Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

on

catches his whip into a double thong, and throws it to the ostler; the steam of the horses rises straight up into the air. He has put them along over the last two miles, and is two minutes before his time; he rolls down from the box and into the inn. The guard rolls off behind. “Now, St.

“Now, Sh” says he to Tom, "you just jump down, and I'll give you a drop of something to keep the cold out."

Tom finds a difficulty in jumping, or indeed in finding the top of the wheel with his fest, which may be in the next world for all he feels;

so the guard picks him off the coach-top and sets him his legs, and they stump off into the bar, and join the coachman and the other outside passengers.

Here a fresh-looking barmaid serves them each with a glass of early purl as they stand before the fire, coachman and guard exchanging busines: remarks. The purl warms the cockles of Tom's heart and makes him cough.

“ Rare tackle that, sir, of a cold morning," says the coachman, smiling; “ Time's up.” They are out again and up; Coachee the last, gathering the reins into his hands and talking to Jem the ostler about the mare's shoulder, and then swing. ing himself up on to the box, the horses dashing off in a canter before he falls into his seat. Toot toot-tootle-too goes the horn, and away they are again, five-and-thirty miles on their road, (nearly half-way to Rugby, thinks Tom,) and the prospect of breakfast at the end of the stage.

And now they begin to see, and the early lift of the country-side comes out; a market carto

MORNING SIGHTS AND DOINGS.

89

two, men in smock-frocks going to their work, pipe in mouth, a whiff of which is no bad smell this bright morning. The sun gets up and the mist shines like silver gauze. They pass the hounds jogging along to a distant meet at the heels of the huntsman's hack, whose face is about the colour of the tails of his old pink, as he exchanges greetings with coachman and guard. Now they pull up at a lodge, and take on board a well muffled-up sportsman, with his gun-case and carpet-bag An early up-coach meets them, and the coachmen gather up their horses, and pass one another with the accustomed lift of the elbow, each team doing eleven miles an hour, with a mile to spare behind if necessary. And here comes breakfast.

Twenty minutes here, gentlemen,” says the coachman, as they pull up at half-past seven at the inn-door.

Have not we endured nobly this morning, and is not this a worthy reward for much endurance ? There is the low dark wainscoted room hung with sporting prints; the hat-stand, with a whip or two standing up in it belonging to bagmen, who are still snug in bed, by the door; the blazing fire, with the quaint old glass over the mantel-piece, in which is stuck a large card with the list of the

meets for the week of the county hounds. The 1 table covered with the whitest of cloths and of '

china, and bearing a pigeon-pie, ham, round of cold boiled beef cut from a mammoth ox, and the great loaf of household bread on a wooden trencher.

66

[blocks in formation]

mous.

And here comes in the stout head waiter, puffing under a tray of hot viands; kidneys and a steak, transparent rashers and poached eggs, buttered toast and muffins, coffee and tea, all smoking hot. The table can never hold it all; the cold meats are removed to the sideboard, they were only put on for show, and to give us an appetite. And now fall on, gentlemen all. It is a wellknown sporting-house, and the breakfasts are fa

Two or three men in pink, on their way to the meet,. drop in, and are very jovial and sharp-set, as indeed we all are.

6 Tea or coffee, sir?says head waiter, coming round to Tom.

“ Coffee, please,” says Tom, with his mouth full of muffin and kidney; coffee is a treat to him, tea is not.

Our coachman, I perceive, who breakfasts with us, is a cold-beef man.

He also eschews hot potations, and addicts himself to a tankard of ale, which is brought him by the barmaid. Sportsman looks on approvingly, and orders a ditto for himself.

Tom has eaten kidney and pigeon-pie, and imbibed coffee, till his little skin is as tight as a drum; and then has the further pleasure of paying head waiter out of his own purse, in a dignified manner, and walks out before the inn-door to see the horses put to. This is done leisurely and in a highly finished manner by the ostlers, as if they enjoyed the not being hurried. Coachman comes out with his way-bill, and puffing a fat

PUTTING-TO AGAIN.

91

cigar which the sportsman has given him. Guard emerges from the tap, where he prefers breakfasting, licking round a tough-looking doubtful cheroot, which you might tie round your finger, and three whiffs of which would knock any one else out of time.

The pinks stand about the inn-door lighting cigars and waiting to see us start, while their hacks are led up and down the market-place on which the inn looks. They all know our sportsman, and we feel a reflected credit. when we see him chatting and laughing with them.

“Now, sir, please,” says the coachman. All the rest of the passengers are up, the guard is locking the hind boot.

“A good run to you,” says the sportsman to the pinks, and is by the coachman's side in no time.

“Let 'em go, Dick!" The ostlers fly back, drawing off the cloths from their glossy loins, and away we go through the market-place and down the High street, looking in at the first-floor windows, and seeing several worthy burgesses shaving thereat, while all the shop-boys who are cleaning the windows, and housemaids who are doing the steps, stop and look pleased as we rattle past, as if it were a part of their legitimate morning's amusement. We clear the town, and are well out between the hedgerows again as the town clock strikes eight.

The sun shines almost warmly, and breakfast has oiled all springs and loosened all tongues.

92

GUARD DISCOURSES ON RUGBY,

Tom is encouraged by a remark or two of the guard's, between the puffs of his oily cheroot, and besides is getting tired of not talking. He is too full of his destination to talk about anything else, and so asks the guard if he knows Rugby.

« Goes through it every day of my life. Twenty minutes afore twelve down, ten o'clock up." • What sort of a place is it, please ?

says

Tom. Guard looks at him with a comical expression. Werry out-o'-the-way place, sir; no paving to streets, nor no lighting. 'Mazin' big horse and cattle fair in autumn lasts a week — just over now, Takes town a week to get clean after it. Fairish hunting country. But slow place, sir, slow place: off the main road you see — only three coaches a-day, and one on 'em a two-oss wan, more like a hearse nor a coach. Regulator comes from Oxford. Young genl'm'n at school calls him Pig and Whistle, and goes up to college by him (six miles an hour) when they goes to enter. Belong to school, sir ?"

“ Yes,” says Tom, not unwilling for a moment that the guard should think him an old boy. But then, having some qualms as to the truth of the assertion, and seeing that if he were to assume the character of an old boy he couldn't go on asking the questions he wanted, added — “ that is to say, I'm on my way there. I'm a new boy."

The guard looked as if he knew this quite as well as Tom.

“ You're werry late, sir,” says the guard ; "ony six weeks to-day to the end of the half.” Tom

« VorigeDoorgaan »