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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 17 Mr. Arnot, in his day, enjoyed an unusually large share of local popularity, proceeding from a combination of circumstances-his extraordinary figure, his abilities, his public spirit, his numerous eccentricities, and his caustic wit and humour. The reverse of Falstaif in figure, he resembled that creature of ima,u' lnation in being not only witty himself, but the cause of wit in others. The jest of Henry Erskine, who, meeting him in the act of eating a spelding or dried haddock, complimented him on looking so like his meat, was but one of many which his extraordinary tenuity gave rise to. Going alongst the North Bridge one day, Mr. Arnot, who was of so extremely na'vaus and irritable a disposition that he appeared, when walking the streets as if constantly under the apprehension of some impending danger, was suddenly surrounded by half-a-dozen unruly curs in the course of their gambols. This was a trying situation for a man of his weak nerves j but he wanted only presence of mind, not courage, and the latter, after a second or two, came to his aid. It rose with the occasion, and he began to brandish his stick ; striking right and left, in front and in rear, with a rapidity and vigour that kept the enemy at bay, and made himself, in a twinkling, the centre of a canine circle. The resolution, however, which had come so opportunely to his assistance on this occasion, in the end gave way. Perceiving a break in the enemy's lines, he bolted through, turned again round, and thus, keeping the foe in front, retreated, still flourishing his stick, till he got his back against a wall, where, though it does not appear that he was pursued by the dogs, he continued the exercise of his cudgel for some time with unabated vigour, a8 if still in contact with the enemy, to the great amusement of the bystanders, amongst whom recognising a young man whom he knew, he roared out to him in a voice almost inarticulate with excessive agitation-" W-1, you scoundrel ! why did you not assist me when you saw me in such danger 4" The man whom nervous disease placed in this grotesque attitude was originally of an intrepid mind, as is sufficiently proved by several incidents in his early life. One of them was his riding to the end of the Pier of Leith on a spirited horse, when the waves were dashing over it in such a way as to impress every onlooker with the belief that he could not fail to be swept into the sea. Another was his accepting the challenge of an anonymous foe, who took offence at a political pamphlet he had written. This person called on him to meet him in the King's Park, naming the particular place and time. Mr. h o t repaired to the spot at the appointed hour; but, though he waited long, no antagonist presented himself. In his professional capacity he was guided by a sense of honour, and of moral obligation, to which he never scrupled to sacrifice his interests. He would take in hand no one cause, of the justice and legality of which he was not perfectly satisfied. On one occasion, a case being submitted to his consideration, which seemed to him to possess neither of these qualifications-" Pray," said he, with a grave countenance to the intending litigant, "what do you suppose me to bet" -<'Why,'' answered the latter, "I understand you to be a lawyer."-"I D
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