Robert Smith Surtees.

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"Buy a silver guard-chain for your vatch, sir!" cried a dark eyed
urchin, mounting the fore-wheel, and holding a bunch of them in Mr.
Jorrocks's face; "buy pocket-book, memorandum-book!" whined another.
"Keepsake - Forget-me-not - all the last year's annuals at half-price!"
"Sponge cheap, sponge! take a piece, sir - take a piece." "Patent leather
straps." "Barcelona nuts. Slippers. _Morning Hurl (Herald)._ Rhubarb.
'Andsome dog-collar, sir, cheap! - do to fasten your wife up with!"

"Stand clear, ye warmints!" cries the coachman, elbowing his way among
them - and, remounting the box, he takes the whip and reins out of Mr.
Jorrocks's hands, cries "All right behind? sit tight!" and off they go.

The day was fine, and the hearts of all seemed light and gay. The coach,
though slow, was clean and smart, the harness bright and well-polished,
while the sleek brown horses poked their heads about at ease, without
the torture of the bearing-rein. The coachman, like his vehicle, was
heavy, and had he been set on all fours, a party of six might have eat
off his back. Thus they proceeded at a good steady substantial sort of
pace; trotting on level ground, walking up hills, and dragging down
inclines. Nor among the whole party was there a murmur of discontent at
the pace. Most of the passengers seemed careless which way they went, so
long as they did but move, and they rolled through the Garden of England
with the most stoical indifference. We know not whether it has ever
struck the reader, but the travellers by Dover coaches are less captious
about pace than those on most others.

And now let us fancy our friends up, and down, Shooter's Hill, through
Dartford, Northfleet, and Gravesend - at which latter place, the first
foreign symptom appears, in words, "Poste aux Chevaux," on the door-post
of the inn; and let us imagine them bowling down Rochester Hill at a
somewhat amended pace, with the old castle, by the river Medway, the
towns of Chatham, Strood and Rochester full before them, and the finely
wooded country extending round in pleasing variety of hill and dale.
As they reach the foot of the hill, the guard commences a solo on his
bugle, to give notice to the innkeeper to have the coach dinner on the
table. All huddled together, inside and out, long passengers and short
ones, they cut across the bridge, rattle along the narrow street,
sparking the mud from the newly-watered streets on the shop windows and
passengers on each side, and pull up at the "Pig and Crossbow," with a
jerk and a dash as though they had been travelling at the rate of
twelve miles an hour. Two other coaches are "dining," while some few
passengers, whose "hour is not yet come," sit patiently on the roof, or
pace up and down the street with short and hurried turns, anxious to see
the horses brought out that are to forward them on their journey. And
what a commotion this new arrival creates! From the arched doorway of
the inn issue two chamber-maids, one in curls the other in a cap; Boots,
with both curls and a cap, and a ladder in his hand; a knock-kneed
waiter, with a dirty duster, to count noses, while the neat landlady,
in a spruce black silk gown and clean white apron, stands smirking,
smiling, and rubbing her hands down her sides, inveigling the passengers
into the house, where she will turn them over to the waiters to take
their chance the instant she gets them in. About the door the usual
idlers are assembled. - A coachman out of place, a beggar out at the
elbows, a sergeant in uniform, and three recruits with ribbons in their
hats; a captain with his boots cut for corns, the coachman that is to
drive to Dover, a youth in a straw hat and a rowing shirt, the little
inquisitive old man of the place - who sees all the midday coaches change
horses, speculates on the passengers and sees who the parcels are
for - and, though last but not least, Mr. Bangup, the "varmint" man, the
height of whose ambition is to be taken for a coachman. As the coach
pulled up, he was in the bar taking a glass of cold sherry "without"
and a cigar, which latter he brings out lighted in his mouth, with his
shaved white hat stuck knowingly on one side, and the thumbs of his
brown hands thrust into the arm-holes of his waistcoat, throwing back
his single breasted fancy buttoned green coat, and showing a cream
coloured cravat, fastened with a gold coach-and-four pin, which, with a
buff waistcoat and tight drab trousers buttoning over the boot, complete
his "toggery," as he would call it. His whiskers are large and riotous
in the extreme, while his hair is clipped as close as a charity
schoolboy's. The coachman and he are on the best of terms, as the
outward twist of their elbows and jerks of the head on meeting testify.
His conversation is short and slangy, accompanied with the correct nasal
twang. After standing and blowing a few puffs, during which time the
passengers have all alighted, and the coachman has got through the thick
of his business, he takes the cigar out of his mouth, and, spitting on
the flags, addresses his friend with, "Y've got the old near-side leader
back from Joe, I see." "Yes, Mr. Bangup, yes," replies his friend, "but
I had some work first - our gov'rnor was all for the change - at last,
says I to our 'osskeeper, says I, it arn't no use your harnessing that
'ere roan for me any more, for as how I von't drive him, so it's not to
no use harnessing of him, for I von't be gammon'd out of my team not by
none on them, therefore it arn't to never no use harnessing of him again
for me." "So you did 'em," observes Mr. Bangup. "Lord bless ye, yes! it
warn't to no use aggravising about it, for says I, I von't stand it, so
it warn't to no manner of use harnessing of him again for me." "Come,
Smith, what are you chaffing there about?" inquires the landlord, coming
out with the wide-spread way-bill in his hands, "have you two insides?"
"No, gov'rnor, I has but von, and that's precious empty, haw! haw! haw!"
"Well, but now get Brown to blow his horn early, and you help to hurry
the passengers away from my grub, and may be I'll give you your dinner
for your trouble," replies the landlord, reckoning he would save both
his meat and his horses by the experiment. "Ay, there goes the dinner!"
added he, just as Mr. Jorrocks's voice was heard inside the "Pig and
Crossbow," giving a most tremendous roar for his food. - "Pork at the
top, and pork at the bottom," the host observes to the waiter in
passing, "and mind, put the joints before the women - they are slow
carvers."

While the foregoing scene was enacting outside, our travellers had been
driven through the passage into a little, dark, dingy room at the back
of the house, with a dirty, rain-bespattered window, looking against a
whitewashed blank wall. The table, which was covered with a thrice-used
cloth, was set out with lumps of bread, knives, and two and three
pronged forks laid alternately. Altogether it was anything but inviting,
but coach passengers are very complacent; and on the Dover road it
matters little if they are not. The bustle of preparation was soon over.
Coats No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3, are taken off in succession, for some
people wear top-coats to keep out the "heat"; chins are released from
their silken jeopardy, hats are hid in corners, and fur caps thrust
into pockets of the owners. Inside passengers eye outside ones with
suspicion, while a deaf gentleman, who has left his trumpet in the
coach, meets an acquaintance whom he has not seen for seven years,
and can only shake hands and grin to the movements of the lips of the
speaker. "You find it very warm inside, I should think, sir?" "Thank
ye, thank ye, my good friend; I'm rayther deaf, but I presume you're
inquiring after my wife and daughters - they are very well, I thank ye."
"Where will you sit at dinner?" rejoins the first speaker, in hopes of a
more successful hit. "It is two years since I saw him." "No; where
will you sit, sir? I said." "Oh, John? I beg your pardon - I'm rayther
deaf - he's in Jamaica with his regiment." "Come, waiter, BRING DINNER!"
roared Mr. Jorrocks, at the top of his voice, being the identical shout
that was heard outside, and presently the two dishes of pork, a couple
of ducks, and a lump of half-raw, sadly mangled, cold roast beef, with
waxy potatoes and overgrown cabbages, were scattered along the table.
"What a beastly dinner!" exclaims an inside dandy, in a sable-collared
frock-coat - "the whole place reeks with onions and vulgarity. Waiter,
bring me a silver fork!" "Allow me to duck you, ma'am?" inquires an
outside passenger, in a facetious tone, of a female in a green silk
cloak, as he turns the duck over in the dish. "Thank you, sir, but I've
some pork coming." "Will you take some of this thingumbob?" turning a
questionable-looking pig's countenance over in its pewter bed. "You are
in considerable danger, my friend - you are in considerable danger,"
drawls forth the superfine insider to an outsider opposite. "How's
that?" inquires the former in alarm. "Why, you are eating with your
knife, and you are in considerable danger of cutting your mouth". - What
is the matter at the far end of the table? - a lady in russet brown, with
a black velvet bonnet and a feather, in convulsions. "She's choking by
Jove! hit her on the back - gently, gently - she's swallowed a fish-bone."
"I'll lay five to two she dies," cries Mr. Bolus, the sporting doctor of
Sittingbourne. She coughs - up comes a couple of tooth-picks, she having
drunk off a green glass of them in mistake.

"Now hark'e, waiter! there's the guard blowing his horn, and we have
scarcely had a bite apiece," cries Mr. Jorrocks, as that functionary
sounded his instrument most energetically in the passage; "blow me
tight, if I stir before the full half-hour's up, so he may blow till
he's black in the face." "Take some cheese, sir?" inquires the waiter.
"No, surely not, some more pork, and then some tarts". "Sorry, sir,
we have no tarts we can recommend. Cheese is partiklar good." [Enter
coachman, peeled down to a more moderate-sized man.]

"Leaves ye here, if you please, sur." "With all my heart, my good
friend." "Please to remember the coachman - driv ye thirty miles." "Yes,
but you'll recollect how saucy you were about my wife's bonnet-box
there's sixpence between us for you." "Oh, sur! I'm sure I didn't mean
no unpurliteness. I 'opes you'll forget it; it was werry aggravising,
certainly, but driv ye thirty miles. 'Opes you'll give a trifle more,
thirty miles." "No, no, no more; so be off." "Please to remember the
coachman, ma'am, thirty miles!" "Leaves ye here, sir, if you please;
goes no further, sir; thirty miles, ma'am; all the vay from Lunnun,
sir."

A loud flourish on the bugle caused the remainder of the gathering to
be made in dumb show, and having exhausted his wind, the guard squeezed
through the door, and, with an extremely red face, assured the company
that "time was hup" and the "coach quite ready." Then out came the
purses, brown, green, and blue, with the usual inquiry, "What's dinner,
waiter?" "Two and six, dinner, beer, three, - two and nine yours,"
replied the knock-kneed caitiff to the first inquirer, pushing
a blue-and-white plate under his nose; "yours is three and six,
ma'am; - two glasses of brandy-and-water, four shillings, if you please
sir - a bottle of real Devonshire cider." - "You must change me a
sovereign," handing one out. "Certainly, sir," upon which the waiter,
giving it a loud ring upon the table, ran out of the room. "Now,
gentlemen and ladies! pray, come, time's hup - carn't wait - must
go" - roars the guard, as the passengers shuffle themselves into their
coats, cloaks, and cravats, and Joe "Boots" runs up the passage with the
ladder for the lady. "Now, my dear Mrs. Sprat, good-bye. - God bless you,
and remember me most kindly to your husband and dear little ones - and
pray, write soon," says an elderly lady, as she hugs and kisses a
youngish one at the door, who has been staying with her for a week,
during which time they have quarrelled regularly every night. "Have you
all your things, dearest? three boxes, five parcels, an umbrella, a
parasol, the cage for Tommy's canary, and the bundle in the red silk
handkerchief - then good-bye, my beloved, step up - and now, Mr. Guard,
you know where to set her down." "Good-bye, dearest Mrs. Jackson, all
right, thank you," replies Mrs. Sprat, stepping up the ladder, and
adjusting herself in the gammon board opposite the guard, the seat the
last comer generally gets. - "But stay! I've forgot my reticule - it's on
the drawers in the bedroom - stop, coachman! I say, guard!" "Carn't wait,
ma'am - time's hup" - and just at this moment a two-horse coach is
heard stealing up the street, upon which the coachman calls to the
horse-keepers to "stand clear with their cloths, and take care no one
pays them twice over," gives a whistling hiss to his leaders, the double
thong to his wheelers, and starts off at a trot, muttering something
about, "cuss'd pair-'oss coach, - convict-looking passengers," observing
confidentially to Mr. Jorrocks, as he turned the angle of the street,
"that he would rather be hung off a long stage, than die a natural death
on a short one," while the guard drowns the voices of the lady who has
left her reticule, and of the gentleman who has got no change for his
sovereign, in a hearty puff of:

Rule Britannia, - Britannia rule the waves.
Britons, never, never, never, shall be slaves!

Blithely and merrily, like all coach passengers after feeding, our
party rolled steadily along, with occasional gibes at those they met or
passed, such as telling waggoners their linch-pins were out; carters'
mates, there were nice pocket-knives lying on the road; making urchins
follow the coach for miles by holding up shillings and mock parcels; or
simple equestrians dismount in a jiffy on telling them their horses'
shoes were not all on "before." [19] Towards the decline of the day,
Dover heights appeared in view, with the stately castle guarding the
Channel, which seen through the clear atmosphere of an autumnal evening,
with the French coast conspicuous in the distance, had more the
appearance of a wide river than a branch of the sea.

[Footnote 19: This is more of a hunting-field joke than a road one. "Have
I all my shoes on?" "They are not all on before."]

The coachman mended his pace a little, as he bowled along the gentle
descents or rounded the base of some lofty hill, and pulling up at
Lydden took a glass of soda-water and brandy, while four strapping
greys, with highly-polished, richly-plated harness, and hollyhocks
at their heads, were put to, to trot the last few miles into Dover.
Paying-time being near, the guard began to do the amiable - hoped Mrs.
Sprat had ridden comfortable; and the coachman turned to the gentleman
whose sovereign was left behind to assure him he would bring his change
the next day, and was much comforted by the assurance that he was on his
way to Italy for the winter. As the coach approached Charlton Gate, the
guard flourished his bugle and again struck up _Rule Britannia_, which
lasted the whole breadth of the market-place, and length of Snargate
Street, drawing from Mr. Muddle's shop the few loiterers who yet
remained, and causing Mr. Le Plastrier, the patriotic moth-impaler, to
suspend the examination of the bowels of a watch, as they rattled past
his window.

At the door of the "Ship Hotel" the canary-coloured coach of Mr. Wright,
the landlord, with four piebald horses, was in waiting for him to take
his evening drive, and Mrs. Wright's pony phaeton, with a neat tiger in
a blue frock-coat and leathers, was also stationed behind to convey
her a few miles on the London road. Of course the equipages of such
important personages could not be expected to move for a common
stage-coach, consequently it pulled up a few yards from the door. It is
melancholy to think that so much spirit should have gone unrewarded,
or in other words, that Mr. Wright should have gone wrong in his
affairs. - Mrs. Ramsbottom said she never understood the meaning of the
term, "The Crown, and Bill of Rights (Wright's)," until she went to
Rochester. Many people, we doubt not, retain a lively recollection of
the "bill of Wright's of Dover." But to our travellers.

"Now, sir! this be Dover, that be the Ship, I be the coachman, and
we goes no further," observed the amphibious-looking coachman, in a
pea-jacket and top-boots, to Mr. Jorrocks, who still kept his seat on
the box, as if he expected, that because they booked people "through
to Paris," at the coach office in London, that the vehicle crossed the
Channel and conveyed them on the other side. At this intimation, Mr.
Jorrocks clambered down, and was speedily surrounded by touts and
captains of vessels soliciting his custom. "_Bonjour,_ me Lor'," said
a gaunt French sailor in ear-rings, and a blue-and-white jersey shirt,
taking off a red nightcap with mock politeness, "you shall be cross."
"What's that about?" inquires Mr. Jorrocks - "cross! what does the chap
mean?" "Ten shillin', just, me Lor'," replied the man. "Cross for ten
shillings," muttered Mr. Jorrocks, "vot does the Mouncheer mean? Hope he
hasn't picked my pocket." "I - you - vill," said the sailor slowly, using
his fingers to enforce his meaning, "take to France," pointing south,
"for ten shillin' in my _bateau_, me Lor," continued the sailor, with
a grin of satisfaction as he saw Mr. Jorrocks began to comprehend
him. "Ah! I twig - you'll take me across the water." said our citizen
chuckling at the idea of understanding French and being called a
Lord - "for ten shillings - half-sovereign in fact." "Don't go with him,
sir," interrupted a Dutch-built English tar; "he's got nothing but a
lousy lugger that will be all to-morrow in getting over, if it ever gets
at all; and the _Royal George_, superb steamer, sails with a King's
Messenger and dispatches for all the foreign courts at half-past ten,
and must be across by twelve, whether it can or not." "Please take a
card for the _Brocklebank_ - quickest steamer out of Dover - wind's made
expressly to suit her, and she can beat the _Royal George_ like winking.
Passengers never sick in the most uproarious weather," cried another
tout, running the corner of his card into Mr. Jorrocks's eye to engage
his attention. Then came the captain of the French mail-packet, who was
dressed much like a new policeman, with an embroidered collar to his
coat, and a broad red band round a forage cap which he raised with
great politeness, as he entreated Mr. Jorrocks's patronage of his
high-pressure engine, "vich had beat a balloon, and vod take him for
half less than noting." A crowd collected, in the centre of which stood
Mr. Jorrocks perfectly unmoved, with his wig awry and his carpet-bag
under his arm. "Gentlemen," said he, extending his right hand, "you
seem to me to be desperately civil - your purliteness appears to know no
bounds - but, to be candid with you, I beg to say that whoever will carry
me across the herring pond cheapest shall have my custom, so now
begin and bid downwards." "Nine shillings," said an Englishman
directly - "eight" replied a Frenchman - "seven and sixpence" - "seven
shillings" - "six and sixpence" - "six shillings" - "five and sixpence"; at
last it came down to five shillings, at which there were two bidders,
the French captain and the tout of the _Royal George_, - and Mr.
Jorrocks, like a true born Briton, promised his patronage to the latter,
at which the Frenchmen shrugged up their shoulders, and burst out
a-laughing, one calling him, "my Lor' Ros-bif," and the other "Monsieur
God-dem," as they walked off in search of other victims.

None but the natives of Dover can tell what the weather is, unless the
wind comes directly off the sea, and it was not until Mr. Jorrocks
proceeded to embark after breakfast the next morning, that he
ascertained there was a heavy swell on, so quiet had the heights kept
the gambols of Boreas. Three steamers were simmering into action on
the London-hotel side of the harbour, in one of which - the _Royal
George_ - two britzkas and a barouche were lashed ready for sea, while
the custom-house porters were trundling barrows full of luggage
under the personal superintendence of a little shock-headed French
commissionnaire of Mr. Wright's in a gold-laced cap, and the other
gentry of the same profession from the different inns. As the _Royal
George_ lay nearly level with the quay, Mr. Jorrocks stepped on board
without troubling himself to risk his shins among the steps of a ladder
that was considerately thrust into the place of embarkation; and as soon
as he set foot upon deck, of course he was besieged by the usual myriad
of land sharks. First came Monsieur the Commissionnaire with his book,
out of which he enumerated two portmanteaus and two carpet-bags, for
each of which he made a specific charge leaving his own gratuity
optional with his employer; then came Mr. Boots to ask for something for
showing them the way; after him the porter of the inn for carrying their
cloaks and great-coats, all of which Mr. Jorrocks submitted to, most
philosophically, but when the interpreter of the deaf and dumb ladder
man demanded something for the use of the ladder, his indignation got
the better of him and he exclaimed loud enough to be heard by all on
deck, "Surely you wouldn't charge a man for what he has not enjoyed!"

A voyage is to many people like taking an emetic - they look at the
medicine and wish it well over, and look at the sea and wish themselves
well over. Everything looked bright and gay at Dover - the cliffs seemed
whiter than ever - the sailors had on clean trousers, and the few people
that appeared in the streets were dressed in their Sunday best. The
cart-horses were seen feeding leisurely on the hills, and there was a
placid calmness about everything on shore, which the travellers would
fain have had extended to the sea. They came slowly and solemnly upon
deck, muffled up in cloaks and coats, some with their passage money in
their hands, and took their places apparently with the full expectation
of being sick.

The French packet-boat first gave symptoms of animation, in the shape
of a few vigorous puffs from the boiler, which were responded to by the
_Royal George_, whose rope was slipped without the usual tinkle of the
bell, and she shot out to sea, closely followed by the Frenchman, who
was succeeded by the other English boat. Three or four tremendous long
protracted dives, each followed by a majestic rise on the bosom of the
waves, denoted the crossing of the bar; and just as the creaking of the
cordage, the flapping of the sails, and the nervous quivering of the
paddles, as they lost their hold of the water, were in full vigour, the
mate crossed the deck with a large white basin in his hand, the sight of
which turned the stomachs of half the passengers. Who shall describe the
misery that ensued? The groans and moans of the sufferers, increasing
every minute, as the vessel heaved and dived, and rolled and creaked,
while hand-basins multiplied as half-sick passengers caught the green
countenance and fixed eye of some prostrate sufferer and were overcome
themselves.

Mr. Jorrocks, what with his Margate trips, and a most substantial
breakfast of beef-steaks and porter, tea, eggs, muffins, prawns, and
fried ham, held out as long as anybody - indeed, at one time the odds
were that he would not be sick at all; and he kept walking up and down
deck like a true British tar. In one of his turns he was observed to
make a full stop. - Immediately before the boiler his eye caught a
cadaverous-looking countenance that rose between the top of a blue
camlet cloak, and the bottom of a green travelling-cap, with a large
patent-leather peak; he was certain that he knew it, and, somehow or
other, he thought, not favourably. The passenger was in that happy mood
just debating whether he should hold out against sickness any longer,
or resign himself unreservedly to its horrors, when Mr. Jorrocks's eye
encountered his, and the meeting did not appear to contribute to his
happiness. Mr. Jorrocks paused and looked at him steadily for some
seconds, during which time his thoughts made a rapid cast over his
memory. "Sergeant Bumptious, by gum!" exclaimed he, giving his thigh
a hearty slap, as the deeply indented pock-marks on the learned
gentleman's face betrayed his identity. "Sergeant," said he, going up to
him, "I'm werry 'appy to see ye - may be in the course of your practice
at Croydon you've heard that there are more times than one to catch a
thief." "Who are you?" inquired the sergeant with a growl, just at which


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Online LibraryRobert Smith SurteesJorrocks' Jaunts and Jollities → online text (page 12 of 22)