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I was determined to see this fight, come what would, and see it I did, in great style. It was my first fight, yet it more than answered my expectations. Courage and modesty are the old English virtues; and may they never look cold and askance on one another!
Think, ye fairest of the fair, loveliest of the lovely kind, ye practisers of soft enchantment, how many more ye kill with poisoned baits than ever fell in the ring; and listed with subdued air and without shuddering, to a tale tragic only in appearance, and sacred to the FANCY!
I was going down Chancery-lane, thinking to ask at Jack Randall's where the fight was to be, when looking through the glass-door of the "Hole in the Wall," I heard a gentleman asking the same question at Mrs.
Randall, as the author 2 of "Waverley" would express it. Now Mrs. Randall stood answering the gentlemen's question, with the authenticity of the lady of the Champion of the Light Weights.
Thinks I, I'll wait till this person comes out, and learn from him how it is.
For to say a truth, I was not fond of going into this house to call for heroes and philosophers, ever since the owner of it for Jack is no gentleman threatened once upon a time to kick me out of doors for wanting a mutton-chop at his hospitable board, when the conqueror in thirteen battles was more full of blue ruin than of good manners.
I was the more mortified at this repulse, inasmuch as I had heard Mr. James Simpkin, hosier in the Strand, one day when the character of the "Hold in the Wall" was brought in question, observe - "The house is a very good house, and the company quite genteel: I have been there myself!
Toms, and turning suddenly up Chancery-lane with that quick jerk and impatient stride which distinguishes a lover of the FANCY, I said, "I'll be hanged if that fellow is not going to the fight, and is on his way to get me to go with him.
We are cold to others only when we are dull in ourselves, and have neither thoughts nor feelings to impart to them. Give a man a topic in his head, a throb of pleasure in his heart, and he will be glad to share it with the first person he meets.
Toms and I, though we seldom meet, were an alter idem on this memorable occasion, and had not an idea that we did not candidly impart; and "so carelessly did we fleet the time," that I wish no better, when there is another fight, than to have him for a companion on my journey down, and to return with my friend Jack Pigott, talking of what was to happen or of what did happen, with a noble subject always at hand, and liberty to digress to others whenever they offered.
Indeed, on my repeating the lines from Spenser in an involuntary fit of enthusiasm, What more felicity can fall to creature, Than to enjoy delight with liberty?
Toms and I could not settle about the method of going down. He said there was a caravan, he understood, to start from Tom Belcher's at two, which would go there right out and back again the next day.
Now I never travel all night, and said I should get a cast to Newbury by one of the mails. In short, he seemed to me to waver, said he only came to see if I was going, had letters to write, a cause coming on the day after, and faintly said at parting for I was bent on setting out that moment - "Well, we meet at Philippi!
The mail coach stand was bare. At any rate, I would not turn back: I might get to Hounslow, or perhaps farther, to be on my road the next morning.
I passed Hyde Park Corner my Rubicon , and trusted to fortune. Suddenly I heard the clattering of a Brentford stage, and the fight rushed full upon my fancy. I argued not unwisely that even a Brentford coachman was better company than my own thoughts such as they were just then , and at his invitation mounted the box with him.
I immediately stated my case to him - namely, my quarrel with myself for missing the Bath or Bristol mail, and my determination to get on in consequence as well as I could, without any disparagement or insulting comparison between longer or shorter stages.
It is a maxim with me that stage-coaches, and consequently stage-coachmen, are respectable in proportion to the distance they have to travel: so I said nothing on that subject to my Brentford friend.
Any incipient tendency to an abstract proposition, or as he might have construed it to a personal reflection of this kind, was however nipped in the bud; for I had no sooner declared indignantly that I had missed the mails, than he flatly denied that they were gone along, and lo!
Here again I seemed in the contradictory situation of the man in Dryden who exclaims, I follow Fate, which does too hard pursue! If I had stopped to inquire at the "White Horse Cellar," which would not have taken me a minute, I should now have been driving down the road in all the dignified unconcern and ideal perfection of mechanical conveyance.
The Bath mail I had set my mind upon, and I had missed it, as I missed everything else, by my own absurdity, in putting the will for the deed, and aiming at ends without employing means.
I would not have believed this possible, but the brother-in-law of a mail-coach driver is himself no mean man.
I was transferred without loss of time from the top of one coach to that of the other, desired the guard to pay my fare to the Brentford coachman for me as I had no change, was accommodated with a great coat, put up my umbrella to keep off a drizzling mist, and we began to cut through the air like an arrow.
The mile-stones disappeared one after another, the rain kept off; Tom Turtle, the trainer, sat before me on the coach-box, with whom I exchanged civilities as a gentleman going to the fight; the passion that had transported me an hour before was subdued to pensive regret and conjectural musing on the next day's battle; I was promised a place inside at Reading, and upon the whole, I thought myself a lucky fellow.
Such is the force of imagination! On the outside of any other coach on the 10th of December, with a Scotch mist drizzling through the cloudy moonlight air, I should have been cold, comfortless, impatient, and, no doubt, wet through; but seated on the Royal mail, I felt warm and comfortable, the air did me good, the ride did me good, I was pleased with the progress we had made, and confident that all would go well through the journey.
When I got inside at Reading, I found Turtle and a stout valetudinarian, whose costume bespoke him one of the FANCY, and who had risen from a three months' sick bed to get into the mail to see the fight. They were intimate, and we fell into a lively discourse. My friend the trainer was confined in his topics to fighting dogs and men, to bears and badgers; beyond this he was "quite chap-fallen," had not a word to throw at a dog, or indeed very wisely fell asleep, when any other game was started.
The whole art of training I, however, learnt from him , consists in two things, exercise and abstinence, abstinence and exercise, repeated alternately without end. A yolk of an egg with a spoonful of rum in it is the first thing in a morning, and then a walk of six miles till breakfast.
This meal consists of a plentiful supply of tea and toast and beef steaks. Then another six or seven miles till dinner-time, and another supply of solid beef or mutton with a pint of porter, and perhaps, at the utmost, a couple of glasses of sherry. Martin trains on water, but this increases his infirmity on another very dangerous side.
The Gas-man takes now and then a chirping glass under the rose to console him, during a six weeks' probation, for the absence of Mrs. Hickman - an agreeable woman, with I understand a pretty fortune of two hundred pounds.
How matter presses on me! What stubborn things are facts! How inexhaustible is nature and art! Richmond observe, "to see a variety. I cannot deny but that one learns more of what is I do not say of what ought to be in this desultory mode of practical study, than from reading the same book twice over, even though it should be a moral treatise.
Where was I? I was sitting at dinner with the candidate for the honours of the ring, "where good digestion waits on appetite, and health on both.
Back to supper, and then to bed, and up by six again - Our hero Follows the ever-running sun With profitable ardour - to the day that brings him victory or defeat in the green fairy circle.
Is not this life more sweet than mine? I was going to say; but I will not libel any life by comparing it to mine, which is at the date of these presents bitter as coloquintida and the dregs of aconitum!