Falstaff's friends whose hearts are full of kindness for the old reprobate have sat with him "in my Dolphin chamber, at the round table, by a sea-coal fire," and "have heard the chimes at midnight" in his society, and they know what a jovial companion he is how abundant in knowledge of the world; how radiant with animal spirits; how completely inexhaustible in cheerfulness; how copious in comic invective; how incessantly nimble and ludicrous in wit and in waggery; how strange a compound of mind and sensuality, shrewdness and folly, fidelity and roguery, brazen mendacity, and comic selfishness!
Indeed, Halfman, as he laughed, was thinking of Sir John Falstaff's full-bodied thunders over some ticklish misdoings of Bardolph or Nym. When he had enough of his own performance, he allowed the laughter to die as suddenly as it had dawned, and gave tongue. "That was the best jest in the world," he chuckled. "Clatter of dishes, say you, and rattle of cups.
So long as any yet extant national sentiment, or prejudice, was not yet directly assailed so long as that arbitrary power was yet wise, or fortunate enough to withhold the blow which should make the individual sense of outrage, or the feeling of a class the common one so long as those peaceful, social elements, yet waited the spark that was wanting to unite them so long 'the laws of England' might be, indeed, at a Falstaff's or a Nym's or a Bardolph's 'commandment, for the Poet has but put into 'honest Jack's' mouth, a boast that worse men than he, made good in his time so long, the faith, the lives, the liberties, the dearest earthly hopes, of England's proudest subjects, her noblest, her bravest, her best, her most learned, her most accomplished, her most inspired, might be at the mercy of a woman's caprices, or the sport of a fool's sheer will and obstinacy, or conditioned on some low-lived 'favorites' whims.
But that strange things were happening ahead he knew full well, for his new unit was as oddly made up as Falstaff's army: gunners, cooks, and A.S.C. drivers were all lumped together to make a company. Some carried their rifles at the slope and some at the trail, some had bayonets and some had not, certain details from the Rifle Brigade marched with their own quick trot, and some wore spurs.
The idea so possessed him that while he was skinning the fox his sharp knife almost sacrificed one of the TWO ears imperatively required by the statute, in order that the wily hunter may not be tempted to present one ear at a time, thus multiplying red foxes and premiums therefor like Falstaff's "rogues in buckram."
Their appearance, I confess, somewhat reminded me of Falstaff's "ragged regiment." The three varied wonderfully in height.
This was a cow or ox killed and salted at Martinmas for winter provision; a custom which, though not uncommon in England, perhaps, one hundred years ago, has certainly not been followed, except in remote and sequestered districts, or by very old-fashioned farmers within that period. Falstaff's "Buck-Basket" has puzzled the commentators; but Dr.
I sat in an arm-chair which would have suited Falstaff, and whose tabular arms would have held all Falstaff's tankards, and gazed through a magnified port-hole at a six-masted schooner as it crossed the field of vision! And I had never even dreamed that a six-masted schooner existed! It was with difficulty that I left the Boston Yacht Club.
And the queer small boy had read Shakespeare's "Henry IV.," too, and knew all about Falstaff's robbery of the travellers at Gad's Hill, on the rising ground between Rochester and Gravesend, and all about mad Prince Henry's pranks; and, what was more, he had determined that when he came to be a man, and had made his way in the world, he should own the house called Gad's Hill Place, with the old associations of its site, and its pleasant outlook over Rochester and over the low-lying levels by the Thames.
Late in life Falstaff deplores nothing so much in the character of Prince John of Lancaster as this, that a man cannot make him laugh. He felt this defect in the Prince's character keenly, for laughter was Falstaff's familiar spirit, which never failed to come at his call. It was by laughter that young Falstaff fascinated his friends and ruled over them.