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Jorrocks' Jaunts and Jollities Part 15

Herne Bay being then quite in its infancy, and this being what the cits call a "weekday," they had rather a shy cargo, nor had they any of that cockney tomfoolery that generally characterises a Ramsgate or Margate crew, more particularly a Margate one. Indeed, it was a very slow cargo, Jorrocks being the only character on board, and he was as sulky as a bear with a sore head when anyone approached. The day was beautifully fine, and a thin grey mist gradually disappeared from the Kentish hills as we passed down the Thames. The river was gay enough. Adelaide, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, was expected on her return from Germany, and all the vessels hung out their best and gayest flags and colours to do her honour. The towns of Greenwich and Woolwich were in commotion.

Charity schools were marching, and soldiers were doing the like, while steamboats went puffing down the river with cargoes to meet and escort Her Majesty. When we got near Tilbury Fort, a man at the head of the steamer announced that we should meet the Queen in ten minutes, and all the passengers crowded on to the paddle-box of the side on which she was to pass, to view and greet her. Jorrocks even roused himself up and joined the throng. Presently a crowd of steamers were seen in the distance, proceeding up the river at a rapid pace, with a couple of lofty-masted vessels in tow, the first of which contained the royal cargo. The leading steamboat was the celebrated _Magnet_--considered the fastest boat on the river, and the one in which Jorrocks and myself steamed from Margate, racing against and beating the _Royal William._ This had the Lord Mayor and Aldermen on board, who had gone down to the extent of the city jurisdiction to meet the Queen, and have an excuse for a good dinner. The deck presented a gay scene, being covered with a military band, and the gaudy-liveried lackeys belonging to the Mansion House, and sheriffs whose clothes were one continuous mass of gold lace and frippery, shining beautifully brilliant in the midday sun. The royal yacht, with its crimson and gold pennant floating on the breeze, came towering up at a rapid pace, with the Queen sitting under a canopy on deck. As we neared, all hats were off, and three cheers--or at least as many as we could wedge in during the time the cortege took to sweep past us--were given, our band consisting of three brandy-faced musicians, striking up _God save the King_--a compliment which Her Majesty acknowledged by a little mandarining; and before the majority of the passengers had recovered from the astonishment produced by meeting a live Queen on the Thames, the whole fleet had shot out of sight. By the time the ripple on the water, raised by their progress, had subsided, we had all relapsed into our former state of apathy and sullenness. A duller or staider set I never saw outside a Quakers' meeting. Still the beggars eat, as when does a cockney not in the open air? The stewards of these steamboats must make a rare thing of their places, for they have plenty of custom at their own prices. In fact, being in a steamboat is a species of personal incarceration, and you have only the option between bringing your own prog, or taking theirs at whatever they choose to charge--unless, indeed, a person prefers going without any. Jorrocks took nothing. He laid down again after the Queen had passed, and never looked up until we were a mile or two off Herne Bay.

With the reader's permission, we will suppose that we have just landed, and, bags in hand, ascended the flight of steps that conduct passengers, as it were, from the briny ocean on to the stage of life.

"My eyes!" said Jorrocks, as he reached the top, "wot a pier, and wot a bit of a place! Why, there don't seem to be fifty houses altogether, reckoning the windmill in the centre as one. What's this thing?" said he to a ticket-porter, pointing to a sort of French diligence-looking concern which had just been pushed up to the landing end. "To carry the lumber, sir--live and dead--gentlemen and their bags, as don't like to walk." "Do you charge anything for the ride?" inquired Jorrocks, with his customary caution. "Nothing," was the answer. "Then, let's get on the roof," said J----, "and take it easy, and survey the place as we go along." So, accordingly, we clambered on to the top of the diligence, "summa diligentia," and seated ourselves on a pile of luggage; being all stowed away, and as many passengers as it would hold put inside, two or three porters proceeded to propel the machine along the railroad on which it runs. "Now, Mr. Yorkshireman," said Jorrocks, "we are in a strange land, and it behoves us to proceed with caution, or we may spend our five pounds seven and sixpence before we know where we are."

_Yorkshireman_. Seven and ninepence it is, sir.

_Jorrocks_. Well, be it so--five pounds seven and ninepence between two, is by no means an impossible sum to spend, and the trick is to make it go as far as we can. Now some men can make one guinea go as far as others can make two, and we will try what we can do. In the first place, you know I makes it a rule never to darken the door of a place wot calls itself an 'otel, for 'otel prices and inn prices are werry different.

You young chaps don't consider these things, and as long as you have got a rap in the world you go swaggering about, ordering claret and waxlights, and everything wot's expensive, as though you must spend money because you are in an inn. Now, that's all gammon. If a man haven't got money he can't spend it; and we all know that many poor folks are obliged at times to go to houses of public entertainment, and you don't suppose that they pay for fire and waxlights, private sitting-rooms, and all them 'ere sort of things. Now, said he, adjusting his hunting telescope and raking the town of Herne Bay, towards which we were gently approaching on our dignified eminence, but as yet had not got near enough to descry "what was what" with the naked eye, I should say yon great staring-looking shop directly opposite us is the cock inn of the place (looks through his glass). I'm right P-i-e-r, Pier 'Otel I reads upon the top, and that's no shop for my money. Let's see what else we have. There's nothing on the right, I think, but here on the left is something like our cut--D-o-l dol, p-h-i-n phin, Dolphin Inn. It's long since I went the circuit, as the commercial gentlemen (or what were called bagmen in my days) term it, but I haven't forgot the experience I gained in my travels, and I whiles turn it to werry good account now.

"Coach to Canterbury, Deal, Margate, sir, going directly," interrupted him, and reminded us that we had got to the end of the pier, and ought to be descending. Two or three coaches were drawn up, waiting to carry passengers on, but we had got to our journey's end. "Now," said J----, "let's take our bags in hand and draw up wind, trying the 'Dolphin'

first."

Rejecting the noble portals of the Pier Hotel, we advanced towards Jorrocks's chosen house, a plain unpretending-looking place facing the sea, which is half the battle, and being but just finished had every chance of cleanliness. "Jonathan Acres" appeared above the door as the name of the landlord, and a little square-built, hatless, short-haired chap, in a shooting-jacket, was leaning against the door. "Mr.

Hacres within?" said Jorrocks. "My name's Acres," said he of the shooting-jacket. "Humph," said J----, looking him over, "not Long Acre, I think." Having selected a couple of good airy bedrooms, we proceeded to see about dinner. "Mr. Hacres," said Jorrocks, "I makes it a rule never to pay more than two and sixpence for a feed, so now just give us as good a one as you possibly can for that money": and about seven o'clock we sat down to lamb-chops, ducks, French beans, pudding, etc.; shortly after which Jorrocks retired to rest, to sleep off the remainder of his headache. He was up long before me the next morning, and had a dip in the sea before I came down. "Upon my word," said he, as I entered the room, and found him looking as lively and fresh as a four-year-old, "it's worth while going to the lush-crib occasionally, if it's only for the pleasure of feeling so hearty and fresh as one does on the second day. I feel just as if I could jump out of my skin, but I will defer the performance until after breakfast. I have ordered a fork one, do you know, cold 'am and boiled bacon, with no end of eggs, and bread of every possible description. By the way, I've scraped acquaintance with Thorp, the baker hard by, who's a right good fellow, and says he will give me some shooting, and has some werry nice beagles wot he shoots to. But here's the grub. Cold 'am in abundance. But, waiter, you should put a little green garnishing to the dishes, I likes to see it, green is so werry refreshing to the eye; and tell Mr. Hacres to send up some more bacon and the bill, when I rings the bell. Nothing like having your bill the first morning, and then you know what you've got to pay, and can cut your coat according to your cloth." The bacon soon disappeared, and the bell being sounded, produced the order.

"Humph," said J----, casting his eyes over the bill as it lay by the side of his plate, while he kept pegging away at the contents of the neighbouring dish--"pretty reasonable, I think--dinners, five shillings, that's half a crown each; beds, two shillings each; breakfasts, one and ninepence each, that's cheap for a fork breakfast; but, I say, you had a pint of sherry after I left you last night, and PALE sherry too! How could you be such an egreggorus (egregious) ass! That's so like you young chaps, not to know that the only difference between pale and brown sherry is, that one has more of the pumpaganus aqua in it than the other. You should have made it pale yourself, man. But look there. Wot a go!"

Our attention was attracted to a youth in spectacles, dressed in a rich plum-coloured coat, on the outside of a dingy-looking, big-headed, brown nag, which he was flogging and cramming along the public walk in front of the "Dolphin," in the most original and ludicrous manner. We presently recognised him as one of our fellow-passengers of the previous day, respecting whom Jorrocks and I had had a dispute as to whether he was a Frenchman or a German. His equestrian performances decided the point. I never in all my life witnessed such an exhibition, nor one in which the performer evinced such self-complacency. Whether he had ever been on horseback before or not I can't tell, but the way in which he went to work, using the bridle as a sort of rattle to frighten the horse forward, the way in which he shook the reins, threw his arms about, and belaboured the poor devil of an animal in order to get him into a canter (the horse of course turning away every time he saw the blow coming), and the free, unrestrained liberty he gave to his head, surpassed everything of the sort I ever saw, and considerably endangered the lives of several of His Majesty's lieges that happened to be passing.

Instead of getting out of their way, Frenchmanlike, he seemed to think everything should give way to an equestrian; and I saw him scatter a party of ladies like a covey of partridges, by riding slap amongst them, and not even making the slightest apology or obeisance for the rudeness.

There he kept, cantering (or cantering as much as he could induce the poor rip to do) from one end of the town to the other, conceiving, I make not the slightest doubt, that he was looked upon with eyes of admiration by the beholders. He soon created no little sensation, and before he was done a crowd had collected near the Pier Hotel, to see him get his horse past (it being a Pier Hotel nag) each time; and I heard a primitive sort of postman, who was delivering the few letters that arrive in the place, out of a fish-basket, declare "that he would sooner kill a horse than lend it to such a chap." Having fretted his hour away, the owner claimed the horse, and Monsieur was dismounted.

After surveying the back of the town, we found ourselves rambling in some beautiful picturesque fields in the rear. Kent is a beautiful county, and the trimly kept gardens, and the clustering vines twining around the neatly thatched cottages, remind one of the rich, luxuriant soil and climate of the South. Forgetting that we were in search of sea breezes, we continued to saunter on, across one field, over one stile and then over another, until after passing by the side of a snug-looking old-fashioned house, with a beautifully kept garden, the road took a sudden turn and brought us to some parkish-looking well-timbered ground in front, at one side of which Jorrocks saw something that he swore was a kennel.

"I knows a hawk from a hand-saw," said he, "let me alone for that. I'll swear there are hounds in it. Bless your heart, don't I see a gilt fox on one end, and a gilt hare on the other?"

Just then came up a man in a round fustian jacket, to whom Jorrocks addressed himself, and, as good luck would have it, he turned out to be the huntsman (for Jorrocks was right about the kennel), and away we went to look at the hounds. They proved to be Mr. Collard's, the owner of the house that we had just passed, and were really a very nice pack of harriers, consisting of seventeen or eighteen couple, kept in better style (as far as kennel appearance goes) than three-fourths of the harriers in England. Bird, the huntsman, our cicerone, seemed a regular keen one in hunting matters, and Jorrocks and he had a long confab about the "noble art of hunting," though the former was rather mortified to find on announcing himself as the "celebrated Mr. Jorrocks" that Bird had never heard of him before.

After leaving the kennel we struck across a few fields, and soon found ourselves on the sea banks, along which we proceeded at the rate of about two miles an hour, until we came to the old church of Reculvers.

Hard by is a public-house, the sign of the "Two Sisters," where, having each taken a couple of glasses of ale, we proceeded to enjoy one of the (to me at least) greatest luxuries in life--viz. that of lying on the shingle of the beach with my heels just at the water's edge.

The day was intensely hot, and after occupying this position for about half an hour, and finding the "perpendicular rays of the sun" rather fiercer than agreeable, we followed the example of a flock of sheep, and availed ourselves of the shade afforded by the Reculvers. Here for a short distance along the beach, on both sides, are small breakwaters, and immediately below the Reculvers is one formed of stake and matting, capable of holding two persons sofa fashion. Into this Jorrocks and I crept, the tide being at that particular point that enabled us to repose, with the water lashing our cradle on both sides, without dashing high enough to wet us.

"Oh, but this is fine!" said J----, dangling his arm over the side, and letting the sea wash against his hand. "I declare it comes fizzing up just like soda-water out of a bottle--reminds me of the lush-crib. By the way, Mr. Yorkshireman, I heard some chaps in our inn this morning talking about this werry place, and one of them said that there used to be a Roman station, or something of that sort, at it. Did you know anything of them 'ere ancient Romans? Luxterous dogs, I understand.

If Mr. Nimrod was here now he could tell us all about them, for, if I mistake not, he was werry intimate with some of them--either he or his father, at least."

A boat that had been gradually advancing towards us now run on shore, close by where we were lying, and one of the crew landed with a jug to get some beer. A large basket at the end attracted Jorrocks's attention, and, doglike, he got up and began to hover about and inquire about their destination of the remaining crew, four in number. They were a cockney party of pleasure, it seemed, going to fish, for which purpose they had hired the boat, and laid in no end of bait for the fish, and prog for themselves. Jorrocks, though no great fisherman (not having, as he says, patience enough), is never at a loss if there is plenty of eating; and finding that they had got a great chicken pie, two tongues, and a tart, agreed to pay for the boat if they would let us in upon equal terms with themselves as to the provender, which was agreed to without a debate.

The messenger having returned with a gallon of ale, we embarked, and away we slid through the "glad waters of the dark blue sea." It was beautifully calm, scarcely a breeze appearing on the surface. After rowing for about an hour, one of the boatmen began to adjust the lines and bait the hooks; and having got into what he esteemed a favourite spot, he cast anchor and prepared for the sport. Each man was prepared with a long strong cord line, with a couple of hooks fastened to the ends of about a foot of whalebone, with a small leaden plummet in the centre. The hooks were baited with sandworms, and the instructions given were, after sounding the depth, to raise the hooks a little from the bottom, so as to let them hang conveniently for the fish to swallow.

Great was the excitement as we dropped the lines overboard, as to who should catch the first whale. Jorrocks and myself having taken the fishermen's lines from them, we all met upon pretty equal terms, much like gentlemen jockeys in a race. A dead silence ensued. "I have one!"

cried the youngest of our new friends. "Then pull him up," responded one of the boatmen, "gently, or you'll lose him." "And so I have, by God!

he's gone." "Well, never mind," said the boatmen, "let's see your bait--aye, he's got that, too. We'll put some fresh on--there you are again--all right. Now drop it gently, and when you find you've hooked him, wind the line quickly, but quietly, and be sure you don't jerk the hook out of his mouth at starting." "I've got one!" cries Jorrocks--"I've got one--now, my wig, if I can but land him. I have him, certainly--by Jove! he's a wopper, too, judging by the way he kicks. Oh, but it's no use, sir--come along--come along--here he is--doublets, by crikey--two, huzza! huzza! What fine ones!--young haddocks or codlings, I should call them--werry nice eating, I dare say--I'm blow'd if this arn't sport." "I have one," cries our young friend again. "So have I,"

shouts another; and just at the same moment I felt the magic touch of my bait, and in an instant I felt the thrilling stroke. The fish were absolutely voracious, and we had nothing short of a miraculous draught.

As fast as we could bait they swallowed, and we frequently pulled them up two at a time. Jorrocks was in ecstasies. "It was the finest sport he had ever encountered," and he kept halloaing and shouting every time he pulled them up, as though he were out with the Surrey. Having just hooked a second couple, he baited again and dropped his line. Two of our new friends had hooked fish at the same instant, and, in their eagerness to take them, overbalanced the boat, and Jorrocks, who was leaning over, went head foremost down into the deeps!

A terrible surprise came over us, and for a second or two we were so perfectly thunderstruck as to be incapable of rendering any assistance.

A great splash, followed by a slight gurgling sound, as the water bubbled and subsided o'er the place where he went down, was all that denoted the exit of our friend. After a considerable dive he rose to the surface, minus his hat and wig, but speedily disappeared. The anchor was weighed, oars put out, and the boat rowed to the spot where he last appeared. He rose a third time, but out of arms' reach, apparently lifeless, and just as he was sinking, most probably for ever, one of the men contrived to slip the end of an oar under his arm, and support him on the water until he got within reach from the boat.

The consternation when we got him on board was tremendous! Consisting, as we did, of two parties, neither knowing where the other had come from, we remained in a state of stupefied horror, indecision, and amazement for some minutes. The poor old man lay extended in the bottom of the boat, apparently lifeless, and even if the vital spark had not fled, there seemed no chance of reaching Herne Bay, whose pier, just then gilded by the rich golden rays of the setting sun, appeared in the far distance of the horizon. Where to row to was the question. No habitation where effective succour could be procured appeared on the shore, and to proceed without a certain destination was fruitless.

How helpless such a period as this makes a man feel! "Let's make for Grace's," at length exclaimed one of the boatmen, and the other catching at the proposition, the head of the boat was whipped round in an instant, and away we sped through the glassy-surfaced water. Not a word broke upon the sound of the splashing oars until, nearing the shore, one of the men, looking round, directed us to steer a little to the right, in the direction of a sort of dell or land-break, peculiar to the Isle of Thanet; and presently we ran the head of the boat upon the shingle, just where a small rivulet that, descending from the higher grounds, waters the thickly wooded ravine, and discharges itself into the sea.

The entrance of this dell is formed by a lofty precipitous rock, with a few stunted overhanging trees on one side, while the other is more open and softened in its aspect, and though steep and narrow at the mouth, gently slopes away into a brushwood-covered bank, which, stretching up the little valley, becomes lost in a forest of lofty oaks that close the inland prospect of the place. Here, to the left (just after one gets clear of the steeper part), commanding a view of the sea, and yet almost concealed from the eye of a careless traveller, was a lonely hut (the back wall formed by an excavation of the sandy rock) and the rest of clay, supporting a wooden roof, made of the hull of a castaway wreck, the abode of an old woman, called Grace Ganderne, well known throughout the whole Isle of Thanet as a poor harmless secluded widow, who subsisted partly on the charity of her neighbours, and partly on what she could glean from the smugglers, for the assistance she affords them in running their goods on that coast; and though she had been at work for forty years, she had never had the misfortune to be detected in the act, notwithstanding the many puncheons of spirits and many bales of goods fished out of the dark woods near her domicile.

To this spot it was, just as the "setting sun's pathetic light" had been succeeded by the grey twilight of the evening, that we bore the body of our unfortunate companion. The door was closed, but Grace being accustomed to nocturnal visitors, speedily answered the first summons and presented herself. She was evidently of immense age, being nearly bowed double, and her figure, with her silvery hair, confined by a blue checked cotton handkerchief, and palsied hand, as tremblingly she rested upon her staff and eyed the group, would have made a subject worthy of the pencil of a Landseer. She was wrapped in an old red cloak, with a large hood, and in her ears she wore a pair of long gold-dropped earrings, similar to what one sees among the Norman peasantry--the gift, as I afterwards learned, of a drowned lover. After scrutinising us for a second or two, during which time a large black cat kept walking to and fro, purring and rubbing itself against her, she held back the door and beckoned us to enter. The little place was cleanly swept up, and a faggot and some dry brushwood, which she had just lighted for the purpose of boiling her kettle, threw a gleam of light over the apartment, alike her bedchamber, parlour, and kitchen. Her curtainless bed at the side, covered with a coarse brown counterpane, was speedily prepared for our friend, into which being laid, our new acquaintances were dispatched in search of doctors, while the boatman and myself, under the direction of old Grace, applied ourselves to procuring such restoratives as her humble dwelling afforded.

"Let Grace alone," said the younger of the boatmen, seeing my affliction at the lamentable catastrophe, "if there be but a spark of life in the gentleman, she'll bring him round--many's the drowning man--aye, and wounded one, too--that's been brought in here during the stormy nights, and after fights with the coast-guard--that she's recovered."

Hot bottles, and hot flannels, and hot bricks were all applied, but in vain; and when I saw hot brandy, too, fail of having the desired effect, I gave my friend up as lost, and left the hut to vent my grief in the open air. Grace was more sanguine and persevering, and when I returned, after a half-hour's absence, I could distinctly feel a returning pulse.

Still, he gave no symptoms of animation, and it might only be the effect produced by the applications--as he remained in the same state for several hours. Fresh wood was added to the fire, and the boatmen having returned to their vessel, Grace and I proceeded to keep watch during the night, or until the arrival of a doctor. The poor old body, to whom scenes such as this were matter of frequent occurrence, seemed to think nothing of it, and proceeded to relate some of the wonderful escapes and recoveries she had witnessed, in the course of which she dropped many a sigh to the memory of some of her friends--the bold smugglers. There were no such "braw lads" now as formerly, she said, and were it not that "she was past eighty, and might as weel die in one place as anither, she wad gang back to the bonny blue hulls (hills) of her ain canny Scotland."

In the middle of one of her long stories I thought I perceived a movement of the bedclothes, and, going to look, I found a considerable increase in the quickness of pulsation, and also a generous sort of glow upon the skin. "An' ded I no tell ye I wad recover him?" said she, with a triumphant look. "Afore twa mair hours are o'er he'll spak to ye." "I hope so, I'm sure," said I, still almost doubting her. "Oh, trust to me," said she, "he'll come about--I've seen mony a chiel in a mickle worse state nor him recovered. Pray, is the ould gintleman your father or your grandfather?"

_Yorkshireman._ Why, I can't say that he's either exactly--but he's always been as good as a grandmother to me, I know.

Grace was right. About three o'clock in the morning a sort of revulsion of nature took place, and after having lain insensible, and to all appearance lifeless, all that time, he suddenly began to move. Casting his eye wildly around, he seemed lost in amazement. He muttered something, but what it was I could not catch.

"Lush-crib again, by Jove!" were the first words he articulated, and then, appearing to recollect himself, he added, "Oh, I forgot, I'm drowned--well drowned, too--can't be help'd, however--wasn't born to be hanged--and that seems clear." Thus he kept muttering and mumbling for an hour, until old Grace thinking him so far recovered as to remove all danger from sudden surprise, allowed me to take her seat at the bedside.

He looked at me long and intensely, but the light was not sufficiently strong to enable him to make out who I was.

"Jorrocks!" at length said I, taking him by the hand, "how are you, my old boy?" He started at the sound of his name. "Jorrocks," said he, "who's that?" "Why, the Yorkshireman; you surely have not forgotten your old friend and companion in a hundred fights!"

_Jorrocks._ Oh, Mr. York, it's you, is it? Much obliged by your inquiries, but I'm drowned.

_Yorkshireman._ Aye, but you are coming round, you'll be better before long.

_Jorrocks._ Never! Don't try to gammon me. You know as well as I do that I'm drowned, and a drowned man never recovers. No, no, it's all up with me, I feel. Set down, however, while I say a few words to you. You're a good fellow, and I've remembered you in my will, which you'll find in the strong port-wine-bin, along with nine pounds secret service money.

I hopes you'll think the legacy a fat one. I meant it as such. If you marry Belinda, I have left you a third of my fourth in the tea trade.

Always said you were cut out for a grocer. Let Tat sell my stud. An excellent man, Tat--proudish perhaps--at least, he never inwites me to none of his dinners--but still a werry good man. Let him sell them, I say, and mind give Snapdragon a charge or two of shot before he goes to the 'ammer, to prevent his roaring. Put up a plain monument to my memory--black or white marble, whichever's cheapest--but mind, no Cupids or seraphums, or none of those sort of things--quite plain--with just this upon it--_Hic jacet Jorrocks._ And now I'll give you a bit of news.

Neptune has appointed me huntsman to his pack of haddocks. Have two dolphins for my own riding, and a young lobster to look after them.

Lord Farebrother whips in to me--he rides a turtle. "And now, my good friend," said he, grasping my hands with redoubled energy, "do you think you could accomplish me a rump-steak and oyster sauce?--also a pot of stout?--but, mind, blow the froth off the top, for it's bad for the kidneys!"

THE END

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