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came amiss to him, from a thoroughbred horse down to a cinnamon Cochin hen. He would as soon buy one as the other; and if he sold one at a five-pound profit, and the other at a fivepenny one, he was always quite satisfied. "Quick profits is quick profits," was his great commercial axiom; and he seldom kept anything longer than a week. His only journey to London he owes to Indigo, and he could not be kept quiet there; but he must needs try his hand at Tattersall's, and buy a bay blood stallion (which just missed his or Indigo's well-filled waistband as he cleared the ring with a savage bellow) for some fifty pounds. He had solemnly determined to ride it down to shire, and, being well off for saddles at home, had been into fourteen saddlers in succession, trying to get a saddle and bridle out of them at what he called a 66 margin figure," when he came across some foreigner, and got rid of the animal at a twentypound profit. Indigo was not so fortunate. In despair of getting anything out of a bad metropolitan picture-debt, he had descended on his creditor, and decided to bear off an eleven-and-a-half black pony, with broken knees, windgalls, and crib-biting tastes, &c., and a four-wheel (which would have suited a sixteener), home to Daubersden. No one sitting in that carriage could see anything beyond the pony's ears, but Indigo did not seem to feel his position in the least; and with Nat at his side, and huge rolls of canvas, new stretchers, a pair of cinnamon fowls and a half-lop buck rabbit under the seat, the respected brother-churchwardens swept out of the metropolis through Temple Bar. I fear their language was not altogether clerical, as a blocked-up conductor assailed them with "Now, then, you two fat uns with that 'ere walking-stick between you" (Indigo had no whip), "where are you a-shoving to?" In fact, I have reason to know that there was a regular Agamemnon-broadside directed by Nat on to "Skinnybones," as he contemptuously christened him on the spot. However, the two jogged on very comfortably for twenty miles (Nat indulging in a round with a turnpike man, who attributed his defeat to his slippers), when they slept together at a railway-side inn, and, hoisting the carriage upon a truck, proceeded north next morning in the horsebox, with the pony. Indigo's countenance was so unshorn, and his black pipe so grovelling in the station-master's eyes, that when he put his head out of the horsebox at the final station, that gentleman ordered him to "git out and shove." The gentleman so summoned, as might have been expected, paid his friend a visit in the station before leaving, and bullied him to that degree, by assuring him that he was "a shareholder in the line, kept servants to do his work, and should report him, &c., for impudence," that an apology was extracted; and Indigo (who was about as much a shareholder as I am) drove off home with Nat in triumph.
Nat's bargain with the "foreigneering chap" greatly raised his reputation in the village, but before he had been a day in the society of his Nanny and three boys (she sadly wishes for a girl), he was off another forty miles, and returned in twenty-four hours with a pair of dun ponies, brother and sister, one of which had so much outgrown the other, that their lady owner gave up all her fond curricle hopes for them. They were soon separated for life; for Nat's head seemed to be a regular intuitive register of people who would like the offer
of such things, and back came a light cart and a pointer bitch, which seemed to form part of the purchase-money, and which as mysteriously departed in their turn. Nanny always opened the barn-door, each morning, with great curiosity and caution, if Nat had come in late and too sleepy to talk over-night; for it was 100 to 1 some Alderney calf, or half-grown fawn, or Leicester ram, or Newfoundland pup, did not rush bump up against her. She always vows that she would never be the least astonished if she sees Nat come riding into the yard on a buffalo, which he had got in a swap with some caravanman. He once had a little cocking fancy; but Nanny would hear of no such arguments as that an Earl Derby had once 3,000 cocks, and that they fought them in drawing-rooms. "More shame on them," was her only reply, accompanied with a threat that she would "wring all their necks when she caught them." Nat wisely saw that "the old woman was regularly put up," and was never again found in his barn at dead of night (when he had pretended to her that he had to sit up to doctor a horse), trimming a cock's tail, and fitting him with spurs for a coming tournament. He was ordered pretty briskly to bed that night, and no doubt kept receiving—if not
"From connubial toes
A hint, or elbow bone-"
such a talking to, that he promised permanent amendment, if he was only allowed sleep. Mountebanks soon found out these jobbing propensities, and always applied to Nat to purchase them the lean wether, which formed the head prize in their lottery. They used generally to stable the "wonderful mare Beda" and her skewball and cream-coloured companions on Nat's premises, and a small part of the barn was curtained off for their sleeping and dressing room. Indigo became such friends with the clown, that he painted his picture for him as he appeared, with his head between his legs, taking a rear sight" of his audience. It is a great work of art, and the clown considers that he has been hit off in his very happiest posture. Horses were, after all, his hobby; and he had a four-feet hurdle in his back field, over which, to save the weight (as he said), he always would insist on riding them bare-backed, whenever a customer presumed to doubt their powers. Warranties he would never give. "Bring your own chap, and look him ower," he used to say, "and I'll not stand in your light-I'se none so fond of bits of paper and lawyers." But if anything went very wrong just after the sale, he invariably clenched a complaint with "I likes the society of gentlemen, and I likes to act as such-I'll throw you a sovereign-there ;" and out used to come a sovereign accordingly from the pocket of his double breaster. When he had once said that, all the eloquence in the world could not have altered him, and if they haggled for more, out came the great turnip-looking silver watch, at the chain and seals of which a London pick-pocket had dragged in vain, and the party had five minutes given him to "tak the brass or leave it alone." Occasionally, too, he acted as a butcher; and he was such a rare hand at clipping and giving balls and drenches to cattle, that the new veterinary retreated at last before him in despair, after he had fairly beaten him out of the field in a case of Hereford twins. No man could do a little
butchering better; and poor daft Johnny, who enjoyed the pig-squeaking quite as much as the church music, always attended to hold the dying pig's tail. In short, he could handle anything, and I once met him on his way to the village pond, with half the village at his heels, holding a huge otter helplessly by the tail, and then acting as master of the ceremonies, as four-and-twenty curs swam in after him for a good hour. This jobation being ended, in revenge for the murdered trout, Nat again seized him as he crawled beaten up the bank, and shot him neatly through the head with his horse pistol. It stands stuffed on his parlour chimney-piece, " to witness if I lie."
Inside the public, Nanny was quite as business-like in her way. The bar and the sanded kitchen shone again; and if any one came in and 66 set up their sauce," she would order him to the door in a twinkling. Although as motherly and as good-tempered a woman as ever lived, she kept up most complete discipline over everyone but Nat, and I never saw but one who refused to go, and then Nat was beckoned to out of the fields, and gave him such a lift, on his arrival, as made both walking and sitting distasteful to him for a full week to come. "Proper glee-some-like songs," as Nanny observed, "she was uncommon fond of;" but anything the slightest "blue" brought her in from the bar with a run, and she very soon told the unhappy chorister that he might "step outside and cool himself, and not bring a bad name on her house." Once the parody
"Here's to free-trade in our rivers!
Dash the keepers' heads in shivers !
And we'll spear all night, by the taper's light,
And a fig for the gallow's tree."
burst in full chorus on her ear, and she dashed in Meg Merrilies-like on to the astonished party, and read them such a lecture on " profane songs," and trout-spearing, that two or three of the party were positively found in bed after eleven o'clock for nearly a fortnight after, although it was the very height of the Brawl trout-season. Her singing views quite accorded with those of Habram's. "He ad," as he told her and people in general, "no taste for long hoperas, but only liked the little hairs out of them.'
Nat troubled himself very little with the kitchen party, but generally had a select party of his own in a portion of the best parlour, which was screened off. The room itself was a very large one, and was used for rent days, coursing dinners, conjuring exhibitions, &c. It was hung round with the whole of the St. Leger winners; but Teddington, "that out-and-outer of horses," as Nat termed him, held the post of honour over the chimney-piece. The tithe dinners and rent suppers were all held here; and the geese, beef, and plum-puddings were sent up in such style, that Nanny's health was always drunk early on, after "The Army and Navy." And what's more, she always considered Nat such a poor orator, that "the office" was given her, and before the three times three and endless extra cheers were over, she appeared bodily in the room, and returned thanks for herself. Her remarks were always pretty discursive. If the pudding was the slightest underboiled, she made a
clean breast on the subject, and explained the reason; she then dashed off into gentle personalities, and if there were any slow bachelors in the room, she ordered them to get married before the next year, or "not come there any more disgracing themselves." Being a very great church-woman, she then proposed Mr. Gilcrux's health, and added "that he was no better than the rest of them about marrying, although she was never done talking to him." This latter allusion lasted her for only three years. At the second meeting, it was garnished with some very pregnant hints in connection with Marion (which set Ironmould roaring), and the next year she of course pointed out how her speeches alone had brought up the happy event: in short, she was received with cheers throughout, which would have quite satisfied a Canning, as indeed she was thought on those nights. When the great St. Leger supper was held in this room, Nanny was at the head of the table, with Mrs. Bronze to keep her in countenance; but nothing could make her speak on these occasions. She retired early with her neighbour, who quite over-shadowed her with her racing lore, to have a quiet cup of coffee in the bar. Nat, in earlier days, had kept the village post-office at his inn; but he only got £4 a-year, and some little mistakes brought him such tremendous " Col. Maberley" letters that he resigned it in utter disgust, and warned his successor to be uncommon careful, as "a little bit of a slip was almost a hanging job." He was so anxious to keep within the law, that he shut up his lottery the moment the New Gaming Bill passed. Indigo of course subscribed, and precious little he made of it. I think he had Poynton one year, and poor Justice to Ireland (a nice bragging he made about him) another, and so on. I was, perhaps, still worse off; for I never drew a starter by any chance, and a gallant "ch. g.," on one of my tickets, was actually running in the Shrewsbury mail, instead of being found in the rubbing-house on the afternoon. Songs there were in plenty on those St. Leger nights, and as Nanny kept quite out of ear-shot, some of them were of a strange character. There were other entertainments at those times. Charley Clinker, after getting into a state that induced him to remark that he "don't care for fefty Muster Indigoes nor for fefty Muster Nutbrowns," used to give imitations of various barn-door and woodland fowls, and to dance his hornpipe to his own accompaniment, on a table at the end of the room, besides giving view-holloas at the end of each act, which made the inn rafters ring again. One evening, after a great coursing supper, a stray conjuror dropt in, with long pomatumed hair, and sang extempore stanzas upon every one present. He was, of course, capped" to the tune of some seventeen shillings; and then when the company were pretty "forward," he brought out his conjuring cardarts with such success, that he very soon had some thirty more to add to it. This rather rankled in the breasts of the young farmers, and one of them slipped home for a pair of scissors. Accordingly, when Nat had gone out to see some of the principal coursers and their dogs well off, they laid the modern Belphegor on a form, gagged him, and despite of the most desperate resistance-for he fought like any Sampson-cut all his greasy locks off, and nearly set the chimney on fire with them. Out he raced up the village, in his stocking feet, crying "Murder" so lustily that Habrams peeped forth in his drawers
and night-gear into the street, thinking it was a "hurgent case, or one of that Hindigo's tricks" (as he told his 'Arriet when he returned very cold to bed), and hid himself in Ironmould's Dutch barn all night. In the morning, he re-appeared with his hair full of hayseeds, to demand his shoes, and to threaten Nat with the law, for having, as he said, "inviggled him in there to assault him, and ruin his professional prospects, which were nothing without 'air." Nat could not talk to him for laughing, which made him far worse; but Nanny was quite equal to the crisis, and telling him "he was a poor silly thing to talk that way," promptly ordered him to "hold his playactorin' noise," and settled the matter by giving him some breakfast.
Of all out-door sports, Nat is a great patron. At the annual village races, he clears the course; while Indigo, from his being supposed to have a fine eye, converts himself into a temporary Richard Johnson, in a leather-backed porter's chair. They race round a halfmile circle on a neighbouring common, and prize saddles and bridles are as rife as blackberries. Indigo's pony (whose powers will be duly tested beforehand by his two-guineas ex-omnibus horse Longbow) is to go into training this next summer; and as he is a sad roarer, young Robert Indigo Inman will no doubt have a tremendous paternal lecture about "waiting on his horses," &c., and carry it out effectually by finishing some eight lengths at least in their rear. Ironmould is of course steward and starter, and a pretty hard time he has of it, as "crouns" are being betted in all directions, and the yokels are dreadfully tenacious of a good start. He settles this matter, however, in a very summary way, as he and Charley Clinker bring out the cart-whips, and whip off the jibbers and the ill-tempered ones in double quick time. One year he was in such good humour (by getting 300 gs. for a yearling blood colt by Lanercost) that he fetched down a professional singer from London, who so enchanted the hearts of the farmers by his Vauxhall ditties (between the heats) that he returned to the metropolis laden with fat things-to wit, two or three hams, and as many brace of chickens, as well as an enormous cream-cheese, in a hamper. These days generally begin with a little pigeon-shooting, during which the outlyers invariably burst a fowling-piece or two. Nat's trigger prowess has never been great since his attack; but by a great effort lately, he shot six birds out of eight, and saved his stake in a tenshilling sweepstakes. The prettiest shot I ever saw him take was last summer, as I walked with Indigo along the bank near Daubersden. Seven rats had got on to a blackthorn bough which laid across the stream, and there they sat, like as many otters, darting headlong at intervals at the devoted minnows, bringing them out of the stream, and eating them almost squirrel-fashion on the thorn. "Half-acrown evens, I kill them all," said Nat to me. "Done," said I; and before I could make stakes, the thorn was cleared by his doublebarrel, and the seven would-be-otters were slowly floating stomach upmost past Indigo's barn. This was my last passage of rural life with Nat, and I left him under the impression that he was a perfect village Osbaldeston. Looking at my list of his performances, what man of real discernment can doubt it?