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Oh! let me not thine aid in vain require !
Love, wondrous smith! who fashions chains from looks,
Yet 'neath some evil star their love arose :
from my view. 'Sic transit gloria mundi ! thought I, and then instant ly smiled at the ridiculous importance I attached to smoky London and its associations. The voyage, however, proved anything but disagreeable, for 't was
• All on a summer's day,' and the smooth water, on which the sunbeams danced, was only disturbed from its placid repose by the revolution of the labouring wheels. The band played, the passengers walked and talked, and the smart steward in his linen jacket-the 'arbiter bibendi'—ran up and down supplying the thirsty souls with ginger-beer, bottled ale and porter, and other choice liquids.
For my own part, I experienced a sort of indolent dreaminess—a dull insensibility to the realities of the novel scene around, that was not entirely dissipated until we had nearly reached our destination. I had no sooner effected a landing, and escaped the holiday throng, than I toiled up the narrow High Street, and crossing the London Road, discovered a glimpse of the country. I felt cheered and exhilarated, and having fixed upon a lodging which overlooked a beautiful orchard and garden ground, I ordered dinner; for I experienced an appetite to which I had long been a stranger. I discussed this important affair, and then drawing my chair to the open window,--for it was a sultry day,--sipped my pint of wine at my ease, the smiling prospect almost imperceptibly dissipating my moodiness, and filling my mind with pleasant thoughts.
At the period of this my first visit, Gravesend was not a third of the extent of the present town. There were then no Bazaars, Tivoli Gardens, or Observatories,-no Royal Baths or Zoological Gardens, giving one a notion that a huge slice of the great Babylon had emigrated to the shores of Kent. It is now, in my opinion, too towny; for the pleasant green lanes and walks have gradually retreated farther a-field before the rapid march of bricks and mortar, and the casual visiter is scarcely able to spare the time to take a peep at the country.
But to return. "Having the organ of order largely developed, I was desirous of unpacking my portmanteau, and finding a place for everything, and putting everything in its place, when, lo! I discovered that I had left the key behind. It was not a member of the numerous and united family which I invariably carried in my pocket. After poking at the lock for half an hour, trying all the keys in turn, and almost breaking my back, I found my mother bunch' no witch, and was compelled to summon a smith, who without ceremony "cut the gordian-knot in a few seconds.
Having arranged all my paraphernalia to my satisfaction, I returned to my sitting-room, where I found a tea equipage of gaudy colours displayed upon the table, garnished with shrimps and watercresses.
My obliging landlady, who was very fine, and talked a little too much, asked me if I did not intend to visit the hill
, and see the mountebank, whose kind intentions of amusing the inhabitants and visiters had been announced in due form by the bellman; and she assured me that all Gravesend' would be there.
As I had come on purpose to see all Gravesend,' I thought this an excellent opportunity, and thanking her for her information, started in quest of pleasure, with my cherry-tree walking-stick in my grasp. I had no need of a guide, even had that giant landmark the windmill been wanting; for a stream of people -- sailors, and peasants, and gaily-dressed visiters, men, women, and children were flocking to the spot, appearing, as they wound over the hill, like a huge boa coiling about the back of a monstrous elephant.
I surmounted the hill. I looked around me - the panorama was beautiful. The hum of the crowd — the song of the larks - for there were many soaring from the cornfields below — filled the prosy Cockney with a poetical feeling of gladness!
Passing over the brow of the hill, I beheld a sort of natural amphitheatre formed by the declivity, interspersed with bramble and heath ; while on the grassy spaces were seated the greater part of the 'genteeler' sort, with their children. At the foot was a meadow at the rear of a house of entertainment (the Old Prince of Orange), where a ring was formed by the humbler classes. As I wished to hear as well as see, never having witnessed an exhibition of the kind, I descended to take my place in this verdant parterre, with the determination of being 'first in the throng.'
What a merry set they were - brimful of expectation! At length one of the countrymen shouted out, Here be Tom-fool!'
All eyes were instantly turned towards the house, and behold! a clown came capering forward, leading a donkey, laden with the implements of the craft, and a sorry nag, gaudily caparisoned in fringes of yellow and red worsted. Two men in smock-frocks followed; one trundsing a cartwheel, and the other leading a sheep in a string.
Here we are !'cried the fool. Open the door of the “ green for the greatest ass in the three kingdoms!'
Whereat there arose a shout that would have been esteemed a flattering greeting by one of the first comic actors of the age. Then drawing out a penny trumpet, he blew a charge. “Rear-guard, advance!' cried he, and his followers entered, and deposited their properties’ in the centre of the space. He was a short, thickset little fellow, broad-shouldered, and rather bow-legged; but he skipped about with all the briskness of a dancing-master.
Casting his eyes towards the hill-side, he bawled out to the company, · Ladies and gentlemen, all the seats are taken; but there is plenty of standing-room?
Many took the hint, and descended. “There 's another donkey coming,' continued he; and presently there appeared a slim figure of a man, attired in white pantaloons and pumps, and a spangled jacket; a cotton velvet cap, stuck jauntily on his head, surrounded by a plume of ostrich feathers; and dangling a riding-whip in his hand. My honoured master,' said he, obsequiously, 'I just proclaimed your
coming to the eager multitude. Allow me to introduce you to the circle of my acquaintance.'
Which ceremony he performed in extravagant dumb-show. His . honoured master immediately bowed his white plumes à la cavalier to the grinning audience, and then with an airy agility chassé'd towards the horse. Mr. Merriman, throwing himself upon his hands, revolved in the fashion of a wheel till he arrived at the centre, when, seizing a long whip in one hand, he led the animal to the edge of the circle.
Meanwhile one of the attendants in the smock-frocks threw a drum across his shoulders, thrust his pandean pipes in his waistcoat, and struck up an air.
Here 's the dog's meat, sir!' said the clown.
*Come, Mr. Nerriman, don't keep the ladies and gentlemen waiting, but give an eye to the horse ; lend me a hand, and give me a leg.'
'How liberal!' exclaimed the clown. “And pray what am I to do with the rest of myself?'
What do you mean, Mr. Merriman?'
• Why, when I 've given an eye to the horse, and lent you a hand, and given you a leg, there 's the best half of me gone, and your humblecum-stumble servant may go all on one side like a crab the rest of his days.
Come, sirrah! I want no words.' Oh! I'm not quarrelsome,' replied the other consequentially. ' Then skip along,' said his master, striking him with his riding-whip.
· How can I skip along with a wale on my back?' demanded the clown, rubbing his brawny shoulders, and writhing about; and then, taking his master by the ancle, he assisted him to mount.
Away started the horse on his accustomed round, gradually inclining his body inwards, increasing his speed as the clown followed him, cracking his long whip.
Suddenly the glittering equestrian stood upon the saddle, bending his knees to the cantering motion of the animal, and striking him on the shoulders with his whip while he held the long reins in his left hand.
Ride a cock-horse
To Banbury cross!' sang out the clown.
Anon the rider held out one leg behind him, and then the other.
“There he goes, round and round, like a teetotum - all upon one leg!' exclaimed the clown. And now, to the admiration of his audience, he threw down the reins, and holding the riding-whip in the fashion of a skipping-rope, sprang over, both backwards and forwards, while in full career.
Laying aside his whip, Mr. Merriman extracted from their baggage two oranges stuck on two forks, and handed them to his master, singing,
Oranges and lemons,
The mountebank then disencumbered himself of his cap and plume, and tossed them to his motley servitor, together with his whip.
There's ingratitude ! exclaimed Mr. Merriman. 'I take care of his cast-off finery, and he gives me a whip-in!'
Tossing the oranges alternately in the air, and catching them in quick succession on the prongs of the forks, the master galloped on his neverending road, amid the plaudits of the spectators.
“There's a dabster in dough for ye ! cried the clown. He has had a good education and no mistake, and—those are the fruits of it.'
Having performed these evolutions, the mountebank gradually reined in his steed, and slipped astride the padded saddle, his legs dangling loosely and wearily against the panting sides of the tired animal.
Now, Mr. Merriman, help me to alight,' said he. • In the twinkling of a bed-post,' replied his humorous attendant, and drawing out a box of lucifer-matches from his capacious pockets, lighted one in an instant and presented it.
•What's that, booby?'
"There now ! what a thousand little pities it is—so it is—you were not born a goose--for they always get down without assistance! But I can see which way the cat jumps—it's as plain as the nose on my face that, clever as you are, you're offended 'cause I've found a match for you.'
Mr. Merriman, you're a sad fellow, but I'll help myself ;' so saying, the mountebank stood upon the saddle, and leaping up, turned a summerset, and came cleverly upon his feet.
• There for ye, ain't that droll now ? he gets up to get down! What a natural turn he has to the business ! exclaimed the clown; then turning to the grinning crowd. “Now can any of ye guess this, riddle-ma-riddle-ma-ree! Why is my master a liberal fellow? Why, 'cause he comes down” handsomely. Come, now, ain't that smart?' addressing his superior, who was adjusting his velvet cap, and yet you called me a fool.'
'Ay, a great fool.
Certainly, or I should not own such a master.' “How mean you, sirrah ?' • I'll explain allegorically, metaphorically, categorically, and paregorically,' replied the clown, and gradually elevating the cart-wheel, he asped the nave, and supported it with one hand. There, that's it to a tittle! Don't you see the nave has got
hand of the fool? The nave's you, and I'm me—the fool-by reason of being under you.' At this practical illustration there arose a general laugh.
And now, ladies and gentlemen,' said the mountebank in a loud voice, ‘we are about to offer you by lottery a large and valuable collection of tea-trays, gown and waistcoat pieces, knives and forks, candlesticks and candleboxes, and numerous other articles both useful and ornamental. There are so many prizes that none of you can possibly lose -more than one shilling, which is the small price at which we offer the tickets.'
While he was thus addressing and inviting them to try their fortune, the clown was busily occupied in unpacking the bales, and spreading the bright and gaudy gown-pieces on the grass, and scattering hither and thither the painted tea-trays and glittering tin-candlesticks and candleboxes all over the interior of the circle in the most alluring confusion.