The Romany Rye, by George Borrow

Chapter 18

Mr. Petulengro’s Device — The Leathern Purse — Consent to Purchase a Horse

As I returned along the road I met Mr. Petulengro and one of his companions, who told me that they were bound for the public-house; whereupon I informed Jasper how I had seen in the stable the horse which we had admired at the fair. ‘I shouldn’t wonder if you buy that horse after all, brother,’ said Mr. Petulengro. With a smile at the absurdity of such a supposition, I left him and his companion, and betook myself to the dingle. In the evening I received a visit from Mr. Petulengro, who forthwith commenced talking about the horse, which he had again seen, the landlord having shown it to him on learning that he was a friend of mine. He told me that the horse pleased him more than ever, he having examined his points with more accuracy than he had an opportunity of doing on the first occasion, concluding by pressing me to buy him. I begged him to desist from such foolish importunity, assuring him that I had never so much money in all my life as would enable me to purchase the horse. Whilst this discourse was going on, Mr. Petulengro and myself were standing together in the midst of the dingle. Suddenly he began to move round me in a very singular manner, making strange motions with his hands, and frightful contortions with his features, till I became alarmed, and asked him whether he had not lost his senses? Whereupon, ceasing his movements and contortions, he assured me that he had not, but had merely been seized with a slight dizziness, and then once more returned to the subject of the horse. Feeling myself very angry, I told him that if he continued persecuting me in this manner, I should be obliged to quarrel with him; adding, that I believed his only motive for asking me to buy the animal was to insult my poverty. ‘Pretty poverty,’ said he, ‘with fifty pounds in your pocket; however, I have heard say, that it is always the custom of your rich people to talk of their poverty, more especially when they wish to avoid laying out money.’ Surprised at his saying that I had fifty pounds in my pocket, I asked him what he meant; whereupon he told me that he was very sure that I had fifty pounds in my pocket, offering to lay me five shillings to that effect. ‘Done,’ said I; ‘I have scarcely more than the fifth part of what you say.’ ‘I know better, brother,’ said Mr. Petulengro; ‘and if you only pull out what you have in the pocket of your slop, I am sure you will have lost your wager.’ Putting my hand into the pocket, I felt something which I had never felt there before, and pulling it out, perceived that it was a clumsy leathern purse, which I found, on opening, contained four ten-pound notes, and several pieces of gold. ‘Didn’t I tell you so, brother?’ said Mr. Petulengro. ‘Now, in the first place, please to pay me the five shillings you have lost.’ ‘This is only a foolish piece of pleasantry,’ said I; ‘you put it into my pocket whilst you were moving about me, making faces like a distracted person. Here, take your purse back.’ ‘I?’ said Mr. Petulengro, ‘not I, indeed! don’t think I am such a fool. I have won my wager, so pay me the five shillings, brother.’ ‘Do drop this folly,’ said I, ‘and take your purse;’ and I flung it on the ground. ‘Brother,’ said Mr. Petulengro, ‘you were talking of quarrelling with me just now. I tell you now one thing, which is, that if you do not take back the purse, I will quarrel with you; and it shall be for good and all. I’ll drop your acquaintance, no longer call you my pal, and not even say sarshan 134 to you when I meet you by the roadside. Hir mi diblis 135 I never will.’ I saw by Jasper’s look and tone that he was in earnest, and, as I had really a regard for the strange being, I scarcely knew what to do. ‘Now, be persuaded, brother,’ said Mr. Petulengro, taking up the purse, and handing it to me; ‘be persuaded; put the purse into your pocket, and buy the horse.’ ‘Well,’ said I, ‘if I did so, would you acknowledge the horse to be yours, and receive the money again as soon as I should be able to repay you?’

‘I would, brother, I would,’ said he; ‘return me the money as soon as you please, provided you buy the horse.’ ‘What motive have you for wishing me to buy that horse?’ said I. ‘He’s to be sold for fifty pounds,’ said Jasper, ‘and is worth four times that sum; though, like many a splendid bargain, he is now going a begging; buy him, and I’m confident that, in a little time, a grand gentleman of your appearance may have anything he asks for him, and found a fortune by his means. Moreover, brother, I want to dispose of this fifty pounds in a safe manner. If you don’t take it, I shall fool it away in no time, perhaps at card-playing, for you saw how I was cheated by those blackguard jockeys the other day — we gyptians don’t know how to take care of money: our best plan when we have got a handful of guineas is to make buttons with them; but I have plenty of golden buttons, and don’t wish to be troubled with more, so you can do me no greater favour than vesting the money in this speculation, by which my mind will be relieved of considerable care and trouble for some time at least.’

Perceiving that I still hesitated, he said, ‘Perhaps, brother, you think that I did not come honestly by the money: by the honestest manner in the world, brother, for it is the money I earnt by fighting in the ring: I did not steal it, brother, nor did I get it by disposing of spavined donkeys, or glandered ponies — nor is it, brother, the profits of my wife’s witchcraft and dukkerin.’

‘But,’ said I, ‘you had better employ it in your traffic.’ ‘I have plenty of money for my traffic, independent of this capital,’ said Mr. Petulengro; ‘ay, brother, and enough besides to back the husband of my wife’s sister, Sylvester, against Slammocks of the Chong gav for twenty pounds, which I am thinking of doing.’

‘But,’ said I, ‘after all, the horse may have found another purchaser by this time.’ ‘Not he,’ said Mr. Petulengro, ‘there is nobody in this neighbourhood to purchase a horse like that, unless it be your lordship — so take the money, brother,’ and he thrust the purse into my hand. Allowing myself to be persuaded, I kept possession of the purse. ‘Are you satisfied now?’ said I. ‘By no means, brother,’ said Mr. Petulengro, ‘you will please to pay me the five shillings which you lost to me.’ ‘Why,’ said I, ‘the fifty pounds which I found in my pocket were not mine, but put in by yourself.’ ‘That’s nothing to do with the matter, brother,’ said Mr. Petulengro; ‘I betted you five shillings that you had fifty pounds in your pocket, which sum you had: I did not say that they were your own, but merely that you had fifty pounds; you will therefore pay me, brother, or I shall not consider you an honourable man.’ Not wishing to have any dispute about such a matter, I took five shillings out of my under pocket, and gave them to him. Mr. Petulengro took the money with great glee, observing —‘These five shillings I will take to the public-house forthwith, and spend in drinking with four of my brethren, and doing so will give me an opportunity of telling the landlord that I have found a customer for his horse, and that you are the man. It will be as well to secure the horse as soon as possible; for though the dook tells me that the horse is intended for you, I have now and then found that the dook is, like myself, somewhat given to lying.’

He then departed, and I remained alone in the dingle. I thought at first that I had committed a great piece of folly in consenting to purchase this horse; I might find no desirable purchaser for him until the money in my possession should be totally exhausted, and then I might be compelled to sell him for half the price I had given for him, or be even glad to find a person who would receive him at a gift; I should then remain sans horse, and indebted to Mr. Petulengro. Nevertheless, it was possible that I might sell the horse very advantageously, and by so doing, obtain a fund sufficient to enable me to execute some grand enterprise or other. My present way of life afforded no prospect of support, whereas the purchase of the horse did afford a possibility of bettering my condition, so, after all, had I not done right in consenting to purchase the horse? the purchase was to be made with another person’s property it is true, and I did not exactly like the idea of speculating with another person’s property, but Mr. Petulengro had thrust his money upon me, and if I lost his money, he could have no one but himself to blame; so I persuaded myself that I had upon the whole done right, and having come to that persuasion I soon began to enjoy the idea of finding myself on horseback again, and figured to myself all kinds of strange adventures which I should meet with on the roads before the horse and I should part company.

134 Properly sarshan, ‘how art thou?’

135 By God (Borrovian Romani).

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 14:18