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The Romany Rye - A Sequel to 'Lavengro'
by George Borrow
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I found the master of the house a very kind and civil person. Before being an innkeeper he had been in some other line of business, but, on the death of the former proprietor of the inn had married his widow, who was still alive, but being somewhat infirm, lived in a retired part of the house. I have said that he was kind and civil; he was, however, not one of those people who suffer themselves to be made fools of by anybody; he knew his customers, and had a calm clear eye, which would look through a man without seeming to do so. The accommodation of his house was of the very best description; his wines were good, his viands equally so, and his charges not immoderate; though he very properly took care of himself. He was no vulgar innkeeper, had a host of friends, and deserved them all. During the time I lived with him, he was presented, by a large assemblage of his friends and customers, with a dinner at his own house, which was very costly, and at which the best of wines were sported, and after the dinner with a piece of plate, estimated at fifty guineas. He received the plate, made a neat speech of thanks, and when the bill was called for, made another neat speech, in which he refused to receive one farthing for the entertainment, ordering in at the same time two dozen more of the best champagne, and sitting down amidst uproarious applause, and cries of 'You shall be no loser by it!' Nothing very wonderful in such conduct, some people will say; I don't say there is, nor have I any intention to endeavour to persuade the reader that the landlord was a Carlo Borromeo; he merely gave a quid pro quo; but it is not every person who will give you a quid pro quo. Had he been a vulgar publican, he would have sent in a swinging bill after receiving the plate; 'but then no vulgar publican would have been presented with plate;' perhaps not, but many a vulgar public character has been presented with plate, whose admirers never received a quid pro quo, except in the shape of a swinging bill.

I found my duties of distributing hay and corn, and keeping an account thereof, anything but disagreeable, particularly after I had acquired the good-will of the old ostler, who at first looked upon me with rather an evil eye, considering me somewhat in the light of one who had usurped an office which belonged to himself by the right of succession; but there was little gall in the old fellow, and, by speaking kindly to him, never giving myself any airs of assumption; but above all, by frequently reading the newspapers to him—for, though passionately fond of news and politics, he was unable to read—I soon succeeded in placing myself on excellent terms with him. A regular character was that old ostler; he was a Yorkshireman by birth, but had seen a great deal of life in the vicinity of London, to which, on the death of his parents, who were very poor people, he went at a very early age. Amongst other places where he had served as ostler was a small inn at Hounslow, much frequented by highwaymen, whose exploits he was fond of narrating, especially those of Jerry Abershaw, {146} who, he said, was a capital rider; and on hearing his accounts of that worthy I half regretted that the old fellow had not been in London, and I had not formed his acquaintance about the time I was thinking of writing the life of the said Abershaw, not doubting that with his assistance I could have produced a book at least as remarkable as the life and adventures of that entirely imaginary personage, Joseph Sell; perhaps, however, I was mistaken; and whenever Abershaw's life shall appear before the public—and my publisher credibly informs me that it has not yet appeared—I beg and entreat the public to state which it likes best, the life of Abershaw, or that of Sell, for which latter work I am informed that during the last few months there has been a prodigious demand. {147a} My old friend, however, after talking of Abershaw, would frequently add, that, good rider as Abershaw certainly was, he was decidedly inferior to Richard Ferguson, {147b} generally called Galloping Dick, who was a pal of Abershaw's, and had enjoyed a career as long, and nearly as remarkable, as his own. I learned from him that both were capital customers at the Hounslow inn, and that he had frequently drank with them in the corn-room. He said that no man could desire more jolly or entertaining companions over a glass of 'summat'; but that upon the road it was anything but desirable to meet them; there they were terrible, cursing and swearing, and thrusting the muzzles of their pistols into people's mouths; and at this part of his locution the old man winked, and said, in a somewhat lower voice, that upon the whole they were right in doing so, and that when a person had once made up his mind to become a highwayman, his best policy was to go the whole hog, fearing nothing, but making everybody afraid of him; that people never thought of resisting a savage-faced, foul-mouthed highwayman, and if he were taken, were afraid to bear witness against him, lest he should get off and cut their throats some time or other upon the roads; whereas people would resist being robbed by a sneaking, pale-visaged rascal, and would swear bodily against him on the first opportunity; adding, that Abershaw and Ferguson, two most awful fellows, had enjoyed a long career, whereas two disbanded officers of the army, who wished to rob a coach like gentlemen, had begged the passengers' pardon, and talked of hard necessity, had been set upon by the passengers themselves, amongst whom were three women, pulled from their horses, conducted to Maidstone, and hanged with as little pity as such contemptible fellows deserved. 'There is nothing like going the whole hog,' he repeated, 'and if ever I had been a highwayman, I would have done so; I should have thought myself all the more safe; and, moreover, shouldn't have despised myself. To curry favour with those you are robbing, sometimes at the expense of your own comrades, as I have known fellows do, why it is the greatest—'

'So it is,' interposed my friend the postillion, who chanced to be present at a considerable part of the old ostler's discourse; 'it is, as you say, the greatest of humbug, and merely, after all, gets a fellow into trouble; but no regular bred highwayman would do it. I say, George, catch the Pope of Rome trying to curry favour with anybody he robs; catch old Mumbo Jumbo currying favour with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dean and Chapter, should he meet them in a stage-coach; it would be with him, Bricconi Abbasso, as he knocked their teeth out with the butt of his trombone, and the old regular-built ruffian would be all the safer for it, as Bill would say, as ten to one the Archbishop and Chapter, after such a spice of his quality, would be afraid to swear against him, and to hang him, even if he were in their power, though that would be the proper way; for, if it is the greatest of all humbug for a highwayman to curry favour with those he robs, the next greatest is to try to curry favour with a highwayman when you have got him, by letting him off.'

Finding the old man so well acquainted with the history of highwaymen, and taking considerable interest in the subject, having myself edited a book {148} containing the lives of many remarkable people who had figured on the highway, I forthwith asked him how it was that the trade of highwayman had become extinct in England, as at present we never heard of anyone following it. Whereupon he told me that many causes had contributed to bring about that result; the principal of which were the following: the refusal to license houses which were known to afford shelter to highwaymen, which, amongst many others, had caused the inn at Hounslow to be closed; the inclosure of many a wild heath in the country, on which they were in the habit of lurking, and particularly the establishing in the neighbourhood of London of a well-armed mounted patrol, who rode the highwaymen down, and delivered them up to justice, which hanged them without ceremony.

'And that would be the way to deal with Mumbo Jumbo and his gang,' said the postillion, 'should they show their visages in these realms; and I hear by the newspapers that they are becoming every day more desperate. Take away the license from their public-houses, cut down the rookeries and shadowy old avenues in which they are fond of lying in wait, in order to sally out upon people as they pass in the roads; but, above all, establish a good mounted police to ride after the ruffians and drag them by the scruff of the neck to the next clink, {149} where they might lie till they could be properly dealt with by law; instead of which, the Government are repealing the wise old laws enacted against such characters, giving fresh licenses every day to their public-houses, and saying that it would be a pity to cut down their rookeries and thickets, because they look so very picturesque; and, in fact, giving them all kind of encouragement; why, if such behaviour is not enough to drive an honest man mad, I know not what is. It is of no use talking, I only wish the power were in my hands, and if I did not make short work of them, might I be a mere jackass postillion all the remainder of my life.'

Besides acquiring from the ancient ostler a great deal of curious information respecting the ways and habits of the heroes of the road, with whom he had come in contact in the early portion of his life, I picked up from him many excellent hints relating to the art of grooming horses. Whilst at the inn, I frequently groomed the stage and post-horses, and those driven up by travellers in their gigs: I was not compelled, nor indeed expected, to do so; but I took pleasure in the occupation; and I remember at that period one of the principal objects of my ambition was to be a first-rate groom, and to make the skins of the creatures I took in hand look sleek and glossy like those of moles. I have said that I derived valuable hints from the old man, and, indeed, became a very tolerable groom, but there was a certain finishing touch which I could never learn from him, though he possessed it himself, and which I could never attain to by my own endeavours; though my want of success certainly did not proceed from want of application, for I have rubbed the horses down, purring and buzzing all the time, after the genuine ostler fashion, until the perspiration fell in heavy drops upon my shoes, and when I had done my best, and asked the old fellow what he thought of my work, I could never extract from him more than a kind of grunt, which might be translated: 'Not so very bad, but I have seen a horse groomed much better,' which leads me to suppose that a person, in order to be a first-rate groom, must have something in him when he is born which I had not, and, indeed, which many other people have not who pretend to be grooms. What does the reader think?



CHAPTER XXV

STABLE HARTSHORN—HOW TO MANAGE A HORSE ON A JOURNEY—YOUR BEST FRIEND

Of one thing I am certain, that the reader must be much delighted with the wholesome smell of the stable, with which many of these pages are redolent; what a contrast to the sickly odours exhaled from those of some of my contemporaries, especially of those who pretend to be of the highly fashionable class, and who treat of reception-rooms, well may they be styled so, in which dukes, duchesses, earls, countesses, archbishops, bishops, mayors, mayoresses—not forgetting the writers themselves, both male and female—congregate and press upon one another; how cheering, how refreshing, after having been nearly knocked down with such an atmosphere, to come in contact with genuine stable hartshorn. Oh! the reader shall have yet more of the stable, and of that old ostler, for which he or she will doubtless exclaim, 'Much obliged!'—and lest I should forget to perform my promise, the reader shall have it now.

I shall never forget an harangue from the mouth of the old man, which I listened to one warm evening as he and I sat on the threshold of the stable, after having attended to some of the wants of a batch of coach-horses. It related to the manner in which a gentleman should take care of his horse and self, whilst engaged in a journey on horseback, and was addressed to myself, on the supposition of my one day coming to an estate, and of course becoming a gentleman.

'When you are a gentleman,' said he, 'should you ever wish to take a journey on a horse of your own, and you could not have a much better than the one you have here eating its fill in the box yonder—I wonder by-the-by, how you ever came by it—you can't do better than follow the advice I am about to give you, both with respect to your animal and yourself. Before you start, merely give your horse a couple of handfuls of corn, and a little water, somewhat under a quart, and if you drink a pint of water yourself out of the pail, you will feel all the better during the whole day; then you may walk and trot your animal for about ten miles, till you come to some nice inn, where you may get down and see your horse led into a nice stall, telling the ostler not to feed him till you come. If the ostler happens to be a dog-fancier, and has an English terrier dog like that of mine there, say what a nice dog it is, and praise its black and tawn; and if he does not happen to be a dog-fancier, ask him how he's getting on, and whether he ever knew worse times; that kind of thing will please the ostler, and he will let you do just what you please with your own horse, and when your back is turned, he'll say to his comrades what a nice gentleman you are, and how he thinks he has seen you before; then go and sit down to breakfast, and before you have finished breakfast, get up and go and give your horse a feed of corn, chat with the ostler two or three minutes till your horse has taken the shine out of his corn, which will prevent the ostler taking any of it away when your back is turned, for such things are sometimes done—not that I ever did such a thing myself when I was at the inn at Hounslow. Oh, dear me, no! Then go and finish your breakfast, and when you have finished your breakfast and called for the newspaper, go and water your horse, letting him have about one pailful, then give him another feed of corn, and enter into discourse with the ostler about bull-baiting, the prime minister, and the like; and when your horse has once more taken the shine out of his corn, go back to your room and your newspaper—and I hope for your sake it may be the "Globe," for that's the best paper going—then pull the bell-rope and order in your bill, which you will pay without counting it up—supposing you to be a gentleman. Give the waiter sixpence, and order out your horse, and when your horse is out, pay for the corn, and give the ostler a shilling, then mount your horse and walk him gently for five miles; and whilst you are walking him in this manner, it may be as well to tell you to take care that you do not let him down and smash his knees, more especially if the road be a particularly good one, for it is not at a desperate hiverman {152} pace, and over very bad roads, that a horse tumbles and smashes his knees, but on your particularly nice road, when the horse is going gently and lazily, and is half asleep, like the gemman on his back; well, at the end of the five miles, when the horse has digested his food, and is all right, you may begin to push your horse on, trotting him a mile at a heat, and then walking him a quarter of a one, that his wind may be not distressed; and you may go on in that manner for thirty miles, never galloping of course, for none but fools or hivermen ever gallop horses on roads; and at the end of that distance you may stop at some other nice inn for dinner. I say, when your horse is led into the stable, after that same thirty miles trotting and walking, don't let the saddle be whisked off at once, for if you do your horse will have such a sore back as will frighten you, but let your saddle remain on your horse's back, with the girths loosened, till after his next feed of corn, and be sure that he has no corn, much less water, till after a long hour and more; after he is fed he may be watered to the tune of half a pail, and then the ostler can give him a regular rub down; you may then sit down to dinner, and when you have dined get up and see to your horse as you did after breakfast, in fact you must do much after the same fashion you did at t'other inn; see to your horse, and by no means disoblige the ostler. So when you have seen to your horse a second time, you will sit down to your bottle of wine—supposing you to be a gentleman—and after you have finished it, and your argument about the corn-laws with any commercial gentleman who happens to be in the room, you may mount your horse again—not forgetting to do the proper thing to the waiter and ostler; you may mount your horse again and ride him, as you did before, for about five-and-twenty miles, at the end of which you may put up for the night after a very fair day's journey, for no gentleman—supposing he weighs sixteen stone, as I suppose you will by the time you become a gentleman—ought to ride a horse more than sixty-five miles in one day, provided he has any regard for his horse's back, or his own either. See to your horse at night, and have him well rubbed down. The next day you may ride your horse forty miles just as you please, but never foolishly, and those forty miles will bring you to your journey's end, unless your journey be a plaguy long one, and if so, never ride your horse more than five-and-thirty miles a day, always, however, seeing him well fed, and taking more care of him than yourself; which is but right and reasonable, seeing as how the horse is the best animal of the two.

'When you are a gentleman,' said he, after a pause, 'the first thing you must think about is to provide yourself with a good horse for your own particular riding; you will, perhaps, keep a coach and pair, but they will be less your own than your lady's, should you have one, and your young gentry, should you have any; or, if you have neither, for madam, your housekeeper, and the upper female servants; so you need trouble your head less about them, though, of course, you would not like to pay away your money for screws; but be sure you get a good horse for your own riding; and that you may have a good chance of having a good one, buy one that's young and has plenty of belly—a little more than the one has which you now have, though you are not yet a gentleman; you will, of course, look to his head, his withers, legs and other points, but never buy a horse at any price that has not plenty of belly, no horse that has not belly is ever a good feeder, and a horse that ain't a good feeder can't be a good horse; never buy a horse that is drawn up in the belly behind, a horse of that description can't feed, and can never carry sixteen stone.

'So when you have got such a horse be proud of it—as I dare say you are of the one you have now—and wherever you go swear there ain't another to match it in the country, and if anybody gives you the lie, take him by the nose and tweak it off, just as you would do if anybody were to speak ill of your lady, or, for want of her, of your housekeeper. Take care of your horse as you would of the apple of your eye—I am sure I would, if I were a gentleman, which I don't ever expect to be, and hardly wish, seeing as how I am sixty-nine, and am rather too old to ride—yes, cherish and take care of your horse as perhaps the best friend you have in the world; for, after all, who will carry you through thick and thin as your horse will? not your gentlemen friends, I warrant, nor your housekeeper, nor your upper servants, male or female; perhaps your lady would, that is, if she is a wopper, and one of the right sort; the others would be more likely to take up mud and pelt you with it, provided they saw you in trouble, than to help you. So take care of your horse, and feed him every day with your own hands; give him three-quarters of a peck of corn each day, mixed up with a little hay-chaff, and allow him besides one hundred weight of hay in the course of the week; some say that the hay should be hardland hay, because it is wholesomest, but I say, let it be clover hay, because the horse likes it best; give him through summer and winter, once a week, a pailful of bran mash, cold in summer and in winter hot; ride him gently about the neighbourhood every day, by which means you will give exercise to yourself and horse, and, moreover, have the satisfaction of exhibiting yourself and your horse to advantage, and hearing, perhaps, the men say what a fine horse, and the ladies saying what a fine man: never let your groom mount your horse, as it is ten to one, if you do, your groom will be wishing to show off before company, and will fling your horse down. I was groom to a gemman before I went to the inn at Hounslow, and flung him a horse down worth ninety guineas, by endeavouring to show off before some ladies that I met on the road. Turn your horse out to grass throughout May and the first part of June, for then the grass is sweetest, and the flies don't sting so bad as they do later in summer; afterwards merely turn him out occasionally in the swale of the morn and the evening; after September the grass is good for little, lash and sour at best; every horse should go out to grass, if not his blood becomes full of greasy humours, and his wind is apt to become affected, but he ought to be kept as much as possible from the heat and flies, always got up at night, and never turned out late in the year—Lord! if I had always such a nice attentive person to listen to me as you are, I could go on talking about 'orses to the end of time.'



CHAPTER XXVI

THE STAGE-COACHMEN OF ENGLAND—A BULLY SERVED OUT—BROUGHTON'S GUARD—THE BRAZEN HEAD

I lived on very good terms, not only with the master and the old ostler, but with all the domestics and hangers-on at the inn: waiters, chambermaids, cooks, and scullions, not forgetting the 'boots,' of which there were three. As for the postillions, I was sworn brother with them all, and some of them went so far as to swear that I was the best fellow in the world; for which high opinion entertained by them of me, I believe I was principally indebted to the good account their comrade gave of me, whom I had so hospitably received in the dingle. I repeat that I lived on good terms with all the people connected with the inn, and was noticed and spoken kindly to by some of the guests—especially by that class termed commercial travellers—all of whom were great friends and patronizers of the landlord, and were the principal promoters of the dinner, and subscribers to the gift of plate, which I have already spoken of, the whole fraternity striking me as the jolliest set of fellows imaginable, the best customers to an inn, and the most liberal to servants; there was one description of persons, however, frequenting the inn, which I did not like at all, and which I did not get on well with, and these people were the stage-coachmen.

The stage-coachmen of England, at the time of which I am speaking, considered themselves mighty fine gentry, nay, I verily believe the most important personages of the realm, and their entertaining this high opinion of themselves can scarcely be wondered at: they were low fellows, but masters of driving; driving was in fashion, and sprigs of nobility used to dress as coachmen and imitate the slang and behaviour of coachmen, from whom occasionally they would take lessons in driving as they sat beside them on the box, which post of honour any sprig of nobility who happened to take a place on a coach claimed as his unquestionable right; and then these sprigs would smoke cigars and drink sherry with the coachmen in bar-rooms, and on the road; and, when bidding them farewell, would give them a guinea or a half-guinea, and shake them by the hand, so that these fellows, being low fellows, very naturally thought no small liquor of themselves, but would talk familiarly of their friends lords so and so, the honourable misters so and so, and Sir Harry and Sir Charles, and be wonderfully saucy to any one who was not a lord, or something of the kind; and this high opinion of themselves received daily augmentation from the servile homage paid them by the generality of the untitled male passengers, especially those on the fore part of the coach, who used to contend for the honour of sitting on the box with the coachman when no sprig was nigh to put in his claim. Oh! what servile homage these craven creatures did pay these same coach fellows, more especially after witnessing this or t'other act of brutality practised upon the weak and unoffending—upon some poor friendless woman travelling with but little money, and perhaps a brace of hungry children with her, or upon some thin and half-starved man travelling on the hind part of the coach from London to Liverpool with only eighteen pence in his pocket after his fare was paid, to defray his expenses on the road; for as the insolence of these knights was vast, so was their rapacity enormous; they had been so long accustomed to have crowns and half-crowns rained upon them by their admirers and flatterers that they would look at a shilling, for which many an honest labourer was happy to toil for ten hours under a broiling sun, with the utmost contempt; would blow upon it derisively, or fillip it into the air before they pocketed it; but when nothing was given them, as would occasionally happen—for how could they receive from those who had nothing? and nobody was bound to give them anything, as they had certain wages from their employers—then what a scene would ensue! Truly the brutality and rapacious insolence of English coachmen had reached a climax; it was time that these fellows should be disenchanted, and the time—thank Heaven!—was not far distant. Let the craven dastards who used to curry favour with them, and applaud their brutality, lament their loss now that they and their vehicles have disappeared from the roads; I, who have ever been an enemy to insolence, cruelty, and tyranny, loathe their memory, and, what is more, am not afraid to say so, well aware of the storm of vituperation, partly learnt from them, which I may expect from those who used to fall down and worship them.

Amongst the coachmen who frequented the inn was one who was called 'the bang-up coachman.' He drove to our inn in the forepart of every day, one of what were called the fast coaches, and afterwards took back the corresponding vehicle. He stayed at our house about twenty minutes, during which time the passengers of the coach which he was to return with dined; those at least who were inclined for dinner, and could pay for it. He derived his sobriquet of 'The bang-up coachman' partly from his being dressed in the extremity of coach dandyism, and partly from the peculiar insolence of his manner, and the unmerciful fashion in which he was in the habit of lashing on the poor horses committed to his charge. He was a large tall fellow, of about thirty, with a face which, had it not been bloated by excess, and insolence and cruelty stamped most visibly upon it, might have been called good-looking. His insolence, indeed, was so great that he was hated by all the minor fry connected with coaches along the road upon which he drove, especially the ostlers, whom he was continually abusing or finding fault with. Many was the hearty curse which he received when his back was turned; but the generality of people were much afraid of him, for he was a swinging strong fellow, and had the reputation of being a fighter, and in one or two instances had beaten in a barbarous manner individuals who had quarrelled with him.

I was nearly having a fracas with this worthy. One day, after he had been drinking sherry with a sprig, he swaggered into the yard where I happened to be standing; just then a waiter came by carrying upon a tray part of a splendid Cheshire cheese, with a knife, plate, and napkin. Stopping the waiter, the coachman cut with the knife a tolerably large lump out of the very middle of the cheese, stuck it on the end of the knife, and putting it to his mouth, nibbled a slight piece off it, and then, tossing the rest away with disdain, flung the knife down upon the tray, motioning the waiter to proceed. 'I wish,' said I, 'you may not want before you die what you have just flung away,' whereupon the fellow turned furiously towards me; just then, however, his coach being standing at the door, there was a cry for coachman, so that he was forced to depart, contenting himself for the present with shaking his fist at me, and threatening to serve me out on the first opportunity; before, however, the opportunity occurred he himself got served out in a most unexpected manner.

The day after this incident he drove his coach to the inn, and after having dismounted and received the contributions of the generality of the passengers, he strutted up, with a cigar in his mouth, to an individual who had come with him, and who had just asked me a question with respect to the direction of a village about three miles off, to which he was going. 'Remember the coachman,' said the knight of the box to this individual, who was a thin person of about sixty, with a white hat, rather shabby black coat and buff-coloured trowsers, and who held an umbrella and a small bundle in his hand. 'If you expect me to give you anything,' said he to the coachman, 'you are mistaken; I will give you nothing. You have been very insolent to me as I rode behind you on the coach, and have encouraged two or three trumpery fellows, who rode along with you, to cut scurvy jokes at my expense, and now you come to me for money; I am not so poor but I could have given you a shilling had you been civil; as it is, I will give you nothing.' 'Oh! you won't, won't you?' said the coachman; 'dear me! I hope I shan't starve because you won't give me anything—a shilling! Why, I could afford to give you twenty if I thought fit, you pauper! Civil to you, indeed! things are come to a fine pass if I need be civil to you! Do you know who you are speaking to? Why, the best lords in the country are proud to speak to me. Why, it was only the other day that the Marquis of —- said to me—' And then he went on to say what the Marquis said to him; after which, flinging down his cigar, he strutted up the road, swearing to himself about paupers.

'You say it is three miles to —-,' said the individual to me; 'I think I shall light my pipe, and smoke it as I go along.' Thereupon he took out from a side-pocket a tobacco-box and short meerschaum pipe, and implements for striking a light, filled his pipe, lighted it, and commenced smoking. Presently the coachman drew near; I saw at once that there was mischief in his eye; the man smoking was standing with his back towards him, and he came so nigh to him, seemingly purposely, that as he passed a puff of smoke came of necessity against his face. 'What do you mean by smoking in my face?' said he, striking the pipe of the elderly individual out of his mouth. The other, without manifesting much surprise, said, 'I thank you; and if you will wait a minute, I will give you a receipt for that favour.' Then, gathering up his pipe, and taking off his coat and hat, he laid them on a stepping-block which stood near, and rubbing his hands together, he advanced towards the coachman in an attitude of offence, holding his hands crossed very near to his face. The coachman, who probably expected anything but such a movement from a person of the age and appearance of the individual whom he had insulted, stood for a moment motionless with surprise; but, recollecting himself, he pointed at him derisively with his finger; the next moment, however, the other was close upon him, had struck aside the extended hand with his left fist, and given him a severe blow on the nose with his right, which he immediately followed by a left-hand blow in the eye; then drawing his body slightly backward, with the velocity of lightning he struck the coachman full in the mouth, and the last blow was the severest of all, for it cut the coachman's lips nearly through; blows so quickly and sharply dealt I had never seen. The coachman reeled like a fir-tree in a gale, and seemed nearly unsensed. 'Ho! what's this? a fight! a fight!' sounded from a dozen voices, and people came running from all directions to see what was going on. The coachman, coming somewhat to himself, disencumbered himself of his coat and hat; and, encouraged by two or three of his brothers of the whip, showed some symptoms of fighting, endeavouring to close with his foe, but the attempt was vain, his foe was not to be closed with; he did not shift or dodge about, but warded off the blows of his opponent with the greatest sang-froid, always using the guard which I have already described, and putting in, in return, short chopping blows with the swiftness of lightning. In a very few minutes the countenance of the coachman was literally cut to pieces, and several of his teeth were dislodged; at length he gave in; stung with mortification, however, he repented, and asked for another round; it was granted, to his own complete demolition. The coachman did not drive his coach back that day; he did not appear on the box again for a week; but he never held up his head afterwards. Before I quitted the inn he had disappeared from the road, going no one knew where.

The coachman, as I have said before, was very much disliked upon the road, but there was an esprit de corps amongst the coachmen, and those who stood by did not like to see their brother chastised in such tremendous fashion. 'I never saw such a fight before,' said one. 'Fight! why, I don't call it a fight at all, this chap here ha'n't got a scratch, whereas Tom is cut to pieces; it is all along of that guard of his; if Tom could have got within his guard he would have soon served the old chap out.' 'So he would,' said another, 'it was all owing to that guard. However, I think I see into it, and if I had not to drive this afternoon, I would have a turn with the old fellow and soon serve him out.' 'I will fight him now for a guinea,' said the other coachman, half taking off his coat; observing, however, that the elderly individual made a motion towards him, he hitched it upon his shoulder again, and added, 'that is, if he had not been fighting already, but as it is, I am above taking an advantage, especially of such a poor old creature as that.' And when he had said this, he looked around him, and there was a feeble titter of approbation from two or three of the craven crew, who were in the habit of currying favour with the coachmen. The elderly individual looked for a moment at these last, and then said: 'To such fellows as you I have nothing to say;' then turning to the coachmen, 'and as for you,' he said, 'ye cowardly bullies, I have but one word, which is, that your reign upon the roads is nearly over, and that a time is coming when ye will be no longer wanted or employed in your present capacity, when ye will either have to drive dung-carts, assist as ostlers at village ale-houses, or rot in the workhouse.' Then putting on his coat and hat, and taking up his bundle, not forgetting his meerschaum, and the rest of his smoking apparatus, he departed on his way. Filled with curiosity, I followed him.

'I am quite astonished that you should be able to use your hands in the way you have done,' said I, as I walked with this individual in the direction in which he was bound.

'I will tell you how I became able to do so,' said the elderly individual, proceeding to fill and light his pipe as he walked along. 'My father was a journeyman engraver, who lived in a very riotous neighbourhood in the outskirts of London. Wishing to give me something of an education, he sent me to a day-school, two or three streets distant from where we lived, and there, being rather a puny boy, I suffered much persecution from my school-fellows, who were a very blackguard set. One day, as I was running home, with one of my tormentors pursuing me, old Sergeant Broughton, {161} the retired fighting-man, seized me by the arm—'

'Dear me,' said I; 'has it ever been your luck to be acquainted with Sergeant Broughton?'

'You may well call it luck,' said the elderly individual; 'but for him I should never have been able to make my way through the world. He lived only four doors from our house; so, as I was running along the street, with my tyrant behind me, Sergeant Broughton seized me by the arm. "Stop, my boy," said he; "I have frequently seen that scamp ill-treating you; now I will teach you how to send him home with a bloody nose; down with your bag of books; and now, my game chick," whispered he to me, placing himself between me and my adversary, so that he could not observe his motions; "clench your fist in this manner, and hold your arms in this, and when he strikes at you, move them as I now show you, and he can't hurt you; now, don't be afraid, but go at him." I confess that I was somewhat afraid, but I considered myself in some degree under the protection of the famous Sergeant, and, clenching my fist, I went at my foe, using the guard which my ally recommended. The result corresponded to a certain degree with the predictions of the Sergeant; I gave my foe a bloody nose and a black eye, though, notwithstanding my recent lesson in the art of self-defence, he contrived to give me two or three clumsy blows. From that moment I was the especial favourite of the Sergeant, who gave me farther lessons, so that in a little time I became a very fair boxer, beating everybody of my own size who attacked me. The old gentleman, however, made me promise never to be quarrelsome, nor to turn his instructions to account, except in self-defence. I have always borne in mind my promise, and have made it a point of conscience never to fight unless absolutely compelled. Folks may rail against boxing if they please, but being able to box may sometimes stand a quiet man in good stead. How should I have fared to-day, but for the instructions of Sergeant Broughton? But for them, the brutal ruffian who insulted me must have passed unpunished. He will not soon forget the lesson which I have just given him—the only lesson he could understand. What would have been the use of reasoning with a fellow of that description? Brave old Broughton! I owe him much.'

'And your manner of fighting,' said I, 'was the manner employed by Sergeant Broughton?'

'Yes,' said my new acquaintance; 'it was the manner in which he beat every one who attempted to contend with him, till, in an evil hour, he entered the ring with Slack, {162a} without any training or preparation, and by a chance blow lost the battle to a man who had been beaten with ease by those who, in the hands of Broughton, appeared like so many children. It was the way of fighting of him who first taught Englishmen to box scientifically, who was the head and father of the fighters of what is now called the old school, the last of which were Johnson and Big Ben.' {162b}

'A wonderful man that Big Ben,' said I.

'He was so,' said the elderly individual; 'but had it not been for Broughton, I question whether Ben would have ever been the fighter he was. Oh! there is no one like old Broughton; but for him I should at the present moment be sneaking along the road, pursued by the hissings and hootings of the dirty flatterers of that black-guard coachman.'

'What did you mean,' said I, 'by those words of yours, that the coachmen would speedily disappear from the roads?'

'I meant,' said he, 'that a new method of travelling is about to be established, which will supersede the old. I am a poor engraver, as my father was before me; but engraving is an intellectual trade, and by following it, I have been brought in contact with some of the cleverest men in England. It has even made me acquainted with the projector of the scheme, which he has told me many of the wisest heads of England have been dreaming of during a period of six hundred years, and which it seems was alluded to by a certain Brazen Head in the story-book of Friar Bacon, who is generally supposed to have been a wizard, but in reality was a great philosopher. Young man, in less than twenty years, by which time I shall be dead and gone, England will be surrounded with roads of metal, on which armies may travel with mighty velocity, and of which the walls of brass and iron by which the friar proposed to defend his native land are types.' He then, shaking me by the hand, proceeded on his way, whilst I returned to the inn.



CHAPTER XXVII

FRANCIS ARDRY—HIS MISFORTUNES—DOG AND LION FIGHT—GREAT MEN OF THE WORLD

A few days after the circumstance which I have last commemorated, it chanced that, as I was standing at the door of the inn, one of the numerous stage-coaches which were in the habit of stopping there, drove up, and several passengers got down. I had assisted a woman with a couple of children to dismount, and had just delivered to her a band-box, which appeared to be her only property, which she had begged me to fetch down from the roof, when I felt a hand laid upon my shoulder, and heard a voice exclaim, 'Is it possible, old fellow, that I find you in this place?' I turned round, and wrapped in a large blue cloak, I beheld my good friend Francis Ardry. {163a} I shook him most warmly by the hand, and said, 'If you are surprised to see me, I am no less so to see you, where are you bound to?'

'I am bound for L—-, {163b} at any rate I am booked for that seaport,' said my friend in reply.

'I am sorry for it,' said I, 'for in that case we shall have to part in a quarter of an hour, the coach by which you came stopping no longer.'

'And whither are you bound?' demanded my friend.

'I am stopping at present in this house, quite undetermined as to what to do.'

'Then come along with me,' said Francis Ardry.

'That I can scarcely do,' said I, 'I have a horse in the stall which I cannot afford to ruin by racing to L—- by the side of your coach.'

My friend mused for a moment: 'I have no particular business at L—-,' said he; 'I was merely going thither to pass a day or two, till an affair, in which I am deeply interested, at C—- {164} shall come off. I think I shall stay with you for four-and-twenty hours at least; I have been rather melancholy of late, and cannot afford to part with a friend like you at the present moment; it is an unexpected piece of good fortune to have met you; and I have not been very fortunate of late,' he added, sighing.

'Well,' said I, 'I am glad to see you once more, whether fortunate or not; where is your baggage?'

'Yon trunk is mine,' said Francis, pointing to a trunk of black Russian leather upon the coach.

'We will soon have it down,' said I, and at a word which I gave to one of the hangers-on at the inn, the trunk was taken from the top of the coach. 'Now,' said I to Francis Ardry, 'follow me, I am a person of some authority in this house;' thereupon I led Francis Ardry into the house, and a word which I said to a waiter forthwith installed Francis Ardry in a comfortable private sitting-room, and his trunk in the very best sleeping-room of our extensive establishment.

It was now about one o'clock: Francis Ardry ordered dinner for two, to be ready at four, and a pint of sherry to be brought forthwith, which I requested my friend the waiter might be the very best, and which in effect turned out as I requested; we sat down, and when we had drank to each other's health, Frank requested me to make known to him how I had contrived to free myself from my embarrassments in London, what I had been about since I quitted that city, and the present posture of my affairs.

I related to Francis Ardry how I had composed the Life of Joseph Sell, and how the sale of it to the bookseller had enabled me to quit London with money in my pocket, which had supported me during a long course of ramble in the country, into the particulars of which I, however, did not enter with any considerable degree of fulness. I summed up my account by saying that 'I was at present a kind of overlooker in the stables of the inn, had still some pounds in my purse, and, moreover, a capital horse in the stall.'

'No very agreeable posture of affairs,' said Francis Ardry, looking rather seriously at me.

'I make no complaints,' said I, 'my prospects are not very bright, it is true, but sometimes I have visions, both waking and sleeping, which, though always strange, are invariably agreeable. Last night, in my chamber near the hayloft, I dreamt that I had passed over an almost interminable wilderness—an enormous wall rose before me, the wall, methought, was the great wall of China:—strange figures appeared to be beckoning to me from the top of the wall; such visions are not exactly to be sneered at. Not that such phantasmagoria,' said I, raising my voice, 'are to be compared for a moment with such desirable things as fashion, fine clothes, cheques from uncles, parliamentary interest, the love of splendid females. Ah! woman's love,' said I, and sighed.

'What's the matter with the fellow?' said Francis Ardry.

'There is nothing like it,' said I.

'Like what?'

'Love, divine love,' said I.

'Confound love,' said Francis Ardry, 'I hate the very name; I have made myself a pretty fool by it, but trust me for ever being caught at such folly again. In an evil hour I abandoned my former pursuits and amusements for it; in one morning spent at Joey's there was more real pleasure than in—'

'Surely,' said I, 'you are not hankering after dog-fighting again, a sport which none but the gross and unrefined care anything for? No, one's thoughts should be occupied by something higher and more rational than dog-fighting; and what better than love—divine love? Oh, there's nothing like it!'

'Pray, don't talk nonsense,' said Francis Ardry.

'Nonsense,' said I; 'why I was repeating, to the best of my recollection, what I heard you say on a former occasion.'

'If ever I talked such stuff,' said Francis Ardry, 'I was a fool; and indeed I cannot deny that I have been one: no, there is no denying that I have been a fool. What do you think? That false Annette {165} has cruelly abandoned me.'

'Well,' said I, 'perhaps you have yourself to thank for her having done so; did you never treat her with coldness, and repay her marks of affectionate interest with strange fits of eccentric humour?'

'Lord! how little you know of women,' said Francis Ardry; 'had I done as you suppose, I should probably have possessed her at the present moment. I treated her in a manner diametrically opposite to that. I loaded her with presents, was always most assiduous to her, always at her feet, as I may say, yet she nevertheless abandoned me—and for whom? I am almost ashamed to say—for a fiddler.'

I took a glass of wine, Francis Ardry followed my example, and then proceeded to detail to me the treatment which he had experienced from Annette, and from what he said, it appeared that her conduct to him had been in the highest degree reprehensible; notwithstanding he had indulged her in everything, she was never civil to him, but loaded him continually with taunts and insults, and had finally, on his being unable to supply her with a sum of money which she had demanded, decamped from the lodgings which he had taken for her, carrying with her all the presents which at various times he had bestowed upon her, and had put herself under the protection of a gentleman who played the bassoon at the Italian Opera, at which place it appeared that her sister had lately been engaged as a danseuse. My friend informed me that at first he had experienced great agony at the ingratitude of Annette, but at last had made up his mind to forget her, and in order more effectually to do so, had left London with the intention of witnessing a fight, which was shortly coming off at a town in these parts, between some dogs and a lion; {166} which combat, he informed me, had for some time past been looked forward to with intense eagerness by the gentlemen of the sporting world.

I commended him for his resolution, at the same time advising him not to give up his mind entirely to dog-fighting, as he had formerly done, but, when the present combat should be over, to return to his rhetorical studies, and above all to marry some rich and handsome lady on the first opportunity, as, with his person and expectations, he had only to sue for the hand of the daughter of a marquis to be successful, telling him, with a sigh, that all women were not Annettes, and that upon the whole there was nothing like them. To which advice he answered, that he intended to return to rhetoric as soon as the lion fight should be over, but that he never intended to marry, having had enough of women; adding, that he was glad he had no sister, as, with the feelings which he entertained with respect to her sex, he should be unable to treat her with common affection, and concluded by repeating a proverb which he had learnt from an Arab whom he had met at Venice, to the effect that, 'one who has been stung by a snake, shivers at the sight of a string.'

After a little more conversation, we strolled to the stable, where my horse was standing; my friend, who was a connoisseur in horse-flesh, surveyed the animal with attention, and after inquiring where and how I had obtained him, asked what I intended to do with him; on my telling him that I was undetermined, and that I was afraid the horse was likely to prove a burden to me, he said, 'It is a noble animal, and if you mind what you are about, you may make a small fortune by him. I do not want such an animal myself, nor do I know any one who does; but a great horse-fair will be held shortly at a place where, it is true, I have never been, but of which I have heard a great deal from my acquaintances, where it is said a first-rate horse is always sure to fetch its value; that place is Horncastle, in Lincolnshire; you should take him thither.'

Francis Ardry and myself dined together, and after dinner partook of a bottle of the best port which the inn afforded. After a few glasses, we had a great deal of conversation; I again brought the subject of marriage and love, divine love, upon the carpet, but Francis almost immediately begged me to drop it; and on my having the delicacy to comply, he reverted to dog-fighting, on which he talked well and learnedly; amongst other things, he said that it was a princely sport of great antiquity, and quoted from Quintus Curtius to prove that the princes of India must have been of the fancy, they having, according to that author, treated Alexander to a fight between certain dogs and a lion. Becoming, notwithstanding my friend's eloquence and learning, somewhat tired of the subject, I began to talk about Alexander. Francis Ardry said he was one of the two great men whom the world has produced, the other being Napoleon; I replied that I believed Tamerlane was a greater man than either; but Francis Ardry knew nothing of Tamerlane, save what he had gathered from the play of Timour the Tartar. 'No,' said he; 'Alexander and Napoleon are the great men of the world, their names are known everywhere. Alexander has been dead upwards of two thousand years, but the very English bumpkins sometimes christen their boys by the name of Alexander—can there be a greater evidence of his greatness? As for Napoleon, there are some parts of India in which his bust is worshipped.' Wishing to make up a triumvirate I mentioned the name of Wellington, to which Francis Ardry merely said, 'bah!' and resumed the subject of dog-fighting.

Francis Ardry remained at the inn during that day and the next, and then departed to the dog and lion fight; I never saw him afterwards, and merely heard of him once after the lapse of some years, and what I then heard was not exactly what I could have wished to hear. He did not make much of the advantages which he possessed, a pity, for how great were those advantages—person, intellect, eloquence, connection, riches! yet, with all these advantages, one thing highly needful seems to have been wanting in Francis. A desire, a craving, to perform something great and good. Oh! what a vast deal may be done with intellect, courage, riches, accompanied by the desire of doing something great and good! Why, a person may carry the blessings of civilization and religion to barbarous, yet at the same time to beautiful and romantic lands; and what a triumph there is for him who does so! What a crown of glory! of far greater value that those surrounding the brows of your mere conquerors. Yet who has done so in these times? Not many; not three, not two, something seems to have been always wanting: there is, however, one instance in which the various requisites have been united, and the crown, the most desirable in the world—at least which I consider to be the most desirable—achieved, and only one, that of Brooke of Borneo. {168}



CHAPTER XXVIII

MR. PLATITUDE AND THE MAN IN BLACK—THE POSTILLION'S ADVENTURES—THE LONE HOUSE—A GOODLY ASSEMBLAGE

It never rains, but it pours. I was destined to see at this inn more acquaintances than one. On the day of Francis Ardry's departure, shortly after he had taken leave of me, as I was standing in the corn-chamber at a kind of writing-table or desk, fastened to the wall, with a book before me, in which I was making out an account of the corn and hay lately received and distributed, my friend the postillion came running in out of breath. 'Here they both are,' he gasped out; 'pray do come and look at them!'

'Whom do you mean?' said I.

'Why, that red-haired Jack Priest, and that idiotic parson, Platitude; they have just been set down by one of the coaches, and want a post-chaise to go across the country in; and what do you think? I am to have the driving of them. I have no time to lose, for I must get myself ready: so do come and look at them.'

I hastened into the yard of the inn; two or three of the helpers of our establishment were employed in drawing forward a post-chaise out of the chaise-house, which occupied one side of the yard, and which was spacious enough to contain nearly twenty of these vehicles, though it was never full, several of them being always out upon the roads, as the demand upon us for post-chaises across the country was very great. 'There they are,' said the postillion, softly, nodding towards two individuals, in one of whom I recognised the man in black, and in the other Mr. Platitude; 'there they are; have a good look at them, while I go and get ready.' The man in black and Mr. Platitude were walking up and down the yard, Mr. Platitude was doing his best to make himself appear ridiculous, talking very loudly in exceedingly bad Italian, evidently for the purpose of attracting the notice of the bystanders, in which he succeeded, all the stable-boys and hangers on about the yard, attracted by his vociferation, grinning at his ridiculous figure as he limped up and down. The man in black said little or nothing, but from the glances which he cast sideways appeared to be thoroughly ashamed of his companion; the worthy couple presently arrived close to where I was standing, and the man in black, who was nearest to me, perceiving me, stood still as if hesitating, but recovering himself in a moment, he moved on without taking any further notice; Mr. Platitude exclaimed as they passed, in broken lingo, 'I hope we shall find the holy doctors all assembled,' and as they returned, 'I make no doubt that they will all be rejoiced to see me.' Not wishing to be standing an idle gazer, I went to the chaise and assisted in attaching the horses, which had now been brought out, to the pole. The postillion presently arrived, and finding all ready took the reins and mounted the box, whilst I very politely opened the door for the two travellers; Mr. Platitude got in first, and, without taking any notice of me, seated himself on the farther side. In got the man in black and seated himself nearest to me. 'All is right,' said I, as I shut the door, whereupon the postillion cracked his whip, and the chaise drove out of the yard. Just as I shut the door, however, and just as Mr. Platitude had recommenced talking in jergo, at the top of his voice, the man in black turned his face partly towards me, and gave me a wink with his left eye.

I did not see my friend the postillion till the next morning, when he gave me an account of the adventures he had met with on his expedition. It appeared that he had driven the man in black and the Reverend Platitude across the country by roads and lanes which he had some difficulty in threading. At length, when he had reached a part of the country where he had never been before, the man in black pointed out to him a house near the corner of a wood, to which he informed him they were bound. The postillion said it was a strange-looking house, with a wall round it; and, upon the whole, bore something of the look of a madhouse. There was already a post-chaise at the gate, from which three individuals had alighted—one of them the postillion said was a mean-looking scoundrel, with a regular petty-larceny expression in his countenance. He was dressed very much like the man in black, and the postillion said that he could almost have taken his bible oath that they were both of the same profession. The other two he said were parsons, he could swear that, though he had never seen them before; there could be no mistake about them. Church of England parsons the postillion swore they were, with their black coats, white cravats, and airs, in which clumsiness and conceit were most funnily blended—Church of England parsons of the Platitude description, who had been in Italy, and seen the Pope, and kissed his toe, and picked up a little broken Italian, and come home greater fools than they went forth. It appeared that they were all acquaintances of Mr. Platitude, for when the postillion had alighted and let Mr. Platitude and his companion out of the chaise, Mr. Platitude shook the whole three by the hand, conversed with his two brothers in a little broken jergo, and addressed the petty-larceny looking individual by the title of Reverend Doctor. In the midst of these greetings, however, the postillion said the man in black came up to him, and proceeded to settle with him for the chaise; he had shaken hands with nobody, and had merely nodded to the others; 'and now,' said the postillion, 'he evidently wished to get rid of me, fearing, probably, that I should see too much of the nonsense that was going on. It was whilst settling with me that he seemed to recognise me for the first time, for he stared hard at me, and at last asked whether I had not been in Italy; to which question, with a nod and a laugh, I replied that I had. I was then going to ask him about the health of the image of Holy Mary, and to say that I hoped it had recovered from its horsewhipping; but he interrupted me, paid me the money for the fare, and gave me a crown for myself, saying he would not detain me any longer. I say, partner, I am a poor postillion, but when he gave me the crown I had a good mind to fling it in his face. I reflected, however, that it was not mere gift-money, but coin which I had earned, and hardly too, so I put it in my pocket, and I bethought me, moreover, that, knave as I knew him to be, he had always treated me with civility; so I nodded to him, and he said something which, perhaps, he meant for Latin, but which sounded very much like "vails," and by which he doubtless alluded to the money which he had given me. He then went into the house with the rest, the coach drove away which had brought the others, and I was about to get on the box and follow; observing, however, two more chaises driving up, I thought I would be in no hurry, so I just led my horses and chaise a little out of the way, and pretending to be occupied about the harness, I kept a tolerably sharp look-out at the new arrivals. Well, partner, the next vehicle that drove up was a gentleman's carriage which I knew very well, as well as those with it, who were a father and son, the father a good kind of old gentleman, and a justice of the peace, therefore not very wise, as you may suppose; the son a puppy who has been abroad, where he contrived to forget his own language, though only nine months absent, and now rules the roast over his father and mother, whose only child he is, and by whom he is thought wondrous clever. So this foreigneering chap brings his poor old father to this out of the way house to meet these Platitudes and petty larceny villains, and perhaps would have brought his mother too, only, simple thing, by good fortune she happens to be laid up with the rheumatiz. Well, the father and son, I beg pardon I mean the son and father, got down and went in, and then after their carriage was gone, the chaise behind drove up, in which was a huge fat fellow, weighing twenty stone at least, but with something of a foreign look, and with him—who do you think? Why, a rascally Unitarian minister—that is, a fellow who had been such a minister—but who some years ago leaving his own people, who had bred him up and sent him to their college at York, went over to the High Church, and is now, I suppose, going over to some other church, for he was talking, as he got down, wondrous fast in Latin, or what sounded something like Latin, to the fat fellow, who appeared to take things wonderfully easy, and merely grunted to the dog Latin which the scoundrel had learnt at the expense of the poor Unitarians at York. So they went into the house, and presently arrived another chaise, but ere I could make any farther observations, the porter of the out-of-the-way house came up to me, asking what I was stopping there for? bidding me go away, and not pry into other people's business. "Pretty business," said I to him, "that is being transacted in a play like this," and then I was going to say something uncivil, but he went to attend to the new comers, and I took myself away on my own business as he bade me, not however, before observing that these two last were a couple of blackcoats.'

The postillion then proceeded to relate how he made the best of his way to a small public-house, about a mile off, where he had intended to bait, and how he met on the way a landau and pair, belonging to a Scotch coxcomb whom he had known in London, about whom he related some curious particulars, and then continued: 'Well, after I had passed him and his turn-out, I drove straight to the public-house, where I baited my horses, and where I found some of the chaises and drivers who had driven the folks to the lunatic-looking mansion, and were now waiting to take them up again. Whilst my horses were eating their bait, I sat me down, as the weather was warm, at a table outside, and smoked a pipe and drank some ale, in company with the coachman of the old gentleman who had gone to the house with his son, and the coachman then told me that the house was a Papist house, and that the present was a grand meeting of all the fools and rascals in the country, who came to bow down to images, and to concert schemes—pretty schemes, no doubt—for overturning the religion of the country, and that for his part he did not approve of being concerned with such doings, and that he was going to give his master warning next day. So, as we were drinking and discoursing, up drove the chariot of the Scotchman, and down got his valet and the driver, and whilst the driver was seeing after the horses, the valet came and sat down at the table where the gentleman's coachman and I were drinking. I knew the fellow well, a Scotchman like his master, and just of the same kidney, with white kid gloves, red hair frizzled, a patch of paint on his face, and his hands covered with rings. This very fellow, I must tell you, was one of those most busy in endeavouring to get me turned out of the servants' club in Park Lane, because I happened to serve a literary man; so he sat down, and in a kind of affected tone cried out, "Landlord, bring me a glass of cold negus." The landlord, however, told him that there was no negus, but that if he pleased he could have a jug of as good beer as any in the country. "Confound the beer," said the valet, "do you think I am accustomed to such vulgar beverage?" However, as he found there was nothing better to be had, he let the man bring him some beer, and when he had got it, soon showed that he could drink it easily enough; so, when he had drank two or three draughts, he turned his eyes in a contemptuous manner, first on the coachman and then on me; I saw the scamp recollected me, for after staring at me and at my dress for about half a minute, he put on a broad grin, and flinging his head back he uttered a loud laugh. Well, I did not like this, as you may well believe, and taking the pipe out of my mouth, I asked him if he meant anything personal, to which he answered that he had said nothing to me, and that he had a right to look where he pleased, and laugh when he pleased. Well, as to a certain extent he was right as to looking and laughing, and as I have occasionally looked at a fool and laughed, though I was not the fool in this instance, I put my pipe into my mouth and said no more. This quiet and well-regulated behaviour of mine, however, the fellow interpreted into fear; so, after drinking a little more, he suddenly started up, and striding once or twice before the table, he asked me what I meant by that impertinent question of mine, saying that he had a good mind to wring my nose for my presumption. "You have?" said I, getting up and laying down my pipe. "Well, I'll now give you an opportunity." So I put myself in an attitude, and went up to him, saying, "I have an old score to settle with you, you scamp; you wanted to get me turned out of the club, didn't you?" And thereupon, remembering that he had threatened to wring my nose, I gave him a snorter upon his own. I wish you could have seen the fellow when he felt the smart; so far from trying to defend himself, he turned round, and with his hand to his face, attempted to run away, but I was now in a regular passion, and following him up, got before him, and was going to pummel away at him when he burst into tears, and begged me not to hurt him, saying that he was sorry if he had offended me, and that, if I pleased, he would go down on his knees, or do anything else I wanted. Well, when I heard him talk in this manner, I, of course, let him be; I could hardly help laughing at the figure he cut, his face all blubbered with tears and blood and paint; but I did not laugh at the poor creature either, but went to the table and took up my pipe and smoked and drank as if nothing had happened; and the fellow, after having been to the pump, came and sat down, crying and trying to curry favour with me and the coachman; presently, however, putting on a confidential look, he began to talk of the Popish house, and of the doings there, and said he supposed as how we were of the party, and that it was all right; and then he began to talk of the Pope of Rome, and what a nice man he was, and what a fine thing it was to be of his religion, especially if folks went over to him; and how it advanced them in the world, and gave them consideration; and how his master, who had been abroad and seen the Pope, and kissed his toe, was going over to the Popish religion, and had persuaded him to consent to do so, and to forsake his own, which I think the scoundrel called the 'Piscopal Church of Scotland, and how many others of that Church were going over, thinking to better their condition in life by so doing, and to be more thought on; and how many of the English Church were thinking of going over too—and that he had no doubt that it would all end right and comfortably.' Well, as he was going on in this way, the old coachman began to spit, and getting up, flung all the beer that was in his jug upon the ground, and going away, ordered another jug of beer, and sat down at another table, saying that he would not drink in such company; and I, too, got up, and flung what beer remained in my jug—there wasn't more than a drop—in the fellow's face, saying I would scorn to drink any more in such company; and then I went to my horses, put them to, paid my reckoning, and drove home.'

The postillion having related his story, to which I listened with all due attention, mused for a moment, and then said: 'I dare say you remember how, some time since, when old Bill had been telling us how the Government a long time ago had done away with robbing on the highway by putting down the public-houses and places which the highwaymen frequented, and by sending out a good mounted police to hunt them down, I said that it was a shame that the present Government did not employ somewhat the same means in order to stop the proceedings of Mumbo Jumbo and his gang now-a-days in England. Howsomever, since I have driven a fare to a Popish rendezvous, and seen something of what is going on there, I should conceive that the Government are justified in allowing the gang the free exercise of their calling. Anybody is welcome to stoop and pick up nothing or worse than nothing, and if Mumbo Jumbo's people, after their expeditions, return to their haunts with no better plunder in the shape of converts than what I saw going into yonder place of call, I should say they are welcome to what they get; for if that's the kind of rubbish they steal out of the Church of England, or any other Church, who in his senses but would say a good riddance, and many thanks for your trouble; at any rate, that is my opinion of the matter.'



CHAPTER XXIX

DELIBERATIONS WITH SELF—RESOLUTION—INVITATION TO DINNER—THE COMMERCIAL TRAVELLER—THE LANDLORD'S OFFER—THE COMET WINE

It was now that I had frequent deliberations with myself. Should I continue at the inn in my present position? I was not very much captivated with it; there was little poetry in keeping an account of the corn, hay, and straw which came in, and was given out, and I was fond of poetry; moreover, there was no glory at all to be expected in doing so, and I was fond of glory. Should I give up that situation, and remaining at the inn, become ostler under old Bill? There was more poetry in rubbing down horses than in keeping an account of straw, hay, and corn; there was also some prospect of glory attached to the situation of ostler, for the grooms and stable-boys occasionally talked of an ostler, a great way down the road, who had been presented by some sporting people, not with a silver vase, as our governor had been, but with a silver currycomb, in testimony of their admiration for his skill; but I confess that the poetry of rubbing down had become, as all other poetry becomes, rather prosy by frequent repetition, and with respect to the chance of deriving glory from the employment, I entertained in the event of my determining to stay, very slight hope of ever attaining skill in the ostler art sufficient to induce sporting people to bestow upon me a silver currycomb. I was not half so good an ostler as old Bill, who had never been presented with a silver currycomb, and I never expected to become so, therefore what chance had I? It was true, there was a prospect of some pecuniary emolument to be derived by remaining in either situation. It was very probable that, provided I continued to keep an account of the hay and corn coming in and expended, the landlord would consent to allow me a pound a week, which at the end of a dozen years, provided I kept myself sober, would amount to a considerable sum. I might, on the retirement of old Bill, by taking his place, save up a decent sum of money, provided, unlike him, I kept myself sober, and laid by all the shillings and sixpences I got; but the prospect of laying up a decent sum of money was not of sufficient importance to induce me to continue either at my wooden desk, or in the inn-yard. The reader will remember what difficulty I had to make up my mind to become a merchant under the Armenian's auspices, even with the prospect of making two or three hundred thousand pounds by following the Armenian way of doing business, so it was not probable that I should feel disposed to be book-keeper or ostler all my life with no other prospect than being able to make a tidy sum of money. If, indeed, besides the prospect of making a tidy-sum at the end of perhaps forty years ostlering, I had been certain of being presented with a silver currycomb with my name engraved upon it, which I might have left to my descendants, or, in default thereof, to the parish church destined to contain my bones, with directions that it might be soldered into the wall above the arch leading from the body of the church into the chancel—I will not say that with such a certainty of immortality, combined with such a prospect of moderate pecuniary advantage, I might not have thought it worth my while to stay, but I entertained no such certainty, and taking everything into consideration, I determined to mount my horse and leave the inn.

This horse had caused me for some time past no little perplexity; I had frequently repented of having purchased him, more especially as the purchase had been made with another person's money, and had more than once shown him to people who, I imagined, were likely to purchase him; but, though they were profuse in his praise, as people generally are in the praise of what they don't intend to purchase, they never made me an offer, and now that I had determined to mount on his back and ride away, what was I to do with him in the sequel? I could not maintain him long. Suddenly I bethought me of Horncastle, which Francis Ardry had mentioned as a place where the horse was likely to find a purchaser, and not having determined upon any particular place to which to repair, I thought that I could do no better than betake myself to Horncastle in the first instance, and there endeavour to dispose of my horse.

On making inquiries with respect to the situation of Horncastle, and the time when the fair would be held, I learned that the town was situated in Lincolnshire, about a hundred and fifty miles from the inn at which I was at present sojourning, and that the fair would be held nominally within about a month, but that it was always requisite to be on the spot some days before the nominal day of the fair, as all the best horses were generally sold before that time, and the people who came to purchase gone away with what they had bought.

The people of the inn were very sorry on being informed of my determination to depart. Old Bill told me that he had hoped as how I had intended to settle down there, and to take his place as ostler when he was fit for no more work, adding, that though I did not know much of the business, yet he had no doubt but that I might improve. My friend the postillion was particularly sorry, and taking me with him to the tap-room called for two pints of beer, to one of which he treated me; and whilst we were drinking told me how particularly sorry he was at the thought of my going, but that he hoped I should think better of the matter. On my telling him that I must go, he said that he trusted I should put off my departure for three weeks, in order that I might be present at his marriage, the banns of which were just about to be published. He said that nothing would give him greater pleasure than to see me dance a minuet with his wife after the marriage dinner; but I told him it was impossible that I should stay, my affairs imperatively calling me elsewhere; and that with respect to my dancing a minuet, such a thing was out of the question, as I had never learned to dance. At which he said that he was exceedingly sorry, and finding me determined to go, wished me success in all my undertakings.

The master of the house, to whom, as in duty bound, I communicated my intention before I spoke of it to the servants, was, I make no doubt, very sorry, though he did not exactly tell me so. What he said was, that he had never expected that I should remain long there, as such a situation never appeared to him quite suitable to me, though I had been very diligent, and had given him perfect satisfaction. On his inquiring when I intended to depart, I informed him next day, whereupon he begged that I would defer my departure till the next day but one, and do him the favour of dining with him on the morrow. I informed him that I should be only too happy.

On the following day at four o'clock I dined with the landlord, in company with a commercial traveller. The dinner was good, though plain, consisting of boiled mackerel—rather a rarity in those parts at that time—with fennel sauce, a prime baron of roast beef after the mackerel, then a tart and noble Cheshire cheese; we had prime sherry at dinner, and whilst eating the cheese prime porter, that of Barclay, the only good porter in the world. After the cloth was removed we had a bottle of very good port; and whilst partaking of the port I had an argument with the commercial traveller on the subject of the corn-laws.

The commercial traveller, having worsted me in the argument on the subject of the corn-laws, got up in great glee, saying that he must order his gig, as business must be attended to. Before leaving the room, however, he shook me patronizingly by the hand, and said something to the master of the house, but in so low a tone that it escaped my ear.

No sooner had he departed than the master of the house told me that his friend the traveller had just said that I was a confounded sensible young fellow, and not at all opinionated, a sentiment in which he himself perfectly agreed—then hemming once or twice, he said that as I was going on a journey he hoped I was tolerably well provided with money, adding that travelling was rather expensive, especially on horseback, the manner in which he supposed, as I had a horse in the stable, I intended to travel. I told him that though I was not particularly well supplied with money, I had sufficient for the expenses of my journey, at the end of which I hoped to procure more. He then hemmed again, and said that since I had been at the inn I had rendered him a great deal of service in more ways than one, and that he could not think of permitting me to depart without making me some remuneration; then putting his hand into his waistcoat pocket he handed me a cheque for ten pounds, which he had prepared beforehand, the value of which he said I could receive at the next town, or that, if I wished it, any waiter in the house would cash it for me. I thanked him for his generosity in the best terms I could select, but, handing him back his cheque, I told him that I could not accept it, saying that, so far from his being my debtor, I believed myself to be indebted to him, as not only myself but my horse had been living at his house for several weeks. He replied that, as for my board at a house like his, it amounted to nothing, and as for the little corn and hay which the horse had consumed it was of no consequence, and that he must insist upon my taking the cheque. But I again declined, telling him that doing so would be a violation of a rule which I had determined to follow, and which nothing but the greatest necessity would ever compel me to break through—never to incur obligations. 'But,' said he, 'receiving this money will not be incurring an obligation: it is your due.' 'I do not think so,' said I; 'I did not engage to serve you for money, nor will I take any from you.' 'Perhaps you will take it as a loan?' said he. 'No,' I replied, 'I never borrow.' 'Well,' said the landlord, smiling, 'you are different from all others that I am acquainted with. I never yet knew any one else who scrupled to borrow and receive obligations. Why, there are two baronets in this neighbourhood who have borrowed money of me, ay, and who have never repaid what they borrowed; and there are a dozen squires who are under considerable obligations to me, who I dare say will never return them. Come, you need not be more scrupulous than your superiors—I mean in station.' 'Every vessel must stand on its own bottom,' said I; 'they take pleasure in receiving obligations, I take pleasure in being independent. Perhaps they are wise, and I am a fool, I know not, but one thing I am certain of, which is, that were I not independent I should be very unhappy: I should have no visions then.' 'Have you any relations?' said the landlord, looking at me compassionately. 'Excuse me, but I don't think you are exactly fit to take care of yourself.' 'There you are mistaken,' said I, 'I can take precious good care of myself; ay, and can drive a precious hard bargain when I have occasion, but driving bargains is a widely different thing from receiving gifts. I am going to take my horse to Horncastle, and when there I shall endeavour to obtain his full value—ay, to the last penny.'

'Horncastle!' said the landlord, 'I have heard of that place; you mustn't be dreaming visions when you get there, or they'll steal the horse from under you. Well,' said he, rising, 'I shall not press you farther on the subject of the cheque. I intend, however, to put you under an obligation to me.' He then rang the bell, and having ordered two fresh glasses to be brought, he went out and presently returned with a small pint bottle, which he uncorked with his own hand; then sitting down, he said: 'The wine that I bring here, is port of eighteen hundred and eleven, the year of the comet, the best vintage on record; the wine which we have been drinking,' he added, 'is good, but not to be compared with this, which I never sell, and which I am chary of. When you have drank some of it, I think you will own that I have conferred an obligation upon you;' he then filled the glasses, the wine which he poured out diffusing an aroma through the room; then motioning me to drink, he raised his own glass to his lips, saying: 'Come, friend, I drink to your success at Horncastle.'



CHAPTER XXX

TRIUMPHAL DEPARTURE—NO SEASON LIKE YOUTH—EXTREME OLD AGE—BEAUTIFUL ENGLAND—THE RATCATCHER—A MISADVENTURE

I departed from the inn much in the same fashion as I had come to it, mounted on a splendid horse indifferently well caparisoned, with the small valise attached to my crupper, in which, besides the few things I had brought with me, was a small book of roads with a map, which had been presented to me by the landlord. I must not forget to state that I did not ride out of the yard, but that my horse was brought to me at the front door by old Bill, who insisted upon doing so, and who refused a five-shilling piece which I offered him; and it will be as well to let the reader know that the landlord shook me by the hand as I mounted, and that the people attached to the inn, male and female—my friend the postillion at the head—assembled before the house to see me off, and gave me three cheers as I rode away. Perhaps no person ever departed from an inn with more eclat or better wishes; nobody looked at me askance, except two stage-coachmen who were loitering about, one of whom said to his companion, 'I say, Jim! twig his portmanteau! a regular Newmarket turn out by —-!'

It was in the cool of the evening of a bright day—all the days of that summer were bright—that I departed. I felt at first rather melancholy at finding myself again launched into the wide world, and leaving the friends whom I had lately made behind me; but by occasionally trotting the horse, and occasionally singing a song of Romanvile, {182a} I had dispelled the feeling of melancholy by the time I had proceeded three miles down the main road. It was at the end of these three miles, just opposite a milestone, that I struck into a cross road. After riding about seven miles, threading what are called, in postillion parlance, cross-country roads, I reached another high road, tending to the east, along which I proceeded for a mile or two, when coming to a small inn, about nine o'clock, I halted and put up for the night.

Early on the following morning I proceeded on my journey, but fearing to gall the horse, I no longer rode him, but led him by the bridle, until I came to a town at the distance of about ten miles from the place where I had passed the night. Here I stayed during the heat of the day, more on the horse's account than my own, and towards evening resumed my journey, leading the animal by the bridle as before; and in this manner I proceeded for several days, travelling on an average from twenty to twenty-five miles a day, always leading the animal, except perhaps now and then of an evening, when, if I saw a good piece of road before me, I would mount and put the horse into a trot, which the creature seemed to enjoy as much as myself, showing his satisfaction by snorting and neighing, whilst I gave utterance to my own exhilaration by shouts, or by 'the chi she is kaulo she soves pre lakie dumo,' {182b} or by something else of the same kind in Romanvile.

On the whole, I journeyed along very pleasantly, certainly quite as pleasantly as I do at present, now that I am become a gentleman, and weigh sixteen stone, though some people would say that my present manner of travelling is much the most preferable, riding as I now do, instead of leading my horse; receiving the homage of ostlers instead of their familiar nods; sitting down to dinner in the parlour of the best inn I can find, instead of passing the brightest part of the day in the kitchen of a village alehouse; carrying on my argument after dinner on the subject of the corn-laws, with the best commercial gentlemen on the road, instead of being glad, whilst sipping a pint of beer, to get into conversation with blind trampers, or maimed Abraham sailors, {183} regaling themselves on half-pints at the said village hostelries. Many people will doubtless say that things have altered wonderfully with me for the better, and they would say right, provided I possessed now what I then carried about with me in my journeys—the spirit of youth. Youth is the only season for enjoyment, and the first twenty-five years of one's life are worth all the rest of the longest life of man, even though those five-and-twenty be spent in penury and contempt, and the rest in the possession of wealth, honours, respectability, ay, and many of them in strength and health, such as will enable one to ride forty miles before dinner, and over one's pint of port—for the best gentleman in the land should not drink a bottle—carry on one's argument, with gravity and decorum, with any commercial gentleman who, responsive to one's challenge, takes the part of common sense and humanity against 'protection' and the lord of land.

Ah! there is nothing like youth—not that after-life is valueless. Even in extreme old age one may get on very well, provided we will but accept of the bounties of God. I met the other day an old man, who asked me to drink. 'I am not thirsty,' said I, 'and will not drink with you.' 'Yes, you will,' said the old man, 'for I am this day one hundred years old; and you will never again have an opportunity of drinking the health of a man on his hundredth birthday.' So I broke my word, and drank. 'Yours is a wonderful age,' said I. 'It's a long time to look back to the beginning of it,' said the old man: 'yet, upon the whole, I am not sorry to have lived it all.' 'How have you passed your time?' said I. 'As well as I could,' said the old man; 'always enjoying a good thing when it came honestly within my reach; not forgetting to praise God for putting it there.' 'I suppose you were fond of a glass of good ale when you were young?' 'Yes,' said the old man, 'I was; and so, thank God, I am still.' And he drank off a glass of ale.

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