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Servant at Noyon

Anecdotes Home






Some years ago, an instance of humanity and presence of
mind occurred at a place called Noyon, in France, which well deserves to be
commemorated. Four men, who were employed in cleansing a sewer, were so
affected by the foetid vapours, that they were unable to ascend. The
lateness of the hour (for it was eleven at night) rendered it difficult to
procure assistance, and the delay must have been fatal, had not a young
girl, a servant in the family, at the hazard of her own life, attempted
their deliverance. This generous girl, who was only seventeen years of age,
was, at her own request, let down several times to the poor men by a rope:
she was so fortunate as to save two of them, but, in tying the third to the
cord, which was let down to her for that purpose, she found her breath
failing, and was so much affected by the vapour as to be in danger of
suffocation. In this dreadful situation, she had the presence of mind to
tie herself by her hair to the rope, and was drawn up almost expiring, with
the poor man in whose behalf she had so humanely exerted herself. The
corporation of the town of Noyon, as a small token of their approbation,
presented the generous girl with six hundred livres, and conferred on her
the civic crown, with a medal engraved with the arms of the town, her name,
and a narrative of the action. The Duke of Orleans also sent her five
hundred livres, and settled two hundred yearly on her for life.







The anecdote is well known of the celebrated Dr. Busby keeping on his hat
when visited by King Charles II., and apologizing for his apparent want of
respect, by saying, that he should never be able to keep his scholars in
subjection, if they thought that there was a greater man in the world than
himself. The same feeling seems to have actuated the Gaelic chiefs, who
were excessively proud of their rank and prerogatives. When the first
Marquess of Huntly, then the chief of the clan Gordon, was presented at the
court of James VI., he did not so much as incline his head before his
sovereign. Being asked why he failed in this point of etiquette? he
replied, that he had no intention whatever of showing any disrespect to his
king, but that he came from a country where all the world were accustomed
to bow down before him. A similar instance occurred with the head of
another family. When George II. offered a patent of nobility to the chief
of the Grants, the proud Celt refused it, saying, "Wha would then be Laird
of Grant?"


James I. in his progress into England, was entertained at Lumley Castle,
the seat of the Earl of Scarborough. A relation of the noble earl was very
proud in showing and explaining to his majesty an immense genealogical
chart of the family, the pedigree of which he carried back rather farther
than the greatest strength of credulity would allow. "I gude faith, man,"
says the king, "it may be they are very true, but I did na ken before that
Adam's name was Lumley."


An anecdote is told of a gentleman in Monmouthshire, which exhibits the
pride of ancestry in a curious point of view. His house was in such a state
of dilapidation that the proprietor was in danger of perishing under the
ruins of the ancient mansion, which he venerated even in decay. A stranger,
whom he accidentally met at the foot of the Skyrrid, made various enquiries
respecting the country, the prospects, and the neighbouring houses, and,
among others, asked--"Whose is this antique mansion before us?" "That, sir,
is Werndee, a very ancient house; for out of it came the Earls of Pembroke
of the first line, and the Earls of Pembroke of the second line; the Lord
Herberts of Cherbury, the Herberts of Coldbrook, Ramsay, Cardiff, and York;
the Morgans of Acton; the Earl of Hunsdon; the houses of Ircowm and
Lanarth, and all the Powells. Out of this house also, by the female line,
came the Duke of Beaufort." "And pray, sir, who lives there now?" "I do,
sir." "Then pardon me, and accept a piece of advice; come out of it
yourself, or you'll soon be buried in the ruins of it."


A curious anecdote is related respecting a contest for precedence, between
the rival Welch Houses of Perthir and Werndee, which, though less bloody,
was not less obstinate than that between the Houses of York and Lancaster.
Mr. Proger, of Werndee, dining with a friend at Monmouth, proposed riding
home in the evening; but his friend objecting because it was late and
likely to rain, Mr. Proger replied, "With regard to the lateness of the
hour, we shall have moonlight; and should it happen to rain, Perthir is not
far from the road, and my cousin Powell will, I am sure, give us a night's
lodging." They accordingly mounted their horses; but being soon overtaken
by a violent shower, rode to Perthir, and found all the family retired to
rest. Mr. Proger, however, calling to his cousin, Mr. Powell opened the
window, and looking out, asked, "In the name of wonder, what means all this
noise? Who is there?" "It is only I, your cousin Proger of Werndee, who am
come to your hospitable door for shelter from the inclemency of the
weather, and hope you will be so kind as to give my friend and me a
lodging." "What! Is it you, cousin Proger? You and your friend shall be
instantly admitted, but upon one condition, that you will allow, and never
hereafter dispute, that I am the head of the family." "What did you say?"
returned Mr. Proger. "Why, I say, if you expect to pass the night in my
house, you must allow that I am the head of the family." "No, sir, I never
will admit that; were it to rain swords and daggers, I would ride this
night to Werndee, rather than lower the consequence of my family. Come up,
Bold, come up." "Stop a moment, cousin Proger; have you not often confessed
that the first Earl of Pembroke (of the name of Herbert) was the youngest
son of Perthir; and will you set yourself above the Earls of Pembroke?"
"True, I must give place to the Earl of Pembroke, because he is a peer of
the realm; but still, though a peer, he is of the youngest branch of my
family, being descended from the fourth son of Werndee, who was your
ancestor, and settled at Perthir; whereas I am descended from the eldest
son. Indeed, my cousin Jones of Lanarth is of an older branch than you, and
yet he never disputes that I am the head of the family." "Why, cousin
Proger, I have nothing more to say; so, good night to you." "Stop a moment,
Mr. Powell," said the stranger, "you see how it pours; do admit me at
least; I will not dispute with you about our families." "Pray, sir, what is
your name, and where do you come from?" "My name is * * *, and I come from
the county of * * *." "A Saxon of course; it would be very curious indeed,
sir, should I dispute with a Saxon about families; no, sir, you must suffer
for the obstinacy of your friend, and so a pleasant ride to you both."





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