Chapter 92

The landlord - Rather too old - Without a shilling - Reputation - A fortnight ago - Liquids - The main chance - Respectability - Irrational beings - Parliament cove - My brewer.

AMONGST other excursions, I went several times to the public-house to which I introduced the reader in a former chapter. I had experienced such beneficial effects from the ale I had drunk on that occasion, that I wished to put its virtue to a frequent test; nor did the ale on subsequent trials belie the good opinion which I had at first formed of it. After each visit which I made to the public-house, I found my frame stronger and my mind more cheerful than they had previously been. The landlord appeared at all times glad to see me, and insisted that I should sit within the bar, where, leaving his other guests to be attended to by a niece of his, who officiated as his housekeeper, he would sit beside me and talk of matters concerning ‘the ring,’ indulging himself with a cigar and a glass of sherry, which he told me was his favourite wine, whilst I drank my ale. ‘I loves the conversation of all you coves of the ring,’ said he once, ‘which is natural, seeing as how I have fought in a ring myself. Ah, there is nothing like the ring; I wish I was not rather too old to go again into it. I often think I should like to have another rally - one more rally, and then - but there’s a time for all things - youth will be served, every dog has his day, and mine has been a fine one - let me be content. After beating Tom of Hopton, there was not much more to be done in the way of reputation; I have long sat in my bar the wonder and glory of this here neighbourhood. I’m content, as far as reputation goes; I only wish money would come in a little faster; however, the next main of cocks will bring me in something handsome - comes off next Wednesday, at -; have ventured ten five- pound notes - shouldn’t say ventured either - run no risk at all, because why? I knows my birds.’ About ten days after this harangue I called again, at about three o’clock one afternoon. The landlord was seated on a bench by a table in the common room, which was entirely empty; he was neither smoking nor drinking, but sat with his arms folded, and his head hanging down over his breast. At the sound of my step he looked up; ‘Ah,’ said he, ‘I am glad you are come, I was just thinking about you.’ ‘Thank you,’ said I; ‘it was very kind of you, especially at a time like this, when your mind must be full of your good fortune. Allow me to congratulate you on the sums of money you won by the main of cocks at -. I hope you brought it all safe home.’ ‘Safe home!’ said the landlord; ‘I brought myself safe home, and that was all; came home without a shilling, regularly done, cleaned out.’ ‘I am sorry for that,’ said I; ‘but after you had won the money, you ought to have been satisfied, and not risked it again - how did you lose it? I hope not by the pea and thimble.’ ‘Pea and thimble,’ said the landlord - ‘not I; those confounded cocks left me nothing to lose by the pea and thimble.’ ‘Dear me,’ said I; ‘I thought that you knew your birds.’ ‘Well, so I did,’ said the landlord; ‘I knew the birds to be good birds, and so they proved, and would have won if better birds had not been brought against them, of which I knew nothing, and so do you see I am done, regularly done.’ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘don’t be cast down; there is one thing of which the cocks by their misfortune cannot deprive you - your reputation; make the most of that, give up cock-fighting, and be content with the custom of your house, of which you will always have plenty, as long as you are the wonder and glory of the neighbourhood.’

The landlord struck the table before him violently with his fist. ‘Confound my reputation!’ said he. ‘No reputation that I have will be satisfaction to my brewer for the seventy pounds I owe him. Reputation won’t pass for the current coin of this here realm; and let me tell you, that if it ain’t backed by some of it, it ain’t a bit better than rotten cabbage, as I have found. Only three weeks since I was, as I told you, the wonder and glory of the neighbourhood; and people used to come to look at me, and worship me; but as soon as it began to be whispered about that I owed money to the brewer, they presently left off all that kind of thing; and now, during the last three days, since the tale of my misfortune with the cocks has got wind, almost everybody has left off coming to the house, and the few who does, merely comes to insult and flout me. It was only last night that fellow, Hunter, called me an old fool in my own kitchen here. He wouldn’t have called me a fool a fortnight ago; ‘twas I called him fool then, and last night he called me old fool; what do you think of that? - the man that beat Tom of Hopton, to be called, not only a fool, but an old fool; and I hadn’t heart, with one blow of this here fist into his face, to send his head ringing against the wall; for when a man’s pocket is low, do you see, his heart ain’t much higher; but it is of no use talking, something must be done. I was thinking of you just as you came in, for you are just the person that can help me.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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