The Romany Rye
Part 6 out of 9
Hungarian. To what? Tche Drak, to the Mohacs Veszedelem. Ulaszlo
left a son, Lajos the Second, born without skin, as it is said,
certainly without a head. He, contrary to the advice of all his
wise counsellors,--and amongst them was Batory Stephen, who became
eventually King of Poland--engaged, with twenty-five thousand men,
at Mohacs, Soliman the Turk, who had an army of two hundred
thousand. Drak! the Magyars were annihilated, King Lajos
disappeared with his heavy horse and armour in a bog. We call that
battle, which was fought on the 29th of August, 1526, the
destruction of Mohacs, but it was the destruction of Hungary.
Myself. You have twice used the word drak, what is the meaning of
it? Is it Hungarian?
Hungarian. No! it belongs to the mad Wallacks. They are a nation
of madmen on the other side of Transylvania. Their country was
formerly a fief of Hungary, like Moldavia, which is inhabited by
the same race, who speak the same language and are equally mad.
Myself. What language do they speak?
Hungarian. A strange mixture of Latin and Sclavonian--they
themselves being a mixed race of Romans and Sclavonians. Trajan
sent certain legions to form military colonies in Dacia; and the
present Wallacks and Moldavians are, to a certain extent, the
descendants of the Roman soldiers, who married the women of the
country. I say to a certain extent, for the Sclavonian element
both in blood and language seems to prevail.
Myself. And what is drak?
Hungarian. Dragon; which the Wallacks use for "devil." The term
is curious, as it shows that the old Romans looked upon the dragon
as an infernal being.
Myself. You have been in Wallachia?
Hungarian. I have, and glad I was to get out of it. I hate the
Myself. Why do you call them mad?
Hungarian. They are always drinking or talking. I never saw a
Wallachian eating or silent. They talk like madmen, and drink like
madmen. In drinking they use small phials, the contents of which
they pour down their throats. When I first went amongst them I
thought the whole nation was under a course of physic, but the
terrible jabber of their tongues soon undeceived me. Drak was the
first word I heard on entering Dacia, and the last when I left it.
The Moldaves, if possible, drink more, and talk more than the
Myself. It is singular enough that the only Moldavian I have known
could not speak. I suppose he was born dumb.
Hungarian. A Moldavian born dumb! Excuse me, the thing is
impossible,--all Moldavians are born talking! I have known a
Moldavian who could not speak, but he was not born dumb. His
master, an Armenian, snipped off part of his tongue at Adrianople.
He drove him mad with his jabber. He is now in London, where his
master has a house. I have letters of credit on the house: the
clerk paid me money in London, the master was absent; the money
which you received for the horse belonged to that house.
Myself. Another word with respect to Hungarian history.
Hungarian. Drak! I wish to say nothing more about Hungarian
Myself. The Turk, I suppose, after Mohacs, got possession of
Hungarian. Not exactly. The Turk, upon the whole, showed great
moderation; not so the Austrian. Ferdinand the First claimed the
crown of Hungary as being the cousin of Maria, widow of Lajos; he
found too many disposed to support him. His claim, however, was
resisted by Zapolya John, a Hungarian magnate, who caused himself
to be elected king. Hungary was for a long time devastated by wars
between the partisans of Zapolya and Ferdinand. At last Zapolya
called in the Turk. Soliman behaved generously to him, and after
his death befriended his young son, and Isabella his queen;
eventually the Turks became masters of Transylvania and the greater
part of Hungary. They were not bad masters, and had many friends
in Hungary, especially amongst those of the reformed faith, to
which I have myself the honour of belonging; those of the reformed
faith found the Mufti more tolerant than the Pope. Many Hungarians
went with the Turks to the siege of Vienna, whilst Tekeli and his
horsemen guarded Hungary for them. A gallant enterprise that siege
of Vienna, the last great effort of the Turk; it failed, and he
speedily lost Hungary, but he did not sneak from Hungary like a
frightened hound. His defence of Buda will not be soon forgotten,
where Apty Basha, the governor, died fighting like a lion in the
breach. There's many a Hungarian would prefer Stamboul to Vienna.
Why does your Government always send fools to represent it at
Myself. I have already told you that I cannot say. What became of
Hungarian. When Hungary was lost he retired with the Turks into
Turkey. Count Renoncourt, in his Memoirs, mentions having seen him
at Adrianople. The Sultan, in consideration of the services which
he had rendered to the Moslem in Hungary, made over the revenues of
certain towns and districts for his subsistence. The count says
that he always went armed to the teeth, and was always attended by
a young female dressed in male attire, who had followed him in his
wars, and had more than once saved his life. His end is wrapped in
mystery, I--whose greatest boast, next to being a Hungarian, is to
be of his blood--know nothing of his end.
Myself. Allow me to ask who you are?
Hungarian. Egy szegeny Magyar Nemes ember, a poor Hungarian
nobleman, son of one yet poorer. I was born in Transylvania, not
far to the west of good Coloscvar. I served some time in the
Austrian army as a noble Hussar, but am now equerry to a great
nobleman, to whom I am distantly related. In his service I have
travelled far and wide, buying horses. I have been in Russia and
in Turkey, and am now at Horncastle, where I have had the
satisfaction to meet with you, and to buy your horse, which is, in
truth, a noble brute.
Myself. For a soldier and equerry you seem to know a great deal of
the history of your country.
Hungarian. All I know is derived from Florentius of Buda, whom we
call Budai Ferentz. He was professor of Greek and Latin at the
Reformed College of Debreczen, where I was educated; he wrote a
work entitled "Magyar Polgari Lexicon," Lives of Great Hungarian
Citizens. He was dead before I was born, but I found his book,
when I was a child, in the solitary home of my father, which stood
on the confines of a puszta, or wilderness, and that book I used to
devour in winter nights when the winds were whistling around the
house. Oh I how my blood used to glow at the descriptions of
Magyar valour, and likewise of Turkish; for Florentius has always
done justice to the Turk. Many a passage similar to this have I
got by heart; it is connected with a battle on the plain of Rigo,
which Hunyadi lost:- "The next day, which was Friday, as the two
armies were drawn up in battle array, a Magyar hero riding forth,
galloped up and down, challenging the Turks to single combat. Then
came out to meet him the son of a renowned bashaw of Asia; rushing
upon each other, both broke their lances, but the Magyar hero and
his horse rolled over upon the ground, for the Turks had always the
best horses." O young man of Horncastle! if ever you learn
Hungarian--and learn it assuredly you will after what I have told
you--read the book of Florentius of Buda, even if you go to Hungary
to get it, for you will scarcely find it elsewhere, and even there
with difficulty, for the book has been long out of print. It
describes the actions of the great men of Hungary down to the
middle of the sixteenth century; and besides being written in the
purest Hungarian, has the merit of having for its author a
professor of the Reformed College of Debreczen.
Myself. I will go to Hungary rather than not read it. I am glad
that the Turk beat the Magyar. When I used to read the ballads of
Spain I always sided with the Moor against the Christian.
Hungarian. It was a drawn fight after all, for the terrible horse
of the Turk presently flung his own master, whereupon the two
champions returned to their respective armies; but in the grand
conflict which ensued, the Turks beat the Magyars, pursuing them
till night, and striking them on the necks with their scymetars.
The Turk is a noble fellow; I should wish to be a Turk, were I not
Myself. The Turk always keeps his word, I am told.
Hungarian. Which the Christian very seldom does, and even the
Hungarian does not always. In 1444 Ulaszlo made, at Szeged, peace
with Amurath for ten years, which he swore with an oath to keep,
but at the instigation of the Pope Julian he broke it, and induced
his great captain, Hunyadi John, to share in the perjury. The
consequence was the battle of Varna, of the 10th of November, in
which Hunyadi was routed, and Ulaszlo slain. Did you ever hear his
epitaph? it is both solemn and edifying:-
Romulidae Cannas ego Varnam clade notavi;
Discite rnortales non temerare fidem:
Me nisi Pontifices jussissent rumpere foedus
Non ferret Scythicum Pannonis ora jugum."
"Halloo!" said the jockey, starting up from a doze in which he had
been indulging for the last hour, his head leaning upon his breast,
"what is that? That's not high Dutch; I bargained for high Dutch,
and I left you speaking high Dutch, as it sounded very much like
the language of horses, as I have been told high Dutch does; but as
for what you are speaking now, whatever you may call it, it sounds
more like the language of another kind of animal. I suppose you
want to insult me, because I was once a dicky-boy."
"Nothing of the kind," said I; "the gentleman was making a
quotation in Latin."
"Latin, was it?" said the jockey; "that alters the case. Latin is
genteel, and I have sent my eldest boy to an academy to learn it.
Come, let us hear you fire away in Latin," he continued, proceeding
to re-light his pipe, which, before going to sleep, he had laid on
"If you wish to follow the discourse in Latin," said the Hungarian,
in very bad English, "I can oblige you; I learned to speak very
good Latin in the college of Debreczen."
"That's more," said I, "than I have done in the colleges where I
have been; in any little conversation which we may yet have, I wish
you would use German."
"Well," said the jockey, taking a whiff, "make your conversation as
short as possible, whether in Latin or Dutch, for, to tell you the
truth, I am rather tired of merely playing listener."
"You were saying you had been in Russia," said I; "I believe the
Russians are part of the Sclavonian race."
Hungarian. Yes, part of the great Sclavonian family; one of the
most numerous races in the world. The Russians themselves are very
numerous; would that the Magyars could boast of the fifth part of
Myself. What is the number of the Magyars?
Hungarian. Barely four millions. We came a tribe of Tartars into
Europe, and settled down amongst Sclavonians, whom we conquered,
but who never coalesced with us. The Austrian at present plays in
Pannonia the Sclavonian against us, and us against the Sclavonian;
but the downfall of the Austrian is at hand; they, like us, are not
a numerous people.
Myself. Who will bring about his downfall?
Hungarian. The Russians. The Rysckie Tsar will lead his people
forth, all the Sclavonians will join him, he will conquer all
Myself. Are the Russians good soldiers?
Hungarian. They are stubborn and unflinching to an astonishing
degree, and their fidelity to their Tsar is quite admirable. See
how the Russians behaved at Plescova, in Livonia, in the old time,
against our great Batory Stephen; they defended the place till it
was a heap of rubbish, and mark how they behaved after they had
been made prisoners. Stephen offered them two alternatives:- to
enter into his service, in which they would have good pay,
clothing, and fair treatment; or to be allowed to return to Russia.
Without the slightest hesitation they, to a man, chose the latter,
though well aware that their beloved Tsar, the cruel Ivan
Basilowits, would put them all to death, amidst tortures the most
horrible, for not doing what was impossible--preserving the town.
Myself. You speak Russian?
Hungarian. A little. I was born in the vicinity of a Sclavonian
tribe; the servants of our house were Sclavonians, and I early
acquired something of their language, which differs not much from
that of Russia; when in that country I quickly understood what was
Myself. Have the Russians any literature?
Hungarian. Doubtless; but I am not acquainted with it, as I do not
read their language; but I know something of their popular tales,
to which I used to listen in their izbushkas; a principal personage
in these is a creation quite original--called Baba Yaga.
Myself. Who is the Baba Yaga?
Hungarian. A female phantom, who is described as hurrying along
the puszta, or steppe, in a mortar, pounding with a pestle at a
tremendous rate, and leaving a long trace on the ground behind her
with her tongue, which is three yards long, and with which she
seizes any men and horses coming in her way, swallowing them down
into her capacious belly. She has several daughters, very
handsome, and with plenty of money; happy the young Mujik who
catches and marries one of them, for they make excellent wives.
"Many thanks," said I, "for the information you have afforded me:
this is rather poor wine," I observed, as I poured out a glass--"I
suppose you have better wine in Hungary?"
"Yes, we have better wine in Hungary. First of all there is Tokay,
the most celebrated in the world, though I confess I prefer the
wine of Eger--Tokay is too sweet."
"Have you ever been at Tokay?"
"I have," said the Hungarian.
"What kind of place is Tokay?"
"A small town situated on the Tyzza, a rapid river descending from
the north; the Tokay Mountain is just behind the town, which stands
on the right bank. The top of the mountain is called Kopacs Teto,
or the bald tip; the hill is so steep that during thunder-storms
pieces frequently fall down upon the roofs of the houses. It was
planted with vines by King Lajos, who ascended the throne in 1342.
The best wine called Tokay is, however, not made at Tokay, but at
Kassau, two leagues farther into the Carpathians, of which Tokay is
a spur. If you wish to drink the best Tokay, you must go to
Vienna, to which place all the prime is sent. For the third time I
ask you, O young man of Horncastle! why does your Government always
send fools to represent it at Vienna?"
"And for the third time I tell you, O son of Almus! that I cannot
say; perhaps, however, to drink the sweet Tokay wine; fools, you
know, always like sweet things."
"Good," said the Hungarian; "it must be so, and when I return to
Hungary, I will state to my countrymen your explanation of a
circumstance which has frequently caused them great perplexity.
Oh! the English are a clever people, and have a deep meaning in all
they do. What a vision of deep policy opens itself to my view!
they do not send their fool to Vienna in order to gape at
processions, and to bow and scrape at a base Papist court, but to
drink at the great dinners the celebrated Tokay of Hungary, which
the Hungarians, though they do not drink it, are very proud of, and
by doing so to intimate the sympathy which the English entertain
for their fellow religionists of Hungary. Oh! the English are a
The Horncastle Welcome--Tzernebock and Bielebock.
The pipe of the Hungarian had, for some time past, exhibited
considerable symptoms of exhaustion, little or no ruttling having
been heard in the tube, and scarcely a particle of smoke, drawn
through the syphon, having been emitted from the lips of the
possessor. He now rose from his seat, and going to a corner of the
room, placed his pipe against the wall, then striding up and down
the room, he cracked his fingers several times, exclaiming, in a
half-musing manner, "Oh, the deep nation, which, in order to
display its sympathy for Hungary, sends its fool to Vienna, to
drink the sweet wine of Tokay!"
The jockey, having looked for some time at the tall figure with
evident approbation, winked at me with that brilliant eye of his on
which there was no speck, saying, "'Did you ever see a taller
"Never," said I.
"Or a finer?"
"That's another question," said I, "which I am not so willing to
answer; however, as I am fond of truth, and scorn to flatter, I
will take the liberty of saying that I have seen a finer."
"A finer! where?" said the jockey; whilst the Hungarian, who
appeared to understand what we said, stood still, and looked full
"Amongst a strange set of people," said I, "whom, if I were to
name, you would, I dare say, only laugh at me."
"Who be they?" said the jockey. "Come, don't be ashamed; I have
occasionally kept queerish company myself."
"The people whom we call gypsies," said I; "whom the Germans call
Zigeuner, and who call themselves Romany chals."
"Zigeuner!" said the Hungarian; "by Isten! I do know those
"Romany chals!" said the jockey; "whew! I begin to smell a rat."
"What do you mean by smelling a rat?" said I.
"I'll bet a crown," said the jockey, "that you be the young chap
what certain folks call 'the Romany Rye.'"
"Ah!" said I, "how came you to know that name?"
"Be not you he?" said the jockey.
"Why, I certainly have been called by that name."
"I could have sworn it," said the jockey; then rising from his
chair, he laid his pipe on the table, took a large hand-bell which
stood on the side-board, and going to the door, opened it, and
commenced ringing in a most tremendous manner on the staircase.
The noise presently brought up a waiter, to whom the jockey
vociferated, "Go to your master, and tell him to send immediately
three bottles of champagne, of the pink kind, mind you, which is
twelve guineas a dozen;" the waiter hurried away, and the jockey
resumed his seat and his pipe. I sat in silent astonishment until
the waiter returned with a basket containing the wine, which, with
three long glasses, he placed on the table. The jockey then got
up, and going to a large bow-window at the end of the room, which
looked into a court-yard, peeped out; then saying, "the coast is
clear," he shut down the principal sash which was open for the sake
of the air, and taking up a bottle of champagne, he placed another
in the hands of the Hungarian, to whom he said something in
private. The latter, who seemed to understand him, answered by a
nod. The two then going to the end of the table fronting the
window, and about eight paces from it, stood before it, holding the
bottles by their necks; suddenly the jockey lifted up his arm.
"Surely," said I, "you are not mad enough to fling that bottle
through the window?" "Here's to the Romany Rye; here's to the
sweet master," said the jockey, dashing the bottle through the pane
in so neat a manner that scarcely a particle of glass fell into the
"Eljen edes csigany ur--eljen gul eray!" said the Hungarian,
swinging round his bottle, and discharging it at the window; but,
either not possessing the jockey's accuracy of aim, or reckless of
the consequences, he flung his bottle so, that it struck against
part of the wooden setting of the panes, breaking along with the
wood and itself three or four panes to pieces. The crash was
horrid, and wine and particles of glass flew back into the room, to
the no small danger of its inmates. "What do you think of that?"
said the jockey; "were you ever so honoured before?" "Honoured!"
said I. "God preserve me in future from such honour;" and I put my
finger to my cheek, which was slightly hurt by a particle of the
glass. "That's the way we of the cofrady honour great men at
Horncastle," said the jockey. "What, you are hurt! never mind; all
the better; your scratch shows that you are the body the compliment
was paid to." "And what are you going to do with the other
bottle?" said I. "Do with it!" said the jockey, "why, drink it,
cosily and comfortably, whilst holding a little quiet talk. The
Romany Rye at Horncastle, what an idea!"
"And what will the master of the house say to all this damage which
you have caused him!"
"What will your master say, William?" said the jockey to the
waiter, who had witnessed the singular scene just described without
exhibiting the slightest mark of surprise. William smiled, and
slightly shrugging his shoulders, replied, "Very little, I dare
say, sir; this a'n't the first time your honour has done a thing of
this kind." "Nor will it be the first time that I shall have paid
for it," said the jockey; "well, I shall never have paid for a
certain item in the bill with more pleasure than I shall pay for it
now. Come, William, draw the cork, and let us taste the pink
The waiter drew the cork, and filled the glasses with a pinky
liquor, which bubbled, hissed, and foamed. "How do you like it?"
said the jockey, after I had imitated the example of my companions,
by despatching my portion at a draught.
"It is wonderful wine," said I; "I have never tasted champagne
before, though I have frequently heard it praised; it more than
answers my expectations; but, I confess, I should not wish to be
obliged to drink it every day."
"Nor I," said the jockey, "for every-day drinking give me a glass
of old port, or--"
"Of hard old ale," I interposed, "which, according to my mind, is
better than all the wine in the world."
"Well said, Romany Rye," said the jockey, "just my own opinion;
now, William, make yourself scarce."
The waiter withdrew, and I said to the jockey, " How did you become
acquainted with the Romany chals?"
"I first became acquainted with them," said the jockey, "when I
lived with old Fulcher the basketmaker, who took me up when I was
adrift upon the world; I do not mean the present Fulcher, who is
likewise called old Fulcher, but his father, who has been dead this
many a year; while living with him in the caravan, I frequently met
them in the green lanes, and of latter years I have had occasional
dealings with them in the horse line."
"And the gypsies have mentioned me to you?" said I.
"Frequently," said the jockey, "and not only those of these parts;
why, there's scarcely a part of England in which I have not heard
the name of the Romany Rye mentioned by these people. The power
you have over them is wonderful; that is, I should have thought it
wonderful, had they not more than once told me the cause."
"And what is the cause?" said I, "for I am sure I do not know."
"The cause is this," said the jockey, "they never heard a bad word
proceed from your mouth, and never knew you do a bad thing."
"They are a singular people," said I.
"And what a singular language they have got," said the jockey.
"Do you know it?" said I.
"Only a few words," said the jockey, "they were always chary in
teaching me any."
"They were vary sherry to me too," said the Hungarian, speaking in
broken English; "I only could learn from them half-a-dozen words,
for example, gul eray, which, in the czigany of my country, means
sweet gentleman; or edes ur in my own Magyar."
"Gudlo Rye, in the Romany of mine, means a sugar'd gentleman," said
I; "then there are gypsies in your country?"
"Plenty," said the Hungarian, speaking German, "and in Russia and
Turkey too; and wherever they are found, they are alike in their
ways and language. Oh, they are a strange race, and how little
known! I know little of them, but enough to say, that one horse-
load of nonsense has been written about them; there is one Valter
"Mind what you say about him," said I; "he is our grand authority
in matters of philology and history."
"A pretty philologist," said the Hungarian, "who makes the gypsies
speak Roth-Welsch, the dialect of thieves; a pretty historian, who
couples together Thor and Tzernebock."
"Where does he do that?" said I.
"In his conceited romance of 'Ivanhoe,' he couples Thor and
Tzernebock together, and calls them gods of the heathen Saxons."
"Well," said I, "Thur or Thor was certainly a god of the heathen
"True," said the Hungarian; "but why couple him with Tzernebock?
Tzernebock was a word which your Valter had picked up somewhere
without knowing the meaning. Tzernebock was no god of the Saxons,
but one of the gods of the Sclaves, on the southern side of the
Baltic. The Sclaves had two grand gods to whom they sacrificed,
Tzernebock and Bielebock; that is, the black and white gods, who
represented the powers of dark and light. They were overturned by
Waldemar, the Dane, the great enemy of the Sclaves; the account of
whose wars you will find in one fine old book, written by Saxo
Gramaticus, which I read in the library of the college of
Debreczen. The Sclaves, at one time, were masters of all the
southern shore of the Baltic, where their descendants are still to
be found, though they have lost their language, and call themselves
Germans; but the word Zernevitz near Dantzic, still attests that
the Sclavic language was once common in those parts. Zernevitz
means the thing of blackness, as Tzernebock means the god of
blackness. Prussia itself merely means, in Sclavish, Lower Russia.
There is scarcely a race or language in the world more extended
than the Sclavic. On the other side of the Dunau you will find the
Sclaves and their language. Czernavoda is Sclavic, and means black
water; in Turkish, kara su; even as Tzernebock means black god; and
Belgrade, or Belograd, means the white town; even as Bielebock, or
Bielebog, means the white god. Oh! he is one great ignorant, that
Valter. He is going, they say, to write one history about
Napoleon. I do hope that in his history he will couple his Thor
and Tzernebock together. By my God! it would be good diversion
"Walter Scott appears to be no particular favourite of yours," said
"He is not," said the Hungarian; "I hate him for his slavish
principles. He wishes to see absolute power restored in this
country, and Popery also--and I hate him because--what do you
think? In one of his novels, published a few months ago, he has
the insolence to insult Hungary in the presence of one of her sons.
He makes his great braggart, Coeur de Lion, fling a Magyar over his
head. Ha! it was well for Richard that he never felt the gripe of
a Hungarian. I wish the braggart could have felt the gripe of me,
who am 'a' magyarok kozt legkissebb,' the least among the Magyars.
I do hate that Scott, and all his vile gang of Lowlanders and
Highlanders. The black corps, the fekete regiment of Matyjas
Hunyadi, was worth all the Scots, high or low, that ever pretended
to be soldiers; and would have sent them all headlong into the
Black Sea, had they dared to confront it on its shores; but why be
angry with an ignorant, who couples together Thor and Tzernebock?
"You have read his novels?" said I.
"Yes, I read them now and then. I do not speak much English, but I
can read it well, and I have read some of his romances, and mean to
read his 'Napoleon,' in the hope of finding Thor and Tzernebock
coupled together in it, as in his high-flying 'Ivanhoe.'"
"Come," said the jockey, "no more Dutch, whether high or low. I am
tired of it; unless we can have some English, I am off to bed."
"I should be very glad to hear some English," said I; "especially
from your mouth. Several things which you have mentioned, have
awakened my curiosity. Suppose you give us your history?"
"My history?" said the jockey. "A rum idea! however, lest
conversation should lag, I'll give it you. First of all, however,
a glass of champagne to each."
After we had each taken a glass of champagne, the jockey commenced
The Jockey's Tale--Thieves' Latin--Liberties with Coin--The Smasher
in Prison--Old Fulcher--Every One has His Gift--Fashion of the
"My grandfather was a shorter, and my father was a smasher; the one
was scragg'd, and the other lagg'd."
I here interrupted the jockey by observing that his discourse was,
for the greater part, unintelligible to me.
"I do not understand much English," said the Hungarian, who, having
replenished and resumed his mighty pipe, was now smoking away;
"but, by Isten, I believe it is the gibberish which that great
ignorant Valther Scott puts into the mouths of the folks he calls
"Something like it, I confess," said I, "though this sounds more
genuine than his dialect, which he picked up out of the canting
vocabulary at the end of the 'English Rogue,' a book which, however
despised, was written by a remarkable genius. What do you call the
speech you were using?" said I, addressing myself to the jockey.
"Latin," said the jockey, very coolly, "that is, that dialect of it
which is used by the light-fingered gentry."
"He is right," said the Hungarian; "it is what the Germans call
Roth-Welsch: they call it so because there are a great many Latin
words in it, introduced by the priests, who, at the time of the
Reformation, being too lazy to work and too stupid to preach,
joined the bands of thieves and robbers who prowled about the
country. Italy, as you are aware, is called by the Germans
Welschland, or the land of the Welschers; and I may add that
Wallachia derives its name from a colony of Welschers which Trajan
sent there. Welsch and Wallack being one and the same word, and
tantamount to Latin."
"I dare say you are right," said I; "but why was Italy termed
"I do not know," said the Hungarian.
"Then I think I can tell you," said I; "it was called so because
the original inhabitants were a Cimbric tribe, who were called
Gwyltiad, that is, a race of wild people, living in coverts, who
were of the same blood, and spoke the same language as the present
inhabitants of Wales. Welsh seems merely a modification of
Gwyltiad. Pray continue your history," said I to the jockey, "only
please to do so in a language which we can understand, and first of
all interpret the sentence with which you began it."
"I told you that my grandfather was a shorter," said the jockey,
"by which is meant a gentleman who shortens or reduces the current
coin of these realms, for which practice he was scragged, that is,
hung by the scrag of the neck. And when I said that my father was
a smasher, I meant one who passes forged notes, thereby doing his
best to smash the Bank of England; by being lagged, I meant he was
laid fast, that is, had a chain put round his leg and then
"Your explanations are quite satisfactory," said I; "the three
first words are metaphorical, and the fourth, lagged, is the old
genuine Norse term, lagda, which signifies laid, whether in
durance, or in bed, has nothing to do with the matter. What you
have told me confirms me in an opinion which I have long
entertained, that thieves' Latin is a strange mysterious speech,
formed of metaphorical terms, and words derived from the various
ancient languages. Pray tell me, now, how the gentleman, your
grandfather, contrived to shorten the coin of these realms?"
"You shall hear," said the jockey; "but I have one thing to beg of
you, which is, that when I have once begun my history you will not
interrupt me with questions, I don't like them, they stops one, and
puts one out of one's tale, and are not wanted; for anything which
I think can't be understood, I should myself explain, without being
asked. My grandfather reduced or shortened the coin of this
country by three processes. By aquafortis, by clipping, and by
filing. Filing and clipping he employed in reducing all sorts of
coin, whether gold or silver; but aquafortis he used merely in
reducing gold coin, whether guineas, jacobuses, or Portugal pieces,
otherwise called moidores, which were at one time as current as
guineas. By laying a guinea in aquafortis for twelve hours, he
could filch from it to the value of ninepence, and by letting it
remain there for twenty-four to the value of eighteenpence, the
aquafortis eating the gold away, and leaving it like a sediment in
the vessel. He was generally satisfied with taking the value of
ninepence from a guinea, of eighteenpence from a jacobus or
moidore, or half-a-crown from a broad Spanish piece, whether he
reduced them by aquafortis, filing, or clipping. From a five-
shilling piece, which is called a bull in Latin because it is round
like a bull's head, he would file or clip to the value of
fivepence, and from lesser coin in proportion. He was connected
with a numerous gang, or set, of people, who had given up their
minds and talents entirely to shortening."
Here I interrupted the jockey. "How singular," said I, "is the
fall and debasement of words; you talk of a gang, or set, of
shorters; you are, perhaps, not aware that gang and set were, a
thousand years ago, only connected with the great and Divine; they
are ancient Norse words, which may be found in the heroic poems of
the north, and in the Edda, a collection of mythologic and heroic
songs. In these poems we read that such and such a king invaded
Norway with a gang of heroes; or so and so, for example, Erik
Bloodaxe, was admitted to the set of gods; but at present gang and
set are merely applied to the vilest of the vile, and the lowest of
the low,--we say a gang of thieves and shorters, or a set of
authors. How touching is this debasement of words in the course of
time; it puts me in mind of the decay of old houses and names. I
have known a Mortimer who was a hedger and ditcher, a Berners who
was born in a workhouse, and a descendant of the De Burghs, who
bore the falcon, mending old kettles, and making horse and pony
shoes in a dingle."
"Odd enough," said the jockey; "but you were saying you knew one
Berners--man or woman? I would ask."
"A woman," said I.
"What might her Christian name be?" said the jockey.
"It is not to be mentioned lightly," said I, with a sigh.
"I shouldn't wonder if it were Isopel," said the jockey with an
arch glance of his one brilliant eye.
"It was Isopel," said I; "did you know Isopel Berners?"
"Ay, and have reason to know her," said the jockey, putting his
hand into his left waistcoat pocket, as if to feel for something,
"for she gave me what I believe few men could do--a most confounded
whopping. But now, Mr. Romany Rye, I have again to tell you that I
don't like to be interrupted when I'm speaking, and to add that if
you break in upon me a third time, you and I shall quarrel."
"Pray proceed with your story," said I; "I will not interrupt you
"Good!" said the jockey. "Where was I? Oh, with a set of people
who had given up their minds to shortening! Reducing the coin,
though rather a lucrative, was a very dangerous trade. Coin filed
felt rough to the touch; coin clipped could be easily detected by
the eye; and as for coin reduced by aquafortis, it was generally so
discoloured that, unless a great deal of pains was used to polish
it, people were apt to stare at it in a strange manner, and to say,
'What have they been doing to this here gold?' My grandfather, as
I have said before, was connected with a gang of shorters, and
sometimes shortened money, and at other times passed off what had
been shortened by other gentry.
"Passing off what had been shortened by others was his ruin; for
once, in trying to pass off a broad piece which had been laid in
aquafortis for four-and-twenty hours, and was very black, not
having been properly rectified, he was stopped and searched, and
other reduced coins being found about him, and in his lodgings, he
was committed to prison, tried, and executed. He was offered his
life, provided he would betray his comrades; but he told the big-
wigs, who wanted him to do so, that he would see them farther
first, and died at Tyburn, amidst the cheers of the populace,
leaving my grandmother and father, to whom he had always been a
kind husband and parent--for, setting aside the crime for which he
suffered, he was a moral man; leaving them, I say, to bewail his
"'Tis said that misfortune never comes alone; this is, however, not
always the case. Shortly after my grandfather's misfortune, as my
grandmother and her son were living in great misery in
Spitalfields, her only relation--a brother from whom she had been
estranged some years, on account of her marriage with my
grandfather, who had been in an inferior station to herself--died,
leaving all his property to her and the child. This property
consisted of a farm of about a hundred acres, with its stock, and
some money besides. My grandmother, who knew something of
business, instantly went into the country, where she farmed the
property for her own benefit and that of her son, to whom she gave
an education suitable to a person in his condition, till he was old
enough to manage the farm himself. Shortly after the young man
came of age, my grandmother died, and my father, in about a year,
married the daughter of a farmer, from whom he expected some little
fortune, but who very much deceived him, becoming a bankrupt almost
immediately after the marriage of his daughter, and himself and
family going into the workhouse.
"My mother, however, made my father an excellent wife; and if my
father in the long run did not do well it was no fault of hers. My
father was not a bad man by nature, he was of an easy, generous
temper, the most unfortunate temper, by the bye, for success in
this life that any person can be possessed of, as those who have it
are almost sure to be made dupes of by the designing. But, though
easy and generous, he was anything but a fool; he had a quick and
witty tongue of his own when he chose to exert it, and woe be to
those who insulted him openly, for there was not a better boxer in
the whole country round. My parents were married several years
before I came into the world, who was their first and only child.
I may be called an unfortunate creature; I was born with this beam
or scale on my left eye, which does not allow me to see with it;
and though I can see tolerably sharply with the other, indeed more
than most people can with both of theirs, it is a great misfortune
not to have two eyes like other people. Moreover, setting aside
the affair of my eye, I had a very ugly countenance; my mouth being
slightly wrung aside, and my complexion swarthy. In fact, I looked
so queer that the gossips and neighbours, when they first saw me,
swore I was a changeling--perhaps it would have been well if I had
never been born; for my poor father, who had been particularly
anxious to have a son, no sooner saw me than he turned away, went
to the neighbouring town, and did not return for two days. I am by
no means certain that I was not the cause of his ruin, for till I
came into the world he was fond of his home, and attended much to
business, but afterwards he went frequently into company, and did
not seem to care much about his affairs: he was, however, a kind
man, and when his wife gave him advice never struck her, nor do I
ever remember that he kicked me when I came in his way, or so much
as cursed my ugly face, though it was easy to see that he didn't
over-like me. When I was six years old I was sent to the village-
school, where I was soon booked for a dunce, because the master
found it impossible to teach me either to read or write. Before I
had been at school two years, however, I had beaten boys four years
older than myself, and could fling a stone with my left hand (for
if I am right-eyed I am left-handed) higher and farther than any
one in the parish. Moreover, no boy could equal me at riding, and
no people ride so well or desperately as boys. I could ride a
donkey--a thing far more difficult to ride than a horse--at full
gallop over hedges and ditches, seated, or rather floating upon his
hinder part,--so, though anything but clever, as this here Romany
Rye would say, I was yet able to do things which few other people
could do. By the time I was ten my father's affairs had got into a
very desperate condition, for he had taken to gambling and horse-
racing, and, being unsuccessful, had sold his stock, mortgaged his
estate, and incurred very serious debts. The upshot was, that
within a little time all he had was seized, himself imprisoned, and
my mother and myself put into a cottage belonging to the parish,
which, being very cold and damp, was the cause of her catching a
fever, which speedily carried her off. I was then bound apprentice
to a farmer, in whose service I underwent much coarse treatment,
cold, and hunger.
"After lying in prison near two years, my father was liberated by
an Act for the benefit of insolvent debtors; he was then lost sight
of for some time; at last, however, he made his appearance in the
neighbourhood dressed like a gentleman, and seemingly possessed of
plenty of money. He came to see me, took me into a field, and
asked me how I was getting on. I told him I was dreadfully used,
and begged him to take me away with him; he refused, and told me to
be satisfied with my condition, for that he could do nothing for
me. I had a great love for my father, and likewise a great
admiration for him on account of his character as a boxer, the only
character which boys in general regard, so I wished much to be with
him, independently of the dog's life I was leading where I was; I
therefore said if he would not take me with him, I would follow
him; he replied that I must do no such thing, for that if I did, it
would be my ruin. I asked him what he meant, but he made no reply,
only saying that he would go and speak to the farmer. Then taking
me with him, he went to the farmer, and in a very civil manner said
that he understood I had not been very kindly treated by him, but
he hoped that in future I should be used better. The farmer
answered in a surly tone, that I had been only too well treated,
for that I was a worthless young scoundrel; high words ensued, and
the farmer, forgetting the kind of man he had to deal with, checked
him with my grandsire's misfortune, and said he deserved to be
hanged like his father. In a moment my father knocked him down,
and on his getting up, gave him a terrible beating, then taking me
by the hand he hastened away; as we were going down a lane he said
we were now both done for: 'I don't care a straw for that,
father,' said I, 'provided I be with you.' My father took me to
the neighbouring town, and going into the yard of a small inn, he
ordered out a pony and light cart which belonged to him, then
paying his bill, he told me to mount upon the seat, and getting up
drove away like lightning; we drove for at least six hours without
stopping, till we came to a cottage by the side of a heath; we put
the pony and cart into a shed, and went into the cottage, my father
unlocking the door with a key which he took out of his pocket;
there was nobody in the cottage when we arrived, but shortly after
there came a man and a woman, and then some more people, and by ten
o'clock at night there were a dozen of us in the cottage. The
people were companions of my father. My father began talking to
them in Latin, but I did not understand much of the discourse,
though I believe it was about myself, as their eyes were frequently
turned to me. Some objections appeared to be made to what he said;
however, all at last seemed to be settled, and we all sat down to
some food. After that, all the people got up and went away, with
the exception of the woman, who remained with my father and me.
The next day my father also departed, leaving me with the woman,
telling me before he went that she would teach me some things which
it behoved me to know. I remained with her in the cottage upwards
of a week; several of those who had been there coming and going.
The woman, after making me take an oath to be faithful, told me
that the people whom I had seen were a gang who got their
livelihood by passing forged notes, and that my father was a
principal man amongst them, adding, that I must do my best to
assist them. I was a poor ignorant child at that time, and I made
no objection, thinking that whatever my father did must be right;
the woman then gave me some instructions in the smasher's dialect
of the Latin language. I made great progress, because, for the
first time in my life, I paid great attention to my lessons. At
last my father returned, and, after some conversation with the
woman, took me away in his cart. I shall be very short about what
happened to my father and myself during two years. My father did
his best to smash the Bank of England by passing forged notes, and
I did my best to assist him. We attended races and fairs in all
kinds of disguises; my father was a first-rate hand at a disguise,
and could appear of all ages, from twenty to fourscore; he was,
however, grabbed at last. He had said, as I have told you, that he
should be my ruin, but I was the cause of his, and all owing to the
misfortune of this here eye of mine. We came to this very place of
Horncastle, where my father purchased two horses of a young man,
paying for them with three forged notes, purporting to be Bank of
Englanders of fifty pounds each, and got the young man to change
another of the like amount; he at that time appeared as a
respectable dealer, and I as his son, as I really was.
"As soon as we had got the horses, we conveyed them to one of the
places of call belonging to our gang, of which there were several.
There they were delivered into the hands of our companions, who
speedily sold them in a distant part of the country. The sum which
they fetched--for the gang kept very regular accounts--formed an
important item on the next day of sharing, of which there were
twelve in the year. The young man, whom my father had paid for the
horses with his smashing notes, was soon in trouble about them, and
ran some risk, as I heard, of being executed; but he bore a good
character, told a plain story, and, above all, had friends, and was
admitted to bail; to one of his friends he described my father and
myself. This person happened to be at an inn in Yorkshire, where
my father, disguised as a Quaker, attempted to pass a forged note.
The note was shown to this individual, who pronounced it a forgery,
it being exactly similar to those for which the young man had been
in trouble, and which he had seen. My father, however, being
supposed a respectable man, because he was dressed as a Quaker--the
very reason, by the bye, why anybody who knew aught of the Quakers
would have suspected him to be a rogue--would have been let go, had
I not made my appearance, dressed as his footboy. The friend of
the young man looked at my eye, and seized hold of my father, who
made a desperate resistance, I assisting him, as in duty bound.
Being, however, overpowered by numbers, he bade me by a look, and a
word or two in Latin, to make myself scarce. Though my heart was
fit to break, I obeyed my father, who was speedily committed. I
followed him to the county town in which he was lodged, where
shortly after I saw him tried, convicted, and condemned. I then,
having made friends with the jailor's wife, visited him in his
cell, where I found him very much cast down. He said, that my
mother had appeared to him in a dream, and talked to him about a
resurrection and Christ Jesus; there was a Bible before him, and he
told me the chaplain had just been praying with him. He reproached
himself much, saying, he was afraid he had been my ruin, by
teaching me bad habits. I told him not to say any such thing, for
that I had been the cause of his, owing to the misfortune of my
eye. He begged me to give over all unlawful pursuits, saying, that
if persisted in, they were sure of bringing a person to
destruction. I advised him to try and make his escape, proposing,
that when the turnkey came to let me out, he should knock him down,
and fight his way out, offering to assist him; showing him a small
saw, with which one of our companions, who was in the
neighbourhood, had provided me, and with which he could have cut
through his fetters in five minutes; but he told me he had no wish
to escape, and was quite willing to die. I was rather hard at that
time; I am not very soft now; and I felt rather ashamed of my
father's want of what I called spirit. He was not executed after
all; for the chaplain, who was connected with a great family, stood
his friend, and got his sentence commuted, as they call it, to
transportation; and in order to make the matter easy, he induced my
father to make some valuable disclosures with respect to the
smashers' system. I confess that I would have been hanged before I
would have done so, after having reaped the profit of it; that is,
I think so now, seated comfortably in my inn, with my bottle of
champagne before me. He, however, did not show himself carrion; he
would not betray his companions, who had behaved very handsomely to
him, having given the son of a lord, a great barrister, not a
hundred-pound forged bill, but a hundred hard guineas, to plead his
cause, and another ten, to induce him, after pleading, to put his
hand to his breast, and say, that, upon his honour, he believed the
prisoner at the bar to be an honest and injured man. No; I am glad
to be able to say, that my father did not show himself exactly
carrion, though I could almost have wished he had let himself--
However, I am here with my bottle of champagne and the Romany Rye,
and he was in his cell, with bread and water and the prison
chaplain. He took an affectionate leave of me before he was sent
away, giving me three out of five guineas, all the money he had
left. He was a kind man, but not exactly fitted to fill my
grandfather's shoes. I afterwards learned that he died of fever,
as he was being carried across the sea.
"During the 'sizes I had made acquaintance with old Fulcher. I was
in the town on my father's account, and he was there on his son's,
who, having committed a small larceny, was in trouble. Young
Fulcher, however, unlike my father, got off, though he did not give
the son of a lord a hundred guineas to speak for him, and ten more
to pledge his sacred honour for his honesty, but gave Counsellor P-
-- one-and-twenty shillings to defend him, who so frightened the
principal evidence, a plain honest farming-man, that he flatly
contradicted what he had first said, and at last acknowledged
himself to be all the rogues in the world, and, amongst other
things, a perjured villain. Old Fulcher, before he left the town
with his son,--and here it will be well to say that he and his son
left it in a kind of triumph, the base drummer of a militia
regiment, to whom they had given half-a-crown, beating his drum
before them--old Fulcher, I say, asked me to go and visit him,
telling me where, at such a time, I might find him and his caravan
and family; offering, if I thought fit, to teach me basket-making:
so, after my father had been sent off, I went and found up old
Fulcher, and became his apprentice in the basket-making line. I
stayed with him till the time of his death, which happened in about
three months, travelling about with him and his family, and living
in green lanes, where we saw gypsies and trampers, and all kinds of
strange characters. Old Fulcher, besides being an industrious
basket-maker, was an out-and-out thief, as was also his son, and,
indeed, every member of his family. They used to make baskets
during the day, and thieve during a great part of the night. I had
not been with them twelve hours before old Fulcher told me that I
must thieve as well as the rest. I demurred at first, for I
remembered the fate of my father, and what he had told me about
leaving off bad courses, but soon allowed myself to be over-
persuaded; more especially as the first robbery I was asked to do
was a fruit robbery. I was to go with young Fulcher, and steal
some fine Morell cherries, which grew against a wall in a
gentleman's garden; so young Fulcher and I went and stole the
cherries, one half of which we ate, and gave the rest to the old
man, who sold them to a fruiterer ten miles off from the place
where we had stolen them. The next night old Fulcher took me out
with himself. He was a great thief, though in a small way. He
used to say, that they were fools, who did not always manage to
keep the rope below their shoulders, by which he meant, that it was
not advisable to commit a robbery, or do anything which could bring
you to the gallows. He was all for petty larceny, and knew where
to put his hand upon any little thing in England, which it was
possible to steal. I submit it to the better judgment of the
Romany Rye, who I see is a great hand for words and names, whether
he ought not to have been called old Filcher, instead of Fulcher.
I shan't give a regular account of the larcenies he committed
during the short time I knew him, either alone by himself, or with
me and his son. I shall merely relate the last.
"A melancholy gentleman, who lived a very solitary life, had a
large carp in a shady pond in a meadow close to his house; he was
exceedingly fond of it, and used to feed it with his own hand, the
creature being so tame that it would put its snout out of the water
to be fed when it was whistled to; feeding and looking at his carp
were the only pleasures the poor melancholy gentleman possessed.
Old Fulcher--being in the neighbourhood, and having an order from a
fishmonger for a large fish, which was wanted at a great city
dinner, at which His Majesty was to be present--swore he would
steal the carp, and asked me to go with him. I had heard of the
gentleman's fondness for his creature, and begged him to let it be,
advising him to go and steal some other fish; but old Fulcher
swore, and said he would have the carp, although its master should
hang himself; I told him he might go by himself, but he took his
son and stole the carp, which weighed seventeen pounds. Old
Fulcher got thirty shillings for the carp, which I afterwards heard
was much admired and relished by His Majesty. The master, however,
of the carp, on losing his favourite, became more melancholy than
ever, and in a little time hanged himself. 'What's sport for one,
is death to another,' I once heard at the village-school read out
of a copy-book.
"This was the last larceny old Fulcher ever committed. He could
keep his neck always out of the noose, but he could not always keep
his leg out of the trap. A few nights after, having removed to a
distance, he went to an osier car in order to steal some osiers for
his basket-making, for he never bought any. I followed a little
way behind. Old Fulcher had frequently stolen osiers out of the
car, whilst in the neighbourhood, but during his absence the
property, of which the car was a part, had been let to a young
gentleman, a great hand for preserving game. Old Fulcher had not
got far into the car before he put his foot into a man-trap.
Hearing old Fulcher shriek, I ran up, and found him in a dreadful
condition. Putting a large stick which I carried into the jaws of
the trap, I contrived to prize them open, and get old Fulcher's leg
out, but the leg was broken. So I ran to the caravan, and told
young Fulcher of what had happened, and he and I helped his father
home. A doctor was sent for, who said that it was necessary to
take the leg off, but old Fulcher, being very much afraid of pain,
said it should not be taken off, and the doctor went away, but
after some days, old Fulcher becoming worse, ordered the doctor to
be sent for, who came and took off his leg, but it was then too
late, mortification had come on, and in a little time old Fulcher
"Thus perished old Fulcher; he was succeeded in his business by his
son, young Fulcher, who, immediately after the death of his father,
was called old Fulcher, it being our English custom to call
everybody old, as soon as their fathers are buried; young Fulcher--
I mean he who had been called young, but was now old Fulcher--
wanted me to go out and commit larcenies with him; but I told him
that I would have nothing more to do with thieving, having seen the
ill effects of it, and that I should leave them in the morning.
Old Fulcher begged me to think better of it, and his mother joined
with him. They offered, if I would stay, to give me Mary Fulcher
as a mort, till she and I were old enough to be regularly married,
she being the daughter of the one, and the sister of the other. I
liked the girl very well, for she had always been civil to me, and
had a fair complexion and nice red hair, both of which I like,
being a bit of a black myself; but I refused, being determined to
see something more of the world than I could hope to do with the
Fulchers, and, moreover, to live honestly, which I could never do
along with them. So the next morning I left them: I was, as I
said before, quite determined upon an honest livelihood, and I soon
found one. He is a great fool who is ever dishonest in England.
Any person who has any natural gift, and everybody has some natural
gift, is sure of finding encouragement in this noble country of
ours, provided he will but exhibit it. I had not walked more than
three miles before I came to a wonderfully high church steeple,
which stood close by the road; I looked at the steeple, and going
to a heap of smooth pebbles which lay by the roadside, I took up
some, and then went into the churchyard, and placing myself just
below the tower, my right foot resting on a ledge, about two foot
from the ground, I, with my left hand--being a left-handed person,
do you see--flung or chucked up a stone, which, lighting on the top
of the steeple, which was at least a hundred and fifty feet high,
did there remain. After repeating this feat two or three times, I
'hulled' up a stone, which went clean over the tower, and then one,
my right foot still on the ledge, which rising at least five yards
above the steeple, did fall down just at my feet. Without knowing
it, I was showing off my gift to others besides myself, doing what,
perhaps, not five men in England could do. Two men, who were
passing by, stopped and looked at my proceedings, and when I had
done flinging came into the churchyard, and, after paying me a
compliment on what they had seen me do, proposed that I should join
company with them; I asked them who they were, and they told me.
The one was Hopping Ned, and the other Biting Giles. Both had
their gifts, by which they got their livelihood; Ned could hop a
hundred yards with any man in England, and Giles could lift up with
his teeth any dresser or kitchen-table in the country, and,
standing erect, hold it dangling in his jaws. There's many a big
oak table and dresser in certain districts of England, which bear
the marks of Giles's teeth; and I make no doubt that, a hundred or
two years hence, there'll be strange stories about those marks, and
that people will point them out as a proof that there were giants
in bygone time, and that many a dentist will moralize on the decays
which human teeth have undergone.
"They wanted me to go about with them, and exhibit my gift
occasionally, as they did theirs, promising that the money that was
got by the exhibitions should be honestly divided. I consented,
and we set off together, and that evening coming to a village, and
putting up at the ale-house, all the grand folks of the village
being there smoking their pipes, we contrived to introduce the
subject of hopping--the upshot being that Ned hopped against the
school-master for a pound, and beat him hollow; shortly after,
Giles, for a wager, took up the kitchen table in his jaws, though
he had to pay a shilling to the landlady for the marks he left,
whose grandchildren will perhaps get money by exhibiting them. As
for myself, I did nothing that day, but the next, on which my
companions did nothing, I showed off at hulling stones against a
cripple, the crack man for stone-throwing, of a small town, a few
miles farther on. Bets were made to the tune of some pounds; I
contrived to beat the cripple, and just contrived; for to do him
justice I must acknowledge he was a first-rate hand at stones,
though he had a game hip, and went sideways; his head, when he
walked--if his movements could be called walking--not being above
three feet above the ground. So we travelled, I and my companions,
showing off our gifts, Giles and I occasionally for a gathering,
but Ned never hopping, unless against somebody for a wager. We
lived honestly and comfortably, making no little money by our
natural endowments, and were known over a great part of England as
'Hopping Ned,' 'Biting Giles,' and 'Hull over the Head Jack,' which
was my name, it being the blackguard fashion of the English, do you
Here I interrupted the jockey. "You may call it a blackguard
fashion," said I, "and I dare say it is, or it would scarcely be
English; but it is an immensely ancient one, and is handed down to
us from our northern ancestry, especially the Danes, who were in
the habit of giving people surnames, or rather nicknames, from some
quality of body or mind, but generally from some disadvantageous
peculiarity of feature; for there is no denying that the English,
Norse, or whatever we may please to call them, are an envious,
depreciatory set of people, who not only give their poor comrades
contemptuous names, but their great people also. They didn't call
you the matchless Hurler, because, by doing so, they would have
paid you a compliment, but Hull over the Head Jack, as much as to
say that after all you were a scrub; so, in ancient time, instead
of calling Regner the great conqueror, the Nation Tamer, they
surnamed him Lodbrog, which signifies Rough or Hairy Breeks--lod or
loddin signifying rough or hairy; and instead of complimenting
Halgerdr, the wife of Gunnar of Hlitharend, the great champion of
Iceland, upon her majestic presence, by calling her Halgerdr, the
stately or tall; what must they do but term her Ha-brokr, or
Highbreeks, it being the fashion in old times for Northern ladies
to wear breeks, or breeches, which English ladies of the present
day never think of doing; and just, as of old, they called Halgerdr
Long-breeks, so this very day a fellow of Horncastle called, in my
hearing, our noble-looking Hungarian friend here, Long-stockings.
Oh, I could give you a hundred instances, both ancient and modern,
of this unseemly propensity of our illustrious race, though I will
only trouble you with a few more ancient ones; they not only
nicknamed Regner, but his sons also, who were all kings, and
distinguished men: one, whose name was Biorn, they nicknamed
Ironsides; another, Sigurd, Snake in the Eye; another, White Sark,
or White Shirt--I wonder they did not call him Dirty Shirt; and
Ivarr, another, who was king of Northumberland, they called
Bienlausi, or the Legless, because he was spindle-shanked, had no
sap in his bones, and consequently no children. He was a great
king, it is true, and very wise, nevertheless his blackguard
countrymen, always averse, as their descendants are, to give credit
to anybody, for any valuable quality or possession, must needs lay
hold, do you see--"
But before I could say any more, the jockey, having laid down his
pipe, rose, and having taken off his coat, advanced towards me.
A Short-tempered Person--Gravitation--The Best Endowment--Mary
Fulcher--Fair Dealing--Horse-witchery--Darius and his Groom--The
Jockey's Tricks--The Two Characters--The Jockey's Song.
The jockey, having taken off his coat and advanced towards me, as I
have stated in the preceding chapter, exclaimed, in an angry tone,
"This is the third time you have interrupted me in my tale, Mr.
Rye; I passed over the two first times with a simple warning, but
you will now please to get up and give me the satisfaction of a
"I am really sorry," said I, "if I have given you offence, but you
were talking of our English habits of bestowing nicknames, and I
could not refrain from giving a few examples tending to prove what
a very ancient habit it is."
"But you interrupted me," said the jockey, "and put me out of my
tale, which you had no right to do; and as for your examples, how
do you know that I wasn't going to give some as old or older than
yourn? Now stand up, and I'll make an example of you."
"Well," said I, "I confess it was wrong in me to interrupt you, and
I ask your pardon."
"That won't do," said the jockey, "asking pardon won't do."
"Oh," said I, getting up, "if asking pardon does not satisfy you,
you are a different man from what I considered you."
But here the Hungarian, also getting up, interposed his tall form
and pipe between us, saying in English, scarcely intelligible, "Let
there be no dispute! As for myself, I am very much obliged to the
young man of Horncastle for his interruption, though he has told me
that one of his dirty townsmen called me 'Long-stocking.' By
Isten! there is more learning in what he has just said than in all
the verdammt English histories of Thor and Tzernebock I ever read."
"I care nothing for his learning," said the jockey. "I consider
myself as good a man as he, for all his learning; so stand out of
the way, Mr. Sixfooteleven, or--"
"I shall do no such thing," said the Hungarian. "I wonder you are
not ashamed of yourself. You ask a young man to drink champagne
with you, you make him dronk, he interrupt you with very good
sense; he ask your pardon, yet you not--"
"Well," said the jockey, "I am satisfied. I am rather a short-
tempered person, but I bear no malice. He is, as you say, drinking
my wine, and has perhaps taken a drop too much, not being used to
such high liquor; but one doesn't like to be put out of one's tale,
more especially when one was about to moralize, do you see,
oneself, and to show off what little learning one has. However, I
bears no malice. Here is a hand to each of you; we'll take another
glass each, and think no more about it."
The jockey having shaken both of our hands, and filled our glasses
and his own with what champagne remained in the bottle, put on his
coat, sat down, and resumed his pipe and story.
"Where was I? Oh, roaming about the country with Hopping Ned and
Biting Giles. Those were happy days, and a merry and prosperous
life we led. However, nothing continues under the sun in the same
state in which it begins, and our firm was soon destined to undergo
a change. We came to a village where there was a very high church
steeple, and in a little time my comrades induced a crowd of people
to go and see me display my gift by flinging stones above the heads
of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, who stood at the four corners on
the top, carved in stone. The parson, seeing the crowd, came
waddling out of his rectory to see what was going on. After I had
flung up the stones, letting them fall just where I liked--and one,
I remember, fell on the head of Mark, where I dare say it remains
to the present day--the parson, who was one of the description of
people called philosophers, held up his hand, and asked me to let
the next stone I flung up fall upon it. He wished, do you see, to
know with what weight the stone would fall down, and talked
something about gravitation--a word which I could never understand
to the present day, save that it turned out a grave matter to me.
I, like a silly fellow myself, must needs consent, and, flinging
the stone up to a vast height, contrived so that it fell into the
parson's hand, which it cut dreadfully. The parson flew into a
great rage, more particularly as everybody laughed at him, and,
being a magistrate, ordered his clerk, who was likewise constable,
to conduct me to prison as a rogue and vagabond, telling my
comrades that if they did not take themselves off, he would serve
them in the same manner. So Ned hopped off, and Giles ran after
him, without making any gathering, and I was led to Bridewell, my
mittimus following at the end of a week, the parson's hand not
permitting him to write before that time. In the Bridewell I
remained a month, when, being dismissed, I went in quest of my
companions, whom, after some time, I found up, but they refused to
keep my company any longer; telling me that I was a dangerous
character, likely to bring them more trouble than profit; they had,
moreover, filled up my place. Going into a cottage to ask for a
drink of water, they saw a country fellow making faces to amuse his
children; the faces were so wonderful that Hopping Ned and Biting
Giles at once proposed taking him into partnership, and the man--
who was a fellow not very fond of work--after a little entreaty,
went away with them. I saw him exhibit his gift, and couldn't
blame the others for preferring him to me; he was a proper ugly
fellow at all times, but when he made faces his countenance was
like nothing human. He was called Ugly Moses. I was so amazed at
his faces, that though poor myself I gave him sixpence, which I
have never grudged to this day, for I never saw anything like them.
The firm throve wonderfully after he had been admitted into it. He
died some little time ago, keeper of a public-house, which he had
been enabled to take from the profits of his faces. A son of his,
one of the children he was making faces to when my comrades entered
his door, is at present a barrister, and a very rising one. He has
his gift--he has not, it is true, the gift of the gab, but he has
something better, he was born with a grin on his face, a quiet
grin; he would not have done to grin through a collar like his
father, and would never have been taken up by Hopping Ned and
Biting Giles, but that grin of his caused him to be noticed by a
much greater person than either; an attorney observing it took a
liking to the lad, and prophesied that he would some day be heard
of in the world; and in order to give him the first lift, took him
into his office, at first to light fires and do such kind of work,
and after a little time taught him to write, then promoted him to a
desk, articled him afterwards, and being unmarried, and without
children, left him what he had when he died. The young fellow,
after practising at the law some time, went to the bar, where, in a
few years, helped on by his grin, for he had nothing else to
recommend him, he became, as I said before, a rising barrister. He
comes our circuit, and I occasionally employ him, when I am obliged
to go to law about such a thing as an unsound horse. He generally
brings me through--or rather that grin of his does--and yet I don't
like the fellow, confound him, but I'm an oddity--no, the one I
like, and whom I generally employ, is a fellow quite different, a
bluff sturdy dog, with no grin on his face, but with a look that
seems to say I am an honest man, and what cares I for any one? And
an honest man he is, and something more. I have known coves with a
better gift of the gab, though not many, but he always speaks to
the purpose, and understands law thoroughly; and that's not all.
When at college, for he has been at college, he carried off
everything before him as a Latiner, and was first-rate at a game
they call matthew mattocks. I don't exactly know what it is, but I
have heard that he who is first-rate at matthew mattocks is thought
more of than if he were first-rate Latiner.
"Well, the chap that I'm talking about, not only came out first-
rate Latiner, but first-rate at matthew mattocks too; doing, in
fact, as I am told by those who knows, for I was never at college
myself, what no one had ever done before. Well, he makes his
appearance at our circuit, does very well, of course, but he has a
somewhat high front, as becomes an honest man, and one who has beat
every one at Latin and matthew mattocks; and one who can speak
first-rate law and sense;--but see now, the cove with the grin, who
has like myself never been at college; knows nothing of Latin, or
matthew mattocks, and has no particular gift of the gab, has two
briefs for his one, and I suppose very properly, for that grin of
his curries favour with the juries; and mark me, that grin of his
will enable him to beat the other in the long run. We all know
what all barrister coves looks forward to--a seat on the hop sack.
Well, I'll bet a bull to fivepence, that the grinner gets upon it,
and the snarler doesn't; at any rate, that he gets there first. I
calls my cove--for he is my cove--a snarler; because your first-
rates at matthew mattocks are called snarlers, and for no other
reason; for the chap, though with a high front, is a good chap, and
once drank a glass of ale with me, after buying an animal out of my
stable. I have often thought it a pity he wasn't born with a grin
on his face like the son of Ugly Moses. It is true he would
scarcely then have been an out and outer at Latin and matthew
mattocks, but what need of either to a chap born with a grin? Talk
of being born with a silver spoon in one's mouth! give me a cove
born with a grin on his face--a much better endowment.
"I will now shorten my history as much as I can, for we have talked
as much as folks do during a whole night in the Commons' House,
though, of course, not with so much learning, or so much to the
purpose, because--why? They are in the House of Commons, and we in
a public room of an inn at Horncastle. The goodness of the ale, do
ye see, never depending on what it is made of, oh, no! but on the
fashion and appearance of the jug in which it is served up. After
being turned out of the firm, I got my living in two or three
honest ways, which I shall not trouble you with describing. I did
not like any of them, however, as they did not exactly suit my
humour; at last I found one which did. One Saturday afternoon, I
chanced to be in the cattle-market of a place about eighty miles
from here; there I won the favour of an old gentleman who sold
dickeys. He had a very shabby squad of animals, without soul or
spirit; nobody would buy them, till I leaped upon their hinder
ends, and by merely wriggling in a particular manner, made them
caper and bound so to people's liking, that in a few hours every
one of them was sold at very sufficient prices. The old gentleman
was so pleased with my skill, that he took me home with him, and in
a very little time into partnership. It's a good thing to have a
gift, but yet better to have two. I might have got a very decent
livelihood by throwing stones, but I much question whether I should
ever have attained to the position in society which I now occupy,
but for my knowledge of animals. I lived very comfortably with the
old gentleman till he died, which he did in about a fortnight after
he had laid his old lady in the ground. Having no children, he
left me what should remain after he had been buried decently, and
the remainder was six dickeys and thirty shillings in silver. I
remained in the dickey trade ten years, during which time I saved a
hundred pounds. I then embarked in the horse line. One day, being
in the--market on a Saturday, I saw Mary Fulcher with a halter
round her neck, led about by a man, who offered to sell her for
eighteen-pence. I took out the money forthwith and bought her; the
man was her husband, a basket-maker, with whom she had lived
several years without having any children; he was a drunken,
quarrel-some fellow, and having had a dispute with her the day
before, he determined to get rid of her, by putting a halter round
her neck and leading her to the cattle-market, as if she were a
mare, which he had, it seems, a right to do;--all women being
considered mares by old English law, and, indeed, still called
mares in certain counties, where genuine old English is still
preserved. That same afternoon, the man who had been her husband,
having got drunk in a public-house, with the money which he had
received for her, quarrelled with another man, and receiving a blow
under the ear, fell upon the floor, and died of artiflex; and in
less than three weeks I was married to Mary Fulcher, by virtue of
regular bans. I am told she was legally my property by virtue of
my having bought her with a halter round her neck; but, to tell you
the truth, I think everybody should live by his trade, and I didn't
wish to act shabbily towards our parson, who is a good fellow, and
has certainly a right to his fees. A better wife than Mary
Fulcher--I mean Mary Dale--no one ever had; she has borne me
several children, and has at all times shown a willingness to
oblige me, and to be my faithful wife. Amongst other things, I
begged her to have done with her family, and I believe she has
never spoken to them since.
"I have thriven very well in business, and my name is up as being a
person who can be depended on, when folks treats me handsomely. I
always make a point when a gentleman comes to me, and says, 'Mr.
Dale,' or 'John,' for I have no objection to be called John by a
gentleman--'I wants a good horse, and am ready to pay a good
price'--I always makes a point, I say, to furnish him with an
animal worth the money; but when I sees a fellow, whether he calls
himself gentleman or not, wishing to circumvent me, what does I do?
I doesn't quarrel with him; not I; but, letting him imagine he is
taking me in, I contrives to sell him a screw for thirty pounds,
not worth thirty shillings. All honest respectable people have at
present great confidence in me, and frequently commissions me to
buy them horses at great fairs like this.
"This short young gentleman was recommended to me by a great landed
proprietor, to whom he bore letters of recommendation from some
great prince in his own country, who had a long time ago been
entertained at the house of the landed proprietor, and the
consequence is, that I brings young six foot six to Horncastle, and
purchases for him the horse of the Romany Rye. I don't do these
kind things for nothing, it is true; that can't be expected; for
every one must live by his trade; but, as I said before, when I am
treated handsomely, I treat folks so. Honesty, I have discovered,
as perhaps some other people have, is by far the best policy;
though, as I also said before, when I'm along with thieves, I can
beat them at their own game. If I am obliged to do it, I can pass
off the veriest screw as a flying drummedary, for even when I was a
child I had found out by various means what may be done with
animals. I wish now to ask a civil question, Mr. Romany Rye.
Certain folks have told me that you are a horse witch; are you one,
or are you not?"
"I, like yourself," said I, "know, to a certain extent, what may be
done with animals."
"Then how would you, Mr. Romany Rye, pass off the veriest screw in
the world for a flying drummedary?"
"By putting a small live eel down his throat; as long as the eel
remained in his stomach, the horse would appear brisk and lively in
a surprising degree."
"And how would you contrive to make a regular kicker and biter
appear so tame and gentle, that any respectable fat old gentleman
of sixty, who wanted an easy goer, would be glad to purchase him
for fifty pounds?"
"By pouring down his throat four pints of generous old ale, which
would make him so happy and comfortable, that he would not have the
heart to kick or bite anybody, for a season at least."
"And where did you learn all this?" said the jockey.
"I have read about the eel in an old English book, and about the
making drunk in a Spanish novel, and, singularly enough, I was told
the same things by a wild blacksmith in Ireland. Now tell me, do
you bewitch horses in this way?"
"I?" said the jockey; "mercy upon us! I wouldn't do such things
for a hatful of money. No, no, preserve me from live eels and
hocussing! And now let me ask you, how would you spirit a horse
out of a field?"
"How would I spirit a horse out of a field?"
"Yes; supposing you were down in the world, and had determined on
taking up the horse-stealing line of business."
"Why, I should-- But I tell you what, friend, I see you are trying
to pump me, and I tell you plainly that I will hear something from
you with respect to your art, before I tell you anything more. Now
how would you whisper a horse out of a field, provided you were
down in the world, and so forth?"
"Ah, ah, I see you are up to a game, Mr. Romany: however, I am a
gentleman in mind, if not by birth, and I scorn to do the
unhandsome thing to anybody who has dealt fairly towards me. Now
you told me something I didn't know, and I'll tell you something
which perhaps you do know. I whispers a horse out of a field in
this way: I have a mare in my stable; well, in the early season of
the year I goes into my stable--Well, I puts the sponge into a
small bottle which I keeps corked. I takes my bottle in my hand,
and goes into a field, suppose by night, where there is a very fine
stag horse. I manage with great difficulty to get within ten yards
of the horse, who stands staring at me just ready to run away. I
then uncorks my bottle, presses my fore-finger to the sponge, and
holds it out to the horse, the horse gives a sniff, then a start,
and comes nearer. I corks up my bottle and puts it into my pocket.
My business is done, for the next two hours the horse would follow
me anywhere--the difficulty, indeed, would be to get rid of him.
Now is that your way of doing business?"
"My way of doing business? Mercy upon us! I wouldn't steal a
horse in that way, or, indeed, in any way, for all the money in the
world: however, let me tell you, for your comfort, that a trick
somewhat similar is described in the history of Herodotus."
"In the history of Herod's ass!" said the jockey; "well, if I did
write a book, it should be about something more genteel than a
"I did not say Herod's ass," said I, "but Herodotus, a very genteel
writer, I assure you, who wrote a history about very genteel
people, in a language no less genteel than Greek, more than two
thousand years ago. There was a dispute as to who should be king
amongst certain imperious chieftains. At last they agreed to obey
him whose horse should neigh first on a certain day, in front of
the royal palace, before the rising of the sun; for you must know
that they did not worship the person who made the sun as we do, but
the sun itself. So one of these chieftains, talking over the
matter to his groom, and saying he wondered who would be king, the
fellow said, 'Why you, master, or I don't know much about horses.'
So the day before the day of trial, what does the groom do, but
take his master's horse before the palace and introduce him to a
mare in the stable, and then lead him forth again. Well, early the
next day all the chieftains on their horses appeared in front of
the palace before the dawn of day. Not a horse neighed but one,
and that was the horse of him who had consulted with his groom,
who, thinking of the animal within the stable, gave such a neigh
that all the buildings rang. His rider was forthwith elected king,
and a brave king he was. So this shows what seemingly wonderful
things may be brought about by a little preparation."
"It doth," said the jockey; "what was the chap's name?"
"His name--his name--Darius Hystaspes."
"And the groom's?"
"I don't know."
"And he made a good king?"
"Only think! well, if he made a good king, what a wonderful king
the groom would have made, through whose knowledge of 'orses he was
put on the throne. And now another question, Mr. Romany Rye, have
you particular words which have power to soothe or aggravate
"You should ask me," said I, "whether I have horses that can be
aggravated or soothed by particular words. No words have any
particular power over horses or other animals who have never heard
them before--how, should they? But certain animals connect ideas
of misery or enjoyment with particular words which they are
acquainted with. I'll give you an example. I knew a cob in
Ireland that could be driven to a state of kicking madness by a
particular word, used by a particular person, in a particular tone;
but that word was connected with a very painful operation which had
been performed upon him by that individual, who had frequently
employed it at a certain period whilst the animal had been under
his treatment. The same cob could be soothed in a moment by
another word, used by the same individual in a very different kind
of tone; the word was deaghblasda, or sweet tasted. Some time
after the operation, whilst the cob was yet under his hands, the
fellow--who was what the Irish call a fairy smith--had done all he
could to soothe the creature, and had at last succeeded by giving
it gingerbread-buttons, of which the cob became passionately fond.
Invariably, however, before giving it a button, he said,
'Deaghblasda,' with which word the cob by degrees associated an
idea of unmixed enjoyment: so if he could rouse the cob to madness
by the word which recalled the torture to its remembrance, he could
as easily soothe it by the other word, which the cob knew would be
instantly followed by the button, which the smith never failed to
give him after using the word deaghblasda."
"There is nothing wonderful to be done," said the jockey, "without
a good deal of preparation, as I know myself. Folks stare and
wonder at certain things which they would only laugh at if they
knew how they were done; and to prove what I say is true, I will
give you one or two examples. Can either of you lend me a
handkerchief? That won't do," said he, as I presented him with a
silk one. "I wish for a delicate white handkerchief. That's just
the kind of thing," said he, as the Hungarian offered him a fine
white cambric handkerchief, beautifully worked with gold at the
hems; "now you shall see me set this handkerchief on fire." "Don't
let him do so by any means," said the Hungarian, speaking to me in
German, "it is the gift of a lady whom I highly admire, and I would
not have it burnt for the world." "He has no occasion to be under
any apprehension," said the jockey, after I had interpreted to him
what the Hungarian had said, "I will restore it to him uninjured,
or my name is not Jack Dale." Then sticking the handkerchief
carelessly into the left side of his bosom, he took the candle,
which by this time had burnt very low, and holding his head back,
he applied the flame to the handkerchief, which instantly seemed to
catch fire. "What do you think of that?" said he to the Hungarian.
"Why, that you have ruined me," said the latter. "No harm done, I
assure you," said the jockey, who presently, clapping his hand on
his bosom, extinguished the fire, and returned the handkerchief to
the Hungarian, asking him if it was burnt. "I see no burn upon
it," said the Hungarian; "but in the name of Gott, how could you
set it on fire without burning it?" "I never set it on fire at
all," said the jockey; "I set this on fire," showing us a piece of
half-burnt calico. "I placed this calico above it, and lighted not
the handkerchief, but the rag. Now I will show you something else.
I have a magic shilling in my pocket, which I can make run up along
my arm. But, first of all, I would gladly know whether either of
you can do the like." Thereupon the Hungarian and myself, putting
our hands into our pockets, took out shillings, and endeavoured to
make them run up our arms, but utterly failed; both shillings,
after we had made two or three attempts, falling to the ground.
"What noncomposses you both are," said the jockey; and placing a
shilling on the end of the fingers of his right hand he made
strange faces to it, drawing back his head, whereupon the shilling
instantly began to run up his arm, occasionally hopping and jumping
as if it were bewitched, always endeavouring to make towards the
head of the jockey.
"How do I do that?" said he, addressing himself to me. "I really
do not know," said I, "unless it is by the motion of your arm."
"The motion of my nonsense," said the jockey, and, making a
dreadful grimace, the shilling hopped upon his knee, and began to
run up his thigh and to climb up his breast. "How is that done?"
said he again. "By witchcraft, I suppose," said I. "There you are
right," said the jockey; "by the witchcraft of one of Miss Berners'
hairs; the end of one of her long hairs is tied to that shilling by
means of a hole in it, and the other end goes round my neck by
means of a loop; so that, when I draw back my head, the shilling
follows it. I suppose you wish to know how I got the hair," said
he, grinning at me. "I will tell you. I once, in the course of my
ridings, saw Miss Berners beneath a hedge, combing out her long
hair, and, being rather a modest kind of person, what must I do but
get off my horse, tie him to a gate, go up to her, and endeavour to
enter into conversation with her. After giving her the sele of the
day, and complimenting her on her hair, I asked her to give me one
of the threads; whereupon she gave me such a look, and, calling me
fellow, told me to take myself off. 'I must have a hair first,'
said I, making a snatch at one. I believe I hurt her; but, whether
I did or not, up she started, and, though her hair was unbound,
gave me the only drubbing I ever had in my life. Lor! how, with
her right hand, she fibbed me whilst she held me round the neck
with her left arm; I was soon glad to beg her pardon on my knees,
which she gave me in a moment, when she saw me in that condition,
being the most placable creature in the world, and not only her
pardon, but one of the hairs which I longed for, which I put
through a shilling, with which I have on evenings after fairs, like
this, frequently worked what seemed to those who looked on
downright witchcraft, but which is nothing more than pleasant
deception. And now, Mr. Romany Rye, to testify my regard for you,
I give you the shilling and the hair. I think you have a kind of
respect for Miss Berners; but whether you have or not, keep them as
long as you can, and whenever you look at them think of the finest
woman in England, and of John Dale, the jockey of Horncastle. I
believe I have told you my history," said he--"no, not quite; there
is one circumstance I had passed over. I told you that I have
thriven very well in business, and so I have, upon the whole; at
any rate, I find myself comfortably off now. I have horses, money,
and owe nobody a groat; at any rate, nothing but what I could pay
to-morrow. Yet I have had my dreary day, ay, after I had obtained
what I call a station in the world. All of a sudden, about five
years ago, everything seemed to go wrong with me--horses became
sick or died, people who owed me money broke or ran away, my house
caught fire, in fact, everything went against me; and not from any
mismanagement of my own. I looked round for help, but--what do you
think?--nobody would help me. Somehow or other it had got abroad
that I was in difficulties, and everybody seemed disposed to avoid
me, as if I had got the plague. Those who were always offering me
help when I wanted none, now, when they thought me in trouble,
talked of arresting me. Yes; two particular friends of mine, who
had always been offering me their purses when my own was stuffed
full, now talked of arresting me, though I only owed the scoundrels
a hundred pounds each; and they would have done so, provided I had
not paid them what I owed them; and how did I do that? Why, I was
able to do it because I found a friend--and who was that friend?
Why, a man who has since been hung, of whom everybody has heard,
and of whom everybody for the next hundred years will occasionally
"One day, whilst in trouble, I was visited by a person I had
occasionally met at sporting-dinners. He came to look after a
Suffolk Punch, the best horse, by the bye, that anybody can
purchase to drive, it being the only animal of the horse kind in
England that will pull twice at a dead weight. I told him that I
had none at that time that I could recommend; in fact, that every
horse in my stable was sick. He then invited me to dine with him
at an inn close by, and I was glad to go with him, in the hope of
getting rid of unpleasant thoughts. After dinner, during which he
talked nothing but slang, observing I looked very melancholy, he
asked me what was the matter with me, and I, my heart being opened
by the wine he had made me drink, told him my circumstances without
reserve. With an oath or two for not having treated him at first
like a friend, he said he would soon set me all right; and pulling
out two hundred pounds, told me to pay him when I could. I felt as
I never felt before; however, I took his notes, paid my sneaks, and
in less than three months was right again, and had returned him his
money. On paying it to him, I said that I had now a lunch which
would just suit him, saying that I would give it to him--a free
gift--for nothing. He swore at me;--telling me to keep my Punch,
for that he was suited already. I begged him to tell me how I
could requite him for his kindness, whereupon, with the most
dreadful oath I ever heard, he bade me come and see him hanged when
his time was come. I wrung his hand, and told him I would, and I
kept my word. The night before the day he was hanged at H---, I
harnessed a Suffolk Punch to my light gig, the same Punch which I
had offered to him, which I have ever since kept, and which brought
me and this short young man to Horncastle, and in eleven hours I
drove that Punch one hundred and ten miles. I arrived at H--- just
in the nick of time. There was the ugly jail--the scaffold--and
there upon it stood the only friend I ever had in the world.
Driving my Punch, which was all in a foam, into the midst of the
crowd, which made way for me as if it knew what I came for, I stood
up in my gig, took off my hat, and shouted, 'God Almighty bless
you, Jack!' The dying man turned his pale grim face towards me--
for his face was always somewhat grim, do you see--nodded and said,
or I thought I heard him say, 'All right, old chap.' The next
moment--my eyes water. He had a high heart, got into a scrape
whilst in the marines, lost his half-pay, took to the turf, ring,
gambling, and at last cut the throat of a villain who had robbed
him of nearly all he had. But he had good qualities, and I know
for certain that he never did half the bad things laid to his
charge; for example, he never bribed Tom Oliver to fight cross, as
it was said he did on the day of the awful thunder-storm. Ned
Flatnose fairly beat Tom Oliver, for though Ned was not what's
called a good fighter, he had a particular blow, which if he could
put in he was sure to win. His right shoulder, do you see, was two
inches farther back than it ought to have been, and consequently
his right fist generally fell short; but if he could swing himself
round, and put in a blow with that right arm, he could kill or take
away the senses of anybody in the world. It was by putting in that
blow in his second fight with Spring that he beat noble Tom.
Spring beat him like a sack in the first battle, but in the second
Ned Painter--for that was his real name--contrived to put in his
blow, and took the senses out of Spring; and in like manner he took
the senses out of Tom Oliver.
"Well, some are born to be hanged, and some are not; and many of
those who are not hanged are much worse than those who are. Jack,
with many a good quality, is hanged, whilst that fellow of a lord,
who wanted to get the horse from you at about two-thirds of his
value, without a single good quality in the world, is not hanged,
and probably will remain so. You ask the reason why, perhaps.
I'll tell you; the lack of a certain quality called courage, which
Jack possessed in abundance, will preserve him; from the love which
he bears his own neck he will do nothing which can bring him to the
gallows. In my rough way I'll draw their characters from their
childhood, and then ask whether Jack was not the best character of
the two. Jack was a rough, audacious boy, fond of fighting, going
a birds'-nesting, but I never heard he did anything particularly
cruel save once, I believe, tying a canister to a butcher's dog's
tail; whilst this fellow of a lord was by nature a savage beast,
and when a boy would in winter pluck poor fowls naked, and set them
running on the ice and in the snow, and was particularly fond of
burning cats alive in the fire. Jack, when a lad, gets a
commission on board a ship as an officer of horse marines, and in
two or three engagements behaves quite up to the mark--at least of
a marine; the marines having no particular character for courage,
you know--never having run to the guns and fired them like madmen
after the blue jackets had had more than enough. Oh, dear me, no!
My lord gets into the valorous British army, where cowardice--Oh,
dear me!--is a thing almost entirely unknown; and being on the
field of Waterloo the day before the battle, falls off his horse,
and, pretending to be hurt in the back, gets himself put on the
sick list--a pretty excuse--hurting his back--for not being present
at such a fight. Old Benbow, after part of both his legs had been
shot away in a sea-fight, made the carpenter make him a cradle to
hold his bloody stumps, and continued on deck, cheering his men
till he died. Jack returns home, and gets into trouble, and having
nothing to subsist by but his wits, gets his living by the ring and
the turf, doing many an odd kind of thing, I dare say, but not half
those laid to his charge. My lord does much the same without the
excuse for doing so which Jack had, for he had plenty of means, is
a leg, and a black, only in a more polished way, and with more
cunning, and I may say success, having done many a rascally thing
never laid to his charge. Jack at last cuts the throat of a
villain who had cheated him of all he had in the world, and who, I
am told, was in many points the counterpart of this screw and white
feather, is taken up, tried, and executed; and certainly taking
away a man's life is a dreadful thing; but is there nothing as bad?
Whitefeather will cut no person's throat--I will not say who has
cheated him, for, being a cheat himself, he will take good care
that nobody cheats him, but he'll do something quite as bad; out of
envy to a person who never injured him, and whom he hates for being
more clever and respected than himself, he will do all he possibly
can, by backbiting and every unfair means, to do that person a
mortal injury. But Jack is hanged, and my lord it not. Is that
right? My wife, Mary Fulcher--I beg her pardon, Mary Dale--who is
a Methodist, and has heard the mighty preacher, Peter Williams,
says some people are preserved from hanging by the grace of God.
With her I differs, and says it is from want of courage. This
Whitefeather, with one particle of Jack's courage, and with one
tithe of his good qualities, would have been hanged long ago, for
he has ten times Jack's malignity. Jack was hanged because, along
with his bad qualities, he had courage and generosity; this fellow
is not, because with all Jack's bad qualities, and many more,
amongst which is cunning, he has neither courage nor generosity.
Think of a fellow like that putting down two hundred pounds to
relieve a distressed fellow-creature; why he would rob, but for the
law and the fear it fills him with, a workhouse child of its
breakfast, as the saying is--and has been heard to say that he
would not trust his own father for sixpence, and he can't imagine
why such a thing as credit should be ever given. I never heard a
person give him a good word--stay, stay, yes! I once heard an old
parson, to whom I sold a Punch, say that he had the art of
receiving company gracefully and dismissing them without
refreshment. I don't wish to be too hard with him, and so let him
make the most of that compliment. Well! he manages to get on,
whilst Jack is hanged; not quite enviably, however; he has had his
rubs, and pretty hard ones--everybody knows he slunk from Waterloo,
and occasionally checks him with so doing; whilst he has been
rejected by a woman--what a mortification to the low pride of which
the scoundrel has plenty! There's a song about both circumstances,
which may, perhaps, ring in his ears on a dying bed. It's a funny
kind of song, set to the old tune of the Lord-Lieutenant or Deputy,
and with it I will conclude my discourse, for I really think it's
past one." The jockey then, with a very tolerable voice, sung the
THE JOCKEY'S SONG.
Now list to a ditty both funny and true! -
Merrily moves the dance along -
A ditty that tells of a coward and screw,
My Lord-Lieutenant so free and young.
Sir Plume, though not liking a bullet at all, -
Merrily moves the dance along -
Had yet resolution to go to a BALL,
My Lord-Lieutenant so free and young.
"Woulez wous danser, mademoiselle?" -
Merrily moves the dance along; -
Said she, "Sir, to dance I should like very well,"
My Lord-Lieutenant so free and young.
They danc'd to the left, and they danc'd to the right, -
Merrily moves the dance along; -
And her troth the fair damsel bestow'd on the knight,
My Lord-Lieutenant so free and young.
"Now what shall I fetch you, mademoiselle?" -
Merrily moves the dance along; -
Said she, "Sir, an ice I should like very well,"
My Lord-Lieutenant so free and young.
But the ice, when he'd got it, he instantly ate, -
Merrily moves the dance along; -
Although his poor partner was all in a fret,
My Lord-Lieutenant so free and young.
He ate up the ice like a prudent young lord, -
Merrily moves the dance along; -
For he saw 't was the very last ice on the board, -
My Lord-Lieutenant so free and young.
"Now, when shall we marry?" the gentleman cried; -
Merrily moves the dance along; -
"Sir, get you to Jordan," the damsel replied,
My Lord-Lieutenant so free and young.
"I never will wed with the pitiful elf" -
Merrily moves the dance along -
"Who ate up the ice which I wanted myself,"
My Lord-Lieutenant so free and young.
"I'd pardon your backing from red Waterloo," -
Merrily moves the dance along -
"But I never will wed with a coward and screw,"
My Lord-Lieutenant so free and young.
The next morning I began to think of departing; I had sewed up the
money which I had received for the horse in a portion of my
clothing, where I entertained no fears for its safety, with the
exception of a small sum in notes, gold, and silver, which I
carried in my pocket. Ere departing, however, I determined to
stroll about and examine the town, and observe more particularly
the humours of the fair than I had hitherto an opportunity of
doing. The town, when I examined it, offered no object worthy of
attention but its church--an edifice of some antiquity; under the
guidance of an old man, who officiated as sexton, I inspected its
interior attentively, occasionally conversing with my guide, who,
however, seemed much more disposed to talk about horses than the
church. "No good horses in the fair this time, measter," said he;
"none but one brought hither by a chap whom nobody knows, and
bought by a foreigneering man, who came here with Jack Dale. The
horse fetched a good swinging price, which is said, however, to be
much less than its worth; for the horse is a regular clipper; not
such a one, 'tis said, has been seen in the fair for several
summers. Lord Whitefeather says that he believes the fellow who
brought him to be a highwayman, and talks of having him taken up,
but Lord Whitefeather is only in a rage because he could not get
him for himself. The chap would not sell it to un; Lord Screw
wanted to beat him down, and the chap took huff, said he wouldn't
sell it to him at no price, and accepted the offer of the
foreigneering man, or of Jack, who was his 'terpreter, and who
scorned to higgle about such a hanimal, because Jack is a
gentleman, though bred a dickey-boy, whilst t'other, though bred a
lord, is a screw and a whitefeather. Every one says the cove was
right, and I says so too; I likes spirit, and if the cove were
here, and in your place, measter, I would invite him to drink a
pint of beer. Good horses are scarce now, measter, ay, and so are
good men, quite a different set from what there were when I was
young; that was the time for men and horses. Lord bless you, I
know all the breeders about here; they are not a bad set, and they
breed a very fairish set of horses, but they are not like what
their fathers were, nor are their horses like their fathers'
horses. Now there is Mr.--the great breeder, a very fairish man,
with very fairish horses; but, Lord bless you, he's nothing to what
his father was, nor his steeds to his father's; I ought to know,
for I was at the school here with his father, and afterwards for
many a year helped him to get up his horses; that was when I was
young, measter--those were the days. You look at that monument,
measter," said he, as I stopped and looked attentively at a
monument on the southern side of the church near the altar; "that
was put up for a rector of this church, who lived a long time ago,
in Oliver's time, and was ill-treated and imprisoned by Oliver and
his men; you will see all about it on the monument. There was a
grand battle fought nigh this place, between Oliver's men and the
Royal party, and the Royal party had the worst of it, as I'm told
they generally had; and Oliver's men came into the town, and did a
great deal of damage, and ill-treated the people. I can't remember
anything about the matter myself, for it happened just one hundred
years before I was born, but my father was acquainted with an old
countryman, who lived not many miles from here, who said he
remembered perfectly well the day of the battle; that he was a boy
at the time, and was working in a field near the place where the
battle was fought; and heard shouting, and noise of firearms, and
also the sound of several balls, which fell in the field near him.
Come this way, measter, and I will show you some remains of that
day's field." Leaving the monument, on which was inscribed an
account of the life and sufferings of the Royalist Rector of
Horncastle, I followed the sexton to the western end of the church,
where, hanging against the wall, were a number of scythes stuck in
the ends of poles. "Those are the weapons, measter," said the
sexton, "which the great people put into the hands of the country
folks, in order that they might use them against Oliver's men; ugly
weapons enough; however, Oliver's men won, and Sir Jacob Ashley and
his party were beat. And a rare time Oliver and his men had of it,
till Oliver died, when the other party got the better, not by
fighting, 'tis said, but through a General Monk, who turned sides.
Ah, the old fellow that my father knew, said he well remembered the
time when General Monk went over and proclaimed Charles the Second.
Bonfires were lighted everywhere, oxen roasted, and beer drunk by
pailfuls; the country folks were drunk with joy, and something
else; sung scurvy songs about Oliver to the tune of Barney Banks,
and pelted his men, wherever they found them, with stones and
dirt." "The more ungrateful scoundrels they," said I. "Oliver and
his men fought the battle of English independence against a
wretched king and corrupt lords. Had I been living at the time, I
should have been proud to be a trooper of Oliver." "You would,
measter, would you? Well, I never quarrels with the opinions of
people who come to look at the church, and certainly independence
is a fine thing. I like to see a chap of an independent spirit,
and if I were now to see the cove that refused to sell his horse to
my Lord Screw and Whitefeather, and let Jack Dale have him, I would
offer to treat him to a pint of beer--e'es, I would, verily. Well,
measter, you have now seen the church, and all there's in it worth
seeing--so I'll just lock up, and go and finish digging the grave I
was about when you came, after which I must go into the fair to see
how matters are going on. Thank ye, measter," said he, as I put
something into his hand; "thank ye kindly; 'tis not every one who
gives me a shilling now-a-days who comes to see the church, but
times are very different from what they were when I was young; I
was not sexton then, but something better; helped Mr.--with his
horses, and got many a broad crown. Those were the days, measter,
both for men and horses--and I say, measter, if men and horses were
so much better when I was young than they are now, what, I wonder,
must they have been in the time of Oliver and his men?"
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