Robert Smith Surtees.

Jorrocks' Jaunts and Jollities online

. (page 21 of 22)
Online LibraryRobert Smith SurteesJorrocks' Jaunts and Jollities → online text (page 21 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

concern which had just been pushed up to the landing end. "To carry the
lumber, sir - live and dead - gentlemen and their bags, as don't like to
walk." "Do you charge anything for the ride?" inquired Jorrocks, with
his customary caution. "Nothing," was the answer. "Then, let's get on
the roof," said J - - , "and take it easy, and survey the place as we go
along." So, accordingly, we clambered on to the top of the diligence,
"summâ diligentiâ," and seated ourselves on a pile of luggage; being all
stowed away, and as many passengers as it would hold put inside, two
or three porters proceeded to propel the machine along the railroad on
which it runs. "Now, Mr. Yorkshireman," said Jorrocks, "we are in a
strange land, and it behoves us to proceed with caution, or we may spend
our five pounds seven and sixpence before we know where we are."

_Yorkshireman_. Seven and ninepence it is, sir.

_Jorrocks_. Well, be it so - five pounds seven and ninepence between two,
is by no means an impossible sum to spend, and the trick is to make
it go as far as we can. Now some men can make one guinea go as far as
others can make two, and we will try what we can do. In the first place,
you know I makes it a rule never to darken the door of a place wot calls
itself an 'otel, for 'otel prices and inn prices are werry different.
You young chaps don't consider these things, and as long as you have
got a rap in the world you go swaggering about, ordering claret and
waxlights, and everything wot's expensive, as though you must spend
money because you are in an inn. Now, that's all gammon. If a man
haven't got money he can't spend it; and we all know that many poor
folks are obliged at times to go to houses of public entertainment,
and you don't suppose that they pay for fire and waxlights, private
sitting-rooms, and all them 'ere sort of things. Now, said he, adjusting
his hunting telescope and raking the town of Herne Bay, towards which we
were gently approaching on our dignified eminence, but as yet had not
got near enough to descry "what was what" with the naked eye, I should
say yon great staring-looking shop directly opposite us is the cock inn
of the place (looks through his glass). I'm right P-i-e-r, Pier 'Otel I
reads upon the top, and that's no shop for my money. Let's see what else
we have. There's nothing on the right, I think, but here on the left is
something like our cut - D-o-l dol, p-h-i-n phin, Dolphin Inn. It's long
since I went the circuit, as the commercial gentlemen (or what were
called bagmen in my days) term it, but I haven't forgot the experience I
gained in my travels, and I whiles turn it to werry good account now.

"Coach to Canterbury, Deal, Margate, sir, going directly," interrupted
him, and reminded us that we had got to the end of the pier, and ought
to be descending. Two or three coaches were drawn up, waiting to carry
passengers on, but we had got to our journey's end. "Now," said J - - ,
"let's take our bags in hand and draw up wind, trying the 'Dolphin'

Rejecting the noble portals of the Pier Hotel, we advanced towards
Jorrocks's chosen house, a plain unpretending-looking place facing the
sea, which is half the battle, and being but just finished had every
chance of cleanliness. "Jonathan Acres" appeared above the door as the
name of the landlord, and a little square-built, hatless, short-haired
chap, in a shooting-jacket, was leaning against the door. "Mr.
Hacres within?" said Jorrocks. "My name's Acres," said he of the
shooting-jacket. "Humph," said J - - , looking him over, "not Long Acre,
I think." Having selected a couple of good airy bedrooms, we proceeded
to see about dinner. "Mr. Hacres," said Jorrocks, "I makes it a rule
never to pay more than two and sixpence for a feed, so now just give
us as good a one as you possibly can for that money": and about seven
o'clock we sat down to lamb-chops, ducks, French beans, pudding, etc.;
shortly after which Jorrocks retired to rest, to sleep off the remainder
of his headache. He was up long before me the next morning, and had a
dip in the sea before I came down. "Upon my word," said he, as I entered
the room, and found him looking as lively and fresh as a four-year-old,
"it's worth while going to the lush-crib occasionally, if it's only for
the pleasure of feeling so hearty and fresh as one does on the second
day. I feel just as if I could jump out of my skin, but I will defer the
performance until after breakfast. I have ordered a fork one, do you
know, cold 'am and boiled bacon, with no end of eggs, and bread of every
possible description. By the way, I've scraped acquaintance with Thorp,
the baker hard by, who's a right good fellow, and says he will give me
some shooting, and has some werry nice beagles wot he shoots to. But
here's the grub. Cold 'am in abundance. But, waiter, you should put a
little green garnishing to the dishes, I likes to see it, green is so
werry refreshing to the eye; and tell Mr. Hacres to send up some more
bacon and the bill, when I rings the bell. Nothing like having your bill
the first morning, and then you know what you've got to pay, and can cut
your coat according to your cloth." The bacon soon disappeared, and the
bell being sounded, produced the order.

"Humph," said J - - , casting his eyes over the bill as it lay by the
side of his plate, while he kept pegging away at the contents of the
neighbouring dish - "pretty reasonable, I think - dinners, five shillings,
that's half a crown each; beds, two shillings each; breakfasts, one and
ninepence each, that's cheap for a fork breakfast; but, I say, you had
a pint of sherry after I left you last night, and PALE sherry too! How
could you be such an egreggorus (egregious) ass! That's so like you
young chaps, not to know that the only difference between pale and brown
sherry is, that one has more of the pumpaganus aqua in it than the
other. You should have made it pale yourself, man. But look there. Wot a

Our attention was attracted to a youth in spectacles, dressed in a rich
plum-coloured coat, on the outside of a dingy-looking, big-headed, brown
nag, which he was flogging and cramming along the public walk in
front of the "Dolphin," in the most original and ludicrous manner. We
presently recognised him as one of our fellow-passengers of the previous
day, respecting whom Jorrocks and I had had a dispute as to whether he
was a Frenchman or a German. His equestrian performances decided the
point. I never in all my life witnessed such an exhibition, nor one in
which the performer evinced such self-complacency. Whether he had ever
been on horseback before or not I can't tell, but the way in which he
went to work, using the bridle as a sort of rattle to frighten the horse
forward, the way in which he shook the reins, threw his arms about, and
belaboured the poor devil of an animal in order to get him into a canter
(the horse of course turning away every time he saw the blow coming),
and the free, unrestrained liberty he gave to his head, surpassed
everything of the sort I ever saw, and considerably endangered the lives
of several of His Majesty's lieges that happened to be passing.
Instead of getting out of their way, Frenchmanlike, he seemed to think
everything should give way to an equestrian; and I saw him scatter a
party of ladies like a covey of partridges, by riding slap amongst them,
and not even making the slightest apology or obeisance for the rudeness.
There he kept, cantering (or cantering as much as he could induce the
poor rip to do) from one end of the town to the other, conceiving, I
make not the slightest doubt, that he was looked upon with eyes of
admiration by the beholders. He soon created no little sensation, and
before he was done a crowd had collected near the Pier Hotel, to see him
get his horse past (it being a Pier Hotel nag) each time; and I heard
a primitive sort of postman, who was delivering the few letters that
arrive in the place, out of a fish-basket, declare "that he would sooner
kill a horse than lend it to such a chap." Having fretted his hour away,
the owner claimed the horse, and Monsieur was dismounted.

After surveying the back of the town, we found ourselves rambling in
some beautiful picturesque fields in the rear. Kent is a beautiful
county, and the trimly kept gardens, and the clustering vines twining
around the neatly thatched cottages, remind one of the rich, luxuriant
soil and climate of the South. Forgetting that we were in search of sea
breezes, we continued to saunter on, across one field, over one stile
and then over another, until after passing by the side of a snug-looking
old-fashioned house, with a beautifully kept garden, the road took a
sudden turn and brought us to some parkish-looking well-timbered ground
in front, at one side of which Jorrocks saw something that he swore was
a kennel.

"I knows a hawk from a hand-saw," said he, "let me alone for that. I'll
swear there are hounds in it. Bless your heart, don't I see a gilt fox
on one end, and a gilt hare on the other?"

Just then came up a man in a round fustian jacket, to whom Jorrocks
addressed himself, and, as good luck would have it, he turned out to be
the huntsman (for Jorrocks was right about the kennel), and away we went
to look at the hounds. They proved to be Mr. Collard's, the owner of
the house that we had just passed, and were really a very nice pack of
harriers, consisting of seventeen or eighteen couple, kept in better
style (as far as kennel appearance goes) than three-fourths of the
harriers in England. Bird, the huntsman, our cicerone, seemed a regular
keen one in hunting matters, and Jorrocks and he had a long confab about
the "noble art of hunting," though the former was rather mortified to
find on announcing himself as the "celebrated Mr. Jorrocks" that Bird
had never heard of him before.

After leaving the kennel we struck across a few fields, and soon found
ourselves on the sea banks, along which we proceeded at the rate of
about two miles an hour, until we came to the old church of Reculvers.
Hard by is a public-house, the sign of the "Two Sisters," where, having
each taken a couple of glasses of ale, we proceeded to enjoy one of the
(to me at least) greatest luxuries in life - viz. that of lying on the
shingle of the beach with my heels just at the water's edge.

The day was intensely hot, and after occupying this position for about
half an hour, and finding the "perpendicular rays of the sun" rather
fiercer than agreeable, we followed the example of a flock of sheep, and
availed ourselves of the shade afforded by the Reculvers. Here for a
short distance along the beach, on both sides, are small breakwaters,
and immediately below the Reculvers is one formed of stake and matting,
capable of holding two persons sofa fashion. Into this Jorrocks and
I crept, the tide being at that particular point that enabled us to
repose, with the water lashing our cradle on both sides, without dashing
high enough to wet us.

"Oh, but this is fine!" said J - - , dangling his arm over the side, and
letting the sea wash against his hand. "I declare it comes fizzing up
just like soda-water out of a bottle - reminds me of the lush-crib. By
the way, Mr. Yorkshireman, I heard some chaps in our inn this morning
talking about this werry place, and one of them said that there used
to be a Roman station, or something of that sort, at it. Did you know
anything of them 'ere ancient Romans? Luxterous dogs, I understand.
If Mr. Nimrod was here now he could tell us all about them, for, if I
mistake not, he was werry intimate with some of them - either he or his
father, at least."

A boat that had been gradually advancing towards us now run on shore,
close by where we were lying, and one of the crew landed with a jug to
get some beer. A large basket at the end attracted Jorrocks's attention,
and, doglike, he got up and began to hover about and inquire about their
destination of the remaining crew, four in number. They were a cockney
party of pleasure, it seemed, going to fish, for which purpose they had
hired the boat, and laid in no end of bait for the fish, and prog for
themselves. Jorrocks, though no great fisherman (not having, as he says,
patience enough), is never at a loss if there is plenty of eating; and
finding that they had got a great chicken pie, two tongues, and a tart,
agreed to pay for the boat if they would let us in upon equal terms with
themselves as to the provender, which was agreed to without a debate.
The messenger having returned with a gallon of ale, we embarked, and
away we slid through the "glad waters of the dark blue sea." It was
beautifully calm, scarcely a breeze appearing on the surface. After
rowing for about an hour, one of the boatmen began to adjust the lines
and bait the hooks; and having got into what he esteemed a favourite
spot, he cast anchor and prepared for the sport. Each man was prepared
with a long strong cord line, with a couple of hooks fastened to the
ends of about a foot of whalebone, with a small leaden plummet in the
centre. The hooks were baited with sandworms, and the instructions given
were, after sounding the depth, to raise the hooks a little from the
bottom, so as to let them hang conveniently for the fish to swallow.
Great was the excitement as we dropped the lines overboard, as to who
should catch the first whale. Jorrocks and myself having taken the
fishermen's lines from them, we all met upon pretty equal terms, much
like gentlemen jockeys in a race. A dead silence ensued. "I have one!"
cried the youngest of our new friends. "Then pull him up," responded one
of the boatmen, "gently, or you'll lose him." "And so I have, by God!
he's gone." "Well, never mind," said the boatmen, "let's see your
bait - aye, he's got that, too. We'll put some fresh on - there you are
again - all right. Now drop it gently, and when you find you've hooked
him, wind the line quickly, but quietly, and be sure you don't jerk
the hook out of his mouth at starting." "I've got one!" cries
Jorrocks - "I've got one - now, my wig, if I can but land him. I have him,
certainly - by Jove! he's a wopper, too, judging by the way he kicks. Oh,
but it's no use, sir - come along - come along - here he is - doublets, by
crikey - two, huzza! huzza! What fine ones! - young haddocks or codlings,
I should call them - werry nice eating, I dare say - I'm blow'd if this
arn't sport." "I have one," cries our young friend again. "So have I,"
shouts another; and just at the same moment I felt the magic touch of
my bait, and in an instant I felt the thrilling stroke. The fish were
absolutely voracious, and we had nothing short of a miraculous draught.
As fast as we could bait they swallowed, and we frequently pulled them
up two at a time. Jorrocks was in ecstasies. "It was the finest sport he
had ever encountered," and he kept halloaing and shouting every time
he pulled them up, as though he were out with the Surrey. Having just
hooked a second couple, he baited again and dropped his line. Two of our
new friends had hooked fish at the same instant, and, in their eagerness
to take them, overbalanced the boat, and Jorrocks, who was leaning over,
went head foremost down into the deeps!

* * * * *

A terrible surprise came over us, and for a second or two we were so
perfectly thunderstruck as to be incapable of rendering any assistance.
A great splash, followed by a slight gurgling sound, as the water
bubbled and subsided o'er the place where he went down, was all that
denoted the exit of our friend. After a considerable dive he rose to the
surface, minus his hat and wig, but speedily disappeared. The anchor
was weighed, oars put out, and the boat rowed to the spot where he last
appeared. He rose a third time, but out of arms' reach, apparently
lifeless, and just as he was sinking, most probably for ever, one of the
men contrived to slip the end of an oar under his arm, and support him
on the water until he got within reach from the boat.

The consternation when we got him on board was tremendous! Consisting,
as we did, of two parties, neither knowing where the other had come
from, we remained in a state of stupefied horror, indecision, and
amazement for some minutes. The poor old man lay extended in the bottom
of the boat, apparently lifeless, and even if the vital spark had not
fled, there seemed no chance of reaching Herne Bay, whose pier, just
then gilded by the rich golden rays of the setting sun, appeared in
the far distance of the horizon. Where to row to was the question. No
habitation where effective succour could be procured appeared on the
shore, and to proceed without a certain destination was fruitless.
How helpless such a period as this makes a man feel! "Let's make for
Grace's," at length exclaimed one of the boatmen, and the other catching
at the proposition, the head of the boat was whipped round in an
instant, and away we sped through the glassy-surfaced water. Not a word
broke upon the sound of the splashing oars until, nearing the shore, one
of the men, looking round, directed us to steer a little to the right,
in the direction of a sort of dell or land-break, peculiar to the Isle
of Thanet; and presently we ran the head of the boat upon the shingle,
just where a small rivulet that, descending from the higher grounds,
waters the thickly wooded ravine, and discharges itself into the sea.
The entrance of this dell is formed by a lofty precipitous rock, with a
few stunted overhanging trees on one side, while the other is more open
and softened in its aspect, and though steep and narrow at the mouth,
gently slopes away into a brushwood-covered bank, which, stretching up
the little valley, becomes lost in a forest of lofty oaks that close the
inland prospect of the place. Here, to the left (just after one gets
clear of the steeper part), commanding a view of the sea, and yet almost
concealed from the eye of a careless traveller, was a lonely hut (the
back wall formed by an excavation of the sandy rock) and the rest of
clay, supporting a wooden roof, made of the hull of a castaway wreck,
the abode of an old woman, called Grace Ganderne, well known throughout
the whole Isle of Thanet as a poor harmless secluded widow, who
subsisted partly on the charity of her neighbours, and partly on what
she could glean from the smugglers, for the assistance she affords them
in running their goods on that coast; and though she had been at work
for forty years, she had never had the misfortune to be detected in the
act, notwithstanding the many puncheons of spirits and many bales of
goods fished out of the dark woods near her domicile.

To this spot it was, just as the "setting sun's pathetic light" had been
succeeded by the grey twilight of the evening, that we bore the body
of our unfortunate companion. The door was closed, but Grace being
accustomed to nocturnal visitors, speedily answered the first summons
and presented herself. She was evidently of immense age, being nearly
bowed double, and her figure, with her silvery hair, confined by a blue
checked cotton handkerchief, and palsied hand, as tremblingly she rested
upon her staff and eyed the group, would have made a subject worthy of
the pencil of a Landseer. She was wrapped in an old red cloak, with
a large hood, and in her ears she wore a pair of long gold-dropped
earrings, similar to what one sees among the Norman peasantry - the gift,
as I afterwards learned, of a drowned lover. After scrutinising us for a
second or two, during which time a large black cat kept walking to and
fro, purring and rubbing itself against her, she held back the door
and beckoned us to enter. The little place was cleanly swept up, and
a faggot and some dry brushwood, which she had just lighted for
the purpose of boiling her kettle, threw a gleam of light over the
apartment, alike her bedchamber, parlour, and kitchen. Her curtainless
bed at the side, covered with a coarse brown counterpane, was speedily
prepared for our friend, into which being laid, our new acquaintances
were dispatched in search of doctors, while the boatman and myself,
under the direction of old Grace, applied ourselves to procuring such
restoratives as her humble dwelling afforded.

"Let Grace alone," said the younger of the boatmen, seeing my affliction
at the lamentable catastrophe, "if there be but a spark of life in the
gentleman, she'll bring him round - many's the drowning man - aye, and
wounded one, too - that's been brought in here during the stormy nights,
and after fights with the coast-guard - that she's recovered."

Hot bottles, and hot flannels, and hot bricks were all applied, but in
vain; and when I saw hot brandy, too, fail of having the desired effect,
I gave my friend up as lost, and left the hut to vent my grief in the
open air. Grace was more sanguine and persevering, and when I returned,
after a half-hour's absence, I could distinctly feel a returning pulse.
Still, he gave no symptoms of animation, and it might only be the effect
produced by the applications - as he remained in the same state for
several hours. Fresh wood was added to the fire, and the boatmen having
returned to their vessel, Grace and I proceeded to keep watch during
the night, or until the arrival of a doctor. The poor old body, to whom
scenes such as this were matter of frequent occurrence, seemed to think
nothing of it, and proceeded to relate some of the wonderful escapes and
recoveries she had witnessed, in the course of which she dropped many
a sigh to the memory of some of her friends - the bold smugglers. There
were no such "braw lads" now as formerly, she said, and were it not that
"she was past eighty, and might as weel die in one place as anither,
she wad gang back to the bonny blue hulls (hills) of her ain canny

In the middle of one of her long stories I thought I perceived a
movement of the bedclothes, and, going to look, I found a considerable
increase in the quickness of pulsation, and also a generous sort of glow
upon the skin. "An' ded I no tell ye I wad recover him?" said she, with
a triumphant look. "Afore twa mair hours are o'er he'll spak to ye." "I
hope so, I'm sure," said I, still almost doubting her. "Oh, trust to
me," said she, "he'll come about - I've seen mony a chiel in a mickle
worse state nor him recovered. Pray, is the ould gintleman your father
or your grandfather?"

_Yorkshireman._ Why, I can't say that he's either exactly - but he's
always been as good as a grandmother to me, I know.

Grace was right. About three o'clock in the morning a sort of revulsion
of nature took place, and after having lain insensible, and to all
appearance lifeless, all that time, he suddenly began to move. Casting
his eye wildly around, he seemed lost in amazement. He muttered
something, but what it was I could not catch.

"Lush-crib again, by Jove!" were the first words he articulated, and
then, appearing to recollect himself, he added, "Oh, I forgot, I'm
drowned - well drowned, too - can't be help'd, however - wasn't born to be
hanged - and that seems clear." Thus he kept muttering and mumbling for
an hour, until old Grace thinking him so far recovered as to remove all
danger from sudden surprise, allowed me to take her seat at the bedside.
He looked at me long and intensely, but the light was not sufficiently
strong to enable him to make out who I was.

"Jorrocks!" at length said I, taking him by the hand, "how are you, my
old boy?" He started at the sound of his name. "Jorrocks," said he,
"who's that?" "Why, the Yorkshireman; you surely have not forgotten your
old friend and companion in a hundred fights!"

_Jorrocks._ Oh, Mr. York, it's you, is it? Much obliged by your
inquiries, but I'm drowned.

_Yorkshireman._ Aye, but you are coming round, you'll be better before

_Jorrocks._ Never! Don't try to gammon me. You know as well as I do that
I'm drowned, and a drowned man never recovers. No, no, it's all up with
me, I feel. Set down, however, while I say a few words to you. You're a
good fellow, and I've remembered you in my will, which you'll find in
the strong port-wine-bin, along with nine pounds secret service money.
I hopes you'll think the legacy a fat one. I meant it as such. If you
marry Belinda, I have left you a third of my fourth in the tea trade.
Always said you were cut out for a grocer. Let Tat sell my stud. An
excellent man, Tat - proudish perhaps - at least, he never inwites me to
none of his dinners - but still a werry good man. Let him sell them, I
say, and mind give Snapdragon a charge or two of shot before he goes
to the 'ammer, to prevent his roaring. Put up a plain monument to my

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 21

Online LibraryRobert Smith SurteesJorrocks' Jaunts and Jollities → online text (page 21 of 22)