+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error


A GOOD many hundred years ago, a knight,
named Sir Badlot de Scampiers, ate, drank, and
slept, in a castle which bore the family name.
He was the admiration of the Court, whose
members generally were, like himself, the
terror of vassals with wives or daughters.
He would have been excommunicated, had
his private confessor been less fond of good

Sir Badlot lived a mighty pleasant life of
its kind. Between making love in a very free
fashion, hawking, hunting, dancing, getting
drunk every night or morning, as the case
might be, occasionally saying his prayers,
and now and then witnessing the execution
of one of his tenants for stealing some article
above the value of tenpence halfpenny, his
time was always tolerably occupied. His
virtues were much the same as his vices. He
was very hospitable, because he couldn't bear
drinking alone. He was extremely liberal to
people who pleased him, but scandal said that
his liberality came out of the pockets of people
who didn't please him. He was thoroughly
brave, because he was always either in a cruel
or a drunken humourtwo states which
perhaps resemble each other, more closely than
is commonly supposed.

But there is an end to all things, and, as
Voltaire somewhere says, "if people don't
leave off their vices, their vices leave them in
the lurch." The time came when Sir Badlot
was no longer a young man. As his life had
always been spent in the profitable way we
have described, his constitution began to
appeal most pathetically to his feelings. In
fact, the knight was "breaking fast," and
people said sobehind his back.

Like the generality of people who have
lived a highly moral and regular life, Sir Badlot
could not bear the idea of being ill. If he
felt more than usually fatigued after hunting,
he simply cursed his horse, and kicked his
groom, or squire, or any one else, who happened
to be at hand. If he felt the consequences of
one night's potations rather inconveniently,
he got drunk again, in order to get over the
inconvenience of thinking about it. In short,
the knight got thinner, paler, more romantic
in appearance, and less so in practice, every
day of his life. People began to speculate on
the probability of his large estates changing
hands; and, as the knight possessed no issue
whose names were likely to appear in his
will, they hoped for some milder occupant of
the Scampiers property.

It is almost unnecessary to observe that the
priest and father confessor, or ghostly adviser
of Sir Badlot de Scampiers also acted as his
bodily physician. As the knight had never
been ill beyond an occasional fever from over-
drinking and over-feeding, the simple
expedient of "bleeding," in more senses than one,
answered, at first, tolerably well. In fact, by
really curing the knight from one or two such
attacks, by never interfering with his pleasures,
and by enforcing the most severe and arbitrary
code of morality upon everybody else, Father
Blazius de St. Erysipelas had gained a tolerable
influence over Sir Badlot, and had already, in
imagination, constituted himself Prior of a
monastery to be endowed in a princely manner
at the knight's expense.

To his confessor, then, went Sir Badlot,
with a pitiful list of sufferings. His head
ached, his back ached, his feet ached, his
chest ached, his shoulders ached, his stomach
ached; his eyes were dim, his eyes were bloodshot,
his eyes were filled with black spots,
his eyes were unsteady; he had no appetite,
no digestion, no relish. When he swore, he
didn't seem to enjoy it; when he was drunk,
he was not jolly; when the last execution
of a peasant for deer-stealing took place, he
felt so indifferent about it, that he absolutely
stayed at home, and went to bed early.

This was a sad state of things. To be sure,
if the knight had already left his money to
found the convent, it wouldn't have much
mattered. His body would have been quite
as well out of the way, and a few masses
would have provided for the rest of him.
But, as it unfortunately happened, Sir Badlot
had done no such thing. Perhaps he thought
that a little uncertainty on that head might
promote the certainty of his own longevity.

But the saddest thing of all was, that the
knight absolutely began to talk about his
conscience. At the first mention of the word, the
confessor nearly fainted; at the second, he
nearly burst out laughing; at the third, he felt
utterly at a loss what to do or say. He had
had to do with consciences, no doubt, but they