Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

EPSOM DOWNS.
1. PRELIMINARY PREPARATIONS.

In the vicinity of Addle street, and near unto Little Britain, dwelt a happy pair, who kept a sınall concern in the hosiery and haberdashery line-a slatternly little girl, called a maid-of-all-work, and a shopman, familiarly called Jim Slatter, about two-and-twenty, who was a great adept at insinuation, as the goods he ticketed proved; for when the passer-by was drawn in by the display of a silk handkerchief, which he innocently thought was only marked two shillings, he found, upon a close inspection, that there was ten-pence halfpenny down in pale pencil figures, as plain as the nose upon his face. Then, again, all bis sixteen-pences proved one-and-sixpences; and his articles of * silk' were preceded by the drawback .equal to' down in little. In fact, he was a perfect master of his business, having been an observing errand-boy in a first-rate establishment, when he was transplanted to Diggs, and first combed up his lank hair to the semblance of a Brutus.

He possessed a great flow of that peculiar kind of eloquence called small talk,' and was a particular favourite with all the old women and servants who came for a ball of cotton, a skein of thread, a paper of · Whitechapel pints,' or a paper o pins. As for measuring tapes or ribands, he was beyond measure' excellent. What between the brass-nails on the counter and his adroit thumb-nails, he generally made eleven yards measure twelve. The only wonder is, how Jim Slatter could sleep under that counter over which he daily exhibited his tricks; but his early education had seared his cunscience, and he certainly did lie there without any feeling of compunction.

Mr. and Mrs. Diggs's estimation of Jim Slatter was only excelled by his own. In the course of business he became acquainted with

Tom Sharpwit, the town-traveller of a wholesale house,-a man who, according to his oft-asserted dictum, was up to a thing or two, and down to everything. He first planted the seeds of ambition in the humble breast of the quiet Jim Slatter, and it was really amazing how they flourished. The consequence of several whisperings across the counter was the resolution to endeavour to obtain a holiday of his governor, and accompany Sharpwit 10 Epsom to witness the Derby. After considerable manæuvring he gained his point, and determined to do the thing handsome; Sharpwit was to borrow the vehicle—that is, he proposed to drive down, instead of going his usual rounds, and excuse his want of orders to the Epsom excitement.

Of course Diggs was not let into the secret, and entertained no suspicion that his steady shopman was going to exhibit on the Downs. After a great deal of lying like truth, he was permitted to sleep out the night preceding the auspicious day; and Mrs. Diggs, impressing on his mind the necessity of being in before eleven, generously gave bim half-a-crown to spend on his holiday.

11. THE SUPPER. "Well, old fellow,' exclaimed Sharpwit, as Jim Slatter entered his lodging, 'I began to think the old un had smelt a rat, and najled you to the counter, in order to preserve your morals. I know they are stiit uns,

I'm not so easily put out,' said Jim. •No; but I thought you might be easily kept in,' replied Sharpwit. • Bu! come, we won't waste time. See, here are the togs,'-opening a box,—all snug and spicy; there's a pair o'cords !-and look at these mud-pipes.'

Prime!' exclaimed the gratified Jim, as he reviewed the sporting suit in which he was to appear on the morrow, and all procured a bargain by his kind friend.

How much tin have you scraped together ?' demanded Sharpwit. • Twelve pun ten, and an odd half-crown,' answered Jim. •Excellent!' cried his friend. “I think, with a little of my advice, you may double it. But let's to supper. Mother Davis is doing us a dish of steaks and onions, and—what do you drink?'

• Usually a pint of half-and-half.'

• Half-and-half!' exclaimed Sharpwit. That'll never do for a sporting man. No-we must prime with gin or rum and water.'

•You know best,' said Slatter; I put myself under your wing entirely. In for a penny in for a pound-it's on’y once a year.'

Bravo! spoke like a man of spirit. I shall make something of you, I see.'

*No doubt of it,' said Jim. And Sharpwit really had no doubt of it.

The savoury dish was served up, and the two friends sat down with a glorious appetite.

*Rather done too much, as the jockey said, when he betted fifty to one and lost,' observed Sharpwit, holding the steak upon his fork.

Smoked and black-wanted a clear fire, Mother Davis,' remarked Slatter.

"Yes, very like sweep-steaks,' said Sharpwit. However, we are both hungry as hunters, and the "course" is of very litele importance lo a couple of a bolters.” But you don't drink-mix for yourself, my Trojan-fill as you like but drink what you fill, as we say at our club. By the by, I must propose you. I assure you we are a jolly set. Here's your health, Slatter, and to our belter acquaintance.'

"You do me proud,' said Jim; •and may you live as long as life's agreeable to you. Here's your health !

And so they continued to eat, and drink, and talk for an hour or more, Sharpwit discoursing learnedly upon horse-flesh and enlightening his friend, who was at last obliged to yield to the overpowering influence of sleep and grog, and retired to bed,--dreaming of horses, and suffering from nightmare.

111. THE ROAD. At the Elephant and Castle, at nine o'clock on the following morning, Sharpwit and Slatter were imbibing brandy and soda-water. The

turn-out looked very well; and Slatter, with his wbite cords. 'cutaway Newmarket' coat, with gilt buttons, his green neckerchief, and tops, looked very 'spicy,' and exceedingly pale, from the effects of his last night's excess.

Vehicles of all sorts, shapes, and sizes, were on the road,- fourhorse coaches, tandems, cabs, omnibuses, wagons, vans, go-carts with horses that had but little 'go' in them, and chaise carts with six and eight fellows sitting 'etern foremost' to the spectators,-ginger-beer carts and trucks looking very spruce,—the splendid drags of the nobility and the squalid dregs of the mobility, all mingled and crowded together, nobs and snobs, cobs and cabs, presented to Slatter a novel and entertaining mixture, all pressing forward to witness the doings of the day of days, swearing, laughing, joking, poking quips and whips, forming allogether a variety which, like the discord of harmony, was charming from its very confusion. When within sight of Kennington turnpike there was a full stop.

• What's the matter now?' said Jim.

• Some gentleman in a donkey-cart wanting change for a tive pound note at the 'pike, I suppose,' 'replied Sharpwit..See what a line there is.'

"Yes, a precious line you've got me into,' said Slatter.

• The “stationary line, at present," said Sharpwit; and yet it's something like an angler's, 100,- for you see there's a “ pike" at the end of it.'

• Brayvo!' exclaimed Slatter, on whom the brandy and soda-water began to have an exhilarating influence..

At last, after no small trial of patience, our two heroes succeeded in getting through the turnpike, -or, as Sharpwit said, they were called to the bar,' and passed

• Ain't this priine, Jim, eh ?? remarked Tom. No scene in a Coburgh melodrama was ever more " moving.” There's all sorts, though unassorted. Look at that stiff cove in a borrowed turn-out, trying to tool a tit, that seems as if he bad more corns in his tight shoes iban corn in his digester, he shows such a precious deal of day. light under his girth. And look how iligantly his sweetheart lolls back in the shay, a-fretting the back of her satin spenser, and trying to do it handsomely,

Look ye, Tom !' exclaimed Slatter; there's four hulking fellows in a donkey-cart, with a driver on the shafts. They are surely not going down ?")

• Ain'they ? answered Sharpwit. Look! Dapple won't stand it-he kneels in the road--and ii's down with the dust they are, and no mistake! Now, 'gentlemen, draw your Arabian on one side, for you'll tie a knot in the line. You had better get up and go home; for you 'll never get down with that spirited animal! If you want ass-istance, there's plenty more donkeys on the road.'

"There goes a tight-laced stay-maker,' cried one of the fallen,'

· Exactly,' replied Tom, but I only work at home; you make a stay on the highway. Good-b'ye.' And, whipping up his nag, he passed on.

IV. FRAGMENTARY COLLOQUIES. Such a medley of high and low, polite and vulgar, trampers, beggars, lords of high degree, and ladies of no degree, men of character, and women of none; dustmen and dandies, jugglers, higglers, cabmen, gentlemen in carriages, and genilemen of no carriage at all,-produced a scene, if not of instruction, of great excitement and amusement,--the language being a Babylonish mixture of St. James's and St. Giles's, with all their varieties of dialect.

Had we as many arms as Briareus, or as many quills as a flock of geese, it would be a vain and fruitless attempt to chronicle all the sayiogs and doings on the way-a task as bootless as a red-legged Irish gossoon or bog-trotter.

We shall, therefore, confine ourselves to a few elegant extracts, which may, perhaps, serve as choice morceaux for contributors to ladies' albums, or other repertories of scrawled nonsense,

"Hullo! exclaimed a red-faced bagsman, with a broad-brimmed hat, and a green shawl round his bull-like neck. • Where are you driving to? Why, you've scratched the back of my shay with your pole, you have!

Come, that's a good’un,' said the driver of the van, 'for you for to go for to cry out, ven you've actilly scratched my pole with your shay. A man as backs a oss as vou'ı go-must be a mule!'

• You're right, I am a mule; for I'm just now between a horse and an ass,' replied the bagsman.

• Now, old stick-in-the-mud ! slip your tile over your left ear, and pay into the ribs of that piece o' hanimated dog's meat o' yourn.'

. Vot can I do? would you have me drive into that 'ere wan?'

“No! that's impossible! you 'll never be in the van, try your best, nor get that knacker's delight o' yourn into a rear,-as long as you breathe. If your mother don't know you're out, how distressed the old 'un will be, for you 'll never get home tonight with that specimen o' horse-flesh ! he'll be doubled up like a clothes horse, and come to a stand long before he reaches the course.'

• Now, drive on, mister,—vy don't ye drive on? Vip up that 'ere hanimal o' yourn, vill you ??

Would you have me drive over a coal wagon? How can I drive on? I wish you'd hold your nagging.'

· And I wish you would not hold your nag in, but go for’ard !Hist! hist!'

• Keep on your right side,' said a smart fellow in a chaise-cart, with a sorry nag. There now, you've grazed my vehicle, fellow.''

'If I had grazed your tit, instead of your vehicle, as you call it,' replied the other, it would have been a charity.'

I'll bring an action for damages. • Haven't you got damages enough by the action already ? Come, go a head, there's a good young gentleman; a slight brush will mend what a slight brush has done. It'll cost more to panel a jury than to new panel your precious vehicle.'

• That 'ere seems a fast horse of yours,' said an omnibus-driver to a man who was in vain endeavouring by dint of whipping to make his horse draw his chaise-cart out of a ditch, into which he had driven it. • Werry!' said the man, grinning.

V. THE DOWNS. We once saw an immense, Daniel Lambert sort of harlequin exhi. bited in a Christmas pantomime; and the patched and variously coloured crowd reminded us of that parti-coloured hero. We imagined that the obese Agility, wearied with his exertions, had spread himself over the Downs in a sort of restless repose, as if tumbling about the wide expanse in a night-mare sleep! Swarthy gipsies, and fair women, -satins, velveis, silks, and rags, were intermingled.

There were people of distinction mingling with people of no distinction, there was a perfect equality in the pleasures and pursuits of the day,--the men of low degree found themselves on a level with their belters,- for there were beiters among the lowest.

The Queen (God bless her!) was there; and there was no lack of sovereigns to keep her in countenance, which appeared and disappeared rapidly at the various gambling-booths, thimble rigs, and other temptations to the votaries of chance, who got beggared, in the hope of beltering their condition. "

Touters, policemen, pick pockets, ballad-singers, tumblers, jugglers, knock-'em-downs, and the distributors of Dorling's cards, with correct lists of the horses, all contributed to ihe Babylonish clamour.

• My heye!' exclaimed Jin Slatter, 'what a precious lot o' people. I can see nothing but heads.' *I'll show you plenty of legs presently,' replied Tom.

When will the fun begin? Where's the racers ?' said Jim impatiently.

· Don't be in a hurry, Jim,' said Tom. 'I must show you some of the life on a race-course yet. You see that fellow with a threelegged table, with a parcel o fools about him, with more money than wit, -he's a thimble-rigger. That sinart cove on his right hand, and the country-joskin on the left, are bonnets.' "Bonnels ?' said Jim. What do they call 'em bonnets for ?

Because they're men of straw, I suppose. He lets them win in order to decoy the innocents to stake their crowns and sovereigns.

Sharpwit, who appeared as much at home on the 'turf' as a caged skylark, then took him to the various booths and stands, and explained all the process of conveyancing, and easing gentlemen of their personal property in the most handsome manner. At Jevgib the bell rang for saddling, and they returned to their vehicle, in order to have a good sight of the running, and in about half an hour the horses started.

There was an unusual movement of the whole body,-bets were offered and taken, and the utmost excitement prevailed.

• Talk of the immorality of a race-course,' Tom, 'I say it is the best place in the world for improvement ; for here many a good man becomes a better, and yet sometimes finds himself the worse for it.'

Jim followed the advice of Tom, and betted only with him, and after the horses were in, which, of course, Sharpwit was not aware of, betted ten to four against Attila, (though five to one was the closing price of the exchange,) and found upon inquiry, that he had lost, for Attila had won !

Tom was very much surprised at his friend's ill-luck; and Jim, pot over-pleased at the termination of his first day on a race-course, He lost his spirits with his money, and expressed himself anxious to get home, as he had promised not to keep the old uns' up, after eleven. Tom obligingly complied with ihe request of his dear, weary, spiritless, hali-muddled friend, and quite content with his day's exploit, made for London. On their way home, they saw many horses knocked up, but most of the drivers were quite fresh.

VI. THE WIND-UP. Although Jim considered his loss as a mere matter of course,' as Tom expressed it, he made a resolution never to undertake a trip to Epsom again.

Before he laid his head upon his pillow, he took up the cord with the pedigrees of the running-horses, and listlessly read bem over,-concluding, with a sigh of regret and bitterness,

Jem Slaller out of Cash by Jingo!

« AnteriorContinuar »