Page images

Notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, I was not the last to get on board; but before midnight a large party had assembled. Of these some disappeared to seek their berths, but one group of six or seven-who I afterwards found were pilots going down to Cuxhaven-seemed resolved to make a night of it; and, as they had no berths to go to, they resorted to cards, schiedam, and cigars, to kill the time in the most agreeable manner. At length, when they became too noisy to make it any longer pleasant to remain in their company, I too went below, and by the aid of the dim lamp swinging above the dressing-table in the lower cabin, succeeded at last in finding my roosting-place.

The cabin of a packet when its inmates have retired to bed, presents a singular aspect of confusion: portmanteaus, bags, and hat-boxes strew the floor; great-coats, dressing-cases, travelling-caps, and handkerchiefs, cover the tables and chairs; while here and there an upright boot appears to stand the only sentinel over the scattered property. Nor is the berth itself much more attractive: a hard, wiry bolster, that will not accommodate itself to one's head, a counterpane too short, very thin blankets, and a kind of odour that seems to hint that the last occupant was not a very good sailor, these accompaniments do not make one's berth a bed of down, nor cause instantaneous forgetfulness. But even if the couch afforded all the necessary appliances-which it did not-sleep that night would have been a stranger to my eyes, for the individual in the next berth was one of those obnoxious sleepers who, themselves buried in temporary forgetfulness, have noses that make their hearers wish their rest eternal. I do not know whether I am particularly fastidious; most men have their peculiarities, not to say aversions; and mine-the chiefestis a man who snores. There is no noise like it; a copper-smith, a caulker, a cooper, are loud in the exercise of their respective callings, but these subside into silence before the nose of the snorer; a knife-grinder's wheel, or a bagpipe, are bad enough, in all conscience, but they are melodious in comparison; in short, of all the distressing sounds invented since the world became out of joint,' snoring, in my opinion, is the


My neighbour, whose head rested at my feet, was a proficient in the black art, as it deserves to be called. Long, loud, and deep were his intonations, and such, also, were my maledictions as the noises forced their way through the thin partition that divided us, galvanizing me, as it were, from toe to top. In vain I plied my heels against the board behind which lay the offending organ; a momentary cessation was all that ensued,-a deceitful lull, to be followed by a tempest of snorting more raging than before. Once I succeeded in producing a calm by jerking into the berth a heavy pair of top-boots, which I grasped convulsively from the floor; at another, a vessel of Britannia-metal, despatched on the same errand, elicited a disturbed grunt, a pause, and then the noise broke forth again, so that at length I gave up the contest in despair, and resigned myself to my fate. To one whose nerves are at all irritable, there is no torment like the infliction of snoring. As the Marquis says, in the Critique de l'Ecole des Femmes,' 'Je le trouve détestable, morbleu! détestable, du dernier détestable, ce qu'on appelle d ́testable!' and there I lay heaping coals of imaginary fire on the head of the offender, not by any mental promise of forbearance, but by devising what bitter things I would say when confronted next day with the luckless snorer. In the midst of my direst thoughts I fell asleep.


The first thing when I awoke in the morning was to call to mind, though with subdued feeling, the annoyance to which I had been subjected the night before. The lamp still burnt in the cabin. But the daylight which struggled through the companion, or some other oblique entrance, diminished the general obscurity, and enabled me to distinguish objects with rather more facility than I had done before. As I drew back the curtain of my berth, my vision was greeted by the sight of a stout individual, in his shirt-sleeves, sitting at the table directly opposite, the upper half of whose face wore the rosy hue which nature had laid on, or brandy superinduced, while the lower expanse was covered with a sheet of foaming lather, the daily curse of manhood being then in its course of fulfilment. Disguised as the features were which I thus beheld, there was something familiar in their expression, which seemed to remind me that I had seen them before; and an instinctive sense at the same time assured me that in the midst of that placia countenance I gazed upon the bulbous nose which had wrought me so much discomfort. I have said that sleep had turned away the sharp edge of my wrath, and Christianity coming to my aid, reminded me that, if I gave vent to invective against a shaving man, I might probably cause him to cut his throat; I therefore waited in a mood of grim complacence till the process was accomplished. In proportion as the flakes of soap disappeared before the razor, the features of the shaver became more familiar to me; and when the deed was done, I felt convinced that I saw an old acquaintance, though of what place or date I could not remember. Modifying my intentions in consequence, I addressed the unknown in a tone rather of sarcasm than positive offence. You sleep soundly, sir,' said I,-' very soundly; I wonder you contrived to wake.'

For the matter o' that,' replied the culprit, 'I do sleep pretty sound when I goes off; it takes a deal to wake me.'

'So I should imagine, for I tried hard enough last night.'

'Wot did you want wi' me?' inquired my nocturnal aversion, rubbing his face down with a jack-towel, as if he was grooming a horse; 'Wot might be your pleasure, sir, if I may make so bold?'

Why, nothing at present,' I answered, 'unless you snore as loud when you are awake as you do when you're asleep. What I wanted with you last night was to stop the infernal noise you were making.'

"I'm wery sorry, sir, to disoblige any one, let alone a gen'l'm'n in a forrin' land, tho' I believe we're pretty much the same now as if we was on British ground,-but snorin''s an 'abit quite as much as fits is, and when it comes, why there's no stoppin' on it; one might just as well try to stop a runaway team by puttin' on the skid.'

'I'm sorry to hear you say so,' I replied, as a new light began to break in on me; but I think you might prevent it by a little resolution.'


Wot's the use o' resolution if you're not a wolluntary hagent? As I said before, snorin' 's jist like fits, and I've seen enuff o' them. Wy, once wen I was a-drivin' over Nettlebed-Hill, a woman as sat behind me, was took wi' fits, and werry bad 'uns they wos. Well, if it hadn't a-been for a gen'l'm'n 'at was on the box beside me, and held her tight by the knee to prevent her from rollin' off the cutch, what would a' bin the consequence? Wot could I a' done, I ask you, if that 'ere woman had had them there fits, if I'd a' bin alone on that 'ere box, with them there

hosses? Why, she must have tumbled off in stirricks, and got killed? Do you think she'd a' done that if resolootion could have prewented it? And so I says o' snorin'.'

'You speak of Nettlebed,' I observed: 'I think I must have seen you before somewhere in that part of the country.'

'Werry likely you have, sir. There's many as knows me wot I don't call to mind; but if so be as you have seen me—it ain't werry impossible but it wos atop of the Oxford Tellygraft, as I've a-driv now for the last nine year.'

'Exactly!' I exclaimed; that's the very place. I sat beside you once, two or three years ago, between Oxford and Henley, and you gave me an account of an expedition of yours to Antwerp.'

"Ah! I've a-told that 'ere story to a good many gen'l'm'n; let me see, I think I do remember your face, too, sir, now your nightcap's off. Warn't I a-drivin' a grey team out o' Oxford and warn't it werry wet weather about that time?'

'I know it rained very hard, but I forget the colour of the horses.'

'Well, now, do you know, sir, that's wot I never forgets,-leastways, I always remembers ewents by the team as I drives. Ah! that 'ere near leader wos a prime one. He came down one day though, on a heap of stones, and broke both his knees, and I was forced to part wi' him.'

How far my friend's reminiscences would have extended I know not; but, being more curious to know what brought him aboard the John Bull at Hamburg than to learn the fate of his horses, I turned the current of his thoughts to the present.

'But,' said I, 'how comes it that I find you so far from home at this season of the year, and in such a country as the one we are leaving?'

'Why, sir," he answered, 'that 'ere is the curos part of the story. I've been on a sort of hembassy, as I may say; leastways, I was employed on a werry delicate ondertaking, wot couldn't a' been confided to everybody. I've been hactin' as state-cutchman to the King of Hanover, and conducted his stud from England.'

'How came that to pass?' I inquired.

'Why, sir, tho' I've a-bin drivin' most principally on the Oxford road, I warn't unbeknown about the Pallis, and down at Kew, and Booshy, and Windsor, and one of my arnts is married to the Dook's-that is, the King's head cutchman; so, as my principles was reg'lar conserwative, and bisness was slack, I accepted the hoffer of bringin' over his Majesty's hosses to this here country, where I've been a-stayin' till sich time as I'd taught them Jarmans how to drive. They're good ones at breaking-in of ridin'-hosses, and sets capital; but, as to drivin', I'm blest if they can do that by no manner o' means. Why, if a hoss was to kick both legs over the pole, they'd go on a-drivin' as if nothin' had happened,-I've seen 'em do it; and, as to keepin' of a team well in hand, they doesn't know wot it means."

'Well, I hope they have profited by your example and experience. I should like to know how you got on while you were in Hanover; but it's time to dress, and after breakfast we'll talk it over. I am very glad to have met you again.'

The same by you, sir,' rejoined my friend, who by this time was completely apparelled; 'and with your leave, sir, I'll go up and seę

about that 'ere breakfast. Here, stooard! lend us a hand to get up this here crooked staircase!' And with these words he effected a sortie.

In about half an hour I also ascended, and found that my stout friend had not been wasting his time. He was comfortably settled on a sofa before the breakfast-table, which was covered with viands of all sorts, to which he was doing ample justice. I drew a chair to the opposite side of the table, and prepared to follow his example.


Well,' said 1, we're not under weigh yet. I thought we should have been halfway to Cuxhaven.'

'So we should, sir, the stooard tells me, if so be as we hadn't run right agin a sand-bank just at startin', by which means we got into a fix till the

tide ris.'

6 Are we off now, then?' I inquired.

'Just about it. You can hear 'em a-hollering at this werry moment. Them 'ere pilots as have been a drinkin' snaps all the mornin', they's the loudest o' the whole lot. Precious noisy chaps they is.'

'I see you have been busy here.'

'In coorse, sir. I makes it a rule always to perwide agin any countertongs, as the French calls 'em. I makes it an inwariable practice to eat my meals wenever I can get 'em. I'm not one o' them as waits till five o'clock every day afore I finds out as I'm hungry. Wenever I sees grub, and has got the time to walk into it, why then I doos it. I'm all right, then, in case of an emergency.'

'A good maxim,' I observed, 'the observance of which must have helped you in your travels.'

Why, sir, I always took pretty good care to help myself; wich I found was the best way, as I don't speak werry much of the langidge. Ten to one, while I was parleyvooing, if the most on it wouldn't a-bin gone; for them plaws is but little 'uns, you know, sir. None but wot the Jarmans is better nor the French; they gives far more on it, and more time to do it in. I shouldn't so much object agin their manner of feedin', if it warn't for their beer, which is all make-believe, and their music at dinner, wot goes right through one.'

Being curious to hear the experiences of my travelling companion, I questioned him more directly about his late expedition.

'Well, sir, as I've a-done eatin', I don't mind torkin'; so, while you indulges in your breakfast, I'll tell you how I managed it all. Soon after the King had sot out for this 'ere new country of his, I receives a hintimation from a friend o' mine at Kew, a gen'lm'n as keeps a public nigh hand to the stables, lettin' me know, if I wos agreeable, that I might have the conveying of his Majesty's hosses over to Hanover. Now this 'ere happened to suit my book oncommon; for my cutch had just been taken off the road, and I was out of employ. So I goes over to Kew, sees my friend, and has a tork with my arnt, and made it all right in less than no time. I don't valley myself much upon personal distinctions; but I must say, if I hadn't a-bin quollified, I shouldn't a-had the job.'

And here my friend stretched out his leg, puckered up his mouth, and glanced over his shoulder at his near top-boot. Having make this acknowledgment to conscious worth, he resumed.

'I sharn't ockepy your valliable time, sir, as public speakers says when they means to do nothin' else, by tellin' you how I got to this here

port as we're a-cuttin away from pretty fast at this moment. The hosses was shipped at the Tower, and all slung quite reg'lar, and a werry fine passage we had; none on us warn't sick, hosses nor nobody. We warn't more than forty-eight hours aboard wen we comes in sight of this 'ere citty, where they does speak a little English, or I'm blest if I should a-known how to get on. Why, it's bad enough of the French and them Belgies to call a hoss a shovel,-that has some meanin' in it, anyhow; but these Jarmans they takes and calls him a faird, -as if that meant anything. Why can't they call the same thing by the same name all the world over?'

It would have been rather a serious matter to have discussed the philosophy of language with this learned Theban; so, without committing myself by any indiscreet observation on this head, I simply inquired how he made his way to the capital.

'As these hosses wos the property of the King of Hanover, there warn't no call to land 'em out of his own do-minions, so they was got ashore at Harburg; and glad enough they wos to stretch their legs agin. For the matter o' that, none on us warn't sorry to be once more on terryfirmy-me and the three lads as I had for helpers. The first night as we landed, the skipper of our wessel helped us to find a stable for the hosses; for, bless your heart! they hadn't a-got no word for a stable— they calls 'em all stalls; and as soon as we'd groom'd 'em, and littered 'em, and given 'em their suppers, we went and got ourn at a guest-house, as they calls their inns, where each man treats hisself.'

'On the same principle,' said I, 'as a pic-nic dinner, where every one is invited to bring his own provisions.'

'Just so, sir. Well, we wos interdooced into a long room, where ever so many gen'l'm'n was a-sittin' a-smokin' of long pipes; for the Jarmans, sir, always smokes before dinner to give theirselves a appetite.'

'And after dinner, I suppose, to help their digestion?'


Werry likely. And wen they goes to bed, they smokes to send 'em to sleep; and when they wants to get up, they smokes to make 'em wake again. The fact is, sir, they're always a-smokin', and no mistake. How they find time to eat a bit of vittles was a wonder to me afore I seed 'em.'

'And what did you think when they amused themselves in that way?' 'Amused 'emselves? I'm blest if ever I saw any set of men so much in earnest in my life. Why, now I've got a pretty fairish appetite,' —(my friend had given me a tolerably convincing proof of the truth of his remark) my appetite is rayther a goodish one, but it ain't worth speaking of along side of a Jarman's. They're always at it,leastways, as I said, when they're not smokin'. I'll tell you wot they doos now, reg'lar. As soon as they gets out of their beds they takes and has a cup of coffee, and as large a piece of bread as they can lay hands on; then about eight o'clock they has their freestick-that is, their breakfasties and eats all manner of flesh and heggs, and drinks maybe half a bottle of sour Rine-wine, so called 'cause it's made out of the shuck of the grape. Then at twelve o'clock they goes to their mittags pison,t and dines jest as if they'd never eat anything afore, and never meant to eat anything agin. Then they has coffee

* Frühstück.

+ Mittag-speisen.

« PreviousContinue »