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and delicate, will assuredly tend to weaken the slender threads that hold life together. Such pave the way for the coming, at dusky evening, of that dreadful man who bears a little coffin on his shoulder. You can't, if the journeyman baker is to be believed, escape the machinations of the man of dough. The health-destroyer is in the flour. The “jolly miller," the emblem of all that is hearty and honest—the hale, bluff, manly miller, who has so often been eulogised in song—turns out to be but a so-so character, after all. In future there will be no more romance in the clink of the mill than in the clatter of an underground Whitecross sausage-machine. Unless the journeyman baker is a malicious slanderer, the country miller puts alum in the flour even before it is consigned to the sack that is to convey it to the ordinary place of sophistication the cellar of the baker. He is Giant Blundabore amongst a wretched race of impecunious bakers. He gobbles up all their profits, legitimate and illegitimate. He will be first robber. He adulterates the flour ready to their hands. He alums it to such a nice extreme, that should the desperate bread-kneader essay to catch a sly shilling or two by the use of a pinch or so more of the precious commodity, the jolly miller is sure to bowl him out in less than a week, and his shop is handed over to a more faithful servant.
THE DELIGHTS OF BARNET.
Had it been the railway station nearest to Donnybrook at the time when the celebrated fair of that district is in full swing, it would not have so much surprised me; but in peaceful England, within twelve miles of Charing Cross, to find the road impeded by a gang of men and lads crying “Who'll buy a stick? Who'll have a ground-ash for a penny? What gen'leman haint got a stick ?” was somewhat amazing. The proposition so earnestly pressed was the more alarming from the aspect of the sticks offered for sale. No make-believe dandy shams, varnished and tasselled were they, but stout twigs of timber in the bark, and wanting only a prog at the end to make them worthy the handling of a bullock drover. “Who'll ’ave a ground-ash ? Here yer are, sir! You'll want it.” This was by no means what I had bargained for, my mission being one of peace ; but the individual who made the last offer accompanied it with a wink so significant that it seemed the extreme of rashness to disregard it. So I bought a ground-ash and took the road, the dust of which was already dotted all over like a sheep-run with the impressions of other ground-ashes that had gone before.
It was the first of the Barnet Fair days; but business before pleasure. This was Monday, and the timehonoured and dearly-cherished carnival of the London costermonger was not until Wednesday. There was much business to do in the interval. Between the Whetstone side of Barnet and the common, the meadows were teaming with cattle-little black oxen, oldfashioned and tough-looking, from Wales, and Highland steers, and Devons, and Herefords, and dairy cattle, to say nothing of sheep. But a glance at the enormous crowds that the railway brought to Barnet, made it evident that though nine-tenths meant business, it was not in the sheep and oxen line. There is a solemn deliberation of gait, a slowness of eye, a solemnity of visage about folks who deal in beef and mutton producing animals, that makes it impossible to confound them with those whose hearts are fixed on horses. There is a smartness, a glibness, a springiness of the legs in the latter that would as ill fit the former as tandem harness would a bullock team. The dress of the two is markedly different. The man of bucolic tendencies has a disposition to be loose in his attire. His ample wide-awake admits of side winds to keep cool his solid calculating head ; there is room to thrust in a hand between his neckerchief and his throat. It doesn't in the least matter if his coat is three sizes too large for him, or that the laces of his boots are slack even to slovenliness. On the contrary, with a certain class of persons the possession of a horse, or a pony, or a donkey—nay, the mere hankering after one, induces a contraction of the habiliments which it seems impossible to resist. Every article of attire must fit as tight on the wearer as the skin of the well-beloved quadruped adheres to its body. His bullet head in his all-round hairy cap fits like a pudding in a basin. He winds lengths of white woollen cloth about his neck, so that it looks like surgical bandaging. His jacket is buttoned tight up, and it is a miracle how he contrives to thrust his enormous feet through the ridiculously narrow legs of his corduroys.
Of this sort were the great majority of the merry troopers who tramped over the mile that lies between the railway station and the Fair-ground.
I will have nothing to say respecting the oxen and sheep. I don't know a teg from a wether, and I have not the remotest idea what a full-mouthed stock ewe is like. I passed on the road a printed placard testifying that David Jones, from some remote place in Wales, would hold his black cattle market on a piece of land behind some inn; and a little farther on, through a gap in the hedge, I saw chalked on a board the mystic inscription, “ Cow Fair ; traps a shillin'.” But I had come on purpose to see the horses, and I pushed on. Presently I obtained a glimpse of them.
From the main road the horse-field at Barnet presents a spectacle to describe which is as difficult as it is at first sight to understand it. I already knew what a horse-market was like-a metropolitan market, that is to say—and was prepared to find this one slightly uproarious; but that first glance brought me to a standstill. The horse-field was distant about two hundred yards or so ; and what I saw from the main road was a gradual slope ascending from the front, on which was a row of refreshment booths; the most capacious and prominent of them being kept by prizefighters, whose names in full, or affectionately abbreviated, are inscribed on flags which flutter out bravely from the top of the tent poles.
On the summit of the slope, exactly opposite, are other refreshment booths; and I may here mention, though unhappily without being able to explain the singular gastronomic fact, that the staple viands at Barnet fair are roast pork and roast goose. The consequence is that the prevailing aroma of sage and onions
is very striking. The tent-keepers are proud of this feast of pork, and make all the display of it they can. Suspended above the heads of those who sit at the dining-tables are mighty joints of the recently-slaughtered animal, and exposed at the farther end is the kitchen and the powerful cooks, with bare and hairy arms, looming moist and shiny in a mist of well-basted crackling.
On a slope between the two ranges of tents the horse fair is held; but at a distance it appears like a tremendous battle between horses and men. It is one heaving sea, quadrupeds and bipeds being so wedged together as to be terribly suggestive of crushed ribs and mangled bodies trampled under foot. It is a chaos of manes and hoofs, and tails and heads, open mouths and teeth on which the sun glistens, and waving human hands and arms. There is an incessant bobbing up and down of human heads — gaol-cropped some, hideously tangled and uncombed others—the mouths of the owners being almost as wide open as the horses' mouths, but with far less innocent intent. What materially assists the fanciful imagination bent on framing to itself the picture of a field of battle is the brilliant display of pennons of crimson and yellow and green affixed to what from the roadway might easily be mistaken for pike-staves. These gay futtering things rise high and then fall as though suddenly struck out of the hand that grasped them, and all in the midst of clouds of brown dust that betray how fiercely the war is raging, and amidst the warlike noise, the neighing and screaming of horses, the agonised howls and yells of men, the clapping of hands, and the stamping of feet.
It is, indeed, a fearful and wonderful sight this fair :