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The Romany Rye - A Sequel to 'Lavengro'
by George Borrow
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'And now, young man, I will, in the first place, say something about the manner in which I quitted you. It must have seemed somewhat singular to you that I went away without taking any leave, or giving you the slightest hint that I was going; but I did not do so without considerable reflection. I was afraid that I should not be able to support a leave-taking; and as you had said that you were determined to go wherever I did, I thought it best not to tell you at all; for I did not think it advisable that you should go with me, and I wished to have no dispute.

'In the second place, I wish to say something about an offer of wedlock which you made me; perhaps, young man, had you made it at the first period of our acquaintance, I should have accepted it, but you did not, and kept putting off and putting off, and behaving in a very strange manner, till I could stand your conduct no longer, but determined upon leaving you and Old England, which last step I had been long thinking about; so when you made your offer at last everything was arranged—my cart and donkey engaged to be sold—and the greater part of my things disposed of. However, young man, when you did make it, I frankly tell you that I had half a mind to accept it; at last, however, after very much consideration, I thought it best to leave you for ever, because, for some time past, I had become almost convinced, that though with a wonderful deal of learning, and exceedingly shrewd in some things, you were—pray don't be offended—at the root mad! and though mad people, I have been told, sometimes make very good husbands, I was unwilling that your friends, if you had any, should say that Belle Berners, the workhouse girl, took advantage of your infirmity; for there is no concealing that I was born and bred up in a workhouse; notwithstanding that, my blood is better than your own, and as good as the best; you having yourself told me that my name is a noble name, and once, if I mistake not, that it was the same word as baron, which is the same thing as bear; and that to be called in old times a bear was considered as a great compliment—the bear being a mighty strong animal, on which account our forefathers called all their great fighting-men barons, which is the same as bears.

'However, setting matters of blood and family entirely aside, many thanks to you, young man, from poor Belle, for the honour you did her in making that same offer; for, after all, it is an honour to receive an honourable offer, which she could see clearly yours was, with no floriness nor chaff in it; but, on the contrary, entire sincerity. She assures you that she shall always bear it and yourself in mind, whether on land or water; and as a proof of the good-will she bears to you, she has sent you a lock of the hair which she wears on her head, which you were often looking at, and were pleased to call flax, which word she supposes you meant as a compliment, even as the old people meant to pass a compliment to their great folks, when they called them bears; though she cannot help thinking that they might have found an animal as strong as a bear, and somewhat less uncouth, to call their great folks after: even as she thinks yourself, amongst your great store of words, might have found something a little more genteel to call her hair after than flax, which, though strong and useful, is rather a coarse and common kind of article.

'And as another proof of the goodwill she bears to you, she sends you, along with the lock, a piece of advice, which is worth all the hair in the world, to say nothing of the flax.

'Fear God, and take your own part. {108} There's Bible in that, young man; see how Moses feared God, and how he took his own part against everybody who meddled with him. And see how David feared God, and took his own part against all the bloody enemies which surrounded him—so fear God, young man, and never give in! The world can bully, and is fond, provided it sees a man in a kind of difficulty, of getting about him, calling him coarse names, and even going so far as to hustle him; but the world, like all bullies, carries a white feather in its tail, and no sooner sees a man taking off his coat, and offering to fight his best, than it scatters here and there, and is always civil to him afterwards. So when folks are disposed to ill-treat you, young man, say, "Lord have mercy upon me!" and then tip them Long Melford, {109} to which, as the saying goes, there is nothing comparable for shortness all the world over; and these last words, young man, are the last you will ever have from her who is, nevertheless,

'Your affectionate female servant, 'ISOPEL BERNERS.'

After reading the letter I sat for some time motionless, holding it in my hand. The day-dream in which I had been a little time before indulging, of marrying Isopel Berners, of going with her to America, and having by her a large progeny, who were to assist me in felling trees, cultivating the soil, and who would take care of me when I was old, was now thoroughly dispelled. Isopel had deserted me, and was gone to America by herself, where, perhaps, she would marry some other person, and would bear him a progeny, who would do for him what in my dream I had hoped my progeny by her would do for me. Then the thought came into my head that though she was gone I might follow her to America, but then I thought that if I did I might not find her; America was a very large place, and I did not know the port to which she was bound; but I could follow her to the port from which she had sailed, and there possibly discover the port to which she was bound; but then I did not even know the port from which she had set out, for Isopel had not dated her letter from any place. Suddenly it occurred to me that the post-mark on the letter would tell me from whence it came, so I forthwith looked at the back of the letter, and in the post-mark read the name of a well-known and not very distant sea-port. I then knew with tolerable certainty the port where she had embarked, and I almost determined to follow her, but I almost instantly determined to do no such thing. Isopel Berners had abandoned me, and I would not follow her; 'perhaps,' whispered pride, 'if I overtook her, she would only despise me for running after her;' and it also told me pretty roundly that, provided I ran after her, whether I overtook her or not, I should heartily despise myself. So I determined not to follow Isopel Berners; I took her lock of hair, and looked at it, then put it in her letter, which I folded up and carefully stowed away, resolved to keep both for ever, but I determined not to follow her. Two or three times, however, during the day, I wavered in my determination, and was again and again almost tempted to follow her, but every succeeding time the temptation was fainter. In the evening I left the dingle, and sat down with Mr. Petulengro and his family by the door of his tent; Mr. Petulengro soon began talking of the letter which I had received in the morning. 'Is it not from Miss Berners, brother?' said he. I told him it was. 'Is she coming back, brother?' 'Never,' said I; 'she is gone to America, and has deserted me.' 'I always knew that you two were never destined for each other,' said he. 'How did you know that?' I inquired. 'The dook told me so, brother; you are born to be a great traveller.' 'Well,' said I, 'if I had gone with her to America, as I was thinking of doing, I should have been a great traveller.' 'You are to travel in another direction, brother,' said he. 'I wish you would tell me all about my future wanderings,' said I. 'I can't, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro, 'there's a power of clouds before my eye.' 'You are a poor seer, after all,' said I, and getting up, I retired to my dingle and my tent, where I betook myself to my bed, and there, knowing the worst, and being no longer agitated by apprehension, nor agonized by expectation, I was soon buried in a deep slumber, the first which I had fallen into for several nights.



CHAPTER XVII

THE PUBLIC-HOUSE—LANDLORD ON HIS LEGS AGAIN—A BLOW IN SEASON—THE WAY OF THE WORLD—THE GRATEFUL MIND—THE HORSE'S NEIGH

It was rather late on the following morning when I awoke. At first I was almost unconscious of what had occurred on the preceding day; recollection, however, by degrees returned, and I felt a deep melancholy coming over me, but perfectly aware that no advantage could be derived from the indulgence of such a feeling, I sprang up, prepared my breakfast, which I ate with a tolerable appetite, and then left the dingle, and betook myself to the gypsy encampment, where I entered into discourse with various Romanies, both male and female. After some time, feeling myself in better spirits, I determined to pay another visit to the landlord of the public-house. From the position of his affairs when I had last visited him, I entertained rather gloomy ideas with respect to his present circumstances. I imagined that I should either find him alone in his kitchen smoking a wretched pipe, or in company with some surly bailiff or his follower, whom his friend the brewer had sent into the house in order to take possession of his effects.

Nothing more entirely differing from either of these anticipations could have presented itself to my view than what I saw about one o'clock in the afternoon, when I entered the house. I had come, though somewhat in want of consolation myself, to offer any consolation which was at my command to my acquaintance Catchpole, and perhaps, like many other people who go to a house with 'drops of compassion trembling on their eyelids,' I felt rather disappointed at finding that no compassion was necessary. The house was thronged with company, the cries for ale and porter, hot brandy and water, cold gin and water, were numerous; moreover, no desire to receive and not to pay for the landlord's liquids was manifested—on the contrary, everybody seemed disposed to play the most honourable part: 'Landlord, here's the money for this glass of brandy and water—do me the favour to take it; all right, remember I have paid you.' 'Landlord, here's the money for the pint of half-and-half—four-pence halfpenny, a'nt it?—here's sixpence, keep the change—confound the change!' The landlord, assisted by his niece, bustled about; his brow erect, his cheeks plumped out, and all his features exhibiting a kind of surly satisfaction. Wherever he moved, marks of the most cordial amity were shown him, hands were thrust out to grasp his, nor were looks of respect, admiration, nay almost of adoration, wanting. I observed one fellow, as the landlord advanced, take the pipe out of his mouth, and gaze upon him with a kind of grin of wonder, probably much the same as his ancestor, the Saxon lout of old, put on when he saw his idol Thur dressed in a new kirtle. To avoid the press, I got into a corner, where, on a couple of chairs, sat two respectable-looking individuals, whether farmers or sow-gelders, I know not, but highly respectable-looking, who were discoursing about the landlord. 'Such another,' said one, 'you will not find in a summer's day.' 'No, nor in the whole of England,' said the other. 'Tom of Hopton,' said the first; 'ah! Tom of Hopton,' echoed the other; 'the man who could beat Tom of Hopton could beat the world.' 'I glory in him,' said the first. 'So do I,' said the second, 'I'll back him against the world. Let me hear any one say anything against him, and if I don't—' then, looking at me, he added, 'have you anything to say against him, young man?' 'Not a word,' said I, 'save that he regularly puts me out.' 'He'll put any one out,' said the man, 'any one out of conceit with himself;' then, lifting a mug to his mouth, he added, with a hiccough, 'I drink his health.' Presently the landlord, as he moved about, observing me, stopped short: 'Ah!' said he, 'are you here? I am glad to see you, come this way. Stand back,' said he to his company, as I followed him to the bar, 'stand back for me and this gentleman.' Two or three young fellows were in the bar, seemingly sporting yokels, drinking sherry and smoking. 'Come, gentlemen,' said the landlord, 'clear the bar, I must have a clear bar for me and my friend here.' 'Landlord, what will you take?' said one—'a glass of sherry? I know you like it.' '—- sherry and you too,' said the landlord; 'I want neither sherry nor yourself; didn't you hear what I told you?' 'All right, old fellow,' said the other, shaking the landlord by the hand—'all right; don't wish to intrude—but I suppose when you and your friend have done I may come in again.' Then, with 'A sarvant, sir,' to me, he took himself into the kitchen, followed by the rest of the sporting yokels.

Thereupon the landlord, taking a bottle of ale from a basket, uncorked it, and pouring the contents into two large glasses, handed me one, and motioning me to sit down, placed himself by me; then, emptying his own glass at a draught, he gave a kind of grunt of satisfaction, and fixing his eyes upon the opposite side of the bar, remained motionless, without saying a word, buried apparently in important cogitations. With respect to myself, I swallowed my ale more leisurely, and was about to address my friend, when his niece, coming into the bar, said that more and more customers were arriving, and how she should supply their wants she did not know, unless her uncle would get up and help her.

'The customers!' said the landlord, 'let the scoundrels wait till you have time to serve them, or till I have leisure to see after them.' 'The kitchen won't contain half of them,' said his niece. 'Then let them sit out abroad,' said the landlord. 'But there are not benches enough, uncle,' said the niece. 'Then let them stand or sit on the ground,' said the uncle; 'what care I? I'll let them know that the man who beat Tom of Hopton stands as well again on his legs as ever.' Then, opening a side door which led from the bar into the back-yard, he beckoned me to follow him. 'You treat your customers in rather a cavalier manner,' said I, when we were alone together in the yard.

'Don't I?' said the landlord; 'and I'll treat them more so yet; now I have got the whip-hand of the rascals I intend to keep it. I dare say you are a bit surprised with regard to the change which has come over things since you were last here. I'll tell you how it happened. You remember in what a desperate condition you found me, thinking of changing my religion, selling my soul to the man in black, and then going and hanging myself like Pontius Pilate; and I dare say you can't have forgotten how you gave me good advice, made me drink ale, and give up sherry. Well, after you were gone, I felt all the better for your talk, and what you had made me drink, and it was a mercy that I did feel better, for my niece was gone out, poor thing! and I was left alone in the house, without a soul to look at, or to keep me from doing myself a mischief in case I was so inclined. Well, things wore on in this way till it grew dusk, when in came that blackguard Hunter with his train to drink at my expense, and to insult me as usual; there were more than a dozen of them, and a pretty set they looked. Well, they ordered about in a very free and easy manner for upwards of an hour and a half, occasionally sneering and jeering at me, as they had been in the habit of doing for some time past; so, as I said before, things wore on, and other customers came in, who, though they did not belong to Hunter's gang, also passed off their jokes upon me; for, as you perhaps know, we English are a set of low hounds, who will always take part with the many by way of making ourselves safe, and currying favour with the stronger side. I said little or nothing, for my spirits had again become very low, and I was verily scared and afraid. All of a sudden I thought of the ale which I had drank in the morning, and of the good it did me then, so I went into the bar, opened another bottle, took a glass, and felt better; so I took another, and feeling better still, I went back into the kitchen just as Hunter and his crew were about leaving. "Mr. Hunter," said I, "you and your people will please to pay me for what you have had?" "What do you mean by my people?" said he, with an oath. "Ah! what do you mean by calling us his people?" said the clan. "We are nobody's people;" and then there was a pretty load of abuse, and threatening to serve me out. "Well," said I, "I was perhaps wrong to call them your people, and beg your pardon and theirs. And now you will please to pay me for what you have had yourself, and afterwards I can settle with them." "I shall pay you when I think fit," said Hunter. "Yes," said the rest, "and so shall we. We shall pay you when we think fit." "I tell you what," said Hunter, "I conceives I do such an old fool as you an honour when I comes into his house and drinks his beer, and goes away without paying for it," and then there was a roar of laughter from everybody, and almost all said the same thing. "Now do you please to pay me, Mr. Hunter?" said I. "Pay you!" said Hunter—"pay you! Yes, here's the pay," and thereupon he held out his thumb, twirling it round till it just touched my nose. I can't tell you what I felt that moment; a kind of madhouse thrill came upon me, and all I know is, that I bent back as far as I could, then lunging out, struck him under the ear, sending him reeling two or three yards, when he fell on the floor. I wish you had but seen how my company looked at me and at each other. One or two of the clan went to raise Hunter, and get him to fight, but it was no go; though he was not killed, he had had enough for that evening. Oh, I wish you had seen my customers; those who did not belong to the clan, but had taken part with them, and helped to jeer and flout me, now came and shook me by the hand, wishing me joy, and saying as how "I was a brave fellow, and had served the bully right!" As for the clan, they all said Hunter was bound to do me justice; so they made him pay me what he owed for himself, and the reckoning of those among them who said they had no money. Two or three of them then led him away, while the rest stayed behind, and flattered me, and worshipped me, and called Hunter all kinds of dogs' names. What do you think of that?'

'Why,' said I, 'it makes good what I read in a letter which I received yesterday. It is just the way of the world.'

'Ain't it!' said the landlord. 'Well, that ain't all; let me go on. Good fortune never yet came alone. In about an hour comes home my poor niece, almost in high sterricks with joy, smiling and sobbing. She had been to the clergyman of M—-, the great preacher, to whose church she was in the habit of going, and to whose daughters she was well known; and to him she told a lamentable tale about my distresses, and about the snares which had been laid for my soul; and so well did she plead my cause, and so strong did the young ladies back all she said, that the good clergyman promised to stand my friend, and to lend me sufficient money to satisfy the brewer, and to get my soul out of the snares of the man in black; and sure enough the next morning the two young ladies brought me the fifty pounds, which I forthwith carried to the brewer, who was monstrously civil, saying that he hoped any little misunderstanding we had had would not prevent our being good friends in future. That ain't all, the people of the neighbouring country hearing as if by art witchcraft that I had licked Hunter, and was on good terms with the brewer, forthwith began to come in crowds to look at me, pay me homage, and be my customers. Moreover, fifty scoundrels who owed me money, and who would have seen me starve rather than help me as long as they considered me a down pin, remembered their debts, and came and paid me more than they owed. That ain't all; the brewer, being about to establish a stage-coach and three, to run across the country, says it shall stop and change horses at my house, and the passengers breakfast and sup as it goes and returns. He wishes me—whom he calls the best man in England—to give his son lessons in boxing, which he says he considers a fine manly English art, and a great defence against Popery—notwithstanding that only a month ago, when he considered me a down pin, he was in the habit of railing against it as a blackguard practice, and against me as a blackguard for following it: so I am going to commence with young hopeful to-morrow.'

'I really cannot help congratulating you on your good fortune,' said I.

'That ain't all,' said the landlord. 'This very morning the folks of our parish made me churchwarden, {116} which they would no more have done a month ago, when they considered me a down pin, than they—'

'Mercy upon us!' said I, 'if fortune pours in upon you in this manner, who knows but that within a year they may make you justice of the peace.'

'Who knows, indeed!' said the landlord. 'Well, I will prove myself worthy of my good luck by showing the grateful mind—not to those who would be kind to me now, but to those who were, when the days were rather gloomy. My customers shall have abundance of rough language, but I'll knock any one down who says anything against the clergyman who lent me the fifty pounds, or against the Church of England, of which he is parson and I am churchwarden. I am also ready to do anything in reason for him who paid me for the ale he drank, when I shouldn't have had the heart to collar him for the money had he refused to pay; who never jeered or flouted me like the rest of my customers when I was a down pin—and though he refused to fight cross for me, was never cross with me, but listened to all I had to say, and gave me all kinds of good advice. Now who do you think I mean by this last? why, who but yourself—who on earth but yourself? The parson is a good man and a great preacher, and I'll knock anybody down who says to the contrary; and I mention him first, because why: he's a gentleman, and you a tinker. But I am by no means sure you are not the best friend of the two; for I doubt, do you see, whether I should have had the fifty pounds but for you. You persuaded me to give up that silly drink they call sherry, and drink ale; and what was it but drinking ale which gave me courage to knock down that fellow Hunter—and knocking him down was, I verily believe, the turning point of my disorder. God don't love those who won't strike out for themselves; and as far as I can calculate with respect to time, it was just the moment after I had knocked down Hunter, that the parson consented to lend me the money, and everything began to grow civil to me. So, dash my buttons if I show the ungrateful mind to you! I don't offer to knock anybody down for you, because why—I daresay you can knock a body down yourself; but I'll offer something more to the purpose; as my business is wonderfully on the increase, I shall want somebody to help me in serving my customers, and keeping them in order. If you choose to come and serve for your board, and what they'll give you, give me your fist; or if you like ten shillings a week better than their sixpences and ha'pence, only say so—though, to be open with you, I believe you would make twice ten shillings out of them—the sneaking, fawning, curry-favouring humbugs!'

'I am much obliged to you,' said I, 'for your handsome offer, which, however, I am obliged to decline.'

'Why so?' said the landlord.

'I am not fit for service,' said I; 'moreover, I am about to leave this part of the country.' As I spoke, a horse neighed in the stable. 'What horse is that?' said I.

'It belongs to a cousin of mine, who put it into my hands yesterday, in hopes that I might get rid of it for him, though he would no more have done so a week ago, when he considered me a down pin, than he would have given the horse away. Are you fond of horses?'

'Very much,' said I.

'Then come and look at it.' He led me into the stable, where, in a stall, stood a noble-looking animal.

'Dear me,' said I, 'I saw this horse at —- fair.'

'Like enough,' said the landlord; 'he was there, and was offered for seventy pounds, but didn't find a bidder at any price. What do you think of him?'

'He's a splendid creature.'

'I am no judge of horses,' said the landlord; 'but I am told he's a first-rate trotter, good leaper, and has some of the blood of Syntax. What does all that signify?—the game is against his master, who is a down pin, is thinking of emigrating, and wants money confoundedly. He asked seventy pounds at the fair; but, between ourselves, he would be glad to take fifty here.'

'I almost wish,' said I, 'that I were a rich squire.'

'You would buy him then,' said the landlord. Here he mused for some time, with a very profound look. 'It would be a rum thing,' said he, 'if, some time or other that horse should come into your hands. Didn't you hear how he neighed when you talked about leaving the country. My granny was a wise woman, and was up to all kind of signs and wonders, sounds and noises, the interpretation of the language of birds and animals, crowing and lowing, neighing and braying. If she had been here, she would have said at once that that horse was fated to carry you away. On that point, however, I can say nothing, for under fifty pounds no one can have him. Are you taking that money out of your pocket to pay me for the ale? That won't do; nothing to pay; I invited you this time. Now, if you are going, you had best get into the road through the yard-gate. I won't trouble you to make your way through the kitchen and my fine-weather company—confound them!'



CHAPTER XVIII

MR. PETULENGRO'S DEVICE—THE LEATHERN PURSE—CONSENT TO PURCHASE A HORSE

As I returned along the road I met Mr. Petulengro and one of his companions, who told me that they were bound for the public-house; whereupon I informed Jasper how I had seen in the stable the horse which we had admired at the fair. 'I shouldn't wonder if you buy that horse after all, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro. With a smile at the absurdity of such a supposition, I left him and his companion, and betook myself to the dingle. In the evening I received a visit from Mr. Petulengro, who forthwith commenced talking about the horse, which he had again seen, the landlord having shown it to him on learning that he was a friend of mine. He told me that the horse pleased him more than ever, he having examined his points with more accuracy than he had an opportunity of doing on the first occasion, concluding by pressing me to buy him. I begged him to desist from such foolish importunity, assuring him that I had never so much money in all my life as would enable me to purchase the horse. Whilst this discourse was going on, Mr. Petulengro and myself were standing together in the midst of the dingle. Suddenly he began to move round me in a very singular manner, making strange motions with his hands, and frightful contortions with his features, till I became alarmed, and asked him whether he had not lost his senses? Whereupon, ceasing his movements and contortions, he assured me that he had not, but had merely been seized with a slight dizziness, and then once more returned to the subject of the horse. Feeling myself very angry, I told him that if he continued persecuting me in this manner, I should be obliged to quarrel with him; adding, that I believed his only motive for asking me to buy the animal was to insult my poverty. 'Pretty poverty,' said he, 'with fifty pounds in your pocket; however, I have heard say, that it is always the custom of your rich people to talk of their poverty, more especially when they wish to avoid laying out money.' Surprised at his saying that I had fifty pounds in my pocket, I asked him what he meant; whereupon he told me that he was very sure that I had fifty pounds in my pocket, offering to lay me five shillings to that effect. 'Done,' said I; 'I have scarcely more than the fifth part of what you say.' 'I know better, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro; 'and if you only pull out what you have in the pocket of your slop, I am sure you will have lost your wager.' Putting my hand into the pocket, I felt something which I had never felt there before, and pulling it out, perceived that it was a clumsy leathern purse, which I found, on opening, contained four ten-pound notes, and several pieces of gold. 'Didn't I tell you so, brother?' said Mr. Petulengro. 'Now, in the first place, please to pay me the five shillings you have lost.' 'This is only a foolish piece of pleasantry,' said I; 'you put it into my pocket whilst you were moving about me, making faces like a distracted person. Here, take your purse back.' 'I?' said Mr. Petulengro, 'not I, indeed! don't think I am such a fool. I have won my wager, so pay me the five shillings, brother.' 'Do drop this folly,' said I, 'and take your purse;' and I flung it on the ground. 'Brother,' said Mr. Petulengro, 'you were talking of quarrelling with me just now. I tell you now one thing, which is, that if you do not take back the purse, I will quarrel with you; and it shall be for good and all. I'll drop your acquaintance, no longer call you my pal, and not even say sarshan {119} to you when I meet you by the roadside. Hir mi diblis {120} I never will.' I saw by Jasper's look and tone that he was in earnest, and, as I had really a regard for the strange being, I scarcely knew what to do. 'Now, be persuaded, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro, taking up the purse, and handing it to me; 'be persuaded; put the purse into your pocket, and buy the horse.' 'Well,' said I, 'if I did so, would you acknowledge the horse to be yours, and receive the money again as soon as I should be able to repay you?'

'I would, brother, I would,' said he; 'return me the money as soon as you please, provided you buy the horse.' 'What motive have you for wishing me to buy that horse?' said I. 'He's to be sold for fifty pounds,' said Jasper, 'and is worth four times that sum; though, like many a splendid bargain, he is now going a begging; buy him, and I'm confident that, in a little time, a grand gentleman of your appearance may have anything he asks for him, and found a fortune by his means. Moreover, brother, I want to dispose of this fifty pounds in a safe manner. If you don't take it, I shall fool it away in no time, perhaps at card-playing, for you saw how I was cheated by those blackguard jockeys the other day—we gyptians don't know how to take care of money: our best plan when we have got a handful of guineas is to make buttons with them; but I have plenty of golden buttons, and don't wish to be troubled with more, so you can do me no greater favour than vesting the money in this speculation, by which my mind will be relieved of considerable care and trouble for some time at least.'

Perceiving that I still hesitated, he said, 'Perhaps, brother, you think that I did not come honestly by the money: by the honestest manner in the world, brother, for it is the money I earnt by fighting in the ring: I did not steal it, brother, nor did I get it by disposing of spavined donkeys, or glandered ponies—nor is it, brother, the profits of my wife's witchcraft and dukkerin.'

'But,' said I, 'you had better employ it in your traffic.' 'I have plenty of money for my traffic, independent of this capital,' said Mr. Petulengro; 'ay, brother, and enough besides to back the husband of my wife's sister, Sylvester, against Slammocks of the Chong gav for twenty pounds, which I am thinking of doing.'

'But,' said I, 'after all, the horse may have found another purchaser by this time.' 'Not he,' said Mr. Petulengro, 'there is nobody in this neighbourhood to purchase a horse like that, unless it be your lordship—so take the money, brother,' and he thrust the purse into my hand. Allowing myself to be persuaded, I kept possession of the purse. 'Are you satisfied now?' said I. 'By no means, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro, 'you will please to pay me the five shillings which you lost to me.' 'Why,' said I, 'the fifty pounds which I found in my pocket were not mine, but put in by yourself.' 'That's nothing to do with the matter, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro; 'I betted you five shillings that you had fifty pounds in your pocket, which sum you had: I did not say that they were your own, but merely that you had fifty pounds; you will therefore pay me, brother, or I shall not consider you an honourable man.' Not wishing to have any dispute about such a matter, I took five shillings out of my under pocket, and gave them to him. Mr. Petulengro took the money with great glee, observing—'These five shillings I will take to the public-house forthwith, and spend in drinking with four of my brethren, and doing so will give me an opportunity of telling the landlord that I have found a customer for his horse, and that you are the man. It will be as well to secure the horse as soon as possible; for though the dook tells me that the horse is intended for you, I have now and then found that the dook is, like myself, somewhat given to lying.'

He then departed, and I remained alone in the dingle. I thought at first that I had committed a great piece of folly in consenting to purchase this horse; I might find no desirable purchaser for him until the money in my possession should be totally exhausted, and then I might be compelled to sell him for half the price I had given for him, or be even glad to find a person who would receive him at a gift; I should then remain sans horse, and indebted to Mr. Petulengro. Nevertheless, it was possible that I might sell the horse very advantageously, and by so doing, obtain a fund sufficient to enable me to execute some grand enterprise or other. My present way of life afforded no prospect of support, whereas the purchase of the horse did afford a possibility of bettering my condition, so, after all, had I not done right in consenting to purchase the horse? the purchase was to be made with another person's property it is true, and I did not exactly like the idea of speculating with another person's property, but Mr. Petulengro had thrust his money upon me, and if I lost his money, he could have no one but himself to blame; so I persuaded myself that I had upon the whole done right, and having come to that persuasion I soon began to enjoy the idea of finding myself on horseback again, and figured to myself all kinds of strange adventures which I should meet with on the roads before the horse and I should part company.



CHAPTER XIX

TRYING THE HORSE—THE FEATS OF TAWNO—MAN WITH THE RED WAISTCOAT—DISPOSAL OF PROPERTY

I saw nothing more of Mr. Petulengro that evening; on the morrow, however, he came and informed me that he had secured the horse for me, and that I was to go and pay for it at noon. At the hour appointed, therefore, I went with Mr. Petulengro and Tawno to the public, where, as before, there was a crowd of company. The landlord received us in the bar with marks of much satisfaction and esteem, made us sit down, and treated us with some excellent mild draught ale. 'Who do you think has been here this morning?' he said to me. 'Why that fellow in black, who came to carry me off to a house of Popish devotion, where I was to pass seven days and nights in meditation, as I think he called it, before I publicly renounced the religion of my country. I read him a pretty lecture, calling him several unhandsome names, and asking him what he meant by attempting to seduce a churchwarden of the Church of England. I tell you what, he ran some danger, for some of my customers, learning his errand, laid hold on him, and were about to toss him in a blanket, and then duck him in the horse-pond. I, however, interfered, and said that what he came about was between me and him, and that it was no business of theirs. To tell you the truth, I felt pity for the poor devil, more especially when I considered that they merely sided against him because they thought him the weakest, and that they would have wanted to serve me in the same manner had they considered me a down pin; so I rescued him from their hands, told him not to be afraid, for that nobody should touch him, and offered to treat him to some cold gin and water with a lump of sugar in it; and, on his refusing, told him that he had better make himself scarce, which he did, and I hope I shall never see him again. So I suppose you are come for the horse; mercy upon us!—who would have thought you would have become the purchaser? The horse, however, seemed to know it by its neighing. How did you ever come by the money? However, that's no matter of mine. I suppose you are strongly backed by certain friends you have.'

I informed the landlord that he was right in supposing that I came for the horse, but that, before I paid for him, I should wish to prove his capabilities. 'With all my heart,' said the landlord. 'You shall mount him this moment.' Then, going into the stable, he saddled and bridled the horse, and presently brought him out before the door. I mounted him, Mr. Petulengro putting a heavy whip into my hand, and saying a few words to me in his own mysterious language. 'The horse wants no whip,' said the landlord. 'Hold your tongue, daddy,' said Mr. Petulengro. 'My pal knows quite well what to do with the whip; he's not going to beat the horse with it.' About four hundred yards from the house there was a hill, to the foot of which the road ran almost on a perfect level; towards the foot of this hill I trotted the horse, who set off at a long, swift pace, seemingly at the rate of about sixteen miles an hour. On reaching the foot of the hill, I wheeled the animal round, and trotted him towards the house—the horse sped faster than before. Ere he had advanced a hundred yards, I took off my hat, in obedience to the advice which Mr. Petulengro had given me, in his own language, and holding it over the horse's head, commenced drumming on the crown with the knob of the whip; the horse gave a slight start, but instantly recovering himself, continued his trot till he arrived at the door of the public-house, amidst the acclamations of the company, who had all rushed out of the house to be spectators of what was going on. 'I see now what you wanted the whip for,' said the landlord, 'and sure enough that drumming on your hat was no bad way of learning whether the horse was quiet or not. Well, did you ever see a more quiet horse, or a better trotter?' 'My cob shall trot against him,' said a fellow dressed in velveteen, mounted on a low powerful-looking animal—'my cob shall trot against him to the hill and back again—come on!' We both started; the cob kept up gallantly against the horse for about half the way to the hill, when he began to lose ground; at the foot of the hill he was about fifteen yards behind. Whereupon I turned slowly and waited for him. We then set off towards the house, but now the cob had no chance, being at least twenty yards behind when I reached the door. This running of horses, the wild uncouth forms around me, and the ale and beer which were being guzzled from pots and flagons, put me wonderfully in mind of the ancient horse-races of the heathen north. I almost imagined myself Gunnar of Hlitharend at the race of—.

'Are you satisfied?' said the landlord. 'Didn't you tell me that he could leap?' I demanded. 'I am told he can,' said the landlord; 'but I can't consent that he should be tried in that way, as he might be damaged.' 'That's right!' said Mr. Petulengro, 'don't trust my pal to leap that horse; he'll merely fling him down and break his neck and his own. There's a better man than he close by; let him get on his back and leap him.' 'You mean yourself, I suppose,' said the landlord. 'Well, I call that talking modestly, and nothing becomes a young man more than modesty.' 'It ain't I, daddy,' said Mr. Petulengro. 'Here's the man,' said he, pointing to Tawno. 'Here's the horse-leaper of the world!' 'You mean the horse-back-breaker,' said the landlord. 'That big fellow would break down my cousin's horse.' 'Why he weighs only sixteen stone,' said Mr. Petulengro; 'and his sixteen stone, with his way of handling a horse, does not press so much as any other one's thirteen. Only let him get on the horse's back and you'll see what he can do!' 'No,' said the landlord, 'it won't do.' Whereupon Mr. Petulengro became very much excited, and, pulling out a handful of money, said: 'I'll tell you what, I'll forfeit these guineas if my black pal there does the horse any kind of damage; duck me in the horse-pond if I don't.' 'Well,' said the landlord, 'for the sport of the thing I consent, so let your white pal get down, and your black pal mount as soon as he pleases.' I felt rather mortified at Mr. Petulengro's interference, and showed no disposition to quit my seat; whereupon he came up to me and said, 'Now, brother, do get out of the saddle; you are no bad hand at trotting, I am willing to acknowledge that; but at leaping a horse there is no one like Tawno. Let every dog be praised for his own gift. You have been showing off in your line for the last half-hour, now do give Tawno a chance of exhibiting a little; poor fellow, he hasn't often a chance of exhibiting, as his wife keeps him so much in sight.' Not wishing to appear desirous of engrossing the public attention, and feeling rather desirous to see how Tawno, of whose exploits in leaping horses I had frequently heard, would acquit himself in the affair, I at length dismounted, and Tawno at a bound leaped into the saddle, where he really looked like Gunnar of Hlitharend, save and except that the complexion of Gunnar was florid, whereas that of Tawno was of nearly Mulatto darkness, and that all Tawno's features were cast in the Grecian model, whereas Gunnar had a snub nose. 'There's a leaping-bar behind the house,' said the landlord. 'Leaping-bar!' said Mr. Petulengro, scornfully. 'Do you think my black pal ever rides at a leaping-bar? No more than at a windle-straw. Leap over that meadow wall, Tawno.' Just pass the house, in the direction in which I had been trotting, was a wall about four feet high, beyond which was a small meadow. Tawno rode the horse gently up to the wall, permitted him to look over, then backed him for about ten yards, and pressing his calves against the horse's sides, he loosed the rein, and the horse launching forward, took the leap in gallant style. 'Well done, man and horse!' said Mr. Petulengro; 'now come back, Tawno.' The leap from the side of the meadow was, however, somewhat higher; and the horse, when pushed at it, at first turned away; whereupon Tawno backed him to a greater distance, pushed the horse to a full gallop, giving a wild cry; whereupon the horse again took the wall, slightly grazing one of his legs against it. 'A near thing,' said the landlord, 'but a good leap. Now, no more leaping, so long as I have control over the animal.' The horse was then led back to the stable; and the landlord, myself, and companions going into the bar, I paid down the money for the horse.

Scarcely was the bargain concluded, when two or three of the company began to envy me the possession of the horse, and forcing their way into the bar, with much noise and clamour, said that the horse had been sold too cheap. One fellow in particular, with a red waistcoat, the son of a wealthy farmer, said that if he had but known that the horse had been so good a one, he would have bought it at the first price asked for it, which he was now willing to pay, that is, to-morrow, supposing—'Supposing your father will let you have the money,' said the landlord, 'which, after all, might not be the case; but, however that may be, it is too late now. I think myself the horse has been sold for too little money, but if so all the better for the young man, who came forward when no other body did with his money in his hand. There, take yourselves out of my bar,' said he to the fellows; 'and a pretty scoundrel you,' said he to the man of the red waistcoat, 'to say the horse has been sold too cheap, why, it was only yesterday you said he was good for nothing, and were passing all kinds of jokes at him. Take yourself out of my bar, I say, you and all of you,' and he turned the fellows out. I then asked the landlord whether he would permit the horse to remain in the stable for a short time, provided I paid for his entertainment, and on his willingly consenting, I treated my friends with ale, and then returned with them to the encampment.

That evening I informed Mr. Petulengro and his party that on the morrow I intended to mount my horse, and leave that part of the country in quest of adventures; inquiring of Jasper where, in the event of my selling the horse advantageously, I might meet with him, and repay the money I had borrowed of him; whereupon Mr. Petulengro informed me that in about ten weeks I might find him at a certain place at the Chong gav. I then stated that as I could not well carry with me the property which I possessed in the dingle, which after all was of no considerable value, I resolved to bestow the said property, namely, the pony, tent, tinker-tools, etc., on Ursula and her husband, partly because they were poor, and partly on account of the great kindness which I bore to Ursula, from whom I had, on various occasions, experienced all manner of civility, particularly in regard to crabbed words. On hearing this intelligence, Ursula returned many thanks to her gentle brother as she called me, and Sylvester was so overjoyed that, casting aside his usual phlegm, he said I was the best friend he had ever had in the world, and in testimony of his gratitude swore that he would permit me to give his wife a choomer in the presence of the whole company, which offer, however, met with a very mortifying reception; the company frowning disapprobation, Ursula protesting against anything of the kind, and I myself showing no forwardness to avail myself of it, having inherited from nature a considerable fund of modesty, to which was added no slight store acquired in the course of my Irish education. I passed that night alone in the dingle in a very melancholy manner, with little or no sleep, thinking of Isopel Berners; and in the morning when I quitted it I shed several tears, as I reflected that I should probably never again see the spot where I had passed so many hours in her company.



CHAPTER XX

FAREWELL TO THE ROMANS—THE LANDLORD AND HIS NIECE—SET OUT AS A TRAVELLER

On reaching the plain above, I found my Romany friends breakfasting, and on being asked by Mr. Petulengro to join them, I accepted the invitation. No sooner was breakfast over than I informed Ursula and her husband that they would find the property, which I had promised them, below in the dingle, commending the little pony Ambrol to their best care. I took leave of the whole company, which was itself about to break up camp and to depart in the direction of London, and made the best of my way to the public-house. I had a small bundle in my hand, and was dressed in the same manner as when I departed from London, having left my waggoner's slop with the other effects in the dingle. On arriving at the public-house, I informed the landlord that I was come for my horse, inquiring, at the same time, whether he could not accommodate me with a bridle and saddle. He told me that the bridle and saddle, with which I had ridden the horse on the preceding day, were at my service for a trifle; that he had received them some time since in payment for a debt, and that he had himself no use for them. The leathers of the bridle were rather shabby, and the bit rusty, and the saddle was old-fashioned; but I was happy to purchase them for seven shillings, more especially as the landlord added a small valise, which he said could be strapped to the saddle, and which I should find very convenient for carrying my things in. I then proceeded to the stable, told the horse we were bound on an expedition, and giving him a feed of corn, left him to discuss it, and returned to the bar-room to have a little farewell chat with the landlord and at the same time to drink with him a farewell glass of ale. Whilst we were talking and drinking, the niece came and joined us: she was a decent, sensible, young woman, who appeared to take a great interest in her uncle, whom she regarded with a singular mixture of pride and disapprobation—pride for the renown which he had acquired by his feats of old, and disapprobation for his late imprudences. She said that she hoped that his misfortunes would be a warning to him to turn more to his God than he had hitherto done, and to give up cock-fighting and other low-life practices. To which the landlord replied, that with respect to cock-fighting he intended to give it up entirely, being determined no longer to risk his capital upon birds, and with respect to his religious duties he should attend the church of which he was churchwarden at least once a quarter, adding, however, that he did not intend to become either canter or driveller, neither of which characters would befit a publican surrounded by such customers as he was, and that to the last day of his life he hoped to be able to make use of his fists. After a stay of about two hours I settled accounts; and having bridled and saddled my horse, and strapped on the valise, I mounted, shook hands with the landlord and his niece, and departed, notwithstanding that they both entreated me to tarry until the evening, it being then the heat of the day.



CHAPTER XXI

AN ADVENTURE ON THE ROADS—THE SIX FLINT STONES—A RURAL SCENE—MEAD—THE OLD MAN AND HIS BEES

I bent my course in the direction of the north, more induced by chance than any particular motive; all quarters of the world having about equal attractions for me. I was in high spirits at finding myself once more on horseback, and trotted gaily on, until the heat of the weather induced me to slacken my pace, more out of pity for my horse than because I felt any particular inconvenience from it—heat and cold being then, and still, matters of great indifference to me. What I thought of I scarcely know, save and except that I have a glimmering recollection that I felt some desire to meet with one of those adventures, which upon the roads of England are generally as plentiful as blackberries in autumn; and Fortune, who has generally been ready to gratify my inclinations, provided it cost her very little by so doing, was not slow in furnishing me with an adventure, perhaps as characteristic of the English roads as anything which could have happened.

I might have travelled about six miles, amongst cross-roads and lanes, when suddenly I found myself upon a broad and very dusty road, which seemed to lead due north. As I wended along this, I saw a man upon a donkey, riding towards me. The man was commonly dressed, with a broad felt hat on his head, and a kind of satchel on his back; he seemed to be in a mighty hurry, and was every now and then belabouring the donkey with a cudgel. The donkey, however, which was a fine large creature of the silver-grey species, did not appear to sympathize at all with its rider in his desire to get on, but kept its head turned back as much as possible, moving from one side of the road to the other, and not making much forward way. As I passed, being naturally of a very polite disposition, I gave the man the sele of the day, asking him, at the same time, why he beat the donkey; whereupon the fellow, eyeing me askance, told me to mind my own business, with the addition of something which I need not repeat. I had not proceeded a furlong before I saw seated on the dust by the wayside, close by a heap of stones, and with several flints before him, a respectable-looking old man, with a straw hat and a white smock, who was weeping bitterly.

'What are you crying for, father?' said I. 'Have you come to any hurt?' 'Hurt enough,' sobbed the old man, 'I have been just tricked out of the best ass in England by a villain, who gave me nothing but these trash in return,' pointing to the stones before him. 'I really scarcely understand you,' said I, 'I wish you would explain yourself more clearly.' 'I was riding on my ass from market,' said the old man, 'when I met here a fellow with a sack on his back, who, after staring at the ass and me a moment or two, asked me if I would sell her. I told him that I could not think of selling her, as she was very useful to me, and though an animal, my true companion, whom I loved as much as if she were my wife and daughter. I then attempted to pass on, but the fellow stood before me, begging me to sell her; saying that he would give me anything for her, well, seeing that he persisted, I said at last that if I sold her, I must have six pounds for her, and I said so to get rid of him, for I saw that he was a shabby fellow, who had probably not six shillings in the world; but I had better have held my tongue,' said the old man, crying more bitterly than before, 'for the words were scarcely out of my mouth, when he said he would give me what I asked, and taking the sack from his back, he pulled out a steelyard, and going to the heap of stones there, he took up several of them and weighed them, then flinging them down before me, he said, "There are six pounds, neighbour; now, get off the ass, and hand her over to me." Well, I sat like one dumbfoundered for a time, till at last I asked him what he meant? "What do I mean," said he, "you old rascal, why I mean to claim my purchase," and then he swore so awfully, that scarcely knowing what I did I got down, and he jumped on the animal and rode off as fast as he could.' 'I suppose he was the fellow,' said I, 'whom I just now met upon a fine grey ass, which he was beating with a cudgel.' 'I dare say he was,' said the old man, 'I saw him beating her as he rode away, and I thought I should have died.' 'I never heard such a story,' said I; 'well, do you mean to submit to such a piece of roguery quietly?' 'Oh, dear,' said the old man, 'what can I do? I am seventy-nine years of age; I am bad on my feet, and daren't go after him.' 'Shall I go?' said I; 'the fellow is a thief, and any one has a right to stop him.' 'Oh, if you could but bring her again to me,' said the old man, 'I would bless you to my dying day; but have a care; I don't know but after all the law may say that she is his lawful purchase. I asked six pounds for her, and he gave me six pounds.' 'Six flints you mean,' said I; 'no, no, the law is not quite so bad as that either; I know something about her, and am sure that she will never sanction such a quibble. At all events, I'll ride after the fellow.' Thereupon turning the horse round, I put him to his very best trot; I rode nearly a mile without obtaining a glimpse of the fellow, and was becoming apprehensive that he had escaped me by turning down some by-path, two or three of which I had passed. Suddenly, however, on the road making a slight turning, I perceived him right before me, moving at a tolerably swift pace, having by this time probably overcome the resistance of the animal. Putting my horse to a full gallop, I shouted at the top of my voice, 'Get off that donkey, you rascal, and give her up to me, or I'll ride you down.' The fellow hearing the thunder of the horse's hoofs behind him, drew up on one side of the road. 'What do you want?' said he, as I stopped my charger, now almost covered with sweat and foam, close beside him. 'Do you want to rob me?' 'To rob you?' said I. 'No! but to take from you that ass, of which you have just robbed its owner.' 'I have robbed no man,' said the fellow; 'I just now purchased it fairly of its master, and the law will give it to me; he asked six pounds for it, and I gave him six pounds.' 'Six stones, you mean, you rascal,' said I; 'get down, or my horse shall be upon you in a moment;' then with a motion of my reins, I caused the horse to rear, pressing his sides with my heels as if I intended to make him leap. 'Stop,' said the man, 'I'll get down, and then try if I can't serve you out.' He then got down, and confronted me with his cudgel; he was a horrible-looking fellow, and seemed prepared for anything. Scarcely, however, had he dismounted, when the donkey jerked the bridle out of his hand, and probably in revenge for the usage she had received, gave him a pair of tremendous kicks on the hip with her hinder legs, which overturned him, and then scampered down the road the way she had come. 'Pretty treatment this,' said the fellow, getting up without his cudgel, and holding his hand to his side, 'I wish I may not be lamed for life.' 'And if you be,' said I, 'it would merely serve you right, you rascal, for trying to cheat a poor old man out of his property by quibbling at words.' 'Rascal!' said the fellow, 'you lie, I am no rascal; and as for quibbling with words—suppose I did! What then? All the first people does it! The newspapers does it! The gentlefolks that calls themselves the guides of the popular mind does it! I'm no ignoramus. I reads the newspapers, and knows what's what.' 'You read them to some purpose,' said I. 'Well, if you are lamed for life, and unfitted for any active line—turn newspaper editor; I should say you are perfectly qualified, and this day's adventure may be the foundation of your fortune,' thereupon I turned round and rode off. The fellow followed me with a torrent of abuse. 'Confound you!' said he—yet that was not the expression either—'I know you; you are one of the horse-patrol, come down into the country on leave to see your relations. Confound you, you and the like of you have knocked my business on the head near Lunnon, and I suppose we shall have you shortly in the country.' 'To the newspaper office,' said I, 'and fabricate falsehoods out of flint stones;' then touching the horse with my heels, I trotted off, and coming to the place where I had seen the old man, I found him there, risen from the ground, and embracing his ass.

I told him that I was travelling down the road, and said, that if his way lay in the same direction as mine, he could do no better than accompany me for some distance, lest the fellow, who, for aught I knew, might be hovering nigh, might catch him alone, and again get his ass from him. After thanking me for my offer, which he said he would accept, he got upon his ass, and we proceeded together down the road. My new acquaintance said very little of his own accord; and when I asked him a question, answered rather incoherently. I heard him every now and then say, 'Villain!' to himself, after which he would pat the donkey's neck, from which circumstance I concluded that his mind was occupied with his late adventure. After travelling about two miles, we reached a place where a drift-way on the right led from the great road; here my companion stopped, and on my asking him whether he was going any farther, he told me that the path to the right was the way to his home.

I was bidding him farewell, when he hemmed once or twice, and said, that as he did not live far off, he hoped that I would go with him and taste some of his mead. As I had never tasted mead, of which I had frequently read in the compositions of the Welsh bards, and, moreover, felt rather thirsty from the heat of the day, I told him that I should have great pleasure in attending him. Whereupon, turning off together, we proceeded about half a mile, sometimes between stone walls, and at other times hedges, till we reached a small hamlet, through which we passed, and presently came to a very pretty cottage, delightfully situated within a garden, surrounded by a hedge of woodbines. Opening a gate at one corner of the garden, he led the way to a large shed, which stood partly behind the cottage, which he said was his stable; thereupon he dismounted and led his donkey into the shed, which was without stalls, but had a long rack and manger. On one side he tied his donkey, after taking off her caparisons, and I followed his example, tying my horse at the other side with a rope halter which he gave me; he then asked me to come in and taste his mead, but I told him that I must attend to the comfort of my horse first, and forthwith, taking a whisp of straw, rubbed him carefully down. Then taking a pailful of clear water which stood in the shed, I allowed the horse to drink about half a pint; and then turning to the old man, who all the time had stood by looking at my proceedings, I asked him whether he had any oats? 'I have all kinds of grain,' he replied; and, going out, he presently returned with two measures, one a large and the other a small one, both filled with oats, mixed with a few beans, and handing the large one to me for the horse, he emptied the other before the donkey, who, before she began to despatch it, turned her nose to her master's face, and fairly kissed him. Having given my horse his portion, I told the old man that I was ready to taste his mead as soon as he pleased, whereupon he ushered me into his cottage, where, making me sit down by a deal table in a neatly-sanded kitchen, he produced from an old-fashioned closet a bottle, holding about a quart, and a couple of cups, which might each contain about half a pint, then opening the bottle and filling the cups with a brown-coloured liquor, he handed one to me, and taking a seat opposite to me, he lifted the other, nodded, and saying to me—'Health and welcome,' placed it to his lips and drank.

'Health and thanks,' I replied; and being very thirsty, emptied my cup at a draught; I had scarcely done so, however, when I half repented. The mead was deliciously sweet and mellow, but appeared strong as brandy; my eyes reeled in my head, and my brain became slightly dizzy. 'Mead is a strong drink,' said the old man, as he looked at me, with a half smile on his, countenance. 'This is, at any rate,' said I, 'so strong indeed, that I would not drink another cup for any consideration.' 'And I would not ask you,' said the old man; 'for, if you did, you would most probably be stupid all day, and wake next morning with a headache. Mead is a good drink, but woundily strong, especially to those who be not used to it, as I suppose you are not?' 'Where do you get it?' said I. 'I make it myself,' said the old man, 'from the honey which my bees make.' 'Have you many bees?' I inquired. 'A great many,' said the old man. 'And do you keep them,' said I, 'for the sake of making mead with their honey?' 'I keep them,' he replied, 'partly because I am fond of them, and partly for what they bring me in; they make me a great deal of honey, some of which I sell, and with a little I make me some mead to warm my poor heart with, or occasionally to treat a friend with like yourself.' 'And do you support yourself entirely by means of your bees?' 'No,' said the old man; 'I have a little bit of ground behind my house, which is my principal means of support.' 'And do you live alone?' 'Yes,' said he; 'with the exception of the bees and the donkey, I live quite alone.' 'And have you always lived alone?' The old man emptied his cup, and his heart being warmed with the mead, he told me his history, which was simplicity itself. His father was a small yeoman, who, at his death had left him, his only child, the cottage, with a small piece of ground behind it, and on this little property he had lived ever since. About the age of twenty-five he had married an industrious young woman, by whom he had one daughter, who died before reaching years of womanhood. His wife, however, had survived her daughter many years, and had been a great comfort to him, assisting him in his rural occupations; but, about four years before the present period, he had lost her, since which time he had lived alone, making himself as comfortable as he could; cultivating his ground, with the help of a lad from the neighbouring village, attending to his bees, and occasionally riding his donkey to market, and hearing the word of God, which he said he was sorry he could not read, twice a week regularly at the parish church. Such was the old man's tale.

When he had finished speaking, he led me behind his house, and showed me his little domain. It consisted of about two acres in admirable cultivation; a small portion of it formed a kitchen garden, whilst the rest was sown with four kinds of grain, wheat, barley, pease, and beans. The air was full of ambrosial sweets, resembling those proceeding from an orange grove; a place which, though I had never seen at that time, I since have. In the garden was the habitation of the bees, a long box, supported upon three oaken stumps. It was full of small round glass windows, and appeared to be divided into a great many compartments, much resembling drawers placed sideways. He told me that, as one compartment was filled, the bees left it for another, so that whenever he wanted honey, he could procure some without injuring the insects. Through the little round windows I could see several of the bees at work; hundreds were going in and out of the doors; hundreds were buzzing about on the flowers, the woodbines, and beans. As I looked around on the well-cultivated field, the garden, and the bees, I thought I had never before seen so rural and peaceful a scene.

When we returned to the cottage we again sat down, and I asked the old man whether he was not afraid to live alone. He told me that he was not, for that, upon the whole, his neighbours were very kind to him. I mentioned the fellow who had swindled him of his donkey upon the road. 'That was no neighbour of mine,' said the old man, 'and, perhaps, I shall never see him again or his like.' 'It's a dreadful thing,' said I, 'to have no other resource, when injured, than to shed tears on the road.' 'It is so,' said the old man, 'but God saw the tears of the old, and sent a helper.' 'Why did you not help yourself?' said I. 'Instead of getting off your ass, why did you not punch at the fellow, or at any rate use dreadful language, call him villain, and shout robbery?' 'Punch!' said the old man, 'shout! what, with these hands, and this voice—Lord, how, you run on! I am old, young chap, I am old!' 'Well,' said I, 'it is a shameful thing to cry even when old.' 'You think so now,' said the old man, 'because you are young and strong; perhaps, when you are as old as I, you will not be ashamed to cry.'

Upon the whole I was rather pleased with the old man, and much with all about him. As evening drew nigh, I told him that I must proceed on my journey; whereupon he invited me to tarry with him during the night, telling me that he had a nice room and bed above at my service. I, however, declined; and bidding him farewell, mounted my horse, and departed. Regaining the road, I proceeded once more in the direction of the north; and, after a few hours, coming to a comfortable public-house, I stopped and put up for the night.



CHAPTER XXII

THE SINGULAR NOISE—SLEEPING IN A MEADOW—THE BOOK—CURE FOR WAKEFULNESS—LITERARY TEA-PARTY—POOR BYRON

I did not awake till rather late the next morning; and when I did, I felt considerable drowsiness, with a slight headache, which I was uncharitable enough to attribute to the mead which I had drank on the preceding day. After feeding my horse, and breakfasting, I proceeded on my wanderings. Nothing occurred worthy of relating till mid-day was considerably past, when I came to a pleasant valley, between two gentle hills. I had dismounted, in order to ease my horse, and was leading him along by the bridle, when, on my right, behind a bank in which some umbrageous ashes were growing, I heard a singular noise. I stopped short and listened, and presently said to myself, 'Surely this is snoring, perhaps that of a hedgehog.' On further consideration, however, I was convinced that the noise which I heard, and which certainly seemed to be snoring, could not possibly proceed from the nostrils of so small an animal, but must rather come from those of a giant, so loud and sonorous was it. About two or three yards further was a gate, partly open, to which I went, and peeping into the field, saw a man lying on some rich grass, under the shade of one of the ashes; he was snoring away at a great rate. Impelled by curiosity, I fastened the bridle of my horse to the gate, and went up to the man. He was a genteely-dressed individual, rather corpulent, with dark features, and seemingly about forty-five. He lay on his back, his hat slightly over his brow, and at his right hand lay an open book. So strenuously did he snore that the wind from his nostrils agitated, perceptibly, a fine cambric frill which he wore at his bosom. I gazed upon him for some time, expecting that he might awake; but he did not, but kept on snoring, his breast heaving convulsively. At last, the noise he made became so terrible, that I felt alarmed for his safety, imagining that a fit might seize him, and he lose his life whilst asleep. I therefore exclaimed, 'Sir, sir, awake! you sleep overmuch.' But my voice failed to rouse him, and he continued snoring as before; whereupon I touched him slightly with my riding wand, but failing to wake him, I touched him again more vigorously; whereupon he opened his eyes, and, probably imagining himself in a dream, closed them again. But I was determined to arouse him, and cried as loud as I could, 'Sir, sir, pray sleep no more!' He heard what I said, opened his eyes again, stared at me with a look of some consciousness, and, half raising himself upon his elbows, asked me what was the matter. 'I beg your pardon,' said I, 'but I took the liberty of awaking you because you appeared to be much disturbed in your sleep—I was fearful, too, that you might catch a fever from sleeping under a tree.' 'I run no risk,' said the man, 'I often come and sleep here; and as for being disturbed in my sleep, I felt very comfortable; I wish you had not awoken me.' 'Well,' said I, 'I beg your pardon once more. I assure you that what I did was with the best intention.' 'Oh! pray make no farther apology,' said the individual, 'I make no doubt that what you did was done kindly; but there's an old proverb, to the effect, "that you should let sleeping dogs lie,"' he added, with a smile. Then, getting up, and stretching himself with a yawn, he took up his book and said, 'I have slept quite long enough, and it's quite time for me to be going home.' 'Excuse my curiosity,' said I, 'if I inquire what may induce you to come and sleep in this meadow?' 'To tell you the truth,' answered he, 'I am a bad sleeper.' 'Pray pardon me,' said I, 'if I tell you that I never saw one sleep more heartily.' 'If I did so,' said the individual, 'I am beholden to this meadow and this book; but I am talking riddles, and will explain myself. I am the owner of a very pretty property, of which this valley forms part. Some years ago, however, up started a person who said the property was his; a lawsuit ensued, and I was on the brink of losing my all, when, most unexpectedly, the suit was determined in my favour. Owing, however, to the anxiety to which my mind had been subjected for years, my nerves had become terribly shaken; and no sooner was the trial terminated than sleep forsook my pillow. I sometimes passed nights without closing an eye; I took opiates, but they rather increased than alleviated my malady. About three weeks ago a friend of mine put this book into my hand, and advised me to take it every day to some pleasant part of my estate, and try and read a page or two, assuring me, if I did that I should infallibly fall asleep. I took his advice, and selecting this place, which I considered the pleasantest part of my property, I came, and lying down, commenced reading the book, and before finishing a page was in a dead slumber. Every day since then I have repeated the experiment, and every time with equal success. I am a single man, without any children; and yesterday I made my will, in which, in the event of my friend's surviving me, I have left him all my fortune, in gratitude for his having procured for me the most invaluable of all blessings—sleep.'

'Dear me,' said I, 'how very extraordinary! Do you think that your going to sleep is caused by the meadow or the book?' 'I suppose by both,' said my new acquaintance, 'acting in co-operation.' 'It may be so,' said I; 'the magic influence does certainly not proceed from the meadow alone; for since I have been here, I have not felt the slightest inclination to sleep. Does the book consist of prose or poetry?' 'It consists of poetry,' said the individual. 'Not Byron's?' said I. 'Byron's!' repeated the individual, with a smile of contempt; 'no, no; there is nothing narcotic in Byron's poetry. I don't like it. I used to read it, but it thrilled, agitated, and kept me awake. No, this is not Byron's poetry, but the inimitable —-'s {138a}—mentioning a name which I had never heard till then. 'Will you permit me to look at it?' said I. 'With pleasure,' he answered, politely handing me the book. {138b} I took the volume, and glanced over the contents. It was written in blank verse, and appeared to abound in descriptions of scenery; there was much mention of mountains, valleys, streams, and waterfalls, harebells and daffodils. These descriptions were interspersed with dialogues, which, though they proceeded from the mouths of pedlars and rustics, were of the most edifying description; mostly on subjects moral or metaphysical, and couched in the most gentlemanly and unexceptionable language, without the slightest mixture of vulgarity, coarseness, or pie-bald grammar. Such appeared to me to be the contents of the book; but before I could form a very clear idea of them, I found myself nodding, and a surprising desire to sleep coming over me. Rousing myself, however, by a strong effort, I closed the book, and, returning it to the owner, inquired of him, 'Whether he had any motive in coming and lying down in the meadow, besides the wish of enjoying sleep?' 'None whatever,' he replied; 'indeed, I should be very glad not to be compelled to do so, always provided I could enjoy the blessing of sleep; for by lying down under trees, I may possibly catch the rheumatism, or be stung by serpents; and, moreover, in the rainy season and winter the thing will be impossible, unless I erect a tent, which will possibly destroy the charm.' 'Well,' said I, 'you need give yourself no farther trouble about coming here, as I am fully convinced that with this book in your hand, you may go to sleep anywhere, as your friend was doubtless aware, though he wished to interest your imagination for a time by persuading you to lie abroad; therefore, in future, whenever you feel disposed to sleep, try to read the book, and you will be sound asleep in a minute; the narcotic influence lies in the book, and not in the field.' 'I will follow your advice,' said the individual, 'and this very night take it with me to bed; though I hope in time to be able to sleep without it, my nerves being already much quieted from the slumbers I have enjoyed in this field.' He then moved towards the gate, where we parted; he going one way, and I and my horse the other.

More than twenty years subsequent to this period, after much wandering about the world, returning to my native country, I was invited to a literary tea-party, where, the discourse turning upon poetry, I, in order to show that I was not more ignorant than my neighbours, began to talk about Byron, for whose writings I really entertained a considerable admiration, though I had no particular esteem for the man himself. At first I received no answer to what I said—the company merely surveying me with a kind of sleepy stare. At length a lady, about the age of forty, with a large wart on her face, observed, in a drawling tone, 'That she had not read Byron—at least since her girlhood—and then only a few passages; but that the impression on her mind was, that his writings were of a highly objectionable character.' 'I also read a little of him in my boyhood,' said a gentleman, about sixty, but who evidently, from his dress and demeanour, wished to appear about thirty, 'but I highly disapproved of him; for, notwithstanding he was a nobleman, he is frequently very coarse, and very fond of raising emotion. Now emotion is what I dislike;' drawling out the last syllable of the word dislike. 'There is only one poet for me—the divine —-'; and then he mentioned a name which I had only once heard, and afterwards quite forgotten; the name mentioned by the snorer in the field. 'Ah! there is no one like him!' murmured some more of the company; 'the poet of nature—of nature without its vulgarity.' I wished very much to ask these people whether they were ever bad sleepers, and whether they had read the poet, so called, from a desire of being set to sleep. Within a few days, however, I learnt that it had of late become very fashionable and genteel to appear half asleep, and that one could exhibit no better mark of superfine breeding than by occasionally in company setting one's ronchal organ in action. I then ceased to wonder at the popularity, which I found nearly universal, of —-'s poetry; for, certainly in order to make one's self appear sleepy in company, or occasionally to induce sleep, nothing could be more efficacious than a slight pre-lection of his poems. So, poor Byron, with his fire and emotion—to say nothing of his mouthings and coxcombry—was dethroned, as I had prophesied he would be more than twenty years before, on the day of his funeral, though I had little idea that his humiliation would have been brought about by one, whose sole strength consists in setting people to sleep. Well, all things are doomed to terminate in sleep. Before that termination, however, I will venture to prophesy that people will become a little more awake—snoring and yawning be a little less in fashion—and poor Byron be once more reinstated on his throne, though his rival will always stand a good chance of being worshipped by those whose ruined nerves are insensible to the narcotic powers of opium and morphine.



CHAPTER XXIII

DRIVERS AND FRONT OUTSIDE PASSENGERS—FATIGUE OF BODY AND MIND—UNEXPECTED GREETING—MY INN—THE GOVERNOR—ENGAGEMENT

I continued my journey, passing through one or two villages. The day was exceedingly hot, and the roads dusty. In order to cause my horse as little fatigue as possible, and not to chafe his back, I led him by the bridle, my doing which brought upon me a shower of remarks, jests, and would-be witticisms from the drivers and front outside passengers of sundry stage-coaches, which passed me in one direction or the other. In this way I proceeded till considerably past noon, when I felt myself very fatigued, and my horse appeared no less so; and it is probable that the lazy and listless manner in which we were moving on tired us both much more effectually than hurrying along at a swift trot would have done, for I have observed that when the energies of the body are not exerted a languor frequently comes over it. At length, arriving at a very large building with an archway, near the entrance of a town, {141} I sat down on what appeared to be a stepping-block, and presently experienced a great depression of spirits. I began to ask myself whither I was going, and what I should do with myself and the horse which I held by the bridle? It appeared to me that I was alone in the world with the poor animal, who looked for support to me, who knew not how to support myself. Then the image of Isopel Berners came into my mind, and when I bethought me how I had lost her for ever, and how happy I might have been with her in the New World had she not deserted me, I became yet more miserable.

As I sat in this state of mind, I suddenly felt some one clap me on the shoulder, and heard a voice say: 'Ha! comrade of the dingle, what chance has brought you into these parts?' I turned round, and beheld a man in the dress of a postillion, whom I instantly recognised as he to whom I had rendered assistance on the night of the storm.

'Ah!' said I, 'is it you? I am glad to see you, for I was feeling very lonely and melancholy.'

'Lonely and melancholy,' he replied, 'how is that? how can anyone be lonely and melancholy with such a noble horse as that you hold by the bridle?'

'The horse,' said I, 'is one cause of my melancholy, for I know not in the world what to do with it.'

'Is it your own?'

'Yes,' said I, 'I may call it my own, though I borrowed the money to purchase it.'

'Well, why don't you sell it?'

'It is not always easy to find a purchaser for a horse like this,' said I; 'can you recommend me one?'

'I? Why, no, not exactly: but you'll find a purchaser shortly—pooh! If you have no other cause for disquiet than that horse, cheer up, man; don't be cast down. Have you nothing else on your mind? By-the-by, what's become of the young woman you were keeping company with in that queer lodging-place of yours?'

'She has left me,' said I.

'You quarrelled, I suppose?'

'No,' said I, 'we did not exactly quarrel, but we are parted.'

'Well,' replied he, 'but you will soon come together again.'

'No,' said I; 'we are parted for ever.'

'For ever! Pooh! you little know how people sometimes come together again who think they are parted for ever. Here's something on that point relating to myself. You remember when I told you my story in that dingle of yours, that I mentioned a young woman, my fellow-servant when I lived with the English family in Mumbo Jumbo's town, and how she and I, when our foolish governors were thinking of changing their religion, agreed to stand by each other, and be true to old Church of England, and to give our governors warning, provided they tried to make us renegades. Well, she and I parted soon after that, and never thought to meet again, yet we met the other day in the fields, for she lately came to live with a great family not far from here, and we have since agreed to marry, to take a little farm, for we have both a trifle of money, and live together till "death us do part." So much for parting for ever! But what do I mean by keeping you broiling in the sun with your horse's bridle in your hand, and you on my own ground? Do you know where you are? Why, that great house is my inn, that is, it's my master's, the best fellow in —-. Come along, you and your horse both will find a welcome at my inn.'

Thereupon he led the way into a large court, in which there were coaches, chaises, and a great many people; taking my horse from me, he led it into a nice cool stall, and fastening it to the rack, he then conducted me into a postillion's keeping-room, which at that time chanced to be empty, and he then fetched a pot of beer and sat down by me.

After a little conversation he asked me what I intended to do, and I told him frankly that I did not know, whereupon he observed that, provided I had no objection, he had little doubt that I could be accommodated for some time at his inn. 'Our upper ostler,' said he, 'died about a week ago; he was a clever fellow, and besides his trade understood reading and accounts.'

'Dear me,' said I, interrupting him, 'I am not fitted for the place of ostler—moreover, I refused the place of ostler at a public-house, which was offered to me only a few days ago.' The postillion burst into a laugh. 'Ostler at a public-house, indeed! Why, you would not compare a berth at a place like that with the situation of ostler at my inn, the first road-house in England! However, I was not thinking of the place of ostler for you; you are, as you say, not fitted for it, at any rate, not at a house like this. We have, moreover, the best under-ostler in all England—old Bill, with the drawback that he is rather fond of drink. We could make shift with him very well provided we could fall in with a man of writing and figures, who could give an account of the hay and corn which comes in and goes out, and wouldn't object to give a look occasionally at the yard. Now it appears to me that you are just such a kind of man, and if you will allow me to speak to the governor, I don't doubt that he will gladly take you, as he feels kindly disposed towards you from what he has heard me say concerning you.'

'And what should I do with my horse?' said I.

'The horse need give you no uneasiness,' said the postillion: 'I know he will be welcome here both for bed and manger, and perhaps in a little time you may find a purchaser, as a vast number of sporting people frequent this house.' I offered two or three more objections, which the postillion overcame with great force of argument, and the pot being nearly empty, he drained it to the bottom drop, and then starting up, left me alone.

In about twenty minutes he returned, accompanied by a highly intelligent looking individual dressed in blue and black, with a particularly white cravat, and without a hat on his head; this individual, whom I should have mistaken for a gentleman but for the intelligence depicted in his face, he introduced to me as the master of the inn. The master of the inn shook me warmly by the hand, told me that he was happy to see me in his house, and thanked me in the handsomest terms for the kindness I had shown to his servant in the affair of the thunder-storm. Then saying that he was informed I was out of employ, he assured me that he should be most happy to engage me to keep his hay and corn account, and as general superintendent of the yard, and that with respect to the horse, which he was told I had, he begged to inform me that I was perfectly at liberty to keep it at the inn upon the very best, until I could find a purchaser; that with regard to wages—but he had no sooner mentioned wages than I cut him short, saying that provided I stayed I should be most happy to serve him for bed and board, and requested that he would allow me until the next morning to consider of his offer; he willingly consented to my request, and, begging that I would call for anything I pleased, left me alone with the postillion.

I passed that night until about ten o'clock with the postillion, when he left me, having to drive a family about ten miles across the country; before his departure, however, I told him that I had determined to accept the offer of his governor, as he called him. At the bottom of my heart I was most happy that an offer had been made, which secured to myself and the animal a comfortable retreat at a moment when I knew not whither in the world to take myself and him.



CHAPTER XXIV

AN INN OF TIMES GONE BY—A FIRST-RATE PUBLICAN—HAY AND CORN—OLD-FASHIONED OSTLER—HIGHWAYMEN—MOUNTED POLICE—GROOMING

The inn of which I had become an inhabitant was a place of infinite life and bustle. Travellers of all descriptions, from all the cardinal points, were continually stopping at it: and to attend to their wants, and minister to their convenience, an army of servants, of one description or other, was kept—waiters, chambermaids, grooms, postillions, shoe-blacks, cooks, scullions, and what not, for there was a barber and hair-dresser, who had been at Paris, and talked French with a cockney accent, the French sounding all the better, as no accent is so melodious as the cockney. Jacks creaked in the kitchens turning round spits, on which large joints of meat piped and smoked before the great big fires. There was running up and down stairs, and along galleries, slamming of doors, cries of 'Coming, sir,' and 'Please to step this way, ma'am,' during eighteen hours of the four-and-twenty. Truly a very great place for life and bustle was this inn. And often in after life, when lonely and melancholy, I have called up the time I spent there, and never failed to become cheerful from the recollection.

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