The Jolly Sandboys was a small road-side inn of pretty ancient date, with _ign, representing three Sandboys increasing their jollity with as many jug_f ale and bags of gold, creaking and swinging on its post on the opposit_ide of the road. As the travellers had observed that day many indications o_heir drawing nearer and nearer to the race town, such as gipsy camps, cart_aden with gambling booths and their appurtenances, itinerant showmen o_arious kinds, and beggars and trampers of every degree, all wending their wa_n the same direction, Mr Codlin was fearful of finding the accommodation_orestalled; this fear increasing as he diminished the distance betwee_imself and the hostelry, he quickened his pace, and notwithstanding th_urden he had to carry, maintained a round trot until he reached th_hreshold. Here he had the gratification of finding that his fears wer_ithout foundation, for the landlord was leaning against the door-post lookin_azily at the rain, which had by this time begun to descend heavily, and n_inkling of cracked bell, nor boisterous shout, nor noisy chorus, gave note o_ompany within.
'All alone?' said Mr Codlin, putting down his burden and wiping his forehead.
'All alone as yet,' rejoined the landlord, glancing at the sky, 'but we shal_ave more company to-night I expect. Here one of you boys, carry that sho_nto the barn. Make haste in out of the wet, Tom; when it came on to rain _old 'em to make the fire up, and there's a glorious blaze in the kitchen, _an tell you.'
Mr Codlin followed with a willing mind, and soon found that the landlord ha_ot commended his preparations without good reason. A mighty fire was blazin_n the hearth and roaring up the wide chimney with a cheerful sound, which _arge iron cauldron, bubbling and simmering in the heat, lent its pleasant ai_o swell. There was a deep red ruddy blush upon the room, and when th_andlord stirred the fire, sending the flames skipping and leaping up—when h_ook off the lid of the iron pot and there rushed out a savoury smell, whil_he bubbling sound grew deeper and more rich, and an unctuous steam cam_loating out, hanging in a delicious mist above their heads—when he did this, Mr Codlin's heart was touched. He sat down in the chimney-corner and smiled.
Mr Codlin sat smiling in the chimney-corner, eyeing the landlord as with _oguish look he held the cover in his hand, and, feigning that his doing s_as needful to the welfare of the cookery, suffered the delightful steam t_ickle the nostrils of his guest. The glow of the fire was upon the landlord'_ald head, and upon his twinkling eye, and upon his watering mouth, and upo_is pimpled face, and upon his round fat figure. Mr Codlin drew his sleev_cross his lips, and said in a murmuring voice, 'What is it?'
'It's a stew of tripe,' said the landlord smacking his lips, 'and cow-heel,'
smacking them again, 'and bacon,' smacking them once more, 'and steak,'
smacking them for the fourth time, 'and peas, cauliflowers, new potatoes, an_parrow-grass, all working up together in one delicious gravy.' Having come t_he climax, he smacked his lips a great many times, and taking a long heart_niff of the fragrance that was hovering about, put on the cover again wit_he air of one whose toils on earth were over.
'At what time will it be ready?' asked Mr Codlin faintly.
'It'll be done to a turn,' said the landlord looking up to the clock—and th_ery clock had a colour in its fat white face, and looked a clock for joll_andboys to consult—'it'll be done to a turn at twenty-two minutes befor_leven.'
'Then,' said Mr Codlin, 'fetch me a pint of warm ale, and don't let nobod_ring into the room even so much as a biscuit till the time arrives.'
Nodding his approval of this decisive and manly course of procedure, th_andlord retired to draw the beer, and presently returning with it, applie_imself to warm the same in a small tin vessel shaped funnel-wise, for th_onvenience of sticking it far down in the fire and getting at the brigh_laces. This was soon done, and he handed it over to Mr Codlin with tha_reamy froth upon the surface which is one of the happy circumstance_ttendant on mulled malt.
Greatly softened by this soothing beverage, Mr Codlin now bethought him of hi_ompanions, and acquainted mine host of the Sandboys that their arrival migh_e shortly looked for. The rain was rattling against the windows and pourin_own in torrents, and such was Mr Codlin's extreme amiability of mind, that h_ore than once expressed his earnest hope that they would not be so foolish a_o get wet.
At length they arrived, drenched with the rain and presenting a most miserabl_ppearance, notwithstanding that Short had sheltered the child as well as h_ould under the skirts of his own coat, and they were nearly breathless fro_he haste they had made. But their steps were no sooner heard upon the roa_han the landlord, who had been at the outer door anxiously watching for thei_oming, rushed into the kitchen and took the cover off. The effect wa_lectrical. They all came in with smiling faces though the wet was drippin_rom their clothes upon the floor, and Short's first remark was, 'What _elicious smell!'
It is not very difficult to forget rain and mud by the side of a cheerfu_ire, and in a bright room. They were furnished with slippers and such dr_arments as the house or their own bundles afforded, and ensconcin_hemselves, as Mr Codlin had already done, in the warm chimney-corner, soo_orgot their late troubles or only remembered them as enhancing the delight_f the present time. Overpowered by the warmth and comfort and the fatigu_hey had undergone, Nelly and the old man had not long taken their seats here, when they fell asleep.
'Who are they?' whispered the landlord. Short shook his head, and wished h_new himself. 'Don't you know?' asked the host, turning to Mr Codlin. 'Not I,'
he replied. 'They're no good, I suppose.'
'They're no harm,' said Short. 'Depend upon that. I tell you what— it's plai_hat the old man an't in his right mind—'
'If you haven't got anything newer than that to say,' growled Mr Codlin, glancing at the clock, 'you'd better let us fix our minds upon the supper, an_ot disturb us.'
'Here me out, won't you?' retorted his friend. 'It's very plain to me, besides, that they're not used to this way of life. Don't tell me that tha_andsome child has been in the habit of prowling about as she's done thes_ast two or three days. I know better.'
'Well, who DOES tell you she has?' growled Mr Codlin, again glancing at th_lock and from it to the cauldron, 'can't you think of anything more suitabl_o present circumstances than saying things and then contradicting 'em?'
'I wish somebody would give you your supper,' returned Short, 'for there'll b_o peace till you've got it. Have you seen how anxious the old man is to ge_n—always wanting to be furder away— furder away. Have you seen that?'
'Ah! what then?' muttered Thomas Codlin.
'This, then,' said Short. 'He has given his friends the slip. Mind what _ay—he has given his friends the slip, and persuaded this delicate youn_reetur all along of her fondness for him to be his guide and travellin_ompanion—where to, he knows no more than the man in the moon. Now I'm not _oing to stand that.'
'YOU'RE not a going to stand that!' cried Mr Codlin, glancing at the cloc_gain and pulling his hair with both hands in a kind of frenzy, but whethe_ccasioned by his companion's observation or the tardy pace of Time, it wa_ifficult to determine. 'Here's a world to live in!'
'I,' repeated Short emphatically and slowly, 'am not a-going to stand it. I a_ot a-going to see this fair young child a falling into bad hands, and gettin_mong people that she's no more fit for, than they are to get among angels a_heir ordinary chums. Therefore when they dewelope an intention of partin_ompany from us, I shall take measures for detaining of 'em, and restoring 'e_o their friends, who I dare say have had their disconsolation pasted up o_very wall in London by this time.'
'Short,' said Mr Codlin, who with his head upon his hands, and his elbows o_is knees, had been shaking himself impatiently from side to side up to thi_oint and occasionally stamping on the ground, but who now looked up wit_ager eyes; 'it's possible that there may be uncommon good sense in wha_ou've said. If there is, and there should be a reward, Short, remember tha_e're partners in everything!'
His companion had only time to nod a brief assent to this position, for th_hild awoke at the instant. They had drawn close together during the previou_hispering, and now hastily separated and were rather awkwardly endeavourin_o exchange some casual remarks in their usual tone, when strange footstep_ere heard without, and fresh company entered.
These were no other than four very dismal dogs, who came pattering in on_fter the other, headed by an old bandy dog of particularly mournful aspect, who, stopping when the last of his followers had got as far as the door, erected himself upon his hind legs and looked round at his companions, wh_mmediately stood upon their hind legs, in a grave and melancholy row. Nor wa_his the only remarkable circumstance about these dogs, for each of them wor_ kind of little coat of some gaudy colour trimmed with tarnished spangles, and one of them had a cap upon his head, tied very carefully under his chin, which had fallen down upon his nose and completely obscured one eye; add t_his, that the gaudy coats were all wet through and discoloured with rain, an_hat the wearers were splashed and dirty, and some idea may be formed of th_nusual appearance of these new visitors to the Jolly Sandboys.
Neither Short nor the landlord nor Thomas Codlin, however, was in the leas_urprised, merely remarking that these were Jerry's dogs and that Jerry coul_ot be far behind. So there the dogs stood, patiently winking and gaping an_ooking extremely hard at the boiling pot, until Jerry himself appeared, whe_hey all dropped down at once and walked about the room in their natura_anner. This posture it must be confessed did not much improve thei_ppearance, as their own personal tails and their coat tails—both capita_hings in their way—did not agree together.
Jerry, the manager of these dancing dogs, was a tall black- whiskered man in _elveteen coat, who seemed well known to the landlord and his guests an_ccosted them with great cordiality. Disencumbering himself of a barrel orga_hich he placed upon a chair, and retaining in his hand a small whip wherewit_o awe his company of comedians, he came up to the fire to dry himself, an_ntered into conversation.
'Your people don't usually travel in character, do they?' said Short, pointin_o the dresses of the dogs. 'It must come expensive if they do?'
'No,' replied Jerry, 'no, it's not the custom with us. But we've been playin_ little on the road to-day, and we come out with a new wardrobe at the races, so I didn't think it worth while to stop to undress. Down, Pedro!'
This was addressed to the dog with the cap on, who being a new member of th_ompany, and not quite certain of his duty, kept his unobscured eye anxiousl_n his master, and was perpetually starting upon his hind legs when there wa_o occasion, and falling down again.
'I've got a animal here,' said Jerry, putting his hand into the capaciou_ocket of his coat, and diving into one corner as if he were feeling for _mall orange or an apple or some such article, 'a animal here, wot I think yo_now something of, Short.'
'Ah!' cried Short, 'let's have a look at him.'
'Here he is,' said Jerry, producing a little terrier from his pocket. 'He wa_nce a Toby of yours, warn't he!'
In some versions of the great drama of Punch there is a small dog— a moder_nnovation—supposed to be the private property of that gentleman, whose nam_s always Toby. This Toby has been stolen in youth from another gentleman, an_raudulently sold to the confiding hero, who having no guile himself has n_uspicion that it lurks in others; but Toby, entertaining a gratefu_ecollection of his old master, and scorning to attach himself to any ne_atrons, not only refuses to smoke a pipe at the bidding of Punch, but to mar_is old fidelity more strongly, seizes him by the nose and wrings the sam_ith violence, at which instance of canine attachment the spectators ar_eeply affected. This was the character which the little terrier in questio_ad once sustained; if there had been any doubt upon the subject he woul_peedily have resolved it by his conduct; for not only did he, on seein_hort, give the strongest tokens of recognition, but catching sight of th_lat box he barked so furiously at the pasteboard nose which he knew wa_nside, that his master was obliged to gather him up and put him into hi_ocket again, to the great relief of the whole company.
The landlord now busied himself in laying the cloth, in which process M_odlin obligingly assisted by setting forth his own knife and fork in the mos_onvenient place and establishing himself behind them. When everything wa_eady, the landlord took off the cover for the last time, and then indee_here burst forth such a goodly promise of supper, that if he had offered t_ut it on again or had hinted at postponement, he would certainly have bee_acrificed on his own hearth.
However, he did nothing of the kind, but instead thereof assisted a stou_ervant girl in turning the contents of the cauldron into a large tureen; _roceeding which the dogs, proof against various hot splashes which fell upo_heir noses, watched with terrible eagerness. At length the dish was lifted o_he table, and mugs of ale having been previously set round, little Nel_entured to say grace, and supper began.
At this juncture the poor dogs were standing on their hind legs quit_urprisingly; the child, having pity on them, was about to cast some morsel_f food to them before she tasted it herself, hungry though she was, whe_heir master interposed.
'No, my dear, no, not an atom from anybody's hand but mine if you please. Tha_og,' said Jerry, pointing out the old leader of the troop, and speaking in _errible voice, 'lost a halfpenny to-day. He goes without his supper.'
The unfortunate creature dropped upon his fore-legs directly, wagged his tail, and looked imploringly at his master.
'You must be more careful, Sir,' said Jerry, walking coolly to the chair wher_e had placed the organ, and setting the stop. 'Come here. Now, Sir, you pla_way at that, while we have supper, and leave off if you dare.'
The dog immediately began to grind most mournful music. His master havin_hown him the whip resumed his seat and called up the others, who, at hi_irections, formed in a row, standing upright as a file of soldiers.
'Now, gentlemen,' said Jerry, looking at them attentively. 'The dog whos_ame's called, eats. The dogs whose names an't called, keep quiet. Carlo!'
The lucky individual whose name was called, snapped up the morsel throw_owards him, but none of the others moved a muscle. In this manner they wer_ed at the discretion of their master. Meanwhile the dog in disgrace groun_ard at the organ, sometimes in quick time, sometimes in slow, but neve_eaving off for an instant. When the knives and forks rattled very much, o_ny of his fellows got an unusually large piece of fat, he accompanied th_usic with a short howl, but he immediately checked it on his master lookin_ound, and applied himself with increased diligence to the Old Hundredth.