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Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king." Where there's a will, there's a way. I said so to myself, as I walked down Chancery-lane, about half-past;six o'clock on Monday the 10th of December, to inquire" at Jack Randall's where the fight the next day was to be ; and I found the proverb” nothing “ musty” in the present instance. I was determined to see this fight, come what would, and see it I did, in great štyle. It was my first fight, yet it more than answered my expectitious. Ladies! it is to you I dedicate this description; nor let it seem out of character for the fair to notice the exploits of the brave. Courage and modesty are the old English virtues; and may they never look cold and askance on one another! Think, ye fairest of the fair, loveliest of the lovely kind, ye practisers of soft enchantment, how many more ye kill with poisoned baits than ever fell in the ring; and listen with subdued air and without shuddering, to a tale tragic only in appearance, and sacred to the Fancy!
I was going down Chancery-lane, thinking to ask at Jack Randall's where the fight was to be, when looking through the glass-door of the Hole in the Wall
, I heard a gentleman asking the same question at Mrs. Randall
, as the author of Waverley would express it. Now Mrs. Randall stood answering the gentleman's question, with the authenticity of the lady of the Champion of the Light Weights. Thinks I, I'll wait till this person comes out, and learn from him how it is. For to say a truth, I was not fond of going into this house of call for heroes and philosophers, ever since the owner of it (for Jack is no gentleman) threatened once upon a time to kick me out of doors for wanting å mutton-chop at his hospitable board, when the conqueror in thirteen battles was more full of blue ruin than of good manners. I was the more mortified at this repulse, inasmuch as I had heard Mr. James Simpkins, hosier in the Strand, one day when the character of the Hole in the Wall was brought in question, observe—“The house is a very good house, and the company quite genteel: I have been there myself?" Remembering this unkind treatment of mine host, to which mine hostess was also a party, and not wishing to put her in unquiet thoughts at a time jubilant like the present, I waited at the door, when, who should issue forth but my friend Jo. Toms, and turning suddenly up. Chancerylane with that quick jerk and impatient stride which distinguishes a lover of the Fancy, I said, “I'll be hanged if that fellow is not going to the fight, and is on his way to get me to go with him.” So it proved in effect, and we agreed to adjourn to my lodgings to discuss measures with that cordiality which makes old friends like new, and new friends like old, on great occasions. We are cold to others only when we are dull in ourselves, and have neither thoughts nor feelings to impart to them. Give a man a topic in his head, a throb of pleasure in his heart, and he will be glad to share it with the first person he meets. Toms and I, though we seldom meet, were an alter idem on this memorable occasion, and had not an idea that we did not candidly impart; and “ so carelessly did we fleet the time,” that I wish no better, when there is another fight, than to have him for a companion on my journey down, and to return with my friend Jack Pigott, talking of what was to Aappen or of what did happen, with a noble subject always at hand, and liberty to digress to others whenever they offered. Indeed, on my repeating the lines from Spencer in an involuntary fit of enthusiasm, 1
“ What more felicity can fall to creature,
Than to enjoy delight with liberty ?” my last-named ingenious friend stopped me by saying that this, translated into the vulgate, meant“ Going to see a fight."
Jo. Toms and I could not settle about the method of going down. He said there was a caravan, he understood, to start from Tom Belcher's at two, which would go there right out and back again the next day. Now I never travel all night, and said I should get a cast to Newbury by one of the mails. Jo. swore the thing was impossible, and I could only answer that I had made up my mind to it. In short, he seemed to me to waver, said he only came to see if I was going, had letters to write, a cause coming on the day after, and faintly said at parting (for I was bent on setting out that moment)—“Well, we meet at Philippi!" I made the best of my way to Piccadilly. The mail coach stand was bare. “ They are all gone,” said — this is always the way with me in the instant I lose the future—if I had not stayed to pour out that last cup of tea, I should have been just in time”-and cursing my folly and ill-luck together, without inquiring at the coach-office whether the mails were gone or not, I walked on in despite, and to punish my own dilatoriness and want of determination. At any rate, I would not turn back: I might get to Hounslow, or perhaps farther, to be on my road the next morning. I passed Hyde Park Corner (my Rubicon), and trusted to fortune. Suddenly I heard the clattering of a Brentford stage, and the fight rushed full upon my fancy. I argued (not unwisely) that even a Brentford coachman was better company than my own thoughts (such as they were just then), and at his invitation mounted the box with him. I immediately stated my case to him-namely, my quarrel with myself for missing the Bath or Bristol mail, and my determination to get on in consequence as well as I could, without any disparagement or insulting comparison between longer or shorter stages. "It is a maxim with me that stage-coaches, and consequently stage-coachmen, are respectable in proportion to the distance they have to travel: so I said nothing on that subject to my Brentford friend. Any incipient tendency to an abstract proposition, or (as he might have construed it) to a personal reflection of this kind, was however nipped in the bud; for I had no sooner declared indignantly that I had missed the mails, than he flatly denied that they were gone along, and lo! at the instant three of them drove by in rapid, provoking, orderly succession, as if they would devour the ground before them. Here again I seemed in the contradictory situation of the man in Dryden who exclaims,
“ I follow Fate, which docs too hard pursue !" If I had stopped to inquire at the White Horse Cellar, which would not have taken me a minute, I should now have been driving down the road in all the dignified unconcern and ideal perfection of mechanical conveyance. The Bath mail I had set my mind upon, and I had missed it
, as I missed every thing else, by my own absurdity, in putting the will for the deed, and aiming at ends without employing means. “Sir," said he of the Brentford, “ the Bath mail will be up presently, my brother-in-law drives it, and I will engage to stop him if there is a place empty." I almost doubted my good genius; but, sure enough, up it
drove like lightning, and stopped directly at the call of the Brentford
“ Follows so the ever-running sun,
to the day that brings him victory or defeat in the green fairy circle. Is not this life more sweet than mine? I was going to say; but I will not libel any life by comparing it to mine, which is (at the date of these presents) bitter as coloquintida and the dregs of aconitum !
The invalid in the Bath mail soared a pitch above the trainer, and did not sleep so sound, because he had “more figures and more fantasies.” We talked the hours away merrily. He had faith in surgery, for he had had three ribs set right, that had been broken in a turn-up at Belcher's, but thought physicians old women, for they had no antidote in their catalogue for brandy. An indigestion is an excellent common-place for two people that never met before. By way of ingratiating myself, I told him the story of my doctor, who, on my earnestly representing to him that I thought his regimen had done me harm, assured me that the whole pharmacopeia contained nothing comparable to the prescription he had given me; and, as a proof of its undoubted efficacy, said, that
he had had one gentleman with my complaint under his hands for the last fifteen years." This anecdote made my companion shake the rough sides of his three great coats with boisterous laughter; and Turtle, starting out of his sleep, swore he knew how the fight would go, for he had had a dream about it. Sure enough the rascal told us how the three first rounds went off, but “his dream,” like others, “ denoted a foregone conclusion.” He knew his men. The moon now rose in silver state, and I ventured, with some hesitation, to point out this object of placid beauty, with the blue serene beyond, to the man of science, to which his ear he seriously inclined,” the more as it gave promise d'un beau jour for the morrow, and showed the ring undrenched by envious showers, arrayed in sunny smiles. Just then, all going on well, I thought on my friend Toms, whom I had left behind, and said innocently, “ There was a blockhead of a fellow I left in town, who said there was no possibility of getting down by the mail, and talked of going by a caravan from Belcher's at two in the morning, after he had written some letters.” " Why,” said he of the lapells, “I should not wonder if that was the very person we saw running about like mad from one coach-door to another, and asking if any one had seen a friend of his, a gentleman going to the fight, whom he had missed stupidly enough by staying to write a note.”“ Pray Sir,” said my fellow-traveller, "bad be a plaid-cloak on?”—“Why, no,” said I," not at the time I left him, but be very well might afterwards, for he offered to lend me one." The plaid-cloak and the letter decided the thing. Joe, sure enough, was in the Bristol mail, which preceded us by about fifty yards. This was droll enough. We had now but a few miles to our place of destination, and the first thing I did on alighting at Newbury, both coaches stopping at the same time, was to call out, “Pray, is there a gentleman in that mail of the name of
Toms ?” “No,” said Joe, borrowing something of the vein of Gilpin, " for I have just got out.” “Well!" says he, “ this is lucky; but you don't know how vexed I was to miss you; for," added he, lowering his voice, “ do you know when I left you I went to Belcher's to ask about the caravan, and Mrs. Belcher said very obligingly, she couldn't tell about that, but there were two gentlemen who had taken places by the mail and were gone on in a landau, and she could frank us. It's a pity I didn't meet with you ; we could then have got down for nothing. But mum's the word.” It's the devil for any one to tell me a secret Vol. III. No. 14.-1822.
for it is sure to come out in print. I do not care so much to gratify a friend, but the public ear is too great a temptation to me.
Our present business was to get beds and a supper at an inn; but this was no easy task. The public-houses were full, and where you saw a light at a private house, and people poking their heads out of the casement to see what was going on, they instantly put them in and shut the window, the moment you seemed advancing with a suspicious overture for accommodation. Our guard and coachman thundered away at the outer gate of the Crown for some time without effect—such was the greater noise within ;—and when the doors were unbarred, and we got admittance, we found a party assembled in the kitchen round a good hospitable fire, some sleeping, others drinking, others talking on politics and on the fight. A tall English yeoman (something like Matthews in the face, and quite as great a wag)
“A lusty man to ben an abbot able," was making such a prodigious noise about rent and taxes, and the price of corn now and formerly, that he had prevented us froin being heard at the gate.
The first thing I heard him say was to a shuffling fellow who wanted to be off a bet for a shilling glass of brandy and water“ Confound it, man, don't be insipid !” Thinks I, that is a good phrase. It was a good omen. He kept it up so all night, nor flinched with the approach of morning. He was a fine fellow, with sense, wit, and spirit, a hearty body and a joyous mind, free-spoken, frank, convivialone of that home English breed that went with Harry the Fifth to the siege of Harfleur—"standing like greyhounds on the slips,” &c. We ordered tea and eggs (beds were soon found to be out of the question) and this fellow's conversation was sauce piquante. It did one's heart good to see him brandish his oaken towel and to hear him talk. He made mince-meat of a drunken, stupid, red-faced quarrelsome, frowsy farmer, whose nose “he moralized into a thousand similes,” making it out a firebrand like Bardolph's. “I'll tell you what, my friend,” says he, “the landlady has only to keep you here to save fire and candle. If one was to touch your nose, it would go off like a piece of charcoal.” At this the other only grinned like an idiot, the sole variety in his purple face being his little peering gray eyes and yellow teeth; called for another glass, swore he would not stand it; and after many attempts to provoke his humorous antagonist to single combat, which the other turned off (after working him up to a ludicrous pitch of choler), with great adroitness, he fell quietly asleep with a glass of liquor in his hand, which he could not list to his head. His laughing persecutor made a speech over him, and turning to the opposite side of the room, where they were all sleeping in the midst of this “loud and furious fun,” said, “There's a scene, by G-d, for Hogarth to paint. I think he and Shakspeare were our two best men at copying fife!" This confirmed me in my good opinion of him. Hogarth, Shakspeare, and Nature, were just enough for him (indeed for any man) to know. I said, “You read Cobbett, don't you? At least," says I, "you talk just as well as he writes.” He seemed to doubt this. But I said, “We have an hour to spare: if you'll get pen, ink and paper, and keep on talking, I'll write down what you say; and if it doesn't make a capital Political Register, I'll forfeit my head. You have kept me alive to-night, however. I don't know what I should have done with