« PreviousContinue »
bome, facing two-thirds of the field in your retreat ? This requires much moral courage ; and unless you can do so, give up all thoughts of a farmer's horse. Go at once to the dealer : be carried like a gentleman : do or die. This is always my advice in the first instance. Have a hunter, and you will see sport ; and when you are unlucky enough to have got to the bottom of him, you must simply replace him in like manner. Grooms, horse-dealers, young farmers, and young gentlemen in cord trowsers, are to be seen upon unbroken horses by the cover-side; but a man of known character as a sportsman, or a country parson, on a plunging horse, or one restive with houuds, you never see. These men are much too good judges. As young as you please ; but never make an exhibition of yourself. To say nothing of the pleasure of being run away with, or of being left behind, or of rushing into a fence, or of carrying away a gate-post with your knee-cap, conceive the grinning multitude all round you, and the execrations of the politest Master in the world—not loud, therefore, but very deep. Besides, my dear boy, it reduces itself simply to a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence. A made horse is seldom, in the hands of a gentleman, intended for sale. A young one, untried, is too often a temptation to a man to ride for sale-a thing, of all others, calculated to make you unpopular with every description of sportsman. A young 'un is usually sound, and an intolerable bore to yourself and the rest of the field. Having said that, I've said all ; and recommend you to begin with a made horse, if you wish to ride like a gentleman.
Oxbridge, amongst its other luxuries, rejoices in dealers of every sort. There is the broad-brimmed and long-priced, in shiny black and well-polished boot-high priest of St. Boniface and Muddlehed, offering up his victims, whole hecatombs of aristocrats and gentlemencommoners, at the shrine of his own mammon. His stables are clean, well-appointed places, where you may walk or sit, or smoke your cigar, and read yonr Bell. His servants are clean and civil, and never stink of pipes and gin, until the business of the yard is over, and the stable closed for the day. What mysteries of all-fours and blackguardism go ou after that is nothing to you. Then come the horses-a fresh importation from Horncastle and Lincoln and Ballinasloe-clean-legged, smoothi-coated, and sleek. The bad-looking ones are for other customers not the worst of the lot, perhaps, amongst them. I own my curiosity. to see these dark-hole-and-corner quadrupeds, with their ragged hips and sore backs and fleshless ribs-pretty pickings for the trouble of conditioning.
"Now, Jim, quick: Put a bridle on 23, top stall. The gentleman will see him out."
Not a word more. At last, the animal makes his appearance. Halfmaster, the dealer, as quiet as a lamb: his turn for talking has not come yet. The horse has a small head, not very well put on, but relieved by a neck good where it should be ; a beautiful barrel, and very handsome round quarters, with not so much length as you will like, and are sure to want ; very clean legs, of remarkable blackness ; feet somewhat small ; hocks somewhat fleshy ; and a tail most beautifully set on, and magnificently borne. He carries himself admirably, moves like a gentleman, and is as soft as butter. This is the flatcatcher of the
party-very taking to our friend Jolly Green, of Allcash Park, at £150.
“I don't like his shoulders.”
“ Perhaps not, sir. We think them very good--a little defective behind, sir, perhaps ; but very nice oss very nice oss indeed. Take him in, Jim !"
"If Mr. Scribble won't have him, I know plenty as will,” says Mr. Halfmaster to himself; and as you have treated him in his own way, and are evidently not quite such a fool as you look, you have risen in his estimation ; and after another plant or two, you'll have something to carry you. He is, in his trade, as honest as most men. The marketprice of his article is whatever he can get for it ; and he does not invite you to buy what you don't like. He tells you no falsehoods about his wares ; but he certainly takes care to put the best face upon the worst points, and leaves the good ones to take care of themselves. He wants no dealings with the poor man; and when he gets a bad article, as he often does, he gets rid of it as well as he can, to some greenhorn that can afford to pay for it. He is civil and respectful to all his betters and to all his customers, of whom he appears to have an instinctive knowledge, and distinguishes by a rather more empressé style of salutation the St. Boniface man from the humble student of Ironsides Hall,
The next stable into which I should recommend you to look, and a very likely place to find a moderately priced good horse, without much fashion and a blemish or two—no beauty, but lots of work belongs to a good-humoured looking fellow, rather talkative, full of civility, with an air of bustle that means to say—“. Here we are again ! more customers; if this goes on I shall be the first man in Oxbridge.” The stable consists of seven or eight horses, in full working condition, and bought just as the fancy or purse of the buyer has dictated, at odd times and places--in fact, whenever a bargain was to be had. The master of this establishment has been the head groom for so many years in a large repository, that he can't help carrying the groom a little with him into the mastership. In this yard you will have to remember how the horses were bought ; in all cases supposed bargains, in many without warranty, though not in the face of a known defect ; and in one or two positive speculations on averred unsoundness, which has, to all appearance, come • right. Alec Pullen, familiarly known as Alec by the undergraduates, and Mr. Pullen by his helpers, is dressed in the shooting-jacket and tight drab-trouser and gaiter style, and speaks of all his superiors, without distinction, as gents. This he brought with him from the Birmingham Repository. He may have left Oxbridge, or he may be a Half-master by this time, or he may be dead and buried; but he existed in full force in my young days, and I will venture to say there are plenty there to take his place, if empty. His pattern horse is shown to you first, after your general inspection. A favourable impression is his great object; and you will be very likely to buy him, if he is the sort of horse I recollect in those stables, notwithstanding his want of fashion, but for one thing. As Alec Pullen bought him for twerty sovereigns at the end of the season, and he has been doing gentle work since, he can afford to take forty-five for him ; but you have made up your mind to give £70, or not be carried at all, and you will therefore turn your back upon him. The horse is something, I take it, after this fashion : not the prettiest head in the world, but beautifully put on, something to pull at without fatigue, a good hold in fact; neck lean, shoulders admirably placed, deep in the girth, but not very thick through the heart ; capital arms and good wearing legs and feet, with a scar or two; ragged hips, with long drooping quarters, and hind legs well under him ; fired in the hocks, though what for you cannot very well make out; and a quick wiry goer, with good knee action, and when mounted worth certainly donble what you calculated him at. Caveat emptor is what a late master of hounds called his dog Latin ; it should here be your horse Latin, and not be forgotten ; never let it be a dead language to you. And with that in your mind, and a warranty in your pocket, I think a young gentleman in the pig skin at 11st. 101b. might have got as much for his money as for £70 elsewhere. However, for security, and as a rule, go to the highest dealers your pocket will permit; their character is worth more to them than your money.
Alec was a civil fellow, and as he bows you out of Sanctity Lane yard he “ hopes you will allow him to find you something as 'ad suit, which he has no doubt he can do in a short time, at a moderate figure." If those middle-class fellows' figures were not so moderate sometimes, I think they might occasionally do more amongst the Greens.
And now, my dear fellow, before I conclude I shall put you on your guard against a set of men, of whom luckily there can be but few, if any, in Oxbridge--I mean a low dealer, such as are occasionally met with in our small market towns, and sometimes in large opes; an unmitigated ruffian, hardly a step above a common character. He shows you round his yard with a bad cigar in his mouth, and his hands in his pockets ; his servants are dirty, and one always has a black eye. He has not a horse in the stable that he bought for a sound one, but he will give you a warranty for the whole lot. Those that are not lame, or about to become so, or blind, or whistlers, are carnivorous, and are dressed over with two broomsticks and an iron muzzle. What he can't sell he sends to his partner, and his partner returns him the compliment from twenty miles distant. He swears and curses in the most offensive manner; and as each successive screw is brought out, he “ wishes he may drop" if he can't go longer and faster, and jump higher and farther, than any hanimal as hever wur foaled; and if you don't bang the field on him, why! - his eyes if he don't give him to you for nuffin. You need not go there, so we won't have his horses out. I could tell you some curious anecdotes of my experience, and perhaps I may. Adieu, my dear boy. Ever your affectionate uncle,
ERNEST ATHERLE Y;
BY LORD WILLIAM LENNOX.
" I once more view the room, with spectators surrounded,
Where, as Zanga, I trod on Alonzo o'erthrown;
I fancied that Mossop himself was outshone :
By my daughters, of kiagdom and reason deprived ;
My Love for the Drama-Choice of a Profession-Receive my Commission.
During the short dramatic summer season, independent of the performance already alluded to in the last chapter, I had prevailed upon my tutor to accompany me to the theatre upon two occasions, and had witnessed the representation of “ King Lear” and the Revenge.” It is true that the “stock” tragedian of the company did not come up to the “ brilliant star" that had so dazzled and bewitched me ; still the minor light was far from feeble, and delighted me to no small degree. Can it be wondered, then, that the impression made upon my pliant mind increased rather than diminished? The histrionic art shortly became a passion ; I could think and talk of nothing else - every leisure moment was devoted to Shakspeare- and I learnt the principal speeches of Shylock, Lear, and Zanga by heart, and spouted them to Mrs Miller, old Harry Arthur, James Morris, the groom, and whoever else was patient enough to listen to me. The Jew was my favourite part. I had converted an old brown table-cover into the Hebrew gaberdine ; I had made myself a beard from the stuffing of one of Farmer Dale's old cartsaddles ; and, with a wooden knife and a pair of scales, furnished by the carpenter, I strutted about on every holiday, looking much more like a Monmouth-street old-clothesman than the Venetian money-lender. Upon one occasion, when I had blackened my visage for the Moor, and had made a turban and tunic of some striped blue-and-white calico, I was taken for a May-day streep, and was called upon by seme clods to execute the shovel-and-broom dance. To render the performance attractive, I easily persuaded one of my cricketing companions, young Frank Grey, to read the other parts to me, or to give me the “cue,” for I now began to understand all the Thespian" slang ;” and the long hall at Atherley Manor, with a couple of screens as side-scenes, or a rural natural theatre of Scotch firs in the shrubbery, with, as Quince says, “the green plot for stage, and the hawthorn brake for our tiring
bouse, "often witnessed our dramatic efforts, to the delight and astonishment of Frank Sewell the huntsman's son, the butler, housekeeper, dairy-paids, gardener, foot-boy, groom, stable-lads, or any other spectators that we could press into our service.
Time circled on, and I had reccived many letters from my parents, as also a visit from the kind-hearted Mr. Ramsay, the purport of which was to ascertain my feelings with respect to my future life and profession. The army and navy were both open to me ; and the worthy old stockbroker, who was commissioned by my father to get at my real sentiments, entered into a full and amiable detail as to the merits of the respective services, and which detail he had gleaned from the opinions of two valued friends, who had served with distinction under Abercromby and Nelson, and who now were enjoying their well-earned half-pay within a mile of the “ Willows."
“Honour, courage, zeal, and implicit obedience to orders," said my Mentor, “ are the indispensable requisites for a soldier or sailor ; and civilian as I am, it has often occurred to me that they are equally imperative upon the citizen-honour, never to tell a falsehood or commit an ungentlemanlike act; courage to meet the assault of those enemies from which no one is free ; zeal to do “heart,' not eye,' service to our employers ; and implicit obedience to the laws of the land.”
In this strain would the old man proceed. At one moment, he could not refrain from alluding, with tears in his eyes, to the premature death of his darling son, and to the prospects he had entertained for him ; then, without a murmur, would he meekly bow to the dispensation of an all-wise and inscrutable Providence. At another time, he would refer to his only daughter, and his hopes that he might see her happily settled in life before he was called to his last account. Little did the speaker know how deeply interested I felt in the latter subject; for from my boyhood I had looked upon Ellen Ramsay as the most perfect of her sex. As this is no love-story, I will not dwell upon the romantic passion I had formed for her ; suffice it to say, she was my“ morning star of memory”--the object of my first attachment.
Anxious to talk over my future prospects with the companion of my youth, I proposed to pass a few days at the “ Willows," during which time I promised to decide the important question. This suggestion was readily agreed to ; and as my tutor wished to go up to London on private business for a week, it was arranged that I should devote that time to my old friends near Coventry. Upon the following day this plan was put into execution ; and at an early hour a chaise and pair was at the door to convey Mr. Ramsay and myself to his residence. Before I left the Manor House, I ran over to the kennel to wish Frank Sewell good-bye, and to urge him to see every attention paid to my pony, King Pepin, during my absence.
* That will Ť," said the kind-hearted youth, who was the greatest "chum” I had—the participator of all my pleasures, the companion of all my frolics, and the sympathising friend to whom I could unburthen my troubles, great and small. “I'm sorry father's out,” continued Prank—" he's gone over to see old Sam Wyatt, the earth-stopper ; he's had a sad attack of illness, and is confined to his bed.”
"Is there anything I can send him?" I responded. “Oh yes," I proceeded, “I will get Mrs Miller to make up a hamper of wine, arrow