Lavengro, by George Borrow

Chapter 87

Hubbub of voices — No offence — Nodding — The guests.

The kitchen of the public-house was a large one, and many people were drinking in it; there was a confused hubbub of voices.

I sat down on a bench behind a deal table, of which there were three or four in the kitchen; presently a bulky man, in a green coat of the Newmarket cut, and without a hat, entered, and observing me, came up, and in rather a gruff tone cried, ‘Want anything, young fellow?’

‘Bring me a jug of ale,’ said I, ‘if you are the master, as I suppose you are, by that same coat of yours, and your having no hat on your head.’

‘Don’t be saucy, young fellow,’ said the landlord, for such he was; ‘don’t be saucy, or — ’ Whatever he intended to say he left unsaid, for fixing his eyes upon one of my hands, which I had placed by chance upon the table, he became suddenly still.

This was my left hand, which was raw and swollen, from the blows dealt on a certain hard skull in a recent combat. ‘What do you mean by staring at my hand so?’ said I, withdrawing it from the table.

‘No offence, young man, no offence,’ said the landlord, in a quite altered tone; ‘but the sight of your hand — ’ then observing that our conversation began to attract the notice of the guests in the kitchen, he interrupted himself, saying in an undertone, ‘But mum’s the word for the present, I will go and fetch the ale.’

In about a minute he returned, with a jug of ale foaming high. ‘Here’s your health,’ said he, blowing off the foam, and drinking; but perceiving that I looked rather dissatisfied, he murmured, ‘All’s right, I glory in you; but mum’s the word.’ Then, placing the jug on the table, he gave me a confidential nod, and swaggered out of the room.

What can the silly impertinent fellow mean? thought I; but the ale was now before me, and I hastened to drink, for my weakness was great, and my mind was full of dark thoughts, the remains of the indescribable horror of the preceding night. It may kill me, thought I, as I drank deep — but who cares? anything is better than what I have suffered. I drank deep, and then leaned back against the wall: it appeared as if a vapour was stealing up into my brain, gentle and benign, soothing and stifling the horror and the fear; higher and higher it mounted, and I felt nearly overcome; but the sensation was delicious, compared with that I had lately experienced, and now I felt myself nodding; and, bending down, I laid my head on the table on my folded hands.

And in that attitude I remained some time, perfectly unconscious. At length, by degrees, perception returned, and I lifted up my head. I felt somewhat dizzy and bewildered, but the dark shadow had withdrawn itself from me. And now once more I drank of the jug; this second draught did not produce an overpowering effect upon me — it revived and strengthened me — I felt a new man.

I looked around me; the kitchen had been deserted by the greater part of the guests; besides myself, only four remained; these were seated at the farther end. One was haranguing fiercely and eagerly; he was abusing England, and praising America. At last he exclaimed, ‘So when I gets to New York, I will toss up my hat, and damn the King.’

That man must be a Radical, thought I.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/borrow/george/lavengro/chapter87.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:32