Chapter 24

The alehouse-keeper - Compassion for the rich - Old English gentleman - How is this? - Madeira - The Greek Parr - Twenty languages - Whiter’s health - About the fight - A sporting gentleman - The flattened nose - Lend us that pightle - The surly nod.

‘HOLLOA, master! can you tell us where the fight is likely to be?’

Such were the words shouted out to me by a short thick fellow, in brown top-boots, and bareheaded, who stood, with his hands in his pockets, at the door of a country alehouse as I was passing by.

Now, as I knew nothing about the fight, and as the appearance of the man did not tempt me greatly to enter into conversation with him, I merely answered in the negative, and continued my way.

It was a fine lovely morning in May, the sun shone bright above, and the birds were carolling in the hedgerows. I was wont to be cheerful at such seasons, for, from my earliest recollection, sunshine and the song of birds have been dear to me; yet, about that period, I was not cheerful, my mind was not at rest; I was debating within myself, and the debate was dreary and unsatisfactory enough. I sighed, and turning my eyes upward, I ejaculated, ‘What is truth?’

But suddenly, by a violent effort breaking away from my meditations, I hastened forward; one mile, two miles, three miles were speedily left behind; and now I came to a grove of birch and other trees, and opening a gate I passed up a kind of avenue, and soon arriving before a large brick house, of rather antique appearance, knocked at the door.

In this house there lived a gentleman with whom I had business. He was said to be a genuine old English gentleman, and a man of considerable property; at this time, however, he wanted a thousand pounds, as gentlemen of considerable property every now and then do. I had brought him a thousand pounds in my pocket, for it is astonishing how many eager helpers the rich find, and with what compassion people look upon their distresses. He was said to have good wine in his cellar.

‘Is your master at home?’ said I, to a servant who appeared at the door.

‘His worship is at home, young man,’ said the servant, as he looked at my shoes, which bore evidence that I had come walking. ‘I beg your pardon, sir,’ he added, as he looked me in the face.

‘Ay, ay, servants,’ thought I, as I followed the man into the house, ‘always look people in the face when you open the door, and do so before you look at their shoes, or you may mistake the heir of a Prime Minister for a shopkeeper’s son.’

I found his worship a jolly, red-faced gentleman, of about fifty- five; he was dressed in a green coat, white corduroy breeches, and drab gaiters, and sat on an old-fashioned leather sofa, with two small, thoroughbred, black English terriers, one on each side of him. He had all the appearance of a genuine old English gentleman who kept good wine in his cellar.

‘Sir,’ said I, ‘I have brought you a thousand pounds’; and I said this after the servant had retired, and the two terriers had ceased the barking which is natural to all such dogs at the sight of a stranger.

And when the magistrate had received the money, and signed and returned a certain paper which I handed to him, he rubbed his hands, and looking very benignantly at me, exclaimed -

‘And now, young gentleman, that our business is over, perhaps you can tell me where the fight is to take place?’

‘I am sorry, sir,’ said I, ‘that I can’t inform you, but everybody seems to be anxious about it’; and then I told him what had occurred to me on the road with the alehouse-keeper.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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