Mr. Osmond, to relieve a situation so painful, asked Maxley rather hastily what were the curious things he saw.
Maxley shuddered. "The unreasonablest beasts, sir, you ever saw or heard tell on: mostly snakes and dragons. Can't stoop my head to do no work for them, sir. Bless your heart, if I was to leave you gentlemen now, and go and dig for five minutes in my garden, they would come about me as thick as slugs on cabbage. Why 'twas but yester'en I tried to hoe a bit, and up come the fearfullest great fiery sarpint: scared me so I heaved my hoe and laid on un' properly: presently I seemed to come out of a sort of a kind of a red mist into the clear: and there laid my poor missus's favourite hen; I had been and killed her for a sarpint!" He sighed, then, after a moment's pause, lowered his voice to a whisper: "Now suppose I was to go and take some poor Christian for one of these gre-at bloody dragons I do see at odd times, I might do him a mischief, you know, and not mean him no harm neither. Oh, dooee take and have me locked up, gentlemen, dooee now: tellee I ain't fit to be about, my poor head is so mazed."
"Well, well," said Mr. Hardie, "I'll give you an order for the Union."
"I cannot help it," said the magistrate: "it is the routine; and it was settled at a meeting of the bench last month that we must adhere to the rule as strictly as possible; the asylum is so full: and you know, Maxley, it is not as if you were dangerous."
"That I be, sir: I don't know what I'm a looking at or a doing. Would I ha' gone and killed my poor Susan's hen if I hadn't a been beside myself? and she in her grave, poor dear: no, not for untold gold: and I be fond of that too--used to be, however: but now I don't seem to care for money nor nothing else." And his head dropped.
Look here, Maxley, old fellow," said Alfred sarcastically, "you must go to the workhouse, and stay there till you hoe a pauper; take him for a crocodile and kill him; then you will get into an asylum whether the Barkington magistrates like it or not: that is the _routine,_ I believe; and as reasonable as most routine."
Dr. Wycherley admired Alfred for this, and whispered Mr. Osmond, "How subtly they reason."
Mr. Hardie did not deign to answer his son, who indeed had spoken at him, and not to him.