chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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THE FIGHT. — THE RUINED GAMESTER.
THE day on which the fight was to take place between the
Birmingham Bruiser and the Haggerstone Pet, now drew near.
Great was the excitement of the sporting world on the
occasion; and all those, who were not in the secret of the "cross,"
felt confident that the Bruiser must win.
Indeed the odds had risen in his favour from five to
four, to eleven to five. There were numerous betters, and the takers were
The following paragraph appeared in Bell's Life, on the
Sunday preceding the contest: —
"THE APPROACHING FIGHT. — The mill
between the Birmingham Bruiser and the Haggerstone Pet is to come off on
Thursday next, at Wigginton Bottom, near Snodsnook Park, in Essex. We are
assured by persons who have seen the Bruiser in training at Bailey Heath, and
the Pet at Cheshunt, that the men are in first-rate condition, and full of
confidence. The Bruiser has vowed that if he is beaten in this fight, he will
retire altogether from the Ring; but his friends do not for a moment apprehend
that the result will be such as to occasion such a step. The admirers of the
truly British sport have begun to flock to the neighbourhood of the scene of
action; and every bed at Wigginton is already let. In fact we know of two
guineas having been offered and refused for a mere 'shake-down' in the tap of
the Green Lion, at that beautiful little village. The odds in favour of the
Bruiser have risen within these few days to eleven to five. The Bruiser's
backers are not known: they are most likely some swell nobs, who prefer keeping
out of sight. Some thousands of pounds will change hands next Thursday."
On the appointed day Lord Dunstable drove his friends
Egerton, Chichester, Harborough, and Cholmondeley, down to Wigginton in his
four-in-hand — an equipage that he had only very recently set up,
and which had been purchased and was still maintained by the coin extracted from
the pocket of the credulous son of the deceased outfitter.
The scene of the contest was thronged with as
miscellaneous a collection of persons as could possibly be gathered together.
There were specimens of all classes, from the peer down to the beggar. The
fashionable exquisite was jostled by the greasy butcher; — the
sporting tradesman was crushed between two sweeps; — the flat was
knocked down by one blackleg and picked up by another; — the
country-squire was elbowed by the horse-chaunter — the newspaper
reporter was practically overwhelmed by the influence of the
"press;" — and, in short, there was such a squeezing that
many who had paid a guinea to be conveyed thither, would have gladly given ten
to be removed away again.
Presently a tremendous shout of applause welcomed the
arrival of Lord Snodsnook's carriage, from which leapt the Haggerstone Pet, who
was immediately surrounded by his friends; shortly afterwards a "slap-up
turn-out," "tooled" by a sporting publican of the West End, to
whom it belonged, brought the Birmingham Bruiser upon the scene of action,
amidst renewed vociferations and another rush of supporters.
The preliminaries being all settled, the combatants
stripped, entered the ring, attended by their seconds, and then shook hands. The
newspapers subsequently declared that no two pugilists ever "peeled"
better, nor seemed more confident.
It is not our purpose, however, to dwell upon the
disgusting exhibition: — those brutal displays are loathsome to us,
and, to our mind, are a disgrace to the English character.
Suffice it to say, that the Birmingham Bruiser was quite
able to beat the Haggerstone Pet, if he had so chosen: but he had made his
appearance there on purpose to lose. For upwards of twenty rounds, however, he
secured to himself the advantage; and the general impression amongst the
uninitiated was that he must win. Those who were in the secret accordingly bet
heavily upon the Haggerstone Pet; and we need hardly say that, as Egerton backed
the Bruiser, he found several of his dear friends perfectly willing to accept
the odds at his hands.
By the twenty-fifth round, the Bruiser began to grow
"groggy," and to hit at random. Of course this was mere pretence on
his part: but it gave the Pet renewed courage; and in proportion as the latter
acquired confidence, the former seemed to lose ground rapidly.
Many of the backers of the Bruiser now exhibited
elongating countenances; and, when that champion was thrown heavily at the
thirty-first round, his former supporters manifested a desperate inclination to
"hedge." Egerton, however, remained confident in favour of the
Bruiser; but then he knew nothing about prize-fighting — it was the
first combat of the kind he had ever seen in his life — and, even if
he had been inclined to hedge his bets, he would have found no persons willing
at this stage of the proceeding to afford him the chance.
The Bruiser played his game so well, that even the most
experienced in the pugilistic science were unable to detect the fraud that was
being practised upon them; and thousands were deceived into a belief that he was
really doing his best to win.
At the fortieth round he fell, apparently through sheer
weakness; and it was highly ludicrous to behold the discomfited looks of those
who had bet most heavily upon him.
He stood up for three rounds more; but time was called
in vain for the forty-fourth — and the Haggerstone Pet was declared
to be the conqueror.
The Bruiser seemed to be in a horrible plight: for some
time he remained motionless upon the ground, obstinately resisting all the
efforts that were made to recover him, until one of his friends thrust a huge
pinch of snuff up his nose-and then he was compelled to sneeze.
He was now borne to the Green Lion at Wigginton, and put
to bed. A surgeon in Sir Rupert Harborough's pay volunteered his services to
attend upon him; and, although the Bruiser had nothing more serious the matter
with him than a few bruises and a couple of black eyes, the medical gentlemen
assured the multitudes who flocked to the Inn, that "the poor fellow could
not possibly be worse." A great deal of medicine was also purchased at the
village apothecary's shop; but it was all quietly thrown away by the surgeon,
and the Bruiser was regaled, in the privacy of his chamber, with a good cut of a
sirloin of beef and a bottle of Port-wine.
Lord Dunstable, Mr. Chichester, Colonel Cholmondeley,
and Sir Rupert Harborough divided equally amongst themselves the money won by
this "cross;" — they racked a thousand pounds each,
Egerton alone having lost fifteen hundred upon the fight.
[-359-] The five friends
returned to town in his lordship's four-in-hand, and dined that evening at
Limmer's, where Egerton speedily drowned the recollection of his heavy losses in
bumpers of champagne and claret.
The party afterwards repaired to Crockford's; but just
as they were ascending the steps, they beheld one of the waiters in altercation
with a person of emaciated form, haggard countenance, and shabby attire, but who
had evidently seen better — far better days; for his language was
correct, and even beneath his rags there was an air of gentility which no
tatters could conceal — no penury altogether subdue.
"Come, Major, none of this nonsense-it won't do
here," said the waiter, in an insolent tone. "Be off with you — there's
gentlemen coming in."
"I care not who hears me!" cried the person
thus addressed: "Mr. Crockford is within — I know he is; and I
must see him."
"No-he's not here-and he never comes now,"
returned the waiter. "If you don't make yourself scarce, I'll call a
policeman. Pray walk in, my lord — walk in, gentlemen."
These last words were addressed to Lord Dunstable and
his party; but, instead of entering the Club, they remained on the steps to hear
the issue of the dispute.
"Call a policeman — Oh! do,"
ejaculated the Major. "I wish you would — for I should at least
have a roof over my head to-night; whereas I now stand the chance of wandering
about the streets. But you dare not give me in charge-no, you dare not! You know
that I should expose all the infamy of this den before the magistrate to-morrow
morning. However — in one word, will you deliver my message to Mr.
"I tell you that he is not here," repeated the
"Did you give him my note!" asked the Major,
in an imploring tone.
"Yes — and he said there was no
answer," replied the menial, placing his thumbs in the arm-holes of his
"My God! no answer for me!" cried the
miserable man, in a voice of bitter despair. "No answer for me — and
I lost so much in his house! Surely — surely he could spare a guinea
from the thousands which he has received of me! I only asked him for a
guinea — and he does not condescend to answer me!"
"Well, I tell you what it is," said the
waiter, perceiving that not only Lord Dunstable's party lingered upon the steps,
but that there was also another listener — a gentleman in a military
cloak — standing at a short distance: — "if you
will go away now, I'll give you half-a-crown out of my own pocket, and I
undertake that Mr. Crockford shall send you up a sovereign to-morrow."
"God knows with what reluctance I accept that
miserable trifle from you!" exclaimed the unhappy man, tears rolling down
his cheeks, as he extended his hand for the pittance offered.
At the same instant Egerton, who was much moved by all
he had just overheard, drew forth his purse with the intention of presenting
five sovereigns to the poor Major: but the waiter, perceiving his intention,
hastened to drop the half-crown into the miserable wretch's palm with a view to
get rid of him at once; — for the domestic wisely argued to himself
that every guinea which Egerton might give away would be so much lost to his
master's bank up-stairs.
The half-crown piece had just touched the Major's hand,
when the individual in the cloak sprang forward — seized it — threw
it indignantly in the servant's face — and, dragging the Major away
from the door, exclaimed, "No — never shall it be said that a
soldier and an officer received alms from an insolent lacquey! Mine be the duty
of relieving your wants" [sic]
And, leading the Major a few paces up the street, the
stranger bade him enter a carriage that was waiting, and into which he
immediately followed him.
The servant closed the door, received some whispered
instructions from his master, and got up behind the vehicle, which immediately
roiled away at a rapid pace.
But to return to Lord Dunstable and his party.
The moment that the individual In the cloak sprang
forward in the manner described, and the light of the hall lamps streamed full
upon his countenance, both Harborough and Chichester uttered ejaculations of
surprise, and hastened precipitately into the Club, followed by Dunstable,
Egerton, and Cholmondeley.
"What's the matter!" demanded Dunstable, when
the baronet and Chichester were overtaken on the stairs: "and who's that
"The Prince of Montoni," replied Harborough,
whose countenance was very pale.
"Yes," said Chichester, hastily; "we know
him well — and, as he is very particular in his notions, we did not
wish him to see us coming here. But, enough of that — let us adjourn
to the Hazard Room."
The conversation between the Major and the waiter,
displaying as it did a fearful instance of the results of gaming, had made a
deep impression upon Albert Egerton; and for some time he was thoughtful and
But Dunstable attacked him so adroitly with the
artillery of flattery — the waiter offered him claret so
frequently — the excitement of the play appeared so agreeable — and
the fear of losing ground in the good opinion of his aristocratic acquaintances
was so strong in his mind, that he seized the dice-box, staked his money, lost
as usual, and was conducted home in a state of intoxication at about halt-past
three in the morning.
In the meantime the unfortunate Major Anderson — for
such was his name-had received substantial proofs of that goodness of heart
which prompted the Prince of Montoni to espouse his cause against the brutal
insolence of Crockford's waiter.
Immediately after the carriage rolled away from the
corner of St. James's Street, Richard drew forth his pocket-book, and placed a
bank-note, accompanied by his card, in the Major's hand.
"By means of this temporary relief, sir," he
said, "you can place yourself in a somewhat more comfortable position than
that in which I deeply regret to find you; and, when you feel inclined to see me
again, be good enough to write me a note to that effect, so that I may call upon
you. For, if it would not be impertinently prying into your affairs, I should
wish to learn the sad narrative of those re-[-360-]verses
which have so reduced a gentleman of your rank and station."
"Oh! sir — whoever you are,"
exclaimed the Major — for it was too dark to permit him to read his
benefactor's card, — "how can I ever sufficiently thank you for
this noble — this generous conduct? But think not that your bounty
will have been bestowed in vain — think not that I would risk one
sixpence of this sum — whatever be its amount-at the gaming-table!
Oh! my God — who would ever play again, that had been in such misery
as I? No, sir — no: I would rather throw myself headlong from one of
the bridges into the silent waters of the Thames, than enter the gamblers'
"Then let me tell you frankly," said Markham,
much moved by the touching sincerity of the ruined officer's tone and
manner, — "let me tell you frankly that my object, in wishing
to see you again, was to satisfy myself that you had in reality abjured the
detestable vice which has beggared you, and that you are deserving of all I am
prepared to do for your benefit."
"To-morrow afternoon, sir," answered the
Major, "I will take the liberty of writing to you; for by that time I shall
once more be the possessor of some humble lodging. And now, with your
permission, I will alight here."
Richard pulled the check-string; and the carriage
stopped in Oxford Street.
The Major alighted — pressed our hero's hand
fervently — and hurried away.
When the carriage had disappeared, and the poor man's
feelings were somewhat composed, he stopped beneath a lamp to learn the name of
"The Prince of Montoni!" he exclaimed
joyfully: "oh! then I am saved — I am saved; he will never let
me want again! All London rings with the fame of his goodness: his whole time
seems to be passed in benefiting his fellow-creatures! Wherever poverty is known
to exist, thither does he send in secret his unostentatious charity! But such
good deeds cannot remain concealed; and I — I for one will proclaim
to all who have spurned me in my bitter need, that a stranger has saved me — and
that stranger a great Prince whose shoes they are not worthy to touch!"
Such were the words which the grateful man uttered aloud
in the open Street; but when he glanced at the bank-note, and found himself
suddenly possessed of fifty pounds, he burst into a flood of tears — tears
of the most heart-felt joy!
And Richard returned home with the satisfaction of
having done another charitable action: — we say another, because
charitable deeds with him were far more common than even promises on the part of
many richer men.
But Markham delighted in doing good. Often of an
evening, would he repair into London, and, leaving his carriage at the corner of
some street, wander about the immediate neighbourhood to succour the poor
houseless wretches whom he might meet, and to discover new cases in which his
bounty might be usefully bestowed. Without hesitation — without
disgust, did he penetrate into the wretched abodes of want-go down even into the
cellars, or a climb up into the attics, where poverty was to be a relieved and
joy to be shed into the despairing heart.
And when he returned home, after such expeditions as
these, to his beloved wife and darling child, — for he was now a
father — the happy father of a lovely boy, whom he had named
Alberto, — he found his reward in the approving smiles of the
Princess, even if he had not previously reaped an adequate recompense in the
mere fact of doing so much good.
Indeed, there was not a happier house in the world than
Markham Place; — for not only was the felicity of Richard
complete — save in respect to his anxiety concerning his long-lost
brother Eugene, — but that of his sister was also ensured. United to
Mario Bazzano, Katherine and her husband resided at the mansion — beneath
the same roof where Mr Monroe and Ellen also continued to enjoy a home!
But let us continue the thread of our narrative.
True to his promise, Major Anderson wrote on the
following day to acquaint our hero with his place of abode, and to renew the
expression of his most fervent gratitude for the generous conduct he had
experienced at the hands of the Prince of Montoni.
In the evening Richard proceeded to the humble but
comfortable lodging which the Major now occupied in the neighbourhood of the
Tottenham Court Road; and from the lips of the individual whom his bounty had
restored to comparative happiness, did our hero learn the following terrible
narrative of a Gambler's Life.
chapter < | THE MYSTERIES OF
LONDON [Vol. II]
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