Wild Wales, by George Borrow

Chapter 45

Inn at Beth Gelert — Delectable Company — Lieutenant P-.

THE inn or hotel at Beth Gelert was a large and commodious building, and was anything but thronged with company; what company, however, there was, was disagreeable enough, perhaps more so than that in which I had been the preceding evening, which was composed of the scum of Manchester and Liverpool; the company amongst which I now was, consisted of seven or eight individuals, two of them were military puppies, one a tallish fellow, who though evidently upwards of thirty, affected the airs of a languishing girl, and would fain have made people believe that he was dying of ENNUI and lassitude. The other was a short spuddy fellow, with a broad ugly face and with spectacles on his nose, who talked very consequentially about “the service” and all that, but whose tone of voice was coarse and his manner that of an under-bred person; then there was an old fellow about sixty-five, a civilian, with a red carbuncled face; he was father of the spuddy military puppy, on whom he occasionally cast eyes of pride and almost adoration, and whose sayings he much applauded, especially certain DOUBLES ENTENDRES, to call them by no harsher term, directed to a fat girl, weighing some fifteen stone, who officiated in the coffee-room as waiter. Then there was a creature to do justice to whose appearance would require the pencil of a Hogarth. He was about five feet three inches and a quarter high, and might have weighed, always provided a stone weight had been attached to him, about half as much as the fat girl. His countenance was cadaverous and was eternally agitated by something between a grin and a simper. He was dressed in a style of superfine gentility, and his skeleton fingers were bedizened with tawdry rings. His conversation was chiefly about his bile and his secretions, the efficacy of licorice in producing a certain effect, and the expediency of changing one’s linen at least three times a day; though had he changed his six, I should have said that the purification of the last shirt would have been no sinecure to the laundress. His accent was decidedly Scotch: he spoke familiarly of Scott and one or two other Scotch worthies, and more than once insinuated that he was a member of Parliament. With respect to the rest of the company I say nothing, and for the very sufficient reason that, unlike the above described batch, they did not seem disposed to be impertinent towards me.

Eager to get out of such society I retired early to bed. As I left the room the diminutive Scotch individual was describing to the old simpleton, who on the ground of the other’s being a “member,” was listening to him with extreme attention, how he was labouring under an access of bile owing to his having left his licorice somewhere or other. I passed a quiet night, and in the morning breakfasted, paid my bill, and departed. As I went out of the coffee-room the spuddy, broad-faced military puppy with spectacles was vociferating to the languishing military puppy, and to his old simpleton of a father, who was listening to him with his usual look of undisguised admiration, about the absolute necessity of kicking Lieutenant P- out of the army for having disgraced “the service.” Poor P-, whose only crime was trying to defend himself with fist and candlestick from the manual attacks of his brutal messmates.


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