« PreviousContinue »
THE speakers were close under the bow-window of the inn, and as the sash was open, Curiosity herself could not help overhearing their conversation. So I laid down Mrs. Opie's “Illustrations of Lying,” — which I had found lying in the inn window, - and took a glance at the partners in the dialogue. One of them was much older than the other, and much taller; he seemed to have grown like quick-set. The other was thick-set. “I tell you, Thomas,” said Quickset, “you are a flat. Before you’ve been a day in London, they’ll have the teeth out of your very head. As for me, I’ve been there twice, and know what’s what. Take my advice: never tell the truth on no account. Questions is only asked by way of pumping; and you ought always to put 'em on a wrong scent.” “But aunt is to send her man to meet me at the Old Bailey,” said Thickset, “and to show me to her house. Now if a strange man says to me, ‘Young man, are you Jacob Giles,' ain’t I to tell him P” “By no manner of means,” answered Quickset; “say you are quite another man. No one but a flat would tell his name to a stranger about London. You see how I answered them last night about what was in the wagon. Brooms, says I, nothing else. A flat would have told them there was the honey-pots underneath; but I’ve been to London before, and know a thing or two.” “London must be a desperate place,” said Thickset. “Mortal l’” said Quickset: “fobs and pockets are nothing ! Your watch is hardly safe if you carried it in your inside, and as for money — ” “I’m almost sorry I left Berkshire,” said Thickset. “Poo — poo,” said Quickset, “don’t be afeard. I'll look after ye; cheat me, and they’ve only one more to cheat. Only mind my advice. Don't say anything of your own head, and don't object to anything I say. If I say black's white, don't contradict. Mark that. Say everything as I say.” “I understand what you mean,” said Thickset; and with this lesson in his shock head, he began to busy himself about
A TEA GARDEN.
the wagon, while his comrade went to the stable for the horses. At last Old Ball emerged from the stable-door with the head of Old Dumpling resting on his crupper; when a yell rose from the rear of the wagon, that startled even Number 55, at the Bush Inn, at Staines, and brought the company running from the remotest box in its retired tea-garden. “In the name of everything,” said the landlord, “what’s the matter?” “It’s gone — all gone, by goles!” cried Thickset, with a bewildered look at Quickset, as if doubtful whether he ought not to have said it was not gone. “You don't mean to say the honey-pots l’” said Quickset, with some alarm, and letting go the bridle of Old Ball, who very quietly led Old Dumpling back again into the stable; “you don't mean to say the honey-pots P” “I don't mean to say the honey-pots,” said Thickset, literally following the instructions he had received. “What made you screech out, then?” said Quickset, appealing to Thickset. “What made you screech out, then?” said Thickset, appealing to Quickset, and determined to say as he said. “The fellow 's drunk,” said the landlord; “the ale's got into his head.” “Ale, – what ale has he had 2* inquired Quickset, rather anxiously. “Ale, — what ale have I had 2" echoed Thickset, looking sober with all his might. “He’s not drunk,” shouted Quickset; “there’s something the matter.” “I’m not drunk; there is something the matter,” bellowed Thickset, and with his forefinger he pointed to the wagon. “You don't mean to say the honey,” said Quickset, his voice falling. “I don't mean to say the honey,” said Thickset, his caution rising. The gesture of Thickset, however, had conveyed some vague notion of danger to his companion. With the agility of a cat he climbed on the wagon, and with the superhuman activity of a demon soon pitched down every bundle of besoms. There is a proverb that “new brooms sweep clean,” and they certainly seemed to have swept every particle of honey clean out of the wagon. Quickset was thunderstruck; he stood gazing at the empty vehicle in silence; while his hands wandered wildly through his hair, as if in search of the absent combs. When he found words at last, they were no part of the Litany. Words, however, did not suffice to vent his passion; and he began to stamp and dance about, till the mud of the stableyard flew round like anything you like. “A plague take him and his honey-pots, too,” said the chambermaid, as she looked at a new pattern on her best gingham. “It’s no matter,” said Quickset, “I won't lose it. The house must stand the damage. Mr. Bush, I shall look to you for the money.” “He shall look to you for the money,” da-capoed Thickset. “You may look till doomsday,” said the landlord. “It’s all your own fault; I thought nobody would steal brooms. If you had told me there was honey, I would have put the wagon under lock and key.” “Why, there was honey,” said Quickset and Thickset. “I don't know that,” said Mr. Bush; “you said last night in the kitchen there was nothing but brooms.” g “I heard him,” said John Ostler; “I’ll take my oath to his very words!” “And so will I,” roared the chambermaid, glancing at her damaged gown. “What of that ?” said Quickset; “I know I said there was nothing but brooms.” “I know,” said Thickset, “I’m positive he said there was nothing but brooms.” “He confesses it himself.” said the landlady. “And his own man speaks agin him,” said the chambermaid. “I saw the wagon come in, and it didn't seem to have any honey in it,” said the head waiter. “Maybe the flies have eaten it,” said the postilion. “I’ve seen two chaps the very moral of them two at the bar of the Old Bailey,” said Boots. “It’s a swindle, it is,” said the landlady, “and Mr. Bush shan’t pay a farthing.” “They deserve tossing in a blanket,” said the chambermaid. “Duck 'em in the horsepond,” shouted John Ostler. “I think,” whispered Thickset, “they are making themselves up for mischief!” There was no time to be lost. Quickset again lugged Old Ball and Old Dumpling from the stable, while his companion tossed the brooms into the wagon. As soon as possible they drove out of the unlucky yard, and as they passed under the arch, I heard for the last time the voice of Thickset: –
“You’ve been to London before, and to be sure know best ; but somehow, to my mind, the telling the untruth don't seem to answer.”
The only reply was a thwack, like the report of a pistol, on the crupper of each of the horses. The poor animals broke directly into something like a canter; and as the wagon turned a corner of the street, I shut down the sash, and resumed my “Illustrations of Lying.”