courage up to fighting pitch, and was firmly persuaded that I should have gone through the affair with as much coolness and determination as everybody seemed to think I had, more particularly as Jack Raffleton himself declared, “Nogo showed a good deal more pluck than he should have expected--but nervous, confoundedly nervous.”

My little doctor, as well, added largely to this hallucination ; nothing would persuade him that the wound to which he applied so much surgical skill was the effect of accident; and although, like other well-principled men, he abhorred duelling in the abstract, still he could not divest himself of a certain degree of interest and admiration when brought into personal contact with a man whom he believed to have “stood fire” unflinchingly. How often we see this amongst mankind!

I am afraid more of us are cowards at heart than we would fain believe, as it is only to the principle of cowardice that we can attribute a blind admiration of that which is in itself wrong, merely because accompanied by a personal risk that we dare not ourselves incur. Woman is supposed to be most susceptible to the fascination of courage from her own deficiency in that quality ; and it must be something of woman's weakness in our hearts that makes us gazo with approbation, which amounts almost to envy, at the prize-fighter or the steeple-chase rider, Van Amburgh in his cage, or Mr. Green in his parachute.

Doctor Dottrell was besides, like many who belong to the graver professions, devoted in theory to those field sports from which in practice he was debarred by his business ; and if there was one thing the Doctor was really proud of, it was a certain black cob, the image of himself, which he drove with the careful and sedulous air of a daily coachman working a heavy load for a long distance over a bad road. His gloves and hat betokened “the Jehu,” the rest of his “get up” was strictly professional ; but the Doctor at heart preferred Bells' Life to all the pharmacopeia, and looked forward to his week's partridgeshooting with his cousin in September, more than to all the rest of the year put together. Now he had taken it into his head that his patient, Mr. Nogo, was a sportsman of the very highest calibre; an infatuation first suggested by my admiration of the black cob-a really clover, serviceable little animal. And a few words which I happened to drop alluding to Leicestershire, Scotland, and other sporting localities, served to confirm him in this opinion, to a degree which was inexpressibly ludicrous, when, as was often the case, he asked my opinion upon some matter of elephant-shooting or tiger-hunting, of which I knew as much as the man in the moon,

“Regular exercise, Mr. Nogo,” he would say—“ regular exercise will soon set us on our legs again, when once the injury to the biceps' is sufficiently restored to admit of personal exertion. To a man like yourself, devoted to the sports of the field, and accustomed to negotiate the ox-fences of Leicestershire, and to breathe your lungs in the pure air, and up the steep hills of the Highlands, I need not insist on the necessity of vigorous muscular exertion. I am myself always in better health when partridge-shooting with my cousin in Berkshire, and Mrs. Dottrell declares I am never so well as when I come home fagged and tired after ranging the stubbs with dog and gun. We must provide some substitute, Mr. Nogo, even in London, for this kind of severe exercise; and if I might venture to recommend a little fencing, or even -alieni-sparring, whilst you remain in town, I think I may stake my professional reputation that you will acknowledge the benefit of my advice.” Such was ever the burden of the good little doctor's song; and I verily believe that in his own heart he was firmly persuaded that if a man could only remain in a state of profuse perspiration in the open air, during twelve hours out of the twenty-four, he would live for ever.

After the worthy Esculapius had taken his final departure, and I had for the last time indulged myself by watching the knowing manner in which he patted the black cob, glanced over the “ tackle," as he called the harness appertaining to his one-horse chaise, shook his beaver into its place on his little round head, drew on his gloves, and squared his elbows, preparatory to turning the corner into the next street, where another patient resided, I bethought myself seriously of following his advice ; and feeling that my arm was now as strong as ever, and that a . sedentary life with an increasing appetite had brought about the usual effect of making all my waistcoats too tight, I resolved on putting myself into the hands of some professor of self-defence, who whilst he knocked me about for his amusement, and worked me into a state of complete exhaustion for my improvement in condition as for his own benefit in pocket, should teach me that noble science, so useful at Vauxhall or Cremorne when the ambitious snob, or slightly inebriated “gent,” vapouring about “punching heads,” or in his vinous courage too abruptly coming to conclusions with a graduate in the art, finds, perchance, that he has unwittingly “ caught a Tartar." Besides, I was now considered, amongst my friends and acquaintance, “ a determined sort of fellow," "a man of undoubted pluck,” “as game as a pebble, and stands no nonsense;' and it would be quite in keeping with this sort of character, that I should be able, if necessary, to vindicate my reputation in a chance row, or hand-to-hand conflict with some too “ bumptious” adversary of the baser sort.

Accordingly, after a consultation with several of my young associates, beardless Guardsmen, and fast clerks in public offices--but one and all appearing to know everything that was to be learnt in London, and never to be at a loss it was decided that I should immediately enter upon a course of tuition from the hands, or rather the knuckles, of no less a person than “ The Muff of the Minories ” himself. This was indeed a cause of self-gratulation, “ The Muff” being acknowledged as the best glove-fighter of the day. His career in the ring had been, as he himself allowed, unfortunate. Out of five appearances, two battles had gone against him, as he said, by gross partiality on the part of the referee, his enemies declaring that each event was what is familiarly denominated “a cross.” Of the third contest in which this hero was engaged, it is only necessary to say that he was deprived of the laurels which he considered his due, by going down ignominiously, without a blow; as in the fourth he himself purposely delivered a foul stroke on the body of his antagonist. An opportunity, however, again offered itself for wiping away the stain of previous defeats, and the fancy invested largely on “ The Muff,” in his great match for 100 sovs. a-side, with the “ Slasher of St. Giles.” Money was posted, articles entered into, a referee agreed upon, time and place named, and for once the battle was fought upon the square. Fortune favours the brave. “ The Slasher," though of smaller proportions and lighter build, beat his man out of time

in the first ten minutes; and from that hour « The Muff” bid adieu to the Prize Ring, and devoted himself to the infinitely more agreeable and lucrative pursuit of knocking gentlemen about in their own private apartments. Of his personal appearance I need only state that he was a low, decp-chested, powerful man, very much let down in the shoulders, which gave him an appearance of being smaller in every way than he really was ; and rejoicing in what is appropriately termed “a fighting nob,” namely, a villanous-looking countenance, with deep-set twinkling eyes, projecting lips, and a broken nose.

Such was the worthy that, much to my servant's astonishment, made his appearance in my lodgings immediately after breakfast, one sweltering morning in July, and suggesting“ beer" as his favourite refreshment in reply to my hospitable inquiries, pulled his extremely short hair, as he offered his “ sarvice” to me ere he buried his unprepossessing physiognomy in the grateful pewter. This ceremony concluded, the professor calmly expectorated on my French carpet, and expressed his readiness to commence the lesson, premising that as his was the only method of teaching the art of boxing, it woul:l be as well were I at once to dismiss from my mind, and endeavour totally to forget all my previous knowledge on the subject, to me by no means a difficult task.

"Most of 'em teaches nothink," argued The Muff ;' but I teaches this-to keep the 'ands allays ready to stop' and to return,' and above all, never to parry a blow with your ’ead." I was by this time placed “in position,” and the latter self-evident maxim being enforced by a lightning rap, which made my eyes water and my nose swell, served to convince me that my present attitude of self-defence was one in which every portion of my frame was most utterly helpless. Do what I would, turn which way I might, the professor's glove struck, true as clock-work, exactly between my eyes; and as the lesson proceeded, so did my firm conviction that nature had never intended me for a bruiser, and that art would never succeed in making me one. Did “The Muff" generously devote his ugly face as a target to my blows, encouraging me to "'it out! let it come from the shoulder," and reassuring me with the faithful promise that there should be “no reprisals,” a sharp electric pain in my elbow-joint warned me that all my strenuous exertions were so lost in air," and the forbidding object at which I aimed was still untouched. Did I summon up all my fortitude and resolution to parry the adversary's rapid blow, even if I succeeded in escaping the first half of what he called his “ one, two," the latter was as certain to come in “ flush ” on mouth or nose, as it was to confuse and utterly bewilder all my ideas ; and thankful was I indeed when the lesson came to a conclusion, which it did at the same time as the beer ; “ The Muff of the Minories ” taking his departure with a kind promise that he would be with me at the same hour regularly, " Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays," and leaving with me two tickets for a sparring benefit, for which I paid him the sum of ten shillings, and an odour of violent exercise which open doors and windows seemed unable to alleviate.

According to promise, these lessons of chamber practice were day after day repeated; and by dint of constant pommelling, I did certainly in time obtain sufficient quickness to guard my own face, at least from the assaults of my instructor, to whose method I was getting accustomed. A hard hitter I should never have become, nor will all the painstaking in the

world give a man that facility of “letting out,” which depends, like swift bowling or long throwing at cricket, entirely upon natural formation; but I began to be able to “spar" in a sort of a way, and from feeling tolerably at home “ with the gloves,foolishly imagined that I should prove a dangerous " customer" in a real fight.

The primary object, however, for which I had engaged “ The Muff's" services was now gained - my health and strength were thoroughly reestablished, my muscles enlarged, and iny weight decreased.

The vigorous exercise of my mornings made a ride in the park quite unnecessary in a salubrious point of view, and I began to take up a strong penchant for driving. My phaeton horses were well-bitted, quiet, and perfect as animals could be ; and emboldened by the success with which I steered them through the crowded streets of London, I bethought me that it was a pity to waste so much good coachmanship upon a pair, and that I, as well as others, might aspire to the honours of "a drag” and “a team.” Besides, a coach would be so useful to my friends; for since my scrape with Kate Cotherstone, I lived entirely amongst a "man” set. I could take my party to races, to Richmond, and to Greenwich; and now that I had set up as a sporting character, it would be the very thing to have fellows talking about Nogo's coach," and Nogo's charioteering talents. The idea once broached was not long in being carried out.

Of all people in the world, who should call on me, one morning, as I was thinking over my scheme, but Segundo?-the very man to put me in the way of doing that which I was now so ambitious to effect. Poor fellow ! he looked thin and careworn, and was more seedy in his dress and appearance than forinerly; in fact, his object in seeing me was to request some pecuniary assistance, which, small as it was, I unhesitatingly offered. As we warmed in conversation, and talked over old times, his ancient swagger and quaint fun began to peep out; but he was still mysterious as ever as to what he had been doing or where living since I saw him last : all I could gather was that he had been abroad, and, notwithstanding all his talents and pursuits, had been at times wofully "hard-up." He jumped at the notion of a drag; in fact, as he said, it was quite in his line. "The very thing, Nogo. I saw this morning a capital coach, to be sold for a mere song. She is as good as new, dark-green picked out with red; the man she belongs to is in hiding, but I know where he is, and you can have her for half nothing, money down. I saw you driving two bay horses yesterday, in the park, that would make perfect wheelers; and we can pick up a couple of leaders on Monday, at Tattersall's (at least you can send your groom to do so, I shall not be able to go there for a week or two), for five-and twenty pounds a piece. Capital ! I'll go and buy the coach directly. And without more ado, away marched my friend, looking more himself, now that he had got something to arrange, than he had done during the whole time we sat together.

The coach was soon bought; a very handsome chesnut with a game leg, and a little grey mare, were purchased at Tattersall's for no large sum, as leaders; and after a few early lessons round the parks, with Segundo on the box as my Mentor (in fact he did me the favour of breakfasting, dining, and living with me altogether), I thought myself as capable of taking my team and my load down to a convivial

Greenwich dinner-party as any one of the knights of the whip that start weekly from the Crown and Sceptre or the Trafalgar.

The morning rehearsals having proceeded so favourably, a perforniance in public was soon decided on, and ten days' notice enabled ine to secure a sufficiently numerous coach-load of swells to grace my drag on its downward journey to Greenwich, there to eat turtle, flounders, and white-bait, and drink bad wine, at my expense. Sunday, I am ashamed to say, was the day chosen for our demonstration; nor do I understand why, amongst all the days in the week, that should be the one invariably set apart for the noisiest and most convivial gathering afforded by the licbdomadal list of engagements which decorate the chimney-piece of a man about town.

However, Sunday came, and with it my well-appointed drag, and really neat-looking team. We were to take our departure from Limmer's—that unceremonious hostelry, whose doors, like those of another much thronged locality, stand open " night and day.” In fact so careless are its inhabitants, of times and seasons, that I well remember one of its most constant frequenters giving as a reason for his preference, that he could not enjoy the same comfort elsewhere of never knowing what o'clock it was. " I sleep," he said, “ till I feel inclined to get up : my bed-room always requires candles; and when I come down and order breakfast after the rest of the world have dined, the waiter looks as little surprised as if ten o'clock at night was the usual time for everyone to begin the day." From this accommodating " liberty-hall” we started accordingly. And Segundo, who sat by me on the box, had indeed done his best to get together a very agreeable and merry party. All that were in difficulties, all that were in debt, seemed to congregate upon the roof of my coach; and such an array of curling whiskers, trim moustaches, well brushed hats, and choice spirits, I have seldom scen even on that much affected road.

We left a volume of smoke behind us that would not have shamed a goods train on the London and North-Western; for lips ringing with jest, fun, and reparteo were graced with regalias, the shortest of which must have averaged eighteen inches. We called, according to promise, for Lord Loosefish, at his lodgings in Bond-street, and proceeded thence boldly down St. James'-street, recklessly braving the ordeal of the bay-window at White's. Confound that chesnut leader, how short he went upon the stones ! I knew as well as if I heard it, that some splenetic dandy, in that crowded morning-room, was goodnaturedly remarking to a brother cynic_" Look here, Jim," or “ Cis," or “ Bo," or whatever the familiar abbreviation might be, “ look at that team of cripples !” and the worst of it was I dared not hit him, I mean the chesnut, till we were safe down the hill. However, I paid him off when we turned the corner into Pall Mall, and with such good will, that I caught the end of my thong in the grey mare's splinterbar ; this set her kicking, and had not Segundo jumped down and put us right with wonderful dexterity, I might never have got any farther than the Carlton club.

London on a Sunday is not overcrowded with vehicles, and we got on swimmingly till we arrived at Westminster Bridge ; here a tribing and momentary indecision on my part got us jammed in between two

« ForrigeFortsett »