Part 5 out of 9
curious characters, seemingly hieroglyphics. After surveying them
for some time, I replaced it upon the tray. "You seem fond of
china," said I, to the old man, after the servant had retired with
the breakfast things, and I had returned to my former posture; "you
have china on the mantelpiece, and that was a remarkable teapot out
of which I have just been drinking."
The old man fixed his eyes intently on me, and methought the
expression of his countenance became yet more melancholy. "Yes,"
said he, at last, "I am fond of china--I have reason to be fond of
china--but for china I should--" and here he sighed again.
"You value it for the quaintness and singularity of its form," said
I; "it appears to be less adapted for real use than our own
"I care little about its form," said the old man; "I care for it
simply on account of--however, why talk to you on the subject which
can have no possible interest to you? I expect the surgeon here
"I do not like that surgeon at all," said I; "how strangely he
behaved last night, coming back, when I was just falling asleep, to
ask me if I would sell my horse."
The old man smiled. "He has but one failing," said he, "an itch
for horse-dealing; but for that he might be a much richer man than
he is; he is continually buying and exchanging horses, and
generally finds himself a loser by his bargains: but he is a
worthy creature, and skilful in his profession--it is well for you
that you are under his care."
The old man then left me, and in about an hour returned with the
surgeon, who examined me and reported favourably as to my case. He
spoke to me with kindness and feeling, and did not introduce the
subject of the horse. I asked him whether he thought I should be
in time for the fair. "I saw some people making their way thither
to-day," said he; "the fair lasts three weeks, and it has just
commenced. Yes, I think I may promise you that you will be in time
for the very heat of it. In a few days you will be able to mount
your saddle with your arm in a sling, but you must by no means
appear with your arm in a sling at Horncastle, as people would
think that your horse had flung you, and that you wanted to dispose
of him because he was a vicious brute. You must, by all means,
drop the sling before you get to Horncastle."
For three days I kept my apartment by the advice of the surgeon. I
passed my time as I best could. Stretched on my bed, I either
abandoned myself to reflection, or listened to the voices of the
birds in the neighbouring garden. Sometimes, as I lay awake at
night, I would endeavour to catch the tick of a clock, which
methought sounded from some distant part of the house.
The old man visited me twice or thrice every day to inquire into my
state. His words were few on these occasions, and he did not stay
long. Yet his voice and his words were kind. What surprised me
most in connection with this individual was, the delicacy of
conduct which he exhibited in not letting a word proceed from his
lips which could testify curiosity respecting who I was, or whence
I came. All he knew of me was, that I had been flung from my horse
on my way to a fair for the purpose of disposing of the animal; and
that I was now his guest. I might be a common horse-dealer for
what he knew, yet I was treated by him with all the attention which
I could have expected, had I been an alderman of Boston's heir, and
known to him as such. The county in which I am now, thought I at
last, must be either extraordinarily devoted to hospitality, or
this old host of mine must be an extraordinary individual. On the
evening of the fourth day, feeling tired of my confinement, I put
my clothes on in the best manner I could, and left the chamber.
Descending a flight of stairs, I reached a kind of quadrangle, from
which branched two or three passages; one of these I entered, which
had a door at the farther end, and one on each side; the one to the
left standing partly open, I entered it, and found myself in a
middle-sized room with a large window, or rather glass-door, which
looked into a garden, and which stood open. There was nothing
remarkable in this room, except a large quantity of china. There
was china on the mantelpiece--china on two tables, and a small
beaufet, which stood opposite the glass-door, was covered with
china--there were cups, teapots, and vases of various forms, and on
all of them I observed characters--not a teapot, not a tea-cup, not
a vase of whatever form or size, but appeared to possess
hieroglyphics on some part or other. After surveying these
articles for some time with no little interest, I passed into the
garden, in which there were small parterres of flowers, and two or
three trees, and which, where the house did not abut, was bounded
by a wall; turning to the right by a walk by the side of a house, I
passed by a door--probably the one I had seen at the end of the
passage--and arrived at another window similar to that through
which I had come, and which also stood open; I was about to pass
through it, when I heard the voice of my entertainer exclaiming,
"Is that you? pray come in."
I entered the room, which seemed to be a counterpart of the one
which I had just left. It was of the same size, had the same kind
of furniture, and appeared to be equally well stocked with china;
one prominent article it possessed, however, which the other room
did not exhibit--namely, a clock, which, with its pendulum moving
tick-a-tick, hung against the wall opposite to the door, the sight
of which made me conclude that the sound which methought I had
heard in the stillness of the night was not an imaginary one.
There it hung on the wall, with its pendulum moving tick-a-tick.
The old gentleman was seated in an easy chair a little way into the
room, having the glass-door on his right hand. On a table before
him lay a large open volume, in which I observed Roman letters as
well as characters. A few inches beyond the book on the table,
covered all over with hieroglyphics, stood a china vase. The eyes
of the old man were fixed upon it.
"Sit down," said he, motioning me with his hand to a stool close
by, but without taking his eyes from the vase.
"I can't make it out," said he, at last, removing his eyes from the
vase, and leaning back on the chair, "I can't make it out."
"I wish I could assist you," said I.
"Assist me," said the old man, looking at me with a half smile.
"Yes," said I, "but I don't understand Chinese."
"I suppose not," said the old man, with another slight smile; "but-
"Pray proceed," said I.
"I wished to ask you," said the old man, "how you knew that the
characters on yon piece of crockery were Chinese; or, indeed, that
there was such a language?"
"I knew the crockery was china," said I, "and naturally enough
supposed what was written upon it to be Chinese; as for there being
such a language--the English have a language, the French have a
language, and why not the Chinese?"
"May I ask you a question?"
"As many as you like."
"Do you know any language besides English?"
"Yes," said I, "I know a little of two or three."
"May I ask their names?"
"Why not?" said I, "I know a little French."
"Yes, a little Welsh, and a little Haik."
"What is Haik?"
"I am glad to see you in my house," said the old man, shaking me by
the hand; "how singular that one coming as you did should know
"Not more singular," said I, "than that one living in such a place
as this should know Chinese. How came you to acquire it?"
The old man looked at me, and sighed. "I beg pardon," said I, "for
asking what is, perhaps, an impertinent question; I have not
imitated your own delicacy; you have never asked me a question
without first desiring permission, and here I have been days and
nights in your house an intruder on your hospitality, and you have
never so much as asked me who I am."
"In forbearing to do that," said the old man, "I merely obeyed the
Chinese precept, 'Ask no questions of a guest;' it is written on
both sides of the teapot out of which you have had your tea."
"I wish I knew Chinese," said I. "Is it a difficult language to
"I have reason to think so," said the old man. "I have been
occupied upon it five-and-thirty years, and I am still very
imperfectly acquainted with it; at least, I frequently find upon my
crockery sentences the meaning of which to me is very dark, though
it is true these sentences are mostly verses, which are, of course,
more difficult to understand than mere prose."
"Are your Chinese studies," said I, "confined to crockery
"Entirely," said the old man; "I read nothing else."
"I have heard," said I, "that the Chinese have no letters, but that
for every word they have a separate character--is it so?"
"For every word they have a particular character," said the old
man; "though, to prevent confusion, they have arranged their words
under two hundred and fourteen what we should call radicals, but
which they call keys. As we arrange all our words in a dictionary
under twenty-four letters, so do they arrange all their words, or
characters, under two hundred and fourteen radical signs; the
simplest radicals being the first, and the more complex the last."
"Does the Chinese resemble any of the European languages in words?"
"I am scarcely competent to inform you," said the old man; "but I
"What does that character represent?" said I, pointing to one on
"A knife," said the old man, "that character is one of the simplest
radicals or keys."
"And what is the sound of it?" said I.
"Tau," said the old man.
"Tau!" said I; "tau!"
"A strange word for a knife is it not?" said the old man.
"Tawse!" said I; "tawse!"
"What is tawse?" said the old man.
"You were never at school at Edinburgh, I suppose?"
"Never," said the old man.
"That accounts for your not knowing the meaning of tawse," said I;
"had you received the rudiments of a classical education at the
High School, you would have known the meaning of tawse full well.
It is a leathern thong, with which refractory urchins are recalled
to a sense of their duty by the dominie. Tau--tawse--how
"I cannot see what the two words have in common, except a slight
agreement in sound."
"You will see the connection," said I, "when I inform you that the
thong, from the middle to the bottom, is cut or slit into two or
three parts, from which slits or cuts, unless I am very much
mistaken, it derives its name--tawse, a thong with slits or cuts,
used for chastising disorderly urchins at the High School, from the
French tailler, to cut; evidently connected with the Chinese tau, a
knife--how very extraordinary!"
Convalescence--The Surgeon's Bill--Letter of Recommendation--
Commencement of the Old Man's History.
Two days--three days passed away--and I still remained at the house
of my hospitable entertainer; my bruised limb rapidly recovering
the power of performing its functions. I passed my time agreeably
enough, sometimes in my chamber, communing with my own thoughts;
sometimes in the stable, attending to, and not unfrequently
conversing with, my horse; and at meal-time--for I seldom saw him
at any other--discoursing with the old gentleman, sometimes on the
Chinese vocabulary, sometimes on Chinese syntax, and once or twice
on English horseflesh; though on this latter subject,
notwithstanding his descent from a race of horse-traders, he did
not enter into with much alacrity. As a small requital for his
kindness, I gave him one day, after dinner, unasked, a brief
account of my history and pursuits. He listened with attention;
and when it was concluded, thanked me for the confidence which I
had reposed in him. "Such conduct," said he, "deserves a return.
I will tell you my own history; it is brief, but may perhaps not
prove uninteresting to you--though the relation of it will give me
some pain." "Pray, then, do not recite it," said I. "Yes," said
the old man, "I will tell you, for I wish you to know it." He was
about to begin, when he was interrupted by the arrival of the
surgeon. The surgeon examined into the state of my bruised limb,
and told me, what indeed I already well knew, that it was rapidly
improving. "You will not even require a sling," said he, "to ride
to Horncastle. When do you propose going?" he demanded. "When do
you think I may venture?" I replied. "I think, if you are a
tolerably good horseman, you may mount the day after to-morrow,"
answered the medical man. "By-the-bye, are you acquainted with
anybody at Horncastle?" "With no living soul," I answered. "Then
you would scarcely find stable-room for your horse. But I am happy
to be able to assist you. I have a friend there who keeps a small
inn, and who, during the time of the fair, keeps a stall vacant for
any quadruped I may bring, until he knows whether I am coming or
not. I will give you a letter to him, and he will see after the
accommodation of your horse. To-morrow I will pay you a farewell
visit, and bring you the letter." "Thank you," said I; "and do not
forget to bring your bill." The surgeon looked at the old man, who
gave him a peculiar nod. "Oh!" said he, in reply to me, "for the
little service I have rendered you, I require no remuneration. You
are in my friend's house, and he and I understand each other." "I
never receive such favours," said I, "as you have rendered me,
without remunerating them; therefore I shall expect your bill."
"Oh! just as you please," said the surgeon; and shaking me by the
hand more warmly than he had hitherto done, he took his leave.
On the evening of the next day, the last which I spent with my kind
entertainer, I sat at tea with him in a little summer-house in his
garden, partially shaded by the boughs of a large fig-tree. The
surgeon had shortly before paid me his farewell visit, and had
brought me the letter of introduction to his friend at Horncastle,
and also his bill, which I found anything but extravagant. After
we had each respectively drank the contents of two cups--and it may
not be amiss here to inform the reader that though I took cream
with my tea, as I always do when I can procure that addition, the
old man, like most people bred up in the country, drank his without
it--he thus addressed me:- "I am, as I told you on the night of
your accident, the son of a breeder of horses, a respectable and
honest man. When I was about twenty he died, leaving me, his only
child, a comfortable property, consisting of about two hundred
acres of land and some fifteen hundred pounds in money. My mother
had died about three years previously. I felt the death of my
mother keenly, but that of my father less than was my duty; indeed,
truth compels me to acknowledge that I scarcely regretted his
death. The cause of this want of proper filial feeling was the
opposition which I had experienced from him in an affair which
deeply concerned me. I had formed an attachment for a young female
in the neighbourhood, who, though poor, was of highly respectable
birth, her father having been a curate of the Established Church.
She was, at the time of which I am speaking, an orphan, having lost
both her parents, and supported herself by keeping a small school.
My attachment was returned, and we had pledged our vows, but my
father, who could not reconcile himself to her lack of fortune,
forbade our marriage in the most positive terms. He was wrong, for
she was a fortune in herself--amiable and accomplished. Oh! I
cannot tell you all she was--" and here the old man drew his hand
across his eyes. "By the death of my father, the only obstacle to
our happiness appeared to be removed. We agreed, therefore, that
our marriage should take place within the course of a year; and I
forthwith commenced enlarging my house and getting my affairs in
order. Having been left in the easy circumstances which I have
described, I determined to follow no business, but to pass my life
in a strictly domestic manner, and to be very, very happy. Amongst
other property derived from my father were several horses, which I
disposed of in this neighbourhood, with the exception of two
remarkably fine ones, which I determined to take to the next fair
at Horncastle, the only place where I expected to be able to obtain
what I considered to be their full value. At length the time
arrived for the commencement of the fair, which was within three
months of the period which my beloved and myself had fixed upon for
the celebration of our nuptials. To the fair I went, a couple of
trusty men following me with the horses. I soon found a purchaser
for the animals, a portly, plausible person, of about forty,
dressed in a blue riding coat, brown top boots, and leather
breeches. There was a strange-looking urchin with him, attired in
nearly similar fashion, with a beam in one of his eyes, who called
him father. The man paid me for the purchase in bank-notes--three
fifty-pound notes for the two horses. As we were about to take
leave of each other, he suddenly produced another fifty-pound note,
inquiring whether I could change it, complaining, at the same time,
of the difficulty of procuring change in the fair. As I happened
to have plenty of small money in my possession, and as I felt
obliged to him for having purchased my horses at what I considered
to be a good price, I informed him that I should be very happy to
accommodate him; so I changed him the note, and he, having taken
possession of the horses, went his way, and I myself returned home.
"A month passed; during this time I paid away two of the notes
which I had received at Horncastle from the dealer--one of them in
my immediate neighbourhood, and the other at a town about fifteen
miles distant, to which I had repaired for the purpose of
purchasing some furniture. All things seemed to be going on most
prosperously, and I felt quite happy, when one morning, as I was
overlooking some workmen who were employed about my house, I was
accosted by a constable, who informed me that he was sent to
request my immediate appearance before a neighbouring bench of
magistrates. Concluding that I was merely summoned on some
unimportant business connected with the neighbourhood, I felt no
surprise, and forthwith departed in company with the officer. The
demeanour of the man upon the way struck me as somewhat singular.
I had frequently spoken to him before, and had always found him
civil and respectful, but he was now reserved and sullen, and
replied to two or three questions which I put to him in anything
but a courteous manner. On arriving at the place where the
magistrates were sitting--an inn at a small town about two miles
distant--I found a more than usual number of people assembled, who
appeared to be conversing with considerable eagerness. At sight of
me they became silent, but crowded after me as I followed the man
into the magistrates' room. There I found the tradesman to whom I
had paid the note for the furniture at the town fifteen miles off
in attendance, accompanied by an agent of the Bank of England; the
former, it seems, had paid the note into a provincial bank, the
proprietors of which, discovering it to be a forgery, had forthwith
written up to the Bank of England, who had sent down their agent to
investigate the matter. A third individual stood beside them--the
person in my own immediate neighbourhood to whom I had paid the
second note; this, by some means or other, before the coming down
of the agent, had found its way to the same provincial bank, and
also being pronounced a forgery, it had speedily been traced to the
person to whom I had paid it. It was owing to the apparition of
this second note that the agent had determined, without further
inquiry, to cause me to be summoned before the rural tribunal.
"In a few words the magistrates' clerk gave me to understand the
state of the case. I was filled with surprise and consternation.
I knew myself to be perfectly innocent of any fraudulent intention,
but at the time of which I am speaking it was a matter fraught with
the greatest danger to be mixed up, however innocently, with the
passing of false money. The law with respect to forgery was
terribly severe, and the innocent as well as the guilty
occasionally suffered. Of this I was not altogether ignorant;
unfortunately, however, in my transactions with the stranger, the
idea of false notes being offered to me, and my being brought into
trouble by means of them, never entered my mind. Recovering myself
a little, I stated that the notes in question were two of three
notes which I had received at Horncastle, for a pair of horses,
which it was well known I had carried thither.
"Thereupon, I produced from my pocket-book the third note, which
was forthwith pronounced a forgery. I had scarcely produced the
third note, when I remembered the one which I had changed for the
Horncastle dealer, and with the remembrance came the almost certain
conviction that it was also a forgery; I was tempted for a moment
to produce it, and to explain the circumstance--would to God I had
done so!--but shame at the idea of having been so wretchedly duped
prevented me, and the opportunity was lost. I must confess that
the agent of the bank behaved, upon the whole, in a very handsome
manner; he said that as it was quite evident that I had disposed of
certain horses at the fair, it was very probable that I might have
received the notes in question in exchange for them, and that he
was willing, as he had received a very excellent account of my
general conduct, to press the matter no farther, that is, provided-
-" And here he stopped. Thereupon, one of the three magistrates,
who were present, asked me whether I chanced to have any more of
these spurious notes in my possession. He certainly had a right to
ask the question; but there was something peculiar in his tone-
insinuating suspicion. It is certainly difficult to judge of the
motives which rule a person's conduct, but I cannot help imagining
that he was somewhat influenced in his behaviour on that occasion,
which was anything but friendly, by my having refused to sell him
the horses at a price less than that which I expected to get at the
fair; be this as it may, the question filled me with embarrassment,
and I bitterly repented not having at first been more explicit.
Thereupon the magistrate in the same kind of tone, demanded to see
my pocket-book. I knew that to demur would be useless, and
produced it, and therewith, amongst two or three small country
notes, appeared the fourth which I had received from the Horncastle
dealer. The agent took it up and examined it with attention.
'Well, is it a genuine note?' asked the magistrate. 'I am sorry to
say that it is not,' said the agent; 'it is a forgery, like the
other three.' The magistrate shrugged his shoulders, as indeed did
several people in the room. 'A regular dealer in forged notes,'
said a person close behind me; 'who would have thought it?'
"Seeing matters begin to look so serious, I aroused myself, and
endeavoured to speak in my own behalf, giving a candid account of
the manner in which I became possessed of the notes; but my
explanation did not appear to meet much credit; the magistrate, to
whom I have in particular alluded, asked, why I had not at once
stated the fact of my having received a fourth note; and the agent,
though in a very quiet tone, observed that he could not help
thinking it somewhat strange that I should have changed a note of
so much value for a perfect stranger, even supposing that he had
purchased my horses, and had paid me their value in hard cash; and
I noticed that he laid particular emphasis on the last words. I
might have observed that I was an inexperienced young man, who,
meaning no harm myself, suspected none in others, but I was
confused, stunned, and my tongue seemed to cleave to the roof of my
mouth. The men who had taken my horses to Horncastle, and for whom
I had sent, as they lived close at hand, now arrived, but the
evidence which they could give was anything but conclusive in my
favour; they had seen me in company with an individual at
Horncastle, to whom, by my orders, they had delivered certain
horses, but they had seen no part of the money transaction; the
fellow, whether from design or not, having taken me aside into a
retired place, where he had paid me the three spurious notes, and
induced me to change the fourth, which throughout the affair was
what bore most materially against me. How matters might have
terminated I do not know, I might have gone to prison, and I might
have been--just then, when I most needed a friend, and least
expected to find one, for though amongst those present there were
several who were my neighbours, and who had professed friendship
for me, none of them when they saw that I needed support and
encouragement, came forward to yield me any, but, on the contrary,
appeared by their looks to enjoy my terror and confusion--just then
a friend entered the room in the person of the surgeon of the
neighbourhood, the father of him who has attended you; he was not
on very intimate terms with me, but he had occasionally spoken to
me, and had attended my father in his dying illness, and chancing
to hear that I was in trouble, he now hastened to assist me. After
a short preamble, in which he apologized to the bench for
interfering, he begged to be informed of the state of the case,
whereupon the matter was laid before him in all its details. He
was not slow in taking a fair view of it, and spoke well and
eloquently in my behalf--insisting on the improbability that a
person of my habits and position would be wilfully mixed up with a
transaction like that of which it appeared I was suspected--adding,
that as he was fully convinced of my innocence, he was ready to
enter into any surety with respect to my appearance at any time to
answer anything which might be laid to my charge. This last
observation had particular effect, and as he was a person
universally respected, both for his skill in his profession and his
general demeanour, people began to think that a person in whom he
took an interest could scarcely be concerned in anything criminal,
and though my friend the magistrate--I call him so ironically--made
two or three demurs, it was at last agreed between him and his
brethren of the bench, that, for the present, I should be merely
called upon to enter into my own recognizance for the sum of two
hundred pounds, to appear whenever it should be deemed requisite to
enter into any further investigation of the matter.
"So I was permitted to depart from the tribunal of petty justice
without handcuffs, and uncollared by a constable; but people looked
coldly and suspiciously upon me. The first thing I did was to
hasten to the house of my beloved, in order to inform her of every
circumstance attending the transaction. I found her, but how? A
malicious female individual had hurried to her with a distorted
tale, to the effect that I had been taken up as an utterer of
forged notes; that an immense number had been found in my
possession; that I was already committed, and that probably I
should be executed. My affianced one tenderly loved me, and her
constitution was delicate; fit succeeded fit; she broke a blood-
vessel, and I found her deluged in blood; the surgeon had been sent
for; he came and afforded her every possible relief. I was
distracted; he bade me have hope, but I observed he looked very
"By the skill of the surgeon, the poor girl was saved in the first
instance from the arms of death, and for a few weeks she appeared
to be rapidly recovering; by degrees, however, she became
melancholy; a worm preyed upon her spirit; a slow fever took
possession of her frame. I subsequently learned that the same
malicious female who had first carried to her an exaggerated
account of the affair, and who was a distant relative of her own,
frequently visited her, and did all in her power to excite her
fears with respect to its eventual termination. Time passed on in
a very wretched manner. Our friend the surgeon showing to us both
every mark of kindness and attention.
"It was owing to this excellent man that my innocence was
eventually established. Having been called to a town on the
borders of Yorkshire to a medical consultation, he chanced to be
taking a glass of wine with the landlord of the inn at which he
stopped, when the waiter brought in a note to be changed, saying
'That the Quaker gentleman, who had been for some days in the
house, and was about to depart, had sent it to be changed, in order
that he might pay his bill.' The landlord took the note, and
looked at it. 'A fifty-pound bill,' said he; 'I don't like
changing bills of that amount, lest they should prove bad ones;
however, as it comes from a Quaker gentleman, I suppose it is all
right.' The mention of a fifty-pound note aroused the attention of
my friend, and he requested to be permitted to look at it; he had
scarcely seen it, when he was convinced that it was one of the same
description as those which had brought me into trouble, as it
corresponded with them in two particular features, which the agent
of the bank had pointed out to him and others as evidence of their
spuriousness. My friend, without a moment's hesitation, informed
the landlord that the note was a bad one, expressing at the same
time a great wish to see the Quaker gentleman who wanted to have it
changed. 'That you can easily do,' said the landlord, and
forthwith conducted him into the common room, where he saw a
respectable-looking man, dressed like a Quaker, and seemingly about
sixty years of age.
"My friend, after a short apology, showed him the note which he
held in his hand, stating that he had no doubt it was a spurious
one, and begged to be informed where he had taken it, adding, that
a particular friend of his was at present in trouble, owing to his
having taken similar notes from a stranger at Horncastle; but that
he hoped that he, the Quaker, could give information, by means of
which the guilty party, or parties, could be arrested. At the
mention of Horncastle, it appeared to my friend that the Quaker
gave a slight start. At the conclusion of this speech, however, he
answered, with great tranquillity, that he had received it in the
way of business at -, naming one of the principal towns in
Yorkshire, from a very respectable person, whose name he was
perfectly willing to communicate, and likewise his own, which he
said was James, and that he was a merchant residing at Liverpool;
that he would write to his friend at -, requesting him to make
inquiries on the subject; that just at that moment he was in a
hurry to depart, having some particular business at a town about
ten miles off, to go to which he had bespoken a post-chaise of the
landlord; that with respect to the note, it was doubtless a very
disagreeable thing to have a suspicious one in his possession, but
that it would make little difference to him, as he had plenty of
other money, and thereupon he pulled out a purse, containing
various other notes, and some gold, observing, 'that his only
motive for wishing to change the other note was a desire to be well
provided with change;' and finally, that if they had any suspicion
with respect to him, he was perfectly willing to leave the note in
their possession till he should return, which he intended to do in
about a fortnight. There was so much plausibility in the speech of
the Quaker, and his appearance and behaviour were so perfectly
respectable, that my friend felt almost ashamed of the suspicion
which at first he had entertained of him, though, at the same time,
he felt an unaccountable unwillingness to let the man depart
without some further interrogation. The landlord, however, who did
not wish to disoblige one who had been, and might probably be
again, a profitable customer, declared that he was perfectly
satisfied; and that he had no wish to detain the note, which he
made no doubt the gentleman had received in the way of business,
and that as the matter concerned him alone, he would leave it to
him to make the necessary inquiries. 'Just as you please, friend,'
said the Quaker, pocketing the suspicious note, 'I will now pay my
bill.' Thereupon he discharged the bill with a five-pound note,
which he begged the landlord to inspect carefully, and with two
pieces of gold.
"The landlord had just taken the money, receipted the bill, and was
bowing to his customer, when the door opened, and a lad, dressed in
a kind of grey livery, appeared, and informed the Quaker that the
chaise was ready. 'Is that boy your servant?' said the surgeon.
'He is, friend,' said the Quaker. 'Hast thou any reason for asking
me that question?' 'And has he been long in your service?'
'Several years,' replied the Quaker, 'I took him into my house out
of compassion, he being an orphan, but as the chaise is waiting, I
will bid thee farewell.' 'I am afraid I must stop your journey for
the present,' said the surgeon; 'that boy has exactly the same
blemish in the eye which a boy had who was in company with the man
at Horncastle, from whom my friend received the forged notes, and
who there passed for his son.' 'I know nothing about that,' said
the Quaker, 'but I am determined to be detained here no longer,
after the satisfactory account which I have given as to the note's
coming into my possession.' He then attempted to leave the room,
but my friend detained him, a struggle ensued, during which a wig
which the Quaker wore fell off, whereupon he instantly appeared to
lose some twenty years of his age. 'Knock the fellow down,
father,' said the boy, 'I'll help you.'
"And, forsooth, the pretended Quaker took the boy's advice, and
knocked my friend down in a twinkling. The landlord, however, and
waiter, seeing how matters stood, instantly laid hold of him; but
there can be no doubt that he would have escaped from the whole
three, had not certain guests who were in the house, hearing the
noise, rushed in, and helped to secure him. The boy was true to
his word, assisting him to the best of his ability, flinging
himself between the legs of his father's assailants, causing
several of them to stumble and fall. At length, the fellow was
secured, and led before a magistrate; the boy, to whom he was heard
to say something which nobody understood, and to whom, after the
man's capture, no one paid much attention, was no more seen.
"The rest, as far as this man was concerned, may be told in a few
words; nothing to criminate him was found on his person, but on his
baggage being examined, a quantity of spurious notes were
discovered. Much of his hardihood now forsook him, and in the hope
of saving his life he made some very important disclosures; amongst
other things, he confessed that it was he who had given me the
notes in exchange for the horses, and also the note to be changed.
He was subsequently tried on two indictments, in the second of
which I appeared against him. He was condemned to die; but, in
consideration of the disclosures he had made, his sentence was
commuted to perpetual transportation.
"My innocence was thus perfectly established before the eyes of the
world, and all my friends hastened to congratulate me. There was
one who congratulated me more than all the rest--it was my beloved
one, but--but--she was dying--"
Here the old man drew his hand before his eyes, and remained for
some time without speaking; at length he removed his hand, and
commenced again with a broken voice: "You will pardon me if I
hurry over this part of my story, I am unable to dwell upon it.
How dwell upon a period when I saw my only earthly treasure pine
away gradually day by day, and knew that nothing could save her!
She saw my agony, and did all she could to console me, saying that
she was herself quite resigned. A little time before her death she
expressed a wish that we should be united. I was too happy to
comply with her request. We were united, I brought her to this
house, where, in less than a week, she expired in my arms."
The Old Man's Story continued--Misery in the Head--The Strange
Marks--Tea-dealer from London--Difficulties of the Chinese
After another pause the old man once more resumed his narration:-
"If ever there was a man perfectly miserable it was myself, after
the loss of that cherished woman. I sat solitary in the house, in
which I had hoped in her company to realize the choicest earthly
happiness, a prey to the bitterest reflections; many people
visited, and endeavoured to console me--amongst them was the
clergyman of the parish, who begged me to be resigned, and told me
that it was good to be afflicted. I bowed my head, but I could not
help thinking how easy it must be for those who feel no affliction,
to bid others to be resigned, and to talk of the benefit resulting
from sorrow; perhaps I should have paid more attention to his
discourse than I did, provided he had been a person for whom it was
possible to entertain much respect, but his own heart was known to
be set on the things of this world.
"Within a little time he had an opportunity, in his own case, of
practising resignation, and of realizing the benefit of being
afflicted. A merchant, to whom he had entrusted all his fortune,
in the hope of a large interest, became suddenly a bankrupt, with
scarcely any assets. I will not say that it was owing to this
misfortune that the divine died in less than a month after its
occurrence, but such was the fact. Amongst those who most
frequently visited me was my friend the surgeon; he did not confine
himself to the common topics of consolation, but endeavoured to
impress upon me the necessity of rousing myself, advising me to
occupy my mind with some pursuit, particularly recommending
agriculture; but agriculture possessed no interest for me, nor,
indeed, any pursuit within my reach; my hopes of happiness had been
blighted, and what cared I for anything? so at last he thought it
best to leave me to myself, hoping that time would bring with it
consolation; and I remained solitary in my house, waited upon by a
male and a female servant. Oh, what dreary moments I passed! My
only amusement--and it was a sad one--was to look at the things
which once belonged to my beloved, and which were new in my
possession. Oh, how fondly would I dwell upon them! There were
some books; I cared not for books, but these had belonged to my
beloved. Oh, how fondly did I dwell on them! Then there was her
hat and bonnet--oh, me, how fondly did I gaze upon them! and after
looking at her things for hours, I would sit and ruminate on the
happiness I had lost. How I execrated the moment I had gone to the
fair to sell horses! 'Would that I had never been to Horncastle to
sell horses!' I would say; 'I might at this moment have been
enjoying the company of my beloved, leading a happy, quiet, easy
life, but for that fatal expedition;' that thought worked on my
brain, till my brain seemed to turn round.
"One day I sat at the breakfast-table gazing vacantly around me, my
mind was in a state of inexpressible misery; there was a whirl in
my brain, probably like that which people feel who are rapidly
going mad; this increased to such a degree that I felt giddiness
coming upon me. To abate this feeling I no longer permitted my
eyes to wander about, but fixed them upon an object on the table,
and continued gazing at it for several minutes without knowing what
it was; at length, the misery in my head was somewhat stilled, my
lips moved, and I heard myself saying, 'What odd marks!' I had
fastened my eyes on the side of a teapot, and by keeping them fixed
upon it, had become aware of a fact that had escaped my notice
before--namely, that there were marks upon it. I kept my eyes
fixed upon them, and repeated at intervals, 'What strange marks!'--
for I thought that looking upon the marks tended to abate the whirl
in my head: I kept tracing the marks one after the other, and I
observed that though they all bore a general resemblance to each
other, they were all to a certain extent different. The smallest
portion possible of curious interest had been awakened within me,
and, at last, I asked myself, within my own mind, 'What motive
could induce people to put such odd marks on their crockery? they
were not pictures, they were not letters; what motive could people
have for putting them there?' At last I removed my eyes from the
teapot, and thought for a few moments about the marks; presently,
however, I felt the whirl returning; the marks became almost
effaced from my mind, and I was beginning to revert to my miserable
ruminations, when suddenly methought I heard a voice say, 'The
marks! the marks! cling to the marks? or--' So I fixed my eyes
again upon the marks, inspecting them more attentively, if
possible, than I had done before, and, at last, I came to the
conclusion that they were not capricious or fanciful marks, but
were arranged systematically; when I had gazed at them for a
considerable time, I turned the teapot round, and on the other side
I observed marks of a similar kind, which I soon discovered were
identical with the ones I had been observing. All the marks were
something alike, but all somewhat different, and on comparing them
with each other, I was struck with the frequent occurrence of a
mark crossing an upright line, or projecting from it, now on the
right, now on the left side; and I said to myself, 'Why does this
mark sometimes cross the upright line, and sometimes project?' and
the more I thought on the matter, the less did I feel of the misery
in my head.
"The things were at length removed, and I sat, as I had for some
time past been wont to sit after my meals, silent and motionless;
but in the present instance my mind was not entirely abandoned to
the one mournful idea which had so long distressed it. It was, to
a certain extent, occupied with the marks on the teapot; it is true
that the mournful idea strove hard with the marks on the teapot for
the mastery in my mind, and at last the painful idea drove the
marks of the teapot out; they, however, would occasionally return
and flit across my mind for a moment or two, and their coming was
like a momentary relief from intense pain. I thought once or twice
that I would have the teapot placed before me, that I might examine
the marks at leisure, but I considered that it would be as well to
defer the re-examination of the marks till the next morning; at
that time I did not take tea of an evening. By deferring the
examination thus, I had something to look forward to on the next
morning. The day was a melancholy one, but it certainly was more
tolerable to me than any of the others had been since the death of
my beloved. As I lay awake that night I occasionally thought of
the marks, and in my sleep methought I saw them upon the teapot
vividly before me. On the morrow, I examined the marks again; how
singular they looked! Surely they must mean something, and if so,
what could they mean? and at last I thought within myself whether
it would be possible for me to make out what they meant: that day
I felt more relief than on the preceding one, and towards night I
walked a little about.
"In about a week's time I received a visit from my friend the
surgeon; after a little discourse, he told me that he perceived I
was better than when he had last seen me, and asked me what I had
been about; I told him that I had been principally occupied in
considering certain marks which I had found on a teapot, and
wondering what they could mean; he smiled at first, but instantly
assuming a serious look, he asked to see the teapot. I produced
it, and after having surveyed the marks with attention, he observed
that they were highly curious, and also wondered what they meant.
'I strongly advise you,' said he, 'to attempt to make them out, and
also to take moderate exercise, and to see after your concerns.' I
followed his advice; every morning I studied the marks on the
teapot, and in the course of the day took moderate exercise, and
attended to little domestic matters, as became the master of a
"I subsequently learned that the surgeon, in advising me to study
the marks, and endeavour to make out their meaning, merely hoped
that by means of them my mind might by degrees be diverted from the
mournful idea on which I had so long brooded. He was a man well
skilled in his profession, but had read and thought very little on
matters unconnected with it. He had no idea that the marks had any
particular signification, or were anything else but common and
fortuitous ones. That I became at all acquainted with their nature
was owing to a ludicrous circumstance which I will now relate.
"One day, chancing to be at a neighbouring town, I was struck with
the appearance of a shop recently established. It had an immense
bow-window, and every part of it, to which a brush could be
applied, was painted in a gaudy flaming style. Large bowls of
green and black tea were placed upon certain chests, which stood at
the window. I stopped to look at them, such a display, whatever it
may be at the present time, being, at the period of which I am
speaking, quite uncommon in a country town. The tea, whether black
or green, was very shining and inviting, and the bowls, of which
there were three, standing on as many chests, were very grand and
foreign looking. Two of these were white, with figures and trees
painted upon them in blue; the other, which was the middlemost, had
neither trees nor figures upon it, but, as I looked through the
window, appeared to have on its sides the very same kind of marks
which I had observed on the teapot at home; there were also marks
on the tea-chests, somewhat similar, but much larger, and,
apparently, not executed with so much care. 'Best teas direct from
China,' said a voice close to my side; and looking round I saw a
youngish man, with a frizzled head, flat face, and an immensely
wide mouth, standing in his shirt-sleeves by the door. 'Direct
from China,' said he; 'perhaps you will do me the favour to walk in
and scent them?' 'I do not want any tea,' said I; 'I was only
standing at the window examining those marks on the bowl and the
chests. I have observed similar ones on a teapot at home.' 'Pray
walk in, sir,' said the young fellow, extending his mouth till it
reached nearly from ear to ear; 'pray walk in, and I shall be happy
to give you any information respecting the manners and customs of
the Chinese in my power.' Thereupon I followed him into his shop,
where he began to harangue on the manners, customs, and
peculiarities of the Chinese, especially their manner of preparing
tea, not forgetting to tell me that the only genuine Chinese tea
ever imported into England was to be found in his shop. 'With
respect to those marks,' said he, 'on the bowl and chests, they are
nothing more nor less than Chinese writing expressing something,
though what I can't exactly tell you. Allow me to sell you this
pound of tea,' he added, showing me a paper parcel. 'On the
envelope there is a printed account of the Chinese system of
writing, extracted from authors of the most established reputation.
These things I print, principally with the hope of, in some degree,
removing the worse than Gothic ignorance prevalent amongst natives
of these parts. I am from London myself. With respect to all that
relates to the Chinese real imperial tea, I assure you sir, that--'
Well, to make short of what you doubtless consider a very tiresome
story, I purchased the tea and carried it home. The tea proved
imperially bad, but the paper envelope really contained some
information on the Chinese language and writing, amounting to about
as much as you gained from me the other day. On learning that the
marks on the teapot expressed words, I felt my interest with
respect to them considerably increased, and returned to the task of
inspecting them with greater zeal than before, hoping, by
continually looking at them, to be able eventually to understand
their meaning, in which hope you may easily believe I was
disappointed, though my desire to understand what they represented
continued on the increase. In this dilemma I determined to apply
again to the shopkeeper from whom I bought the tea. I found him in
rather low spirits, his shirt-sleeves were soiled, and his hair was
out of curl. On my inquiring how he got on, he informed me that he
intended speedily to leave, having received little or no
encouragement, the people, in their Gothic ignorance, preferring to
deal with an old-fashioned shopkeeper over the way, who, so far
from possessing any acquaintance with the polity and institutions
of the Chinese, did not, he believed, know that tea came from
China. 'You are come for some more, I suppose?' said he. On
receiving an answer in the negative he looked somewhat blank, but
when I added that I came to consult with him as to the means which
I must take in order to acquire the Chinese language he brightened
up. 'You must get a grammar,' said he, rubbing his hands. 'Have
you not one?' said I. 'No,' he replied, 'but any bookseller can
procure you one.' As I was taking my departure, he told me that as
he was about to leave the neighbourhood, the bowl at the window,
which bore the inscription, besides some other pieces of porcelain
of a similar description, were at my service, provided I chose to
purchase them. I consented, and two or three days afterwards took
from off his hands all the china in his possession which bore the
inscriptions, paying what he demanded. Had I waited till the sale
of his effects, which occurred within a few weeks, I could probably
have procured it for a fifth part of the sum which I paid, the
other pieces realizing very little. I did not, however, grudge the
poor fellow what he got from me, as I considered myself to be
somewhat in his debt for the information he had afforded me.
"As for the rest of my story, it may be briefly told. I followed
the advice of the shopkeeper, and applied to a bookseller who wrote
to his correspondent in London. After a long interval, I was
informed that if I wished to learn Chinese, I must do so through
the medium of French, there being neither Chinese grammar nor
dictionary in our language. I was at first very much disheartened.
I determined, however, at last to gratify my desire of learning
Chinese, even at the expense of learning French. I procured the
books, and in order to qualify myself to turn them to account, took
lessons in French from a little Swiss, the usher of a neighbouring
boarding-school. I was very stupid in acquiring French;
perseverance, however, enabled me to acquire a knowledge sufficient
for the object I had in view. In about two years I began to study
Chinese by myself, through the medium of the French."
"Well," said I, "and how did you get on with the study of the
And then the old man proceeded to inform me how he got on with the
study of Chinese, enumerated all the difficulties he had had to
encounter; dilating upon his frequent despondency of mind, and
occasionally his utter despair of ever mastering Chinese. He told
me that more than once he had determined upon giving up the study,
but when the misery in his head forthwith returned, to escape from
which he had as often resumed it. It appeared, however, that ten
years elapsed before he was able to use ten of the two hundred and
fourteen keys, which serve to undo the locks of Chinese writing.
"And are you able at present to use the entire number?" I demanded.
"Yes," said the old man; "I can at present use the whole number. I
know the key for every particular lock, though I frequently find
the wards unwilling to give way."
"Has nothing particular occurred to you," said I, "during the time
that you have been prosecuting your studies?"
"During the whole time in which I have been engaged in these
studies," said the old man, "only one circumstance has occurred
which requires any particular mention--the death of my old friend
the surgeon--who was carried off suddenly by a fit of apoplexy.
His death was a great shock to me, and for a time interrupted my
studies. His son, however, who succeeded him, was very kind to me,
and, in some degree, supplied his father's place; and I gradually
returned to my Chinese locks and keys."
"And in applying keys to the Chinese locks you employ your time?"
"Yes," said the old man, "in making out the inscriptions on the
various pieces of porcelain, which I have at different times
procured, I pass my time. The first inscription which I translated
was that on the teapot of my beloved."
"And how many other pieces of porcelain may you have at present in
"About fifteen hundred."
"And how did you obtain them?" I demanded.
"Without much labour," said the old man, "in the neighbouring towns
and villages--chiefly at auctions--of which, about twenty years
ago, there were many in these parts."
"And may I ask your reasons for confining your studies entirely to
the crockery literature of China, when you have all the rest at
"The inscriptions enable me to pass my time," said the old man;
"what more would the whole literature of China do?"
"And from these inscriptions," said I, "what a book it is in your
power to make, whenever so disposed. 'Translations from the
crockery literature of China.' Such a book would be sure to take;
even glorious John himself would not disdain to publish it." The
old man smiled. "I have no desire for literary distinction," said
he; "no ambition. My original wish was to pass my life in easy,
quiet obscurity, with her whom I loved. I was disappointed in my
wish; she was removed, who constituted my only felicity in this
life; desolation came to my heart, and misery to my head. To
escape from the latter I had recourse to Chinese. By degrees the
misery left my head, but the desolation of the heart yet remains."
"Be of good cheer," said I; "through the instrumentality of this
affliction you have learnt Chinese, and, in so doing, learnt to
practise the duties of hospitality. Who but a man who could read
Runes on a teapot, would have received an unfortunate wayfarer as
you have received me?"
"Well," said the old man, "let us hope that all is for the best. I
am by nature indolent, and, but for this affliction, should,
perhaps, have hardly taken the trouble to do my duty to my fellow-
creatures. I am very, very indolent," said he, slightly glancing
towards the clock; "therefore let us hope that all is for the best;
but, oh! these trials, they are very hard to bear."
The Leave-taking--Spirit of the Hearth--What's o'Clock?
The next morning, having breakfasted with my old friend, I went
into the stable to make the necessary preparations for my
departure; there, with the assistance of a stable lad, I cleaned
and caparisoned my horse, and then, returning into the house, I
made the old female attendant such a present as I deemed would be
some compensation for the trouble I had caused. Hearing that the
old gentleman was in his study, I repaired to him. "I am come to
take leave of you," said I, "and to thank you for all the
hospitality which I have received at your hands." The eyes of the
old man were fixed steadfastly on the inscription which I had found
him studying on a former occasion. "At length," he murmured to
himself, "I have it--I think I have it;" and then, looking at me,
he said, "So you are about to depart?"
"Yes," said I, "my horse will be at the front door in a few
minutes; I am glad, however, before I go, to find that you have
mastered the inscription."
"Yes," said the old man, "I believe I have mastered it; it seems to
consist of some verses relating to the worship of the Spirit of the
"What is the Spirit of the Hearth?" said I.
"One of the many demons which the Chinese worship," said the old
man; "they do not worship one God, but many." And then the old man
told me a great many highly-interesting particulars respecting the
demon worship of the Chinese.
After the lapse of at least half an hour I said, "I must not linger
here any longer, however willing. Horncastle is distant, and I
wish to be there to-night. Pray can you inform me what's o'clock?"
The old man, rising, looked towards the clock which hung on the
side of the room at his left hand, on the farther side of the table
at which he was seated.
"I am rather short-sighted," said I, "and cannot distinguish the
number, at that distance."
"It is ten o'clock," said the old man; "I believe somewhat past."
"A quarter, perhaps?"
"Yes," said the old man "a quarter or--"
"Seven minutes, or ten minutes past ten."
"I do not understand you."
"Why, to tell you the truth," said the old man, with a smile,
"there is one thing to the knowledge of which I could never exactly
"Do you mean to say," said I, "that you do not know what's
"I can give a guess," said the old man, "to within a few minutes."
"But you cannot tell the exact moment?"
"No," said the old man.
"In the name of wonder," said I, "with that thing there on the wall
continually ticking in your ear, how comes it that you do not know
"Why," said the old man, "I have contented myself with giving a
tolerably good guess; to do more would have been too great
"But you have learnt Chinese," said I.
"Yes," said the old man, "I have learnt Chinese."
"Well," said I, "I really would counsel you to learn to know what's
o'clock as soon as possible. Consider what a sad thing it would be
to go out of the world not knowing what's o'clock. A millionth
part of the trouble required to learn Chinese would, if employed,
infallibly teach you to know what's o'clock."
"I had a motive for learning Chinese," said the old man, "the hope
of appeasing the misery in my head. With respect to not knowing
what's o'clock, I cannot see anything particularly sad in the
matter. A man may get through the world very creditably without
knowing what's o'clock. Yet, upon the whole, it is no bad thing to
know what's o'clock--you, of course, do? It would be too good a
joke if two people were to be together, one knowing Armenian and
the other Chinese, and neither knowing what's o'clock. I'll now
see you off."
Arrival at Horncastle--The Inn and Ostlers--The Garret--Figure of a
Man with a Candle.
Leaving the house of the old man who knew Chinese, but could not
tell what was o'clock, I wended my way to Horncastle, which I
reached in the evening of the same day, without having met any
adventure on the way worthy of being marked down in this very
The town was a small one, seemingly ancient, and was crowded with
people and horses. I proceeded, without delay, to the inn to which
my friend the surgeon had directed me. "It is of no use coming
here," said two or three ostlers, as I entered the yard--"all full-
-no room whatever;" whilst one added in an undertone, "That ere
a'n't a bad-looking horse." "I want to see the master of this
inn," said I, as I dismounted from the horse. "See the master,"
said an ostler--the same who had paid the negative kind of
compliment to the horse--"a likely thing, truly; my master is
drinking wine with some of the grand gentry, and can't be disturbed
for the sake of the like of you." "I bring a letter to him," said
I, pulling out the surgeon's epistle. "I wish you would deliver it
to him," I added, offering a half-crown. "Oh, it's you, is it?"
said the ostler, taking the letter and the half-crown; "my master
will be right glad to see you; why, you ha'n't been here for many a
year; I'll carry the note to him at once." And with these words he
hurried into the house. "That's a nice horse, young man," said
another ostler, "what will you take for it?" to which interrogation
I made no answer. "If you wish to sell him," said the ostler,
coming up to me, and winking knowingly, "I think I and my partners
might offer you a summut under seventy pounds;" to which kind and
half-insinuated offer I made no reply, save by winking in the same
kind of knowing manner in which I observed him wink. "Rather
leary!" said a third ostler. "Well, young man, perhaps you will
drink to-night with me and my partners, when we can talk the matter
over." Before I had time to answer, the landlord, a well-dressed,
good-looking man, made his appearance with the ostler; he bore the
letter in his hand. Without glancing at me, he betook himself at
once to consider the horse, going round him, and observing every
point with the utmost minuteness. At last, having gone round the
horse three times, he stopped beside me, and keeping his eyes on
the horse, bent his head towards his right shoulder. "That horse
is worth some money," said he, turning towards me suddenly, and
slightly touching me on the arm with the letter which he held in
his hand; to which observation I made no reply, save by bending my
head towards the right shoulder as I had seen him do. "The young
man is going to talk to me and my partners about it to-night," said
the ostler who had expressed an opinion that he and his friends
might offer me somewhat under seventy pounds for the animal.
"Pooh!" said the landlord, "the young man' knows what he is about;
in the meantime lead the horse to the reserved stall, and see well
after him. My friend," said he, taking me aside after the ostler
had led the animal away, "recommends you to me in the strongest
manner, on which account alone I take you and your horse in. I
need not advise you not to be taken in, as I should say, by your
look, that you are tolerably awake; but there are queer hands at
Horncastle at this time, and those fellows of mine, you understand
me--; but I have a great deal to do at present, so you must excuse
me." And thereupon went into the house.
That same evening I was engaged at least two hours in the stable,
in rubbing the horse down, and preparing him for the exhibition
which I intended he should make in the fair on the following day.
The ostler, to whom I had given the half-crown, occasionally
assisted me, though he was too much occupied by the horses of other
guests to devote any length of time to the service of mine; he more
than once repeated to me his firm conviction that himself and
partners could afford to offer me summut for the horse; and at a
later hour when, in compliance with his invitation, I took a glass
of summut with himself and partners, in a little room surrounded
with corn-chests, on which we sat, both himself and partners
endeavoured to impress upon me, chiefly by means of nods and winks,
their conviction that they could afford to give me summut for the
horse, provided I were disposed to sell him; in return for which
intimation, with as many nods and winks as they had all
collectively used, I endeavoured to impress upon them my conviction
that I could get summut handsomer in the fair than they might be
disposed to offer me, seeing as how--which how I followed by a wink
and a nod, which they seemed perfectly to understand, one or two of
them declaring that if the case was so, it made a great deal of
difference, and that they did not wish to be any hindrance to me,
more particularly as it was quite clear I had been an ostler like
It was late at night when I began to think of retiring to rest. On
inquiring if there was any place in which I could sleep, I was
informed that there was a bed at my service, provided I chose to
sleep in a two-bedded room, one of the beds of which was engaged by
another gentleman. I expressed my satisfaction at this
arrangement, and was conducted by a maid-servant up many pairs of
stairs to a garret, in which were two small beds, in one of which
she gave me to understand another gentleman slept; he had, however,
not yet retired to rest; I asked who he was, but the maid-servant
could give me no information about him, save that he was a highly
respectable gentleman, and a friend of her master's. Presently,
bidding me good night, she left me with a candle; and I, having
undressed myself and extinguished the light, went to bed.
Notwithstanding the noises which sounded from every part of the
house, I was not slow in falling asleep, being thoroughly tired. I
know not how long I might have been in bed, perhaps two hours, when
I was partially awakened by a light shining upon my face,
whereupon, unclosing my eyes, I perceived the figure of a man, with
a candle in one hand, staring at my face, whilst with the other
hand, he held back the curtain of the bed. As I have said before,
I was only partially awakened, my power of conception was
consequently very confused; it appeared to me, however, that the
man was dressed in a green coat; that he had curly brown or black
hair, and that there was something peculiar in his look. Just as I
was beginning to recollect myself, the curtain dropped, and I
heard, or thought I heard, a voice say, "Don't know the cove."
Then there was a rustling like a person undressing, whereupon being
satisfied that it was my fellow-lodger, I dropped asleep, but was
awakened again by a kind of heavy plunge upon the other bed, which
caused it to rock and creak, when I observed that the light had
been extinguished, probably blown out, if I might judge from a
rather disagreeable smell of burnt wick which remained in the room,
and which kept me awake till I heard my companion breathing hard,
when, turning on the other side, I was again once more speedily in
the arms of slumber.
It had been my intention to be up and doing early on the following
morning, but my slumbers proved so profound, that I did not wake
until about eight; on arising, I again found myself the sole
occupant of the apartment, my more alert companion having probably
risen at a much earlier hour. Having dressed myself, I descended,
and going to the stable, found my horse under the hands of my
friend the ostler, who was carefully rubbing him down. "There
a'n't a better horse in the fair," said he to me, "and as you are
one of us, and appear to be all right, I'll give you a piece of
advice--don't take less than a hundred and fifty for him; if you
mind your hits, you may get it, for I have known two hundred given
in this fair for one no better, if so good." "Well," said I,
"thank you for your advice, which I will take, and, if successful,
will give you 'summut' handsome." "Thank you," said the ostler;
"and now let me ask whether you are up to all the ways of this here
place?" "I have never been here before," said I, "but I have a
pair of tolerably sharp eyes in my head." "That I see you have,"
said the ostler, "but many a body, with as sharp a pair of eyes as
yourn, has lost his horse in this fair, for want of having been
here before, therefore," said he, "I'll give you a caution or two."
Thereupon the ostler proceeded to give me at least half a dozen
cautions, only two of which I shall relate to the reader: --the
first, not to stop to listen to what any chance customer might have
to say; and the last--the one on which he appeared to lay most
stress--by no manner of means to permit a Yorkshireman to get up
into the saddle, "for," said he, "if you do, it is three to one
that he rides off with the horse; he can't help it; trust a cat
amongst cream, but never trust a Yorkshireman on the saddle of a
good horse; by-the-by," he continued, "that saddle of yours is not
a particularly good one, no more is the bridle. I tell you what,
as you seem a decent kind of a young chap, I'll lend you a saddle
and bridle of my master's, almost bran new; he won't object, I
know, as you are a friend of his, only you must not forget your
promise to come down with summut handsome after you have sold the
After a slight breakfast I mounted the horse, which, decked out in
his borrowed finery, really looked better by a large sum of money
than on any former occasion. Making my way out of the yard of the
inn, I was instantly in the principal street of the town, up and
down which an immense number of horses were being exhibited, some
led, and others with riders. "A wonderful small quantity of good
horses in the fair this time!" I heard a stout jockey-looking
individual say, who was staring up the street with his side towards
me. "Halloo, young fellow!" said he, a few moments after I had
passed, "whose horse is that? Stop! I want to look at him!"
Though confident that he was addressing himself to me, I took no
notice, remembering the advice of the ostler, and proceeded up the
street. My horse possessed a good walking step; but walking, as
the reader knows, was not his best pace, which was the long trot,
at which I could not well exercise him in the street, on account of
the crowd of men and animals; however, as he walked along, I could
easily perceive that he attracted no slight attention amongst those
who, by their jockey dress and general appearance, I imagined to be
connoisseurs; I heard various calls to stop, to none of which I
paid the slightest attention. In a few minutes I found myself out
of the town, when, turning round for the purpose of returning, I
found I had been followed by several of the connoisseur-looking
individuals, whom I had observed in the fair. "Now would be the
time for a display," thought I; and looking around me I observed
two five-barred gates, one on each side of the road, and fronting
each other. Turning my horse's head to one, I pressed my heels to
his sides, loosened the reins, and gave an encouraging cry,
whereupon the animal cleared the gate in a twinkling. Before he
had advanced ten yards in the field to which the gate opened, I had
turned him round, and again giving him cry and rein, I caused him
to leap back again into the road, and still allowing him head, I
made him leap the other gate; and forthwith turning him round, I
caused him to leap once more into the road, where he stood proudly
tossing his head, as much as to say, "What more?" "A fine horse! a
capital horse!" said several of the connoisseurs. "What do you ask
for him?" "Too much for any of you to pay," said I. "A horse like
this is intended for other kind of customers than any of you."
"How do you know that?" said one; the very same person whom I had
heard complaining in the street of the paucity of good horses in
the fair. "Come, let us know what you ask for him?" "A hundred
and fifty pounds!" said I; "neither more nor less." "Do you call
that a great price?" said the man. "Why, I thought you would have
asked double that amount! You do yourself injustice, young man."
"Perhaps I do," said I, "but that's my affair; I do not choose to
take more." "I wish you would let me get into the saddle," said
the man; "the horse knows you, and therefore shows to more
advantage; but I should like to see how he would move under me, who
am a stranger. Will you let me get into the saddle, young man?"
"No," said I; "I will not let you get into the saddle." "Why not?"
said the man. "Lest you should be a Yorkshireman," said I; "and
should run away with the horse." "Yorkshire?" said the man; "I am
from Suffolk; silly Suffolk--so you need not be afraid of my
running away with the horse." "Oh! if that's the case," said I, "I
should be afraid that the horse would run away with you; so I will
by no means let you mount." "Will you let me look in his mouth?"
said the man. "If you please," said I; "but I tell you, he's apt
to bite." "He can scarcely be a worse bite than his master," said
the man, looking into the horse's mouth; "he's four off. I say,
young man, will you warrant this horse?" "No," said I; "I never
warrant horses; the horses that I ride can always warrant
themselves." "I wish you would let me speak a word to you," said
he. "Just come aside. It's a nice horse," said he, in a half
whisper, after I had ridden a few paces aside with him. "It's a
nice horse," said he, placing his hand upon the pommel of the
saddle, and looking up in my face, "and I think I can find you a
customer. If you would take a hundred, I think my lord would
purchase it, for he has sent me about the fair to look him up a
horse, by which he could hope to make an honest penny." "Well,"
said I, "and could he not make an honest penny, and yet give me the
price I ask?" "Why," said the go-between, "a hundred and fifty
pounds is as much as the animal is worth, or nearly so; and my
lord, do you see--" "I see no reason at all," said I, "why I
should sell the animal for less than he is worth, in order that his
lordship may be benefited by him; so that if his lordship wants to
make an honest penny, he must find some person who would consider
the disadvantage of selling him a horse for less than it is worth,
as counterbalanced by the honour of dealing with a lord, which I
should never do; but I can't be wasting my time here. I am going
back to the -, where, if you, or any person, are desirous of
purchasing the horse, you must come within the next half hour, or I
shall probably not feel disposed to sell him at all." "Another
word, young man," said the jockey; but without staying to hear what
he had to say, I put the horse to his best trot, and re-entering
the town, and threading my way as well as I could through the
press, I returned to the yard of the inn, where, dismounting, I
stood still, holding the horse by the bridle.
I had been standing in this manner about five minutes, when I saw
the jockey enter the yard, accompanied by another individual. They
advanced directly towards me. "Here is my lord come to look at the
horse, young man," said the jockey. My lord, as the jockey called
him, was a tall figure, of about five-and-thirty. He had on his
head a hat somewhat rusty, and on his back a surtout of blue rather
the worse for wear. His forehead, if not high, was exceedingly
narrow; his eyes were brown, with a rat-like glare in them; the
nose was rather long, and the mouth very wide; the cheek-bones
high, and the cheeks, as to hue and consistency, exhibiting very
much the appearance of a withered red apple; there was a gaunt
expression of hunger in the whole countenance. He had scarcely
glanced at the horse, when drawing in his cheeks, he thrust out his
lips very much after the manner of a baboon, when he sees a piece
of sugar held out towards him. "Is this horse yours?" said he,
suddenly turning towards me, with a kind of smirk. "It's my
horse," said I; "are you the person who wishes to make an honest
penny by it?" "How!" said he, drawing up his head with a very
consequential look, and speaking with a very haughty tone, "what do
you mean?" We looked at each other full in the face; after a few
moments, the muscles of the mouth of him of the hungry look began
to move violently, the face was puckered into innumerable wrinkles,
and the eyes became half closed. "Well," said I, "have you ever
seen me before? I suppose you are asking yourself that question."
"Excuse me, sir," said he, dropping his lofty look, and speaking in
a very subdued and civil tone, "I have never had the honour of
seeing you before, that is"--said he, slightly glancing at me
again, and again moving the muscles of his mouth, "no, I have never
seen you before," he added, making me a bow. "I have never had
that pleasure; my business with you, at present, is to inquire the
lowest price you are willing to take for this horse. My agent here
informs me that you ask one hundred and fifty pounds, which I
cannot think of giving--the horse is a showy horse, but look, my
dear sir, he has a defect here, and there in his near fore leg I
observe something which looks very like a splint--yes, upon my
credit," said he, touching the animal, "he has a splint, or
something which will end in one. A hundred and fifty pounds, sir!
what could have induced you ever to ask anything like that for this
animal? I protest that, in my time, I have frequently bought a
better for-- Who are you, sir? I am in treaty for this horse,"
said he to a man who had come up whilst he was talking, and was now
looking into the horse's mouth. "Who am I?" said the man, still
looking into the horse's mouth; "who am I? his lordship asks me.
Ah, I see, close on five," said he, releasing the horse's jaws, and
looking at me. This new corner was a thin, wiry-made individual,
with wiry curling brown hair; his face was dark, and wore an arch
and somewhat roguish expression; upon one of his eyes was a kind of
speck or beam; he might be about forty, wore a green jockey coat,
and held in his hand a black riding whip, with a knob of silver
wire. As I gazed upon his countenance, it brought powerfully to my
mind the face which, by the light of the candle, I had seen staring
over me on the preceding night, when lying in bed and half asleep.
Close beside him, and seemingly in his company, stood an
exceedingly tall figure, that of a youth, seemingly about one-and-
twenty, dressed in a handsome riding dress, and wearing on his head
a singular hat, green in colour, and with a very high peak. "What
do you ask for this horse?" said he of the green coat, winking at
me with the eye which had a beam in it, whilst the other shone and
sparkled like Mrs. Colonel W-'s Golconda diamond. "Who are you,
sir, I demand once more?" said he of the hungry look. "Who am I?
why, who should I be but Jack Dale, who buys horses for himself and
other folk; I want one at present for this short young gentleman,"
said he, motioning with his finger to the gigantic youth. "Well,
sir," said the other, "and what business have you to interfere
between me and any purchase I may be disposed to make?" "Well,
then," said the other, "be quick and purchase the horse, or,
perhaps, I may." "Do you think I am to be dictated to by a fellow
of your description?" said his lordship, "begone, or--" "What do
you ask for this horse?" said the other to me, very coolly. "A
hundred and fifty," said I. "I shouldn't mind giving it to you,"
said he. "You will do no such thing," said his lordship, speaking
so fast that he almost stuttered. "Sir," said he to me, "I must
give you what you ask; Symmonds, take possession of the animal for
me," said he to the other jockey who attended him. "You will
please to do no such thing without my consent," said I, "I have not
sold him." "I have this moment told you that I will give you the
price you demand," said his lordship; "is not that sufficient?"
"No," said I, "there is a proper manner of doing everything--had
you come forward in a manly and gentlemanly manner to purchase the
horse, I should have been happy to sell him to you, but after all
the fault you have found with him, I would not sell him to you at
any price, so send your friend to find up another." "You behave in
this manner, I suppose," said his lordship, "because this fellow
has expressed a willingness to come to your terms. I would advise
you to be cautious how you trust the animal in his hands; I think I
have seen him before, and could tell you--" "What can you tell of
me?" said the other, going up to him; "except that I have been a
poor dicky-boy, and that now I am a dealer in horses, and that my
father was lagged; that's all you could tell of me, and that I
don't mind telling myself: but there are two things they can't say
of me, they can't say that I am either a coward or a screw either,
except so far as one who gets his bread by horses may be expected
to be; and they can't say of me that I ever ate up an ice which a
young woman was waiting for, or that I ever backed out of a fight.
Horse!" said he, motioning with his finger tauntingly to the other;
"what do you want with a horse, except to take the bread out of the
mouth of a poor man--to-morrow is not the battle of Waterloo, so
that you don't want to back out of danger, by pretending to have
hurt yourself by falling from the creature's back, my lord of the
white feather--come, none of your fierce looks--I am not afraid of
you." In fact, the other had assumed an expression of the
deadliest malice, his teeth were clenched, his lips quivered, and
were quite pale; the rat-like eyes sparkled, and he made a half
spring, a la rat, towards his adversary, who only laughed.
Restraining himself, however, he suddenly turned to his
understrapper, saying, "Symmonds, will you see me thus insulted? go
and trounce this scoundrel; you can, I know." "Symmonds trounce
me!" said the other, going up to the person addressed, and drawing
his hand contemptuously over his face; "why, I beat Symmonds in
this very yard in one round three years ago; didn't I, Symmonds?"
said he to the understrapper, who held down his head, muttering, in
a surly tone, "I didn't come here to fight; let every one take his
own part." "That's right, Symmonds," said the other, "especially
every one from whom there is nothing to be got. I would give you
half-a-crown for all the trouble you have had, provided I were not
afraid that my Lord Plume there would get it from you as soon as
you leave the yard together. Come, take yourselves both off;
there's nothing to be made here." Indeed, his lordship seemed to
be of the same opinion, for after a further glance at the horse, a
contemptuous look at me, and a scowl at the jockey, he turned on
his heel, muttering something which sounded like fellows, and
stalked out of the yard, followed by Symmonds.
"And now, young man," said the jockey, or whatever he was, turning
to me with an arch leer, "I suppose I may consider myself as the
purchaser of this here animal, for the use and behoof of this young
gentleman?" making a sign with his head to the tall young man by
his side. "By no means," said I, "I am utterly unacquainted with
either of you, and before parting with the horse I must be
satisfied as to the respectability of the purchaser." "Oh! as to
that matter," said he, "I have plenty of vouchers for my
respectability about me;" and thrusting his hand into his bosom
below his waistcoat, he drew out a large bundle of notes. "These
are the kind of things," said he, "which vouch best for a man's
respectability." "Not always," said I; "indeed, sometimes these
kind of things need vouchers for themselves." The man looked at me
with a peculiar look. "Do you mean to say that these notes are not
sufficient notes?" said he, "because if you do I shall take the
liberty of thinking you are not over civil, and when I thinks a
person is not over and above civil I sometimes takes off my coat;
and when my coat is off--" "You sometimes knock people down," I
added; "well, whether you knock me down or not, I beg leave to tell
you that I am a stranger in this fair, and that I shall part with
the horse to nobody who has no better guarantee for his
respectability than a roll of bank-notes, which may be good or not
for what I know, who am not a judge of such things." "Oh! if you
are a stranger here," said the man, "as I believe you are, never
having seen you here before except last night, when I think I saw
you above stairs by the glimmer of a candle--I say, if you are a
stranger, you are quite right to be cautious; queer things being
done in this fair, as nobody knows better than myself," he added
with a leer; "but I suppose if the landlord of the house vouches
for me and my notes, you will have no objection to part with the
horse to me?" "None whatever," said I, "and in the meantime the
horse can return to the stable."
Thereupon I delivered the horse to my friend the ostler.
The landlord of the house on being questioned by me as to the
character and condition of my new acquaintance, informed me that he
was a respectable horsedealer, and an intimate friend of his,
whereupon the purchase was soon brought to a satisfactory
It was evening: and myself and the two acquaintances I had made in
the fair--namely, the jockey and the tall foreigner--sat in a large
upstairs room, which looked into a court; we had dined with several
people connected with the fair at a long table d'hote; they had now
departed, and we sat at a small side-table with wine and a candle
before us; both my companions had pipes in their mouths--the jockey
a common pipe, and the foreigner, one, the syphon of which, made of
some kind of wood, was at least six feet long, and the bowl of
which, made of a white kind of substance like porcelain, and
capable of holding nearly an ounce of tobacco, rested on the
ground. The jockey frequently emptied and replenished his glass;
the foreigner sometimes raised his to his lips, for no other
purpose seemingly than to moisten them, as he never drained his
glass. As for myself, though I did not smoke, I had a glass before
me, from which I sometimes took a sip. The room, notwithstanding
the window was flung open, was in general so filled with smoke,
chiefly that which was drawn from the huge bowl of the foreigner,
that my companions and I were frequently concealed from each
other's eyes. The conversation, which related entirely to the
events of the fair, was carried on by the jockey and myself, the
foreigner, who appeared to understand the greater part of what we
said, occasionally putting in a few observations in broken English.
At length the jockey, after the other had made some ineffectual
attempts to express something intelligibly which he wished to say,
observed, "Isn't it a pity that so fine a fellow as meinheer, and
so clever a fellow too, as I believe him to be, is not a better
master of our language?"
"Is the gentleman a German?" said I; "if so, I can interpret for
him anything he wishes to say."
"The deuce you can," said the jockey, taking his pipe out of his
mouth, and staring at me through the smoke.
"Ha! you speak German," vociferated the foreigner in that language.
"By Isten, I am glad of it! I wanted to say--" And here he said
in German what he wished to say, and which was of no great
importance, and which I translated into English.
"Well, if you don't put me out," said the jockey; "what language is
"High Dutch," said I.
"High Dutch, and you speak High Dutch,--why, I had booked you for
as great an ignoramus as myself, who can't write--no, nor
distinguish in a book a great A from a bull's foot."
"A person may be a very clever man," said I--"no, not a clever man,
for clever signifies clerkly, and a clever man one who is able to
read and write, and entitled to the benefit of his clergy or
clerkship; but a person may be a very acute person without being
able to read or write. I never saw a more acute countenance than
"No soft soap," said the jockey, "for I never uses any. However,
thank you for your information; I have hitherto thought myself
a'nition clever fellow, but from henceforth shall consider myself
just the contrary, and only--what's the word?--confounded 'cute."
"Just so," said I.
"Well," said the jockey, "as you say you can speak High Dutch, I
should like to hear you and master six foot six fire away at each
"I cannot speak German," said I, "but I can understand tolerably
well what others say in it."
"Come no backing out," said the jockey, "let's hear you fire away
for the glory of Old England."
"Then you are a German?" said I, in German to the foreigner.
"That will do," said the jockey, "keep it up."
"A German!" said the tall foreigner. "No, I thank God that I do
not belong to the stupid sluggish Germanic race, but to a braver,
taller, and handsomer people;" here taking the pipe out of his
mouth, he stood up proudly erect, so that his head nearly touched
the ceiling of the room, then reseating himself, and again putting
the syphon to his lips, he added, "I am a Magyar."
"What is that?" said I.
The foreigner looked at me for a moment, somewhat contemptuously,
through the smoke, then said, in a voice of thunder, "A Hungarian!"
"What a voice the chap has when he pleases!" interposed the jockey;
"what is he saying?"
"Merely that he is a Hungarian," said I; but I added, "the
conversation of this gentleman and myself in a language which you
can't understand must be very tedious to you, we had better give it
"Keep on with it," said the jockey, "I shall go on listening very
contentedly till I fall asleep, no bad thing to do at most times."
"Then you are a countryman of Tekeli, and of the queen who made the
celebrated water," said I, speaking to the Hungarian in German,
which I was able to do tolerably well, owing to my having
translated the Publisher's philosophy into that language, always
provided I did not attempt to say much at a time.
Hungarian. Ah! you have heard of Tekeli, and of L'eau de la Reine
d'Hongrie. How is that?
Myself. I have seen a play acted, founded on the exploits of
Tekeli, and have read Pigault Le Brun's beautiful romance, entitled
the "Barons of Felsheim," in which he is mentioned. As for the
water, I have heard a lady, the wife of a master of mine, speak of
Hungarian. Was she handsome?
Hungarian. Did she possess the water?
Myself. I should say not; for I have heard her express a great
curiosity about it.
Hungarian. Was she growing old?
Myself. Of course not; but why do you put all these questions?
Hungarian. Because the water is said to make people handsome, and
above all, to restore to the aged the beauty of their youth. Well!
Tekeli was my countryman, and I have the honour of having some of
the blood of the Tekelis in my veins, but with respect to the
queen, pardon me if I tell you that she was not an Hungarian; she
was a Pole--Ersebet by name, daughter of Wladislaus Locticus King
of Poland; she was the fourth spouse of Caroly the Second, King of
the Magyar country, who married her in 1320. She was a great woman
and celebrated politician, though at present chiefly known by her
Myself. How came she to invent it?
Hungarian. If her own account may be believed, she did not invent
it. After her death, as I have read in Florentius of Buda, there
was found a statement of the manner in which she came by it,
written in her own hand, on a fly-leaf of her breviary, to the
following effect:- Being afflicted with a grievous disorder at the
age of seventy-two, she received the medicine which was called her
water, from an old hermit whom she never saw before or afterwards;
it not only cured her, but restored to her all her former beauty,
so that the King of Poland fell in love with her, and made her an
offer of marriage, which she refused for the glory of God, from
whose holy angel she believed she had received the water. The
receipt for making it and directions for using it, were also found
on the fly-leaf. The principal component parts were burnt wine and
rosemary, passed through an alembic; a drachm of it was to be taken
once a week, "etelbenn vagy italbann," in the food or the drink,
early in the morning, and the cheeks were to be moistened with it
every day. The effects according to the statement, were wonderful-
-and perhaps they were upon the queen; but whether the water has
been equally efficacious on other people, is a point which I cannot
determine. I should wish to see some old woman who has been
restored to youthful beauty by the use of L'eau de la Reine
Myself. Perhaps, if you did, the old gentlewoman would hardly be
so ingenuous as the queen. But who are the Hungarians--descendants
of Attila and his people?
The Hungarian shook his head, and gave me to understand that he did
not believe that his nation were the descendants of Attila and his
people, though he acknowledged that they were probably of the same
race. Attila and his armies, he said, came and disappeared in a
very mysterious manner, and that nothing could be said with
positiveness about them; that the people now known as Magyars first
made their appearance in Muscovy in the year 884, under the
leadership of Almus, called so from Alom, which, in the Hungarian
language, signifies a dream; his mother, before his birth, having
dreamt that the child with which she was enceinte would be the
father of a long succession of kings, which, in fact, was the case;
that after beating the Russians he entered Hungary, and coming to a
place called Ungvar, from which many people believed that modern
Hungary derived its name, he captured it, and held in it a grand
festival, which lasted four days, at the end of which time he
resigned the leadership of the Magyars to his son Arpad. This
Arpad and his Magyars utterly subdued Pannonia--that is, Hungary
and Transylvania, wresting the government of it from the Sclavonian
tribes who inhabited it, and settling down amongst them as
conquerors! After giving me this information, the Hungarian
exclaimed with much animation,--"A goodly country that which they
had entered on, consisting of a plain surrounded by mountains, some
of which intersect it here and there, with noble rapid rivers, the
grandest of which is the mighty Dunau; a country with tiny
volcanoes, casting up puffs of smoke and steam, and from which hot
springs arise, good for the sick; with many fountains, some of
which are so pleasant to the taste as to be preferred to wine; with
a generous soil which, warmed by a beautiful sun, is able to
produce corn, grapes, and even the Indian weed; in fact, one of the
finest countries in the world, which even a Spaniard would
pronounce to be nearly equal to Spain. Here they rested--
meditating, however, fresh conquests. Oh, the Magyars soon showed
themselves a mighty people. Besides Hungary and Transylvania, they
subdued Bulgaria and Bosnia, and the land of Tot, now called
Sclavonia. The generals of Zoltan, the son of Arpad, led troops of
horsemen to the banks of the Rhine. One of them, at the head of a
host, besieged Constantinople. It was then that Botond engaged in
combat with a Greek of gigantic stature, who came out of the city
and challenged the two best men in the Magyar army. 'I am the
feeblest of the Magyars,' said Botond, 'but I will kill thee;' and
he performed his word, having previously given a proof of the
feebleness of his arm by striking his battle-axe through the brazen
gate, making a hole so big that a child of five years old could
walk through it."
Myself. Of what religion were the old Hungarians?
Hungarian. They had some idea of a Supreme Being, whom they called
Isten, which word is still used by the Magyars for God; but their
chief devotion was directed to sorcerers and soothsayers, something
like the Schamans of the Siberian steppes. They were converted to
Christianity chiefly through the instrumentality of Istvan or
Stephen, called after his death St. Istvan, who ascended the throne
in the year one thousand. He was born in heathenesse, and his
original name was Vojk: he was the first kiraly, or king of the
Magyars. Their former leaders had been called fejedelmek, or
dukes. The Magyar language has properly no term either for king or
house. Kiraly is a word derived from the Sclaves; haz, or house,
from the Germans, who first taught them to build houses, their
original dwellings having been tilted waggons.
Myself. Many thanks for your account of the great men of your
Hungarian. The great men of my country! I have only told you of
the-- Well, I acknowledge that Almus and Arpad were great men, but
Hungary has produced many greater; I will not trouble you by
recapitulating all, but there is one name I cannot forbear
mentioning--but you have heard of it--even at Horncastle, the name
of Hunyadi must be familiar.
Myself. It may be so, though I rather doubt it; but, however that
may be, I confess my ignorance. I have never, until this moment,
heard the name of Hunyadi.
Hungarian. Not of Hunyadi Janos, not of Hunyadi John--for the
genius of our language compels us to put a man's Christian name
after his other; perhaps you have heard of the name of Corvinus?
Myself. Yes, I have heard the name of Corvinus.
Hungarian. By my God, I am glad of it; I thought our hammer of
destruction, our thunderbolt, whom the Greeks called Achilles, must
be known to the people of Horncastle. Well, Hunyadi and Corvinus
are the same.
Myself. Corvinus means the man of the crow, or raven. I suppose
that your John, when a boy, climbed up to a crow or a raven's nest,
and stole the young; a bold feat, well befitting a young hero.
Hungarian. By Isten, you are an acute guesser; a robbery there
was, but it was not Hunyadi who robbed the raven, but the raven who
Myself. How was that?
Hungarian. In this manner: Hunyadi, according to tradition, was
the son of King Sigmond, by a peasant's daughter. The king saw and
fell in love with her, whilst marching against the vaivode of
Wallachia. He had some difficulty in persuading her to consent to
his wishes, and she only yielded at last, on the king making her a
solemn promise that, in the event of her becoming with child by
him, he would handsomely provide for her and the infant. The king
proceeded on his expedition; and on his returning in triumph from
Wallachia, again saw the girl, who informed him that she was
enceinte by him; the king was delighted with the intelligence, gave
the girl money, and at the same time a ring, requesting her, if she
brought forth a son, to bring the ring to Buda with the child, and
present it to him. When her time was up, the peasant's daughter
brought forth a fair son, who was baptized by the name of John.
After some time the young woman communicated the whole affair to
her elder brother, whose name was Gaspar, and begged him to convey
her and the child to the king at Buda. The brother consented, and
both set out, taking the child with them. On their way, the woman,
wanting to wash her clothes, laid the child down, giving it the
king's ring to play with. A raven, who saw the glittering ring,
came flying, and plucking it out of the child's hand, carried it up
into a tree; the child suddenly began to cry, and the mother,
hearing it, left her washing, and running to the child, forthwith
missed the ring, but hearing the raven croak in the tree, she
lifted up her eyes, and saw it with the ring in its beak. The
woman, in great terror, called her brother, and told him what had
happened, adding that she durst not approach the king if the raven
took away the ring. Gaspar, seizing his cross-bow and quiver, ran
to the tree, where the raven was yet with the ring, and discharged
an arrow at it, but, being in a great hurry, he missed it; with his
second shot he was more lucky, for he hit the raven in the breast,
which, together with the ring, fell to the ground. Taking up the
ring, they went on their way, and shortly arrived at Buda. One
day, as the king was walking after dinner in his outer hall, the
woman appeared before him with the child, and, showing him the
ring, said, "Mighty lord! behold this token! and take pity upon me
and your own son." King Sigmond took the child and kissed it, and,
after a pause, said to the mother, "You have done right in bringing
me the boy; I will take care of you, and make him a nobleman." The
king was as good as his word, he provided for the mother; caused
the boy to be instructed in knightly exercises, and made him a
present of the town of Hunyad, in Transylvania, on which account he
was afterwards called Hunyadi, and gave him, as an armorial sign, a
raven bearing a ring in his beak.
Such, oh young man of Horncastle! is the popular account of the
birth of the great captain of Hungary, as related by Florentius of
Buda. There are other accounts of his birth, which is, indeed,
involved in much mystery, and of the reason of his being called
Corvinus, but as this is the most pleasing, and is, upon the whole,
founded on quite as good evidence as the others, I have selected it
Myself. I heartily thank you; but you must tell me something more
of Hunyadi. You call him your great captain; what did he do?
Hungarian. Do! what no other man of his day could have done. He
broke the power of the Turk when he was coming to overwhelm Europe.
From the blows inflicted by Hunyadi, the Turk never thoroughly
recovered; he has been frequently worsted in latter times, but none
but Hunyadi could have routed the armies of Amurath and Mahomed the
Myself. How was it that he had an opportunity of displaying his
Hungarian. I can hardly tell you, but his valour soon made him
famous; King Albert made him Ban of Szorenyi. He became eventually
waivode of Transylvania, and governor of Hungary. His first grand
action was the defeat of Bashaw Isack; and though himself surprised
and routed at St. Imre, he speedily regained his prestige by
defeating the Turks, with enormous slaughter, killing their leader,
Mezerbeg; and subsequently, at the battle of the Iron Gates, he
destroyed ninety thousand Turks, sent by Amurath to avenge the late
disgrace. It was then that the Greeks called him Achilles.
Myself. He was not always successful.
Hungarian. Who could be always successful against the early Turk?
He was defeated in the battle in which King Vladislaus lost his
life, but his victories outnumbered his defeats three-fold. His
grandest victory--perhaps the grandest ever achieved by man--was
over the terrible Mahomed the Second; who, after the taking of
Constantinople in 1453, said, "One God in Heaven--one king on
earth;" and marched to besiege Belgrade at the head of one hundred,
and fifty thousand men; swearing by the beard of the prophet, "That
he would sup within it ere two months were elapsed." He brought
with him dogs, to eat the bodies of the Christians whom he should
take or slay; so says Florentius; hear what he also says: The Turk
sat down before the town towards the end of June, 1454, covering
the Dunau and Szava with ships: and on the 4th of July he began to
cannonade Belgrade with cannons twenty-five feet long, whose roar
could be heard at Szeged, a distance of twenty-four leagues, at
which place Hunyadi had assembled his forces. Hunyadi had been
able to raise only fifteen thousand of well-armed and disciplined
men, though he had with him vast bands of people, who called
themselves Soldiers of the Cross, but who consisted of
inexperienced lads from school, peasants, and hermits, armed with
swords, slings, and clubs. Hunyadi, undismayed by the great
disparity between his forces and those of the Turk, advanced to
relieve Belgrade, and encamped at Szalankemen with his army. There
he saw at once, that his first step must be to attack the flotilla;
he therefore privately informed Szilagy, his wife's brother, who at
that time defended Belgrade, that it was his intention to attack
the ships of the Turks on the 14th day of July in front, and
requested his co-operation in the rear. On the 14th came on the
commencement of the great battle of Belgrade, between Hunyadi and
the Turk. Many days it lasted.
Myself. Describe it.
Hungarian. I cannot. One has described it well--Florentius of
Buda. I can only repeat a few of his words: --"On the appointed
day, Hunyadi, with two hundred vessels, attacked the Turkish
flotilla in front, whilst Szilagy, with forty vessels, filled with
the men of Belgrade, assailed it in the rear; striving for the same
object, they sunk many of the Turkish vessels, captured seventy-
four, burnt many, and utterly annihilated the whole fleet. After
this victory, Hunyadi, with his army, entered Belgrade, to the
great joy of the Magyars. But though the force of Mahomed upon the
water was destroyed, that upon the land remained entire; and with
this, during six days and nights, he attacked the city without
intermission, destroying its walls in many parts. His last and
most desperate assault was made on the 21st day of July. Twice did
the Turks gain possession of the outer town, and twice was it
retaken with indescribable slaughter. The next day the combat
raged without ceasing till mid-day, when the Turks were again
beaten out of the town, and pursued by the Magyars to their camp.
There the combat was renewed, both sides displaying the greatest
obstinacy, until Mahomed received a great wound over his left eye.
The Turks then, turning their faces, fled, leaving behind them
three hundred cannon in the hands of the Christians, and more than
twenty-four thousand slain on the field of battle."
Myself. After that battle, I suppose Hunyadi enjoyed his triumphs
Hungarian. In the deepest, for he shortly died. His great soul
quitted his body, which was exhausted by almost superhuman
exertions, on the 11th of August, 1456. Shortly before he died,
according to Florentius, a comet appeared, sent, as it would seem,
to announce his coming end. The whole Christian world mourned his
loss. The Pope ordered the cardinals to perform a funeral ceremony
at Rome in his honour. His great enemy himself grieved for him,
and pronounced his finest eulogium. When Mahomed the Second heard
of his death, he struck his head for some time against the ground
without speaking. Suddenly he broke silence with these words,
"Notwithstanding he was my enemy, yet do I bewail his loss; since
the sun has shone in heaven, no Prince had ever yet such a man."
Myself. What was the name of his Prince?
Hungarian. Laszlo the Fifth; who, though under infinite
obligations to Hunyadi, was anything but grateful to him; for he
once consented to a plan which was laid to assassinate him,
contrived by his mortal enemy Ulrik, Count of Cilejia; and after
Hunyadi's death, caused his eldest son, Hunyadi Laszlo, to be
executed on a false accusation, and imprisoned his younger son,
Matyas, who, on the death of Laszlo, was elected by the Magyars to
be their king, on the 24th of January, 1458.
Myself. Was this Matyas a good king?
Hungarian. Was Matyas Corvinus a good king? O young man of
Horncastle! he was the best and greatest that ever Hungary
possessed, and, after his father, the most renowned warrior,--some
of our best laws were framed by him. It was he who organized the
Hussar force, and it was he who took Vienna. Why does your
Government always send fools to represent it at Vienna?
Myself. I really cannot say; but with respect to the Hussar force,
is it of Hungarian origin?
Hungarian. Its name shows its origin. Huz, in Hungarian, is
twenty and the Hussar force is so called because it is formed of
twentieths. A law was issued by which it was ordered that every
Hungarian nobleman, out of every twenty dependents, should produce
a well-equipped horseman, and with him proceed to the field of
Myself. Why did Matyas capture Venna?
Hungarian. Because the Emperor Frederick took part against him
with the King of Poland, who claimed the kingdom of Hungary for his
son, and had also assisted the Turk. He captured it in the year
1487, but did not survive his triumph long, expiring there in the
year 1490. He was so veracious a man, that it was said of him,
after his death, "Truth died with Matyas." It might be added that
the glory of Hungary departed with him. I wish to say nothing more
connected with Hungarian history.
Myself. Another word. Did Matyas leave a son?
Hungarian. A natural son, Hunyadi John, called so after the great
man. He would have been universally acknowledged as King of
Hungary but for the illegitimacy of his birth. As it was, Ulaszlo,
the son of the King of Poland, afterwards called Ulaszlo the
Second, who claimed Hungary as being descended from Albert, was
nominated king by a great majority of the Magyar electors. Hunyadi
John for some time disputed the throne with him; there was some
bloodshed, but Hunyadi John eventually submitted, and became the
faithful captain of Ulaszlo, notwithstanding that the Turk offered
to assist him with an army of two hundred thousand men.
Myself. Go on.