Lavengro, by George Borrow

Chapter 88

A Radical — Simple-looking man — Church of England — The President — Aristocracy — Gin and water — Mending the roads — Persecuting Church — Simon de Montfort — Broken bells — Get up — Not for the Pope — Quay of New York — Mumpers’ Dingle — No wish to fight — First draught — A poor pipe — Half-a-crown broke.

The individual whom I supposed to be a Radical, after a short pause, again uplifted his voice; he was rather a strong-built fellow of about thirty, with an ill-favoured countenance, a white hat on his head, a snuff-coloured coat on his back, and when he was not speaking, a pipe in his mouth. ‘Who would live in such a country as England?’ he shouted.

‘There is no country like America,’ said his nearest neighbour, a man also in a white hat, and of a very ill-favoured countenance — ‘there is no country like America,’ said he, withdrawing a pipe from his mouth; ‘I think I shall — ’ and here he took a draught from a jug, the contents of which he appeared to have in common with the other, — ‘go to America one of these days myself.’

‘Poor old England is not such a bad country, after all,’ said a third, a simple-looking man in a labouring dress, who sat smoking a pipe without anything before him. ‘If there was but a little more work to be got, I should have nothing to say against her; I hope, however — ’

‘You hope! who cares what you hope?’ interrupted the first, in a savage tone; ‘you are one of those sneaking hounds who are satisfied with dogs’ wages — a bit of bread and a kick. Work, indeed! who, with the spirit of a man, would work for a country where there is neither liberty of speech nor of action? a land full of beggarly aristocracy, hungry borough-mongers, insolent parsons, and “their . . . wives and daughters,” as William Cobbett says, in his “Register.”’

‘Ah, the Church of England has been a source of incalculable mischief to these realms,’ said another.

The person who uttered these words sat rather aloof from the rest; he was dressed in a long black surtout. I could not see much of his face, partly owing to his keeping it very much directed to the ground, and partly owing to a large slouched hat which he wore; I observed, however, that his hair was of a reddish tinge. On the table near him was a glass and spoon.

‘You are quite right,’ said the first, alluding to what this last had said, ‘the Church of England has done incalculable mischief here. I value no religion three halfpence, for I believe in none; but the one that I hate most is the Church of England; so when I get to New York, after I have shown the fine fellows on the quay a spice of me, by . . . the King, I’ll toss up my hat again, and . . . the Church of England too.’

‘And suppose the people of New York should clap you in the stocks?’ said I.

These words drew upon me the attention of the whole four. The Radical and his companion stared at me ferociously; the man in black gave me a peculiar glance from under his slouched hat; the simple-looking man in the labouring dress laughed.

‘What are you laughing at, you fool?’ said the Radical, turning and looking at the other, who appeared to be afraid of him; ‘hold your noise; and a pretty fellow, you,’ said he, looking at me, ‘to come here, and speak against the great American nation.’

‘I speak against the great American nation!’ said I; ‘I rather paid them a compliment.’

‘By supposing they would put me in the stocks. Well, I call it abusing them, to suppose they would do any such thing — stocks, indeed! — there are no stocks in all the land. Put me in the stocks! why, the President will come down to the quay, and ask me to dinner, as soon as he hears what I have said about the King and Church.’

‘I shouldn’t wonder,’ said I, ‘if you go to America you will say of the President and country what now you say of the King and Church, and cry out for somebody to send you back to England.’

The Radical dashed his pipe to pieces against the table. ‘I tell you what, young fellow, you are a spy of the aristocracy, sent here to kick up a disturbance.’

‘Kicking up a disturbance,’ said I, ‘is rather inconsistent with the office of spy. If I were a spy, I should hold my head down, and say nothing.’

The man in black partially raised his head, and gave me another peculiar glance.

‘Well, if you aren’t sent to spy, you are sent to bully, to prevent people speaking, and to run down the great American nation; but you shan’t bully me. I say, down with the aristocracy, the beggarly British aristocracy. Come, what have you to say to that?’

‘Nothing,’ said I.

‘Nothing!’ repeated the Radical.

‘No,’ said I, ‘down with them as soon as you can.’

‘As soon as I can! I wish I could. But I can down with a bully of theirs. Come, will you fight for them?’

‘No,’ said I.

‘You won’t?

‘No,’ said I; ‘though, from what I have seen of them, I should say they are tolerably able to fight for themselves.’

‘You won’t fight for them,’ said the Radical triumphantly; ‘I thought so; all bullies, especially those of the aristocracy, are cowards. Here, landlord,’ said he, raising his voice, and striking against the table with the jug, ‘some more ale — he won’t fight for his friends.’

‘A white feather,’ said his companion.

‘He! he!’ tittered the man in black.

‘Landlord, landlord,’ shouted the Radical, striking the table with the jug louder than before. ‘Who called?’ said the landlord, coming in at last. ‘Fill this jug again,’ said the other, ‘and be quick about it.’ ‘Does any one else want anything?’ said the landlord. ‘Yes,’ said the man in black; ‘you may bring me another glass of gin and water.’ ‘Cold?’ said the landlord. ‘Yes,’ said the man in black, ‘with a lump of sugar in it.’

‘Gin and water cold, with a lump of sugar in it,’ said I, and struck the table with my fist.

‘Take some?’ said the landlord, inquiringly.

‘No,’ said I, ‘only something came into my head.’

‘He’s mad,’ said the man in black.

‘Not he,’ said the Radical. ‘He’s only shamming; he knows his master is here, and therefore has recourse to these manoeuvres, but it won’t do. Come, landlord, what are you staring at? Why don’t you obey your orders? Keeping your customers waiting in this manner is not the way to increase your business.’

The landlord looked at the Radical, and then at me. At last, taking the jug and glass, he left the apartment, and presently returned with each filled with its respective liquor. He placed the jug with beer before the Radical, and the glass with the gin and water before the man in black, and then, with a wink to me, he sauntered out.

‘Here is your health, sir,’ said the man of the snuff-coloured coat, addressing himself to the one in black; ‘I honour you for what you said about the Church of England. Every one who speaks against the Church of England has my warm heart. Down with it, I say, and may the stones of it be used for mending the roads, as my friend William says in his Register.’

The man in black, with a courteous nod of his head, drank to the man in the snuff-coloured coat. ‘With respect to the steeples,’ said he, ‘I am not altogether of your opinion; they might be turned to better account than to serve to mend the roads; they might still be used as places of worship, but not for the worship of the Church of England. I have no fault to find with the steeples, it is the Church itself which I am compelled to arraign; but it will not stand long, the respectable part of its ministers are already leaving it. It is a bad Church, a persecuting Church.’

‘Whom does it persecute?’ said I.

The man in black glanced at me slightly, and then replied slowly, ‘The Catholics.’

‘And do those whom you call Catholics never persecute?’ said I.

‘Never,’ said the man in black.

‘Did you ever read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs?’ said I.

‘He! he!’ tittered the man in black; ‘there is not a word of truth in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.’

‘Ten times more than in the Flos Sanctorum,’ said I.

The man in black looked at me, but made no answer.

‘And what say you to the Massacre of the Albigenses and the Vaudois, “whose bones lie scattered on the cold Alp,” or the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes?’

The man in black made no answer.

‘Go to,’ said I; ‘it is because the Church of England is not a persecuting church, that those whom you call the respectable part are leaving her; it is because they can’t do with the poor Dissenters what Simon de Montfort did with the Albigenses, and the cruel Piedmontese with the Vaudois, that they turn to bloody Rome; the Pope will no doubt welcome them, for the Pope, do you see, being very much in want, will welcome — ’

‘Hollo!’ said the Radical, interfering, ‘what are you saying about the Pope? I say, hurrah for the Pope; I value no religion three halfpence, as I said before, but if I were to adopt any, it should be the Popish as it’s called, because I conceives the Popish to be the grand enemy of the Church of England, of the beggarly aristocracy, and the borough-monger system, so I won’t hear the Pope abused while I am by. Come, don’t look fierce. You won’t fight, you know, I have proved it; but I will give you another chance — I will fight for the Pope, will you fight against him?’

‘Oh dear me, yes,’ said I, getting up and stepping forward. ‘I am a quiet peaceable young man, and, being so, am always ready to fight against the Pope — the enemy of all peace and quiet; to refuse fighting for the aristocracy is a widely different thing from refusing to fight against the Pope; so come on, if you are disposed to fight for him. To the Pope broken bells, to Saint James broken shells. No Popish vile oppression, but the Protestant succession. Confusion to the Groyne, hurrah for the Boyne, for the army at Clonmel, and the Protestant young gentlemen who live there as well.’

‘An Orangeman,’ said the man in black.

‘Not a Platitude,’ said I.

The man in black gave a slight start.

‘Amongst that family,’ said I, ‘no doubt, something may be done, but amongst the Methodist preachers I should conceive that the success would not be great.’

The man in black sat quite still.

‘Especially amongst those who have wives,’ I added.

The man in black stretched his hand towards his gin and water.

‘However,’ said I, ‘we shall see what the grand movement will bring about, and the results of the lessons in elocution.’

The man in black lifted the glass up to his mouth, and, in doing so, let the spoon fall.

‘But what has this to do with the main question?’ said I; ‘I am waiting here to fight against the Pope.’

‘Come, Hunter,’ said the companion of the man in the snuff coloured coat, ‘get up, and fight for the Pope.’

‘I don’t care for the young fellow,’ said the man in the snuff-coloured coat.

‘I know you don’t,’ said the other, ‘so get up, and serve him out.’

‘I could serve out three like him,’ said the man in the snuff-coloured coat.

‘So much the better for you,’ said the other, ‘the present work will be all the easier for you, get up, and serve him out at once.’

The man in the snuff-coloured coat did not stir.

‘Who shows the white feather now?’ said the simple-looking man.

‘He! he! he!’ tittered the man in black.

‘Who told you to interfere?’ said the Radical, turning ferociously towards the simple-looking man; ‘say another word and I’ll — ’ ‘And you!’ said he, addressing himself to the man in black, ‘a pretty fellow you to turn against me, after I had taken your part. I tell you what, you may fight for yourself. I’ll see you and your Pope in the pit of Eldon before I fight for either of you, so make the most of it.’

‘Then you won’t fight?’ said I.

‘Not for the Pope,’ said the Radical; ‘I’ll see the Pope — ’

‘Dear me!’ said I, ‘not fight for the Pope, whose religion you would turn to, if you were inclined for any. I see how it is, you are not fond of fighting; but I’ll give you another chance — you were abusing the Church of England just now: I’ll fight for it — will you fight against it?’

‘Come, Hunter,’ said the other, ‘get up, and fight against the Church of England.’

‘I have no particular quarrel against the Church of England,’ said the man in the snuff-coloured coat, ‘my quarrel is with the aristocracy. If I said anything against the Church, it was merely for a bit of corollary, as Master William Cobbett would say; the quarrel with the Church belongs to this fellow in black, so let him carry it on. However,’ he continued suddenly, ‘I won’t slink from the matter either; it shall never be said by the fine fellows on the quay of New York that I wouldn’t fight against the Church of England. So down with the beggarly aristocracy, the Church, and the Pope to the bottom of the pit of Eldon, and may the Pope fall first, and the others upon him.’

Thereupon, dashing his hat on the table, he placed himself in an attitude of offence and rushed forward. He was, as I have said before, a powerful fellow, and might have proved a dangerous antagonist, more especially to myself, who, after my recent encounter with the Flaming Tinman, and my wrestlings with the evil one, was in anything but fighting order. Any collision, however, was prevented by the landlord, who, suddenly appearing, thrust himself between us. ‘There shall be no fighting here,’ said he; ‘no one shall fight in this house, except it be with myself; so if you two have anything to say to each other, you had better go into the field behind the house. But, you fool,’ said he, pushing Hunter violently on the breast, ‘do you know whom you are going to tackle with? — this is the young chap that beat Blazing Bosville, only as late as yesterday, in Mumpers’ Dingle. Grey Moll told me all about it last night, when she came for some brandy for her husband, who, she said, had been half killed; and she described the young man to me so closely that I knew him at once, that is, as soon as I saw how his left hand was bruised, for she told me he was a left-hand hitter. Aren’t it all true, young man? Aren’t you he that beat Flaming Bosville, in Mumpers’ Dingle?’ ‘I never beat Flaming Bosville,’ said I, ‘he beat himself. Had he not struck his hand against a tree, I shouldn’t be here at the present moment.’ ‘Hear, hear!’ said the landlord, ‘now that’s just as it should be; I like a modest man, for, as the parson says, nothing sits better upon a young man than modesty. I remember, when I was young, fighting with Tom of Hopton, the best man that ever pulled off coat in England. I remember, too, that I won the battle; for I happened to hit Tom of Hopton in the mark, as he was coming in, so that he lost his wind, and falling squelch on the ground, do ye see, he lost the battle, though I am free to confess that he was a better man than myself; indeed, the best man that ever fought in England; yet still, I won the battle, as every customer of mine, and everybody within twelve miles round, has heard over and over again. Now, Mr. Hunter, I have one thing to say, if you choose to go into the field behind the house, and fight the young man, you can. I’ll back him for ten pounds; but no fighting in my kitchen — because why? I keeps a decent kind of an establishment.’

‘I have no wish to fight the young man,’ said Hunter; ‘more especially as he has nothing to say for the aristocracy. If he chose to fight for them, indeed — but he won’t, I know; for I see he’s a decent, respectable young man; and, after all, fighting is a blackguard way of settling a dispute; so I have no wish to fight; however, there is one thing I’ll do,’ said he, uplifting his fist, ‘I’ll fight this fellow in black here for half a crown, or for nothing, if he pleases; it was he that got up the last dispute between me and the young man, with his Pope and his nonsense; so I will fight him for anything he pleases, and perhaps the young man will be my second; whilst you — ’

‘Come, Doctor,’ said the landlord, ‘or whatsoever you be, will you go into the field with Hunter? I’ll second you, only you must back yourself. I’ll lay five pounds on Hunter, if you are inclined to back yourself; and will help you to win it as far, do you see, as a second can; because why? I always likes to do the fair thing.’

‘Oh, I have no wish to fight,’ said the man in black, hastily; ‘fighting is not my trade. If I have given any offence, I beg anybody’s pardon.’

‘Landlord,’ said I, ‘what have I to pay?

‘Nothing at all,’ said the landlord; ‘glad to see you. This is the first time that you have been at my house, and I never charge new customers, at least customers such as you, anything for the first draught. You’ll come again, I daresay; shall always be glad to see you. I won’t take it,’ said he, as I put sixpence on the table; ‘I won’t take it.’

‘Yes, you shall,’ said I; ‘but not in payment for anything I have had myself: it shall serve to pay for a jug of ale for that gentleman,’ said I, pointing to the simple-looking individual; ‘he is smoking a poor pipe. I do not mean to say that a pipe is a bad thing; but a pipe without ale, do you see — ’

‘Bravo!’ said the landlord, ‘that’s just the conduct I like.’

‘Bravo!’ said Hunter. ‘I shall be happy to drink with the young man whenever I meet him at New York, where, do you see, things are better managed than here.’

‘If I have given offence to anybody,’ said the man in black, ‘I repeat that I ask pardon, — more especially to the young gentleman, who was perfectly right to stand up for his religion, just as I— not that I am of any particular religion, no more than this honest gentleman here,’ bowing to Hunter; ‘but I happen to know something of the Catholics — several excellent friends of mine are Catholics — and of a surety the Catholic religion is an ancient religion, and a widely-extended religion, though it certainly is not a universal religion, but it has of late made considerable progress, even amongst those nations who have been particularly opposed to it — amongst the Prussians and the Dutch, for example, to say nothing of the English; and then, in the East, amongst the Persians, amongst the Armenians.’

‘The Armenians,’ said I; ‘oh dear me, the Armenians — ’

‘Have you anything to say about those people, sir?’ said the man in black, lifting up his glass to his mouth.

‘I have nothing further to say,’ said I, ‘than that the roots of Ararat are occasionally found to be deeper than those of Rome.’

‘There’s half-a-crown broke,’ said the landlord, as the man in black let fall the glass, which was broken to pieces on the floor. ‘You will pay me the damage, friend, before you leave this kitchen. I like to see people drink freely in my kitchen, but not too freely, and I hate breakages; because why? I keeps a decent kind of an establishment.’

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/borrow/george/lavengro/chapter88.html

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