Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

luck of No. 1. His song was simply brainless rubbish, without point or aim ; but it was not so with the others. Every song sung was at once recognised as a well-known composition ; indeed, it was but to be expected that on such an occasion such only would be selected. It is not too much to say that, excepting the first, of which the reader may form his own opinion, not one was free from indecent allusion, or gross impudence, or odious vulgarity. The gentleman who won the prize—and it was voted to him by general acclamation—had the good fortune to get hold of a song the chorus to which was, of course, irresistible. It was—

“ Squeedge me, Joe! squeedge me, Joe !

It's orful jolly, and that you know.
Squeedge me, Joe! squeedge me, Joe!

And, if you love me, say so.” I dare not print what came before the chorus, nor could I, if it were desirable, describe the delicate gestures with which the singer illustrated his neatest points. I will only say that, after a double final round of “ Squeedge me, Joe!". the storm of applause that followed left it no longer in doubt who had earned the magnificent silver goblet.

A TRAMP TO THE “DERBY.”

It had struck eight, and daylight was waning, when I, not altogether an inexperienced tramp, buttoned my rough coat of long service, and pulling my cap well over my ears—for the night was chilly-lit my pipe, and struck into the road. There was no lack of companyEpsom bound. There came along the road, with their face Epsomward, men in twos and threes, with bulky bundles enveloped in coloured pocket handkerchiefs, out of holes in which protruded tiny legs and arms; but they might trudge on for me.

It was all very fine their hopeful way of stepping out, and their cheerful talk, and the prodigal way in which they puffed at clean short pipes, filled and lit at the public-house where a few minutes since they had halted to have just one last half pint a-piece, before they settled down to their night's tramp. It was all very well at present, but it wouldn't last. They were “little doll” men; poor deluded wretches, three of thrice as many hundred who, quite new to the Epsom game, had “heard” that little dolls were the best "spec” out. They were to be bought at Houndsditch at the rate of twopence a dozen, and had been known to realise as much as a shilling for six, from merry gents in drags and open barouches, who wore them with their indecent legs stuck all round their white hats or in the buttonholes of their coats. Why, at that rate, eighteenpenn'orth of stock might be the means of putting eight

or ten shillings in their pockets even after they had paid the eighteenpence railway fare for riding home. Truly, it “might” be the means; but assuredly it will not be. You will find out your mistake, men of the indecent dolls, before you reach Wimbledon Common. You will be dismayed to overtake and be overtaken by troops of deluded ones, who each carry a bird's-eye bundle, and each believe that he is one of the sagacious few who are alive to the “doll trick.” Dismallest of mistakes! By this time to-morrow tiny dolls will be as dead a drug in the market as the beaten favourite, and scores of disappointed would-be vendors may be found in Epsom town willing to sell you as many little dolls for the price of a few mouthfuls of bread as there are sticks of firewood . in a halfpenny bundle, and who will not be able to effect one single sale even at that rate. Then they will fag back to London about Thursday noon, hungry and footsore, still hugging the detested and undiminished bundle, out of the holes in which the little dolls kick .their impudent heels as though in mockery and derision.

Here, next in the march, is a troop of ragged, shoeless, boot-cleaning boys, balancing their black-box and brushes on their heads. Then a truck load of ginger beer, hauled along by two sweating fellows, one pushing and one pulling, and both panting with fatigue and heat, although there is yet at least fifteen miles of hilly road before them. Here comes a barrow loaded with pieces of fried fish, two hundred weight or so, covered over with a tarpaulin, and, after being dragged through the dust all night, it will be vended on the Downs tomorrow under the blazing sun.

Following the fried-fish barrow are two organ-men; two of the detested race of grinders, straight from

Saffron Hill, with their instruments of torture burdening their broad backs, and Epsom bound by token of their trousers being turned up at the boots to secure the cherished corduroy against chafing in the dust, and by their organs being temporarily divested of their handles. What on earth can have put it into the heads of these two benighted Italians that they will be welcome, or even tolerated, on Epsom Downs to-morrow; or that they will have a chance of picking up money enough to compensate them for all their toil and tramping. But one of the most inexplicable peculiarities of the organgrinding animal is that he is altogether unconscious that he is a nuisance. He believes in his music, and regards it as a pleasure as well as a business, and I have no doubt carries it home and grinds operatic and musichall melodies to solace his family on days when he has had bad luck, and there is no supper. I have a right to assume this to be the case, for once when I attended a select concert and ball held in the aristocratic region of Back Hill, near Liquorpond Street, and to which no one but grinders and their particular friends were admitted, to my great astonishment the musicians of the evening were two organ-men, perched on a tub, in a corner of the room, who, skipping the inappropriate tunes, ground out waltzes and jigs to the heart's content of all assembled.

Four children—three girls and a boy-with a few dozen boxes of fusees tucked under their rags, run alongside five brutes in human form, with broken noses and puffy eyes, one of whom carries a bag, in which are the tools of their craft—the boxing gloves with which, between the races, they will demonstrate the noble art of self-defence.

Here comes a man bearing a pail, along with two others, who apparently carry nothing at all, and yet that they are Epsom bound is evident from the fact that one has an old woollen comforter round his throat as a precaution against night air; while the other has the sole of his boots tied to the upper leather with a bit of string, and both have walking-sticks. What on earth can three men be going to do at Epsom with only one pail between them ? Clearly it is time, too, I was on the tramp. Travellers on the road soon make acquaintance. What was my lay? It was the man that had his boot tied up with string who asked this, and thereby gave me an opportunity of establishing a chumship.

"What's my lay? I'll bet you a pot of beer you don't guess it in three times.”

"Done,” said the man with the crippled Blucher ; "you're a 'pus palmer.” It was my design to plead guilty to the first “lay” I was accused of, but, as I had not the least notion what a “pus palmer" might be, and I should surely lay myself open to ignominious detection as an impostor if I was pressed on the subject, I declined the mysterious impeachment.

“Then you'reabettin'-list cove; holds the humberreller, or something in that line."

There was less danger here. I knew what a bettinglist was, and any “cove” might hold an umbrella ; so I was fain to admit that I had lost, and at the very next public-house we came to we drank luck to each other over a pot of beer-nay, two pots—and, replenishing our pipes, took to the road again.

To my disappointment, however, I presently found that the mystery of the pail was a very shallow one. Indeed, it was no mystery at all; it was simply a delusion. The victim of the washhouse utensil-in which,

« НазадПродовжити »