and I finding it to be very curiously clouded with a transparent amber head, and a blue ribband to hang upon his wrist, I imme. diately ordered my clerk Lillie to lay it up, and deliver out to him a plain joint, beaded with walnut; and then in order to wean him from it by degrees, permitted him to wear it three days in a week, and to abate proportionably until he found himself able to go alone.
The second who appeared came limping into the court: and setting forth in his petition many pretences for the use of a cane, I caused them to be examined one by one; but finding him in different stories, and confronting him with several witnesses who had seen him walk upright, I ordered Mr. Lillie to take in his cane, and rejected his petition as frirolous,
A third made his entry with great difficulty leaning upon a slight stick, and in danger of falling every step he took. I saw the weakness of his hams; and hearing that he had married a young wife about a fortnight before, I bid him leave his cane, and gave him a new pair of crutches, with which he went off in great vigour and alacrity. This gentleman was succeeded by another, who seemed very much pleased while his petition was reading, in which he had represented, That he was extremely afflicted with the gout, and set his fout upon the ground with the caution and dignity which accompany that distemper. I suspected him for an impostor, and having ordered him to be searched, I committed him into the hands of doctor Thomas Smith in King-street, my own corn-cutter, who attended in an outward room, and wrought so speedy a cure upon him, that I thought fit to send him also away without his cane.
While I was thus dispensing justice, I heard a noise in my outward room ; and inquiring what was the occasion of it, my door-keeper told me, that they had taken one up in the very fact as he was passing by my door. They immediately brought in a lively fresh-coloured young man, who made great resistance with hand and foot, but did not offer to make use of his cane, which hung upon his fifth button. · Upon examination, I found him to be an Oxford-scholar, who'was just entered at the Temple. He at first disputed the jurisdiction of the court; but, being driven out of his little law and logic, he told me very pertly, “ that he looked upon such a perpendicular creature as man to make a very imperfect figure without a cane in his hand, It is well known,” says he, “ we'ought, according to the natural situation of our bodies, to walk upon our hands and-feet; and that the wisdom of the ancients had described man to be an animal of four legs in the morning, two at noon, and three at night; by which they intimated, that 'the cane might very properly become part of us in some period of life.” - Upon which I asked him, " whether he wore it at his breast to have it in readiness when that period should arrive?” My young lawyer immediately told me, “ he had a property in it, and a right to hang it where he pleased, and to make use of it as he thought fit, provided that he did not break the peace with it;” and further said, “ that he never took it off his button; unless it were to lift it up at a coachiman, hold
. it over the head of a drawer, point out the circumstances of a story, or for other services of thes like nature, that are all within the laws of the land.”. I did not care for discouraging a young man, who, I saw, would come to good; and, because his heart was set upon his new purchase, I only ordered bim to wear it about his neck, instead of hanging it upon his button, and so dismissed him.
There were several appeared in court, whose pretensions I found to be very good, and, therefore, gave them their licences upon paying their fees; as many others had their licences renewed, who required more time for recovery of their lameness than I had before allowed them.
Having dispatched this set of my petitioners, there came in a well-dressed man, with a glass tube in one hand, and his petition in the other. Upon his entering the room, he threw back the right side of his wig, put forward his right leg, and advancing the glass to his right eye, aimed it directly at me. In the mean while, to make my observations also, I put on my spectacles; in which posture we surveyed each other for some time. Upon the removal of our glasses, I desired him to read his petition, which he did very promptly and easily; though at the same time it set forth, “ that he could see nothing dis. tinctly, and was within very few degrees of being utterly blind;” concluding with a prayer, “ that he might be permitted to strengthen and extend his sight by a glass.” In answer to this, I told him, “ he might sometimes extend it to his own destruction. As you are now,” said I, “ you are out of the reach of beauty; the shafts of the finest eyes lose their force before they can come at you; you cannot distinguish a Toast from an orange-wench; you can see a whole circle of beauty without any interruption from an inpertinent face to discompose
you. In short, what are snares for others" My petitioner would hear no more, but told me very seriously, “ Mr. Bickerstaff, you quite mistake your man; it is the joy, the pleasure, the employment of my life to frequent public assemblies, and gaze upon the fair.” In a word, I found his use of a glass was occasioned by no other infirmity but his vanity, and was not so much designed to make him see, as to make him be seen and distinguished by others. I therefore refused him a licence for a perspective, but allowed him a pair of spectacles, with full permission to use them in any public assembly as he should think fit. He was followed by so very few of this order of men, that I have reason to hope this sort of cheats is almost at an end.
The orange-flower-men appeared next with petitions, perfumed so strongly with musk, that I was almost, overcome with the scent; and for my own sake was obliged forthwith to licence their handkerchiefs, especially when I found they had sweetened them at Charles Lillie's, and that some of their persons would not be altogether inoffensive without them. John Morphew, whom I have made the general of my dead men, acquainted me, “that the petitioners were all of that order, and could produce certificates to prove it, if I required it.” I was so well pleased with this way of their embalming themselves, that I commanded the abovesaid Morphew to give it in his orders to his whole army, that every one, who did not surrender himself up to be disposed of by the upholders, should use the same metbod to keep himself sweet during his present state of putrefaction : dic I finished my session with great content of mind; reflecting upon the good I had done; for however slightly men may regard these particulars, and little follies in dress and behaviour, they lead to
greater evils. The bearing to be laughed at for such singularities, teaches us insensibly an impertinent fortitude, and enables us to bear public censure for things which more substantially deserve it. By this means they open a gate to folly, and oftentimes render a man so ridiculous, as to discredit his virtues and capacities, and unqualify them from doing any good in the world. Besides, the giving into uncommon habits of this nature, is a want of that humble deference which is due to mankind, and, what is worst of all, the certain indication of some secret flaw in the mind of the person that commits them. When I was a young man, I remember a gentleman of great integrity and worth was very remarkable for wearing a broad belt, and a hanger instead of a fashionable sword, though in all other points a very well-bred man. I suspected him at first sight to have something wrong in him, but was not able for a long while to discover any collateral proofs of it. I watched him narrowly for six-and-thirty years, when at last, to the surprise of every body but myself, who had long expected to see the folly break out; he married his own cook-maid.