[-89-] CHAPTER III
THE LUMBER TROOP.
Origin of the Troop—Distinguished members—Coat of Arms—Troop Hall—Admission of distinguished members—Remarks on the Charge delivered on the admission of Troopers of distinction—System of punishments adopted by the Troop—Scenes which sometimes occur on the proposed exaction of fines—An instance given—Visit of the City Members to Troop Hall—Their speeches on the occasion—The uproarious scenes which sometimes occur—Specimen of one— Miscellaneous Observations.
period at which this body was first formed, cannot now be ascertained. Ask a
member of the “Ancient and Honourable Lumber Troop ,“ the time when it was
first instituted, and his answer will be—” Its origin is lost in the mist of
ages.” This, at any rate, is the answer I have always got from the Troopers
when I have questioned them as to the origin of the Troop. Some intelligent
persons are of opinion that it was originally instituted to commemorate the
destruction of the Spanish Armada, in Queen Elizabeth’s time. I do not see
any probability in this hypothesis; for so far as I am acquainted with the
annals of the Lumber Troop, I can discover no connexion which it could ever have
had with that event. Others are of opinion that it was founded in the reign of
Queen Anne. This theory also appears to me to be untenable; for some of the
writers in the commencement of that reign, allude to it as a body of some
standing.. Besides there is a portrait of some noted Trooper of a former period,
in the Hall, which, from the style of painting, coupled with the costume of
the Trooper, could not have been taken posterior to the time of the second
But though the precise time of the institution of the “Ancient and Honourable Lumber Troop” is thus involved in uncertainty, there seems to be a pretty general concurrence of opinion as to the circumstances tinder which it originated. The general impression among the members themselves is, that it originated in the circumstance of a few boon and frolicsome acquaintances being in the habit of meeting together to spend their evenings in the - same public-house, and that one of the number having, in joke, proposed that they should call themselves a Troop, for the purpose of burlesquing the then trained-band of London, immor-[-90-]talized by Cowper in his John Gilpin,—they agreed to the proposal; and that afterwards, by way of ridiculing themselves, or rather of having their joke at each other’s expense, they called themselves the “Lumber” Troop; meaning that, instead of being available soldiers, they were no better than so much mere lumber. If this hypothesis be correct, we can have no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the very imposing adjectives of “Ancient and Honourable” were prefixed in the same spirit of burlesque.
From first to last, there have been many members of distinction in the Lumber Troop. Such persons, however, have joined it, in most cases, from a pure love of fun. Prince George of Denmark, the consort of Queen Anne, was a Lumber Trooper; and so was Hogarth, the prince of humorous painters. In fact, Hogarth joined the Troop with the view of forwarding his professional business. Some of his best subjects were selected from Troop Hall. John Harrison, of Bell-yard, Temple-bar, an eccentric personage, who kept a tobacco-shop, and went to all the meetings of the Troop with his pockets stuffed with tobacco, which he sold in retail to the Troopers, is supposed to be the character whom Hogarth represents in his “Modern Midnight Conversation” as leaning over the parson when challenged to drink to a particular toast. The allusion will be better understood by the following lines : —
and wound up to proper height,
He vows to still maintain the fight;
The brave surviving priest assails,
And fairly —s the first that fails;
Fills up a bumper to the best
In Christendom, for that’s the taste:
The parson simpers at the feast,
And puts it forward to the rest.”
thing is clear, from this morsel of poetry,—if the latter word be not a
misnomer,—namely, that the Troopers of a century since were equally renowned
with some of their descendants of the present day for their love of jollity.
Hogarth, in return for the professional advantage which he derived from the
Troop, through the oddities of some of its members, made it a present of a
design by himself for a coat of arms. As most people will be curious to see what
so great a genius designed for so droll a body of persons as the Ancient and
Honourable Lumber Troop, I here give a correct engraving of it, only premising
that a similar engraving is given on the ticket of every member on his
[-91-] There is a common impression among the members of the Troop, that Prince Blucher, the celebrated general, was a Trooper. Past-Colonel Birch assures me that such was not the fact; but adds, that the mistake is a very natural one, as one of his most intimate friends, who was almost always in his company when in this country, joined the Troop, and received from it, on the occasion, the very appropriate present of a brace of pistols. The late Alderman Waithman evinced a lively solicitude in the fortunes of the Troop: so did Sir John Key, for a time. The latter gentleman, indeed, when lord mayor, gave a considerable number of the Troopers, and their wives, a grand ball and supper at the Mansion-house. Sir John Hobhouse was also a Trooper, when member for Westminster: but all these gentlemen had political objects to serve by joining the Troop, the members being, almost to a man, of liberal opinions in politics. I shall afterwards have occasion to refer to the fact of the present members for the city of London being Lumber Troopers for the same reason.
Troop Hall, the “head-quarters” of the Troop, is in Bolt-court, Fleet-street, in the very house where Dr. Johnson so long lived, and where many of his greatest works were written. This place is called the Doctor Johnson Tavern, and is kept by Mr. Beck, the Suttler of the Troop. Troop Hall is open to the public on the payment of twopence by each individual who enters. As he presents himself at the door, he is asked whether he be a Trooper or visitor, and on answering that he is the latter, his name is inserted in a hook as such. If he do not wish to give [-92-] his right name, he can assume one for the occasion. When he takes his seat in the Hall, he is politely waited on by one of Mr. Beck’s servants, who coaxingly looks in his face, and says “What will you take, Sir?” The visitor may order a pint of ale, or some brandy-and-water, or anything else in the subterranean regions of the suttler; only if it be heavy-wet, the favourite beverage, according to the Tory journals, of Dr. Wade, he will not be allowed to drink it out of “the pewter,” that being contrary to a formal resolution of the Troop; but out of a glass. The Troopers also order what they please, provided they pay for it: but until about thirty years ago, the immemorial practice was to pay sevenpence on their entrance; they being allowed to drink, without any further charge, as much porter as they pleased, and to call for as much tobacco, technically termed “Troop-sand,” as they could consume at the sitting. This regulation was found to answer extremely well for the suttler, for a time; but some blacksmiths, whose throats were full of smoke, thought that to join the Troop was an excellent way of giving them, at a cheap rate, a thorough “clearing out,” as they themselves used to say; but the suttler made the discovery that the quantity of “Entire,” requisite for the purifying operation, cost himself at least twice the sum of sevenpence. Hence the change to the charge of twopence on entering, and paying for whatever should be ordered.
Troop Hall is a spacious room, beautifully fitted up with a variety of military trappings. On the walls are hung a number of well-executed portraits of distinguished Troopers, while on the table or bench, where the Colonel presides, there are two mortars; and projecting from the wall, at the Colonel’s back, are twenty-one guns, and a sword seven or eight feet long.
The Lumber Troopers have certain great occasions, on which new members of importance or celebrity are admitted into the fraternity, amidst much show of pomp and circumstance. It is impossible to describe the interest which the Troopers generally manifest on such occasions. There is a peculiar animation in their eyes, and their countenances glow with an unusual brightness. Not more important is the coronation of a sovereign to other people, than is the admission of a member, amidst “the proper forms,” to the Troopers. They magnify it into an importance of which the uninitiated can form no conception. The ceremony has nothing very complicated about it. After being declared duly elected, the affair begins. The first thing to be done, is to present the newly-made Trooper to the Colonel, whose self-importance on such occasions is so great, that it is matter of wonder that there is not a realization of the fate of the frog [-93-] in the fable, which would not rest satisfied with the proportions which nature bad assigned it, but must needs distend its little body in the hope of forcing itself out to the dimensions of the ox. Every one knows what was the result. Every Colonel of the Lumber Troop is, in like manner, so self-consequential on the great occasions to which I refer, and struts about with an air of such importance, that it is really surprising no explosive accident occurs to him. When the new-made Trooper is presented in due form to the Colonel, which is always done by the Serjeant, the robe-master standing by his right hand, thus addresses him: “Sir, allow me to invest you with the star and ribbon worn by William the Fourth’s grandfather, when Prince of Wales.” The robe-master always assumes a very dignified aspect when performing his part of the ceremony. He moves as stiffly as if he were a piece of wood, instead of a human being, only that when he comes to extend his hand to bestow the ribbon and star on the newly—created Trooper, he does contrive to make a bow, and thereby shows that there are joints in his body. The robe-master then decks out the person of the newly-enlisted Trooper with the insignia of the corps, by attaching the ribbon to his left shoulder, and affixing the star to his left breast. This done, you see the countenances of all the Troopers beaming with ineffable joy at the circumstance of receiving a new comrade; and that joy is so great that, but for their rising to their feet, and giving vent to it in - roars of applause which would almost drown the thunder of their own artillery, there is no saying what might be the consequences. Some of them, indeed, might die from the very excess of their joy and happiness. Of the feelings of the party himself, when he sees the ribbon floating from his shoulder, and beholds the star decorating his breast, I will say nothing: no description could do them justice. Grattan, the Irish orator, in one of those beautiful figures of speech of which he was so distinguished a master, speaks of a man walking. forth in all the majesty of freedom. I wish Grattan had seen a newly-made Lumber Trooper strutting about in all the majesty of a “comrade.” I am convinced, if he had, he would have blushed at the thought of having used the metaphorical expression to which I have referred, as applied to one’s emancipation from slavery. He would have seen how vastly superior—at least, in the party’s own estimation—was the majesty of the Trooper to that of the freeman.
The next part of the initiatory ceremony is for the Colonel to fill his cup with ale, and drink to the new-made comrade. The Colonel having quaffed the contents, which most of the colonels
are remarkably expert at doing, he is to transfer the empty cup [-94-] to the robe-master, who takes it, and, filling it to the brim, hands it to the new-made comrade, saying, “Take this in your right hand, and repeat after me—‘To the Colonel, the rest of the officers and comrades, and prosperity to the Ancient and Honourable Lumber Troop:’ drink this toast: it is the only thing we have to require of you.” The new Trooper repeats the words audibly, swills the ale, and is then pronounced a comrade. He is next addressed by the Colonel in the following lines, which are called “The Charge:”
Let the Freemasons boast of what they please,
Or Gormagons (of origin Chinese),
the Troopers are as ancient as these.
To this illustrious Troop you have now a right:
We are merry, drink, and sing, but seldom fight.
We had rather meet within this house to dine,
Than beat a march t’other side the Rhine.
But should our country’s foes our rights invade,
And our great noble king * [-Of course the phrase “great noble queen” ought now to be substituted-] require our aid,
No Troop more ready then to take the field,
The first to battle, and the last to yield.
To show that we are free from war’s alarms,
Bacchus and Ceres both support our arms:
A bowl of punch does in the centre flow;
The moon and stars above, lantern below.
For crest there stands a butt of Domine,
Perch’d on the top of which an owl you see;
Apparently, this emblem well implies,
That Troopers, though they’re merry, still are wise.
Our motto (__) means, if you construct it right,
in nocte iactamur.
The merry Troopers revel in the night.
Now for your profits;
You’ve twenty pounds a-year as private man;
To get which sum, you must do the best you can;
Lend to the Troop a buck oft as you please,
Breeches made of its skin shall be your fees.
If, on a march, you’re pennyless and dry,
And ———,* (*A blank is left here to be filled up with the name of the suttler for the time being. Mr Beck, of the “Doctor Johnson” being the present suttler, the reader can write his name in the blank) our suttler’s house, is nigh,
[-95-] Boldly advance, and claim a Trooper’s due—
Some bread and cheese, a pint of ale (not two).
Don’t impose on us—pray have a care;
For if your pockets are search’d, and money there,
‘Tis not only paying for your bread and cheese,
But expulsion you’ve to fear, should the Colonel please.
If you at midnight chimes, when Troopers roam,
With strength renew’d should seek your happy home,
And being too much prim’d,—unlucky wight I—
Should chance to offend the guardians of the night,
And are by constables, who’ll hear no reason,
Under strong guard sent to the nearest prison;
Next morn, before the justice takes his chair,
Send for the Colonel or the Treasurer:
You’ll quickly be discharged, if they appear.
But if they come not to afford you aid,
And your discharge thereby should be delay’d,
Why then submit to law, and pay your fees,
And the Troop will contribute what they please.
The following song used to be always sung by the assembled company immediately after the delivery of the Charge; but it has been omitted on some late occasions:
We are full ten thousand brave boys,
Content with a competent wealth;
And we make an agreeable noise
When we drink to our Colonel’s good health.
We scorn to accept any pay,
Each man keeps himself and his steed:
We frequently moisten our clay,
And fight for the King* (*read the Queen now) when there’s need.
Our Troop is of excellent blood, Each man has a generous soul;
I’m sure it will do your heart good
To go and join the jolly Troop bowl.
There is another verse, but it is not altogether fit for the public eye, and therefore I omit it.
The newly-made Trooper then descends from the elevated place which had been the theatre of all his glory, into the midst of his comrades, by whom he is received with an enthusiasm equal to any thing of the kind with which the most dis-[-96-]tinguished conquering hero of ancient Greece or Rome, was ever received by his grateful and admiring countrymen.
The task of commentator is one which I do not often take upon myself, but here the temptation is too great to be resisted. By whom the above piece of poetry, if so it must be called, was written, is as great a mystery as is the authorship of Junius. My researches on the subject have only conducted me to two certain conclusions; which conclusions are. that it was written in Pope’s time, but not by Pope himself. There is internal evidence of the clearest kind, that the versifier who did the affair, must either have been by nature as destitute of brains as the artillery of the Troop, or that, if he ever had any, they must have been “stole away” by the ale or brandy of the suttler. But let the poetry of the “Charge” and its authorship pass; and now for a word or two on the Charge itself.
The first line which deserves notice is the fourth:
“We are merry, drink, and sing, but seldom fight.”
This is partly true and partly not. The first clause is perfectly correct in point of fact: the latter clause is to be received with certain qualifications. A “merrier” race than the Lumber Troopers are not to be found. They are the most hearty and jolly assemblage of beings with whom I have had the fortune to meet. The merriment of some of the comrades occasionally verges on “Merry Andrewism” itself. If any one wishes to see a specimen. of Lumber Troop merriment, let him visit the “headquarters” on any of the evenings on which there is a particular muster of the Troop. There his eyes and ears will afford him ample proof of the attainments of the Troopers, both in the art of drinking and singing. See how constantly and actively the waiters of the suttler are engaged in meeting the demands of the comrades, officers and all, for ale, stout, gin, brandy, and so forth; and see how suddenly the new supplies vanish. “Bring me another go, William,” is a command enjoined on the poor fellow before he has had time to give the change for the one he. has just brought. And while one set of Troopers are thus displaying such dexterity at absorbing anything and everything in the shape of liquids which comes before them, another set are putting their vocal capabilities to the test. Some are singing, others are roaring: between the two classes of performers, there is no lack of sound.
But the Troopers, it seems, if the statements of the “Charge” may be credited, “Seldom fight.”
It is quite true that they are as innocent, as the most peaceably disposed people in Christendom could desire, of ever fighting [-97-] with deadly weapons, or with any of their country’s enemies nevertheless they do have their occasional skirmishes among themselves. Their weapons in such cases, are usually their tongues; but these last are sometimes followed by their fists. Pugilistic encounters, however, are, it is but justice to the Ancient and Honourable Lumber Troop, to say, of very rare occurrence. They are not only, taken as a body, the most pacifically disposed set of soldiers, in reference to other people, I have ever seen, but they usually breathe a most peaceable spirit as regards each other. It is not to be denied, that a little martially inclined personage, who is remarkable for the quantity of Edinburgh ale he drinks, without at all exhibiting the slightest symptoms of a tendency to inebriety, but who having, on a late occasion, so far forgot himself as to intermingle four “goes” of brandy-and-water with half-a-dozen glasses of his favourite beverage; it is, I say, quite true, that he, on a recent occasion, sallied out to the streets, and meeting with no fellow-mortal who would accept of his challenge to fight, “pitched in,” to use his own elegant phraseology, to a lamp-post. It is unnecessary to say that in this conflict he came off second best. He not only knocked his hands, but his head, against his metallic antagonist, of which conclusive proofs were afforded by his person for several weeks afterwards. There are various other instances in which the heroes of the Lumber Troop have, on leaving head-quarters, quarrelled with policemen, and after a regular fight been safely transferred to the watch-house, which a Trooper always calls the Black Hole. And there is one recent instance of a Trooper going home, and, in the ardour of his military zeal, giving his wife a -sound beating, under the idea that she was one of some imaginary “enemies” that were running in his mind. But these are only exceptions to the rule; and they occur so seldom, that it is hardly fair to allude to them. As a body of martial men, the Troopers are the most harmless and peaceable personages in Christendom. Their artillery has not only never destroyed the life of a single human being, but it has never discharged a single ball.
Let me not be understood as at all reflecting on the bravery of the Troopers, when adverting to the fact that they have never been engaged in any great martial enterprise. They don’t undertake to peril their lives in war, except their country were unhappily invaded by some foreign foe. In such a case, if their own word may be taken, they would distinguish themselves in the battle-field by deeds of surpassing prowess. Hear what they say
“ But should our country’s foes our rights invade,
And our great noble King (Queen) require our aid,
[-98-] No Troop more ready then to take the field;
The first to battle, and the last to yield.”
Brave boys! Captain Bobadil himself was not a bit more valorous at his own fireside, than are the Ancient and Honour-able Lumber Troop in Troop Hall. They would put to the blush the forty-second regiment of Scottish Highlanders, who won for themselves so brilliant and enduring a reputation on the field of Waterloo. Even the valour of the heroes of Thermopylae would shrink from a comparison with the martial exploits of the Troopers, did circumstances call the latter to the field of battle.
Passing over various points in the “Charge” which invite comment, I come to the line— “If you at midnight chimes, when Troopers roam,” &c.
This roaming at midnight is one of the worst things connected with the Troop. It is the grand objection which many wives have to their husbands enlisting under its banners. Why don’t the more domestic class of the Troopers endeavour to procure a law for the expulsion from the body of those who, on quitting Troop Hall, do not go direct home?
The natural consequence of “roaming at midnight chimes” is clearly predicted:
“And are by constables, who’ll hear no reason,
Under strong guard sent to the nearest prison,” &c.
The number of “unlucky wights” belonging to the Troop, “too much prim’d,” as the “Charge” has it, who are nightly sent to prison, is greater than is usually supposed, owing to the circumstance that, from regard to the character of the corps, they seldom represent themselves as members of the Ancient and Honourable Lumber Troop. The phrase “constables who’ll hear no reason,” is exceedingly just and happy. Policemen are the most unreasonable class of men who are to be met with, when they chance to encounter an “unlucky wight” of a Trooper, “too much prim’d,” roaming about “ at midnight chimes.”
A word or two now on the “Song.” The first line announces an important fact:
“We are full ten thousand brave boys.
The number of Troopers necessarily varies: at present the number is estimated at from 8000 to 9000. They are scattered abroad, not only through the British empire, but over all the world. There is not a part of the civilized globe where Lumber Troopers are not to be met with; and when two comrades do [-99-] happen to meet in some distant part of the earth, the friendship they evince for each other, and their mutual joy at the meeting, baffle all description. But though the number of Lumber Troopers be what I have mentioned, they seldom muster above 1000 strong at a time. The great gatherings with them are at the annual meetings for the election of the Colonel and officers.
“And we make an agreeable noise’
When we drink our Colonel’s good health.”
That the Troopers do make a noise, when in their more uproarious moods, nobody who has ever been in their head-quarters can deny. But that this noise is agreeable, is a point on which a difference of opinion obtains. Ask the good people of Bolt-court, that being the place nearest to Troop-hall, whether they think the noise caused by the “comrades” agreeable? They will, on the contrary, one and all, pronounce it to be of a most disagreeable kind. Those of them, indeed, who are conversant with Aesop, will quote for you the fable of the Boys and the Frogs, observing that the “noise” may be amusement to the Troopers, but that it is death, or a species of living martyrdom, which is the next greatest earthly evil, to everybody else.
“Our Troop is of excellent blood”
This remains to be proved; and until it has been so, there will be a difference of opinion on the subject. Why do riot the Troopers achieve some glorious exploits, to set the question as to the quality of their blood, at rest?
“Each man has a generous soul.”
Far be it from me to deny this; only it were as well that the Troopers gave some proof of the thing by performing some glorious deeds: others would then be forward to admit the fact. Cowing from the Troopers themselves, it smacks of egotism, to say the least of it.
“I’m sure it will, do your heart good
To go and join the jolly Troop-bowl.”
This is all true. The Troopers, as before mentioned, are the most “jolly” set of mortals in Europe: only see them over their “Troop-bowl,” and then doubt it who can. But I will not expatiate on this topic further; abundant proofs of the jolly disposition, and jolly conduct of the Troopers, will be found in this chapter.
The system of punishments which obtains in Lumber Troop Hall, is as lenient as the most strenuous advocates for a gentle code of penalties, could desire. The soldier who is found asleep at his post in her Majesty’s army, subjects himself to the penalty [-100-] of death: in the Lumber Troop, the punishment to the officer who takes a nap is one shilling; and for the same offence, when committed by a private, sixpence. The soldier who gets drunk in her Majesty’s service, when on duty, incurs the penalty of as many lashes as the surgeon of the regiment conceives may be inflicted without actually flogging the soul out of the body: an officer in the Lumber Troop who gets drunk, escapes on payment of a shilling; and a private, on paying the penalty of sixpence. There are various other still more lenient punishments for minor offences; but it is unnecessary to refer to them.
The proposed or actual exaction of the fines often leads to amusing scenes in Troop Hall. Some time ago, on a rather important occasion, the gallant Colonel himself * (not the present Colonel) either had so forgotten himself as to have degenerated into a temporary doze, or was supposed to have committed that outrage on the dignity of his office. “I’m blow’d if that ‘ere comrade there,” pointing to the Colonel, “bean’t a-sleepin’ !“ shouted a Mr. Jambo, a green-grocer of homely manners, and of a still more homely personal appearance, who had been made a Trooper the week before, and who having the rule against sleeping on duty fresh on his mind, deemed it proper, in the plenitude of his zeal as a new recruit, to give intimation of the circumstance.
“Do you hear that, Colonel?” said another officer who was sitting next to him, giving him a gentle shake by the arm, his head being at the time drooping in his breast.
“What is it ?“ said the gallant gentleman, in a gruff and drowsy voice, not deigning to raise his head to its usual position.
“Why, you’re charged with being asleep.”
“Who charges me with it ?“ inquired the Colonel, in a smart and determined tone, and looking up with neck erect, as if strongly resenting the dishonourable imputation.
“Why, comrade—What’s the Trooper’s name who preferred the charge?” As the officer, whose name I did not learn, spoke, he looked in the direction of the Trooper making the charge with great eagerness, not doubting that as he had forgotten his name, he would come boldly forward at once, and avow himself.
“My name is Jambo,” said the valiant green-grocer, with much energy.
“Oh, aye; comrade Jambo,” observed the officer, nodding to the vender of vegetables.
“Comrade Jambo!” echoed a hundred voices at once.
“You said, did you not, comrade Jambo, that the Colonel was asleep?” inquired the officer in question, encouragingly.
[-101-] “I did, and I does,” shouted Mr. Jambo, with an air of immense importance.
“I say it’s a —“ Here the Colonel was about to say something in a loud and energetic tone; but having checked, himself, as if conscious he had been on the eve of uttering some great verbal impropriety, he continued in a lower voice. “I say it’s a downright untruth.”
“Order! order!” shouted a score or two of very excellent voices.
“I say, with comrade Jambo,” remarked a little pot-bellied proprietor of a neighbouring public-house; “I say, with him, that the Colonel vas asleep.”
“And so do I,” said another Trooper.
“And me too,” added a third.
“And a lot on us saw him,” cried a fourth. Who the latter Trooper represented, it was not so easy to ascertain; unless, indeed, they were the proprietors of eighteen or twenty voices which severally exclaimed “I saw him a-sleepin’.”
“Brother officers and comrades,” said the, gallant Colonel, rising up, and addressing the Troopers with as important and dignified an air as if he had been some general of celebrity addressing his soldiers on the eve of some great battle.
“Brother officers and comrades, I deny the charge; there is no truth in it. I was not asleep. Comrade Potter, did you see me asleep?”
“No, I didn’t,” answered the latter, with an edifying promptitude as he rose up in the body of the room.
“I thought so,” observed the ‘gallant Colonel, in a tone of self-gratulation. “Comrade Dunderhead, did you see me a—sleepin’?”
“Certainly not, Colonel,” answered a very bustling consequential-looking personage, with a face as red and glowing as a full moon, at the farthest end of the room, the appeal having been made to him.
“Or did you see it, comrade Short?”
“See what?” answered a little man, with infinite good-nature in his physiognomy, who was just entering Troop Hall.
“See me asleep?” repeated the Colonel.
“I object to the question being put to him,” interposed comrade Cotton, with great warmth. “He can’t know nothin’ about it - for he was not in the Hall at the time.”
‘Raally, gintlemen,” said an unadulterated Irishman, mounting one of the chairs, while his face displayed the most intense anxiety mingled with benevolence; “raally, gintlemen, that person,” pointing to the Colonel, “ought not to be condemned without the clearest proof. Remember. gintlemen, that if he be [-102-] found guilty of shaping at his post, he’ll be shot dead for it. And, gintlemen, it’s —“
While poor simple Pat was thus interposing, from pure humanity in favour of the gallant Colonel, he was interrupted by comrade Joss inquiring whether he was a Trooper.
“I don’t know what you mane, Sir.’
“Do you belong to the Ancient and Honourabbe Lumber Troop?”
“Is it, am I a soldier, your honour manes?”
The Troopers looked each other in the face.
“Have you joined this body ?“ inquired another, thinking the question might be more level to the capacity of the Irishman when put in that form.
“Och! sure and it’s myself did join, when I came into this same place a few minits ago. And it’s myself could not bear to think of that gintbemin being shot for slapin’, if he didn’t slape at all at all.”
It was now clear to all that poor Pat was no Trooper; but that having been recently imported from the Emerald Isle, he had gone into Troop Hall simply because he saw the door open, and others entering; and that confounding the Troopers, from the strictness of the military phraseology he heard spoken in the Hall, with a regular military force, and knowing that to sleep on duty was death to the soldier,—he became alarmed for the fate of the gallant Colonel.
“Fellow officers, and comrades all,” said the Colonel, in a stentorian voice, and giving a smart knock on the table to command attention; “fellow officers, and comrades all, I pledge my honour, as the Colonel of the Ancient and Honourable Lumber Troop, that I was not asleep.”
Loud cheers from the gallant Colonel’s special friends followed the emphatic declaration.
“I say you was,” shouted comrade Jambo, in an equally loud and energetic voice.
“And so do I,” said comrade Coffins.
“And I too,” observed comrade Wink.
“And I also,” bawled out some dozen comrades all at once. “I rise to order,” said comrade Slow, assuming a perpendicular position, and looking immensely dignified and indignant. “Really, if such a scene as this is to be any longer exhibited, it will cover the Troop with deep and indelible disgrace. Possibly there is a little mistake on both sides.” (Cries of “No mistake,” from both parties, with tremendous uproar.) “Really, comrades,” continued comrade Slow, “if this sort of work is to go on much longer, there is no saying—”
“I beg pardon for interrupting you, comrade Slow,” inter-[-103-]posed some other comrade, whose name I could not learn, addressing himself to the Trooper who was playing the orator; “I beg pardon for interrupting you; but possibly the suggestion I have to throw out may set this matter to rest. It—”
Here the speaker was himself interrupted by some of the other comrades singing out, “Out with the suggestion at once, then.” (Cries of “ Order! order! “)
The other resumed, on order being restored. “If comrade — what do you call him?—I do not know the gentleman’s name, — would only be kind enough to hold his tongue till I finish my sentence, he would then be at liberty to speak as much and as long as he pleases. What I was going to say, officers and comrades, was, that possibly the Colonel had only been dozing.”
“I deny the fact,” said the Colonel, indignantly.
“What is the difference between dozing and sleeping?” inquired comrade Smallshins in an under tone, addressing himself to comrade Trench, who sat opposite to him.
“Bless’d, if I knows,” answered Trench, who was a journeyman blacksmith.
“I knows the differens,” observed a diminutive, thin-faced, unshaved Trooper, on the left hand of comrade Smallshins.
“Then, what is it?” inquired comrade Trench.
“O, I knows,’ replied the other, with a significant shake of the head, which was promptly followed by a copious draught of the suttler’s best ale.
“And why don’t you tell us?” inquired Smallshins, slightly offended at the reserve of the little thin-faced personage.
“Vell, then, the differens is this,” answered the latter, looking as wise as if be had been a second Solomon; “ven a man sleeps, he is asleep; but vhen he’s a-dozin’, he is neither asleep nor avake.”
“O, that’s it, is it ?“ said Trench, with marked emphasis, as if he had clearly comprehended the luminous distinction.
“That’s it!” nodded the other, with quite an oracular aspect, withdrawing the pipe from his. mouth for the double purpose of uttering the couple of words, and ridding the interior of his speaking-box of an immense quantity of smoke which had accumulated in it.
This conversation between the two Troopers was carried on in an under tone, and was confined to themselves. It consequently offered no interruption to the discussion which was then proceeding among the Troopers, as a body, respecting the alleged fact of the Colonel having resigned himself for a moment to the embraces of. Morpheus.
[-104-] “Comrades!” shouted comrade Slow, “our Colonel denies that he was even dozing. I—”
“ I do!” interrupted the Colonel, with prodigious emphasis; “and I will rather re—”
Here the gallant gentleman was interrupted in his turn by comrade Slow, who protested against being interrupted by the Colonel. “Comrades !“ continued Mr. Slow, knocking his fist on the table with great warmth; “comrades, you all know it is the duty of the Colonel to preserve order, and to procure a patient hearing for any Trooper who chooses to address the Troop; but instead of this, he himself –“
“I deny it, Sir.” (Loud cries of “Order! order!”)
“Will you allow me to make the charge, Sir, before you deny it?” (Tumultuous applause.)
When the cheers had subsided, comrade Slow resumed. “I was about to state, my brave comrades,” laying great stress on the word “brave;” “I was about to state, when interrupted by the Colonel,—by the Colonel, comrades,—that instead of keeping order, as from the nature of the important office he fills he is bound to do, he is the first to set the example of disorder.” (Loud cheers, mingled with equally loud hisses, and deafening cries of “ Order! order !
Here the Colonel rose, and looking a perfect tempest of indignation at the indignity cast upon him, or, as he himself termed it, the outrage offered to the office he filled, was about to address the Troop, when an officer of an inferior grade interposed, by stepping in before him, and thus intercepting his view of the Troopers. “Really,” said the interposing party, “if this unseemly squabble be not put an end to, the Ancient and Honourable Lumber Troop will be disgraced in the eyes of the civilized world.” (Loud cries of” Hear, hear !)
“You’re right,” exclaimed some unknown comrade in the body of the Hall; “and, therefore, the best way to put an end to this unsoldierly squabble, will be to take the sense of the Troop on the question.”
“On what question ?“ inquired a short thick-set cheesemonger, rejoicing in the appropriate appellation of comrade Stilton.
“Why, the question of whether the Colonel was or was not asleep?” replied the other.
“Oh, that’s it, is it?” observed Stilton, seemingly quite enlightened by the reply.
“But I cannot put the question myself” said the Colonel, in a subdued tone, doubtless from a conviction that his acquittal from the serious charge would be carried by a large majority.
“Oh, I’ll put it,” said the officer before alluded to. “As many [-105-] of the Troop as are of opinion that the Colonel was asleep, will please to signify the same by holding up their hands.” Twenty six hands responded to the call.
“You that are of opinion that the Colonel was awake, will hold up yours.” The identical number of twenty-six, including the fist of the officer putting the question, was again held up, amidst loud laughter, and cheers from those who espoused the Morpheus side of the question.
“The numbers, fellow officers and comrades,” said the officer, “are equal; but I see a great many Troopers who have not voted at all.”
The reason why many did not vote, was that they had not been paying any attention to the Colonel before the charge was made, while a considerable number declared that they could only conscientiously vote for the dozing view of the matter. “Then I say now, as I said before,” observed the Colonel, thrusting up his right hand in a perpendicular position, “that I was not asleep.”
“Carried, by a majority of one, that the Colonel was not asleep,” said the officer.
The announcement was received with deafening plaudits by the friends of the gallant gentleman, and with much dissatisfaction by the hostile patty.
I have before stated, that among the distinguished members of the Troop may be mentioned the four representatives of the city of London; namely, Mr. Alderman Wood, Messrs. Grote, Crawford, and Pattison. These gentlemen, however, are not Troopers on whom much dependence is to be placed. I am pretty confident I may say, without any breach of charity, that the honour-able gentlemen whose names I have just mentioned, only join the Troop for electioneering purposes, and that they never bestow a thought either on it or its affairs from one general election time to another. Of this I am certain, for I heard some of themselves state the fact at the last general election, that they never attend any of its meetings, except one or two immediately previous to the polling-day. When an election is about to take place in the city of London, a special meeting of the Troop is invariably called, to receive, in true military style, comrades Wood, Grote, Crawford, and Pattison, each of whose names being at the particular period minus the magical M.P., and the parties being anxious to have the appendage restored, submit with an exemplary patience to all the nonsensical ceremonies observed on such occasions. I was present at the last visit of Messrs. Wood, Grote, Crawford, and Pattison, to the head-quarters of the Troop, where their “comrades” were all met to receive them. There sat the Colonel, whose name I forget just now— which, however, is no great matter, and will, I dare say, be no great privation to the reader—there sat the Colonel on a [-106-] sort of elevation at the farthest end of the room, regularly equipped in what I suppose was the military uniform of the Troop. Instead of a sword, or any other warlike weapon, he held in his hand a brass hammer; so, at least, it appeared to me; and anything more necessary or appropriate he could not have grasped. The “use,” as Shakspeare would have said, to which this hammer was to be applied, was that of giving the noisy a hint to be silent, by a rather smart knock on a sort of desk which lay before the Colonel; and which desk, let inc observe in justice to it, possessed the most wonderful acoustical properties I have ever witnessed in any thing of the kind. I have often admired the sounding capabilities of a little red-looking box on the table of the House of Commons, especially when thumped by Sir Robert Peel; but the sounds evoked by the hammer of the gallant Colonel of the Lumber Troop from the small desk, which on this occasion hay on the table before him, would, I am convinced, have made the box on the table of the House of Commons quite ashamed of itself. And it was of no ordinary importance to the proceedings of the Lumber Troop on the evening in question—as it is, I doubt not, to its proceedings on every occasion on which it meets—that this desk should be able to perform the function of emitting sounds of first-rate power; for really the noise of the Troop was so great that it would have drowned any ordinary sounds which the Colonel, by means of his hammer, might have made, and consequently his commands could not have been heard. Need I add that, according to all the admitted rules of sound reasoning, if they had not been heard, they could not have been obeyed? To speak a truth, “the men” were not over prompt in their obedience to the commands of their gallant Colonel as it was; but this, though bad enough in itself, was not quite so bad as it would have been had they not been obeyed at all.
Comrades Wood, Grote, Crawford, and Pattison, were received, on entering the “head-quarters” of the Troop, with all due honours. Their fellow-soldiers, though bearing no musketry with which to greet them on their appearance by firing a salute, could nevertheless boast of weapons of another kind, which were duly charged. Each had his “go” of brandy-and-water, or some other” ardent spirit” and water, before him. The four gentlemen visiting the Troop must have been highly gratified with the display of “ardent spirits,” in a double sense, before them; for it is only doing the Troop justice to take for granted, that all “the men” composing it are, as all soldiers ought to be, “ardent spirits.” Comrades Wood, Grote, Crawford, and Patti-son, having been greeted with thunders of applause on their entrance, —-I do not mean the thunder caused by artillery, but the [-107-] thunder caused by the throats of the troops,—marched up in regular military style to an open space set apart for them on the right hand of the gallant Colonel who presided on the occasion. On reaching their destined station in the “head-quarters” of the Troop, their comrades set up another loud shout of applause. And no wonder though they did; for what soldier would not rejoice once more to meet with an old fellow “trooper’ after an absence of several years? Every face beamed with delight at seeing Comrades Wood, Grote, Crawford, and Pattison, once more in Troop Hall. The latter, I doubt not, were much gratified with their reception; for many of their fellow-soldiers had votes to bestow at the approaching elections, and those who had not could influence persons who had. The thing, therefore, was all perfectly intelligible on both sides.
A great many little matters, which, not being a military man, cannot well describe, having been disposed of, Comrade Wood, as being, I suppose, the senior of the other three as a member of Parliament, if not of the Ancient and Honourable Lumber Troop, — first rose to address his fellow-soldiers: and really I had no previous conception, that one of whom I had never heard a word, except in his capacity of politician or citizen, could be so intimately conversant with military phraseology, as the worthy Alderman—I must still occasionally call him by his civic title— proved himself to be. After adjusting his collar, and standing up a la militaire, he commenced thus :—“ Colonel, Officers, and comrades !“ and then proceeded to express the supreme satisfaction with which he again met his gallant companions in arms, after an absence of three years. He assured them, however, that though not with them, he had not been .an idle soldier, but had been fighting for them and for his country. It was true, he continued, that the battles in which he had been engaged, since he last appeared among his fellow-soldiers of the Ancient and Honourable Lumber Troop, were bloodless battles; but they were not less important battles on that account. He referred, he added, to the battles in which he had been engaged in the House of Commons with the common enemy of the country and the human race. Need he say to whom he alluded? (Cries of “The Tories, of course.”) Yes, said comrade Wood, the Tories; and he was ready to go and battle with them again; and he hoped his gallant comrades would, in the true spirit of soldiership, assist him in his ambition again to measure swords with the enemy on the field of conflict in the House of Commons. Comrade Wood, still standing in that stiff and upright position peculiar to military men, went on at some length in the same strain, amidst the loud applause of his fellow-troopers. And not content with his soldier-like aspect and warlike phraseology, he [-108-] actually endeavoured, and with tolerable success, to mimic the mode of pronunciation, in addressing his fellow-soldiers, which dandy officers sometimes adopt. The word “here,” the gallant gentleman pronounced “ eeor;” and the word “years,’ “ye-o-ars;” and so on with most of the other terms he used in the course of his military harangue.
Comrade Grote’s turn came next. The gallant gentleman deserves all praise for the attitude he assumed while delivering his oration. He pulled himself up immediately on starting to his feet, and looked as stiff and erect all the while he retained his perpendicular position, as if he had been for a long series of years in the army; but the matter of his address to his fellow-soldiers, was not at all in keeping with the military character. In imitation of the gallant gentleman (Comrade Wood) who preceded him, he certainly did manage to begin with “Colonel, officers, and comrades!” but scarcely had these soldierly terms crossed his lips, than he flew off at a tangent to the subject of the ballot; and, to make the matter worse, he never found his way back to military topics or military phraseology during the whole course of his somewhat lengthened address. It is but right, however, to say that, though his speech was so unmilitary, if I may invent a word, it was vociferously applauded by the Troopers. If I may hazard a hypothesis, I should say that the secret of this was, that the time chosen by Comrades Wood, Grote, Crawford, and Pattison, for this visit to the head- quarters of the Troop, being, as before stated, on the eve of a general election, the soldiers assembled on the occasion merged their character as military men, for the moment, in that of politicians.
Next came Comrade Crawford. This gallant gentleman appeared to me the most unsoldier-like personage I have ever seen. He had not a particle of the manner of a martial man about him, and could not manage to string a couple of military phrases together. Instead of standing, like his two comrades, Wood and Grote, in the erect and dignified attitude of a soldier, he, in the fervour of the fit of speechification with which ho was seized, repeatedly put his person into a diagonal position, and to scores of other positions which I will not name, because I cannot; into every position~ in a word, except that which became a hero of the Ancient and Honourable Lumber Troop to assume. His attitude sometimes resembled that of a disciple of Tom Spring or Dutch Sam. Had I been the Colonel, I would have ordered him off at once to the awkward squad department of the service, and given peremptory instructions to the officers to see that he was properly drilled into his military movements before he again undertook to exhibit before his fellow-soldiers. The applause with which his performances were received was very [-109-] faint and feeble indeed, compared with that with which the addresses of the two gallant gentlemen who preceded him were greeted. Whether it was owing to the ignorance of military phraseology and military attitudes which Comrade Crawford displayed, I cannot say; but the fact was that the Troopers, generally, before he had finished his address, began to exhibit manifestations of insubordination; and it was with no inconsiderable difficulty, aided as he was by the hammer before referred to, that the gallant Colonel could maintain order. Not content with telegraphing Suttler Beck, the proprietor of the head-quarters of the Troop, and his waiters, by winking with one eye and making significant motions to “charge” their glasses again with brandy-and-water, and to bring them a fresh supply of “‘baccy;” not content with this, some of the more undisciplined of the band uttered a variety of ludicrous expressions, and conducted themselves altogether in a most unmilitary manner during the time their gallant comrade was addressing them.
Knowing that Comrade Pattison’s turn would come next, and feeling so disappointed by the unsoldier-hike address -and deportment of Comrade Crawford, I had withdrawn my eye and attention from the latter military gentleman for some time before he resumed his seat, and fixed both on Comrade Pattison. I felt for him; and, what is worthy of mention, though I saw others who were suffering from the closeness of the room and the atmosphere of cigar and tobacco smoke within which they were enveloped,—I somehow or other felt for nobody but himself. I never saw a human being look more uncomfortable in my life. The - infinite “jolliness” of countenance which I had always before seen characterize him, and which I had persuaded myself could only disappear with life itself, had completely vanished before his turn came to harangue his fellow-soldiers. Poor Comrade Pattison! I can fancy I see him at this moment. Not more out -of its element would a fish be on dry land, than was the gallant gentleman on that occasion - in the head-quarters of the Lumber Troop. And no wonder, truly; for, in addition to the unmeaning military jargon he was, the whole of the evening, doomed to hear—the soldierly attitudes he saw everybody around him attempting to assume—and a closeness and unpleasantness of atmosphere which could only have been surpassed by that of the memorable Black Hole of Calcutta, which proved so awfully destructive of life to those who were doomed to breathe it; in addition to all this, some of the Troopers who sat opposite to him kept up—whether intentionally or not it is not for me to say—a constant battery of smoke at his face. They emitted. it at him in such continued streams, that it appeared to him for some time quite a matter of choice, whether [-110-] he should suffer martyrdom from the suffocating volumes of tobacco smoke which came from across the table; or whether he should come by it by hermetically sealing his mouth with the view of shutting out the tobacco exhalations. It required no great stretch of imagination to arrive at the conclusion, that he was all this while’ contrasting, in his own mind, the blessings of the Bank parlour with the miseries he was then enduring. At length his turn came, and with wonderful alacrity did he take to his pedestals. For some moments before, he was all but invisible through the dense. clouds of smoke which filled the place: not more smoky, indeed, could it have appeared though all the artillery of the Troop had been for some time before engaged in discharging a succession of rounds. I had my fears that when he rose, I might not get a sight of him; but from some cause or other, which it is beyond the reach of my philosophy to explain, the smoke, contemporaneously with his rising to address his comrades, did partially disappear in the immediate locality of the spot where he had taken up his position, and I got a tolerably fair view of him. The remaining smoke, however, had the effect of operating, in so far as my optics were concerned, as a magnifying medium; for great as are the geometrical dimensions or physical proportions of Comrade Pattison at any time, they now appeared to me of a vastly increased magnitude. But let that pass. Comrade Pattison made short work of it: his speech had the merit of brevity. It ~ as pro-eminently short; and because short, it was sweet. He proved that he was no wordy warrior:
this appeared to me to augur well for him as a Trooper. I always find that those persons do the most who say the least. He resumed his seat with all due expedition, and in a few seconds after was to be seen in Fleet-street. I am strongly of opinion that Comrade Pattison would rather lose his election next time for the city of London, than spend such another hour or so with his fellow-soldiers at their head-quarters at Mr. Beck’s, Bolt-court.
I have already referred to the artillery or musketry of the Lumber Troop. Which is the proper term, is more than I can determine; for their fire-pieces are in the form of cannons, though not larger than guns. Some of the London journals gave great offence to the Troop, by calling their fire-pieces pop-guns, a few weeks ago. They have also two mortars of decent dimensions. The Troop only discharge their artillery on great occasions: the last time, I believe, was when the ever-memorable Mary-le-bone Festival of 1836, took place at St. John’s Wood. The moment that Mr. Wakley, the member for Finsbury, arrived at the scene of that great festival, there were nearly five thousand persons, including the ladies, present. Several rounds were [-111-] fired, to testify the respect of the Troop for Comrade Wakley. It was proposed, and also eventually agreed to, to fire the guns on the occasion of the late visit of her Majesty to the city of London. One of the Troopers, a past suttler, however, through his individual interference, prevented the intentions of the Troop being carried into effect. He communicated to the Lord Mayor the resolution of the Troop, and the circumstance being brought before a Court of Aldermen, they interdicted all firing in the City on that day. As might be expected, the conduct of this comrade became the subject of discussion on the next meeting of the Troop, which took place on Wednesday evening, the 1st of November. Of all the scenes which it has ever been my lot to witness, that which was exhibited on the evening in question was, out of sight, the most extraordinary. I will venture to
say that it was unparalleled even in the annals of the Troop itself. At all events, all the Troopers with whom I have conversed on the subject, say they never saw anything like it. In attempting to give some idea of it, I seriously assure my readers— and scores of individuals who were present will bear testimony to the truth of what I say—that so far from exaggerating the exhibitions of that evening, no description can come up to the reality.
The motion before the Ancient and Honourable Lumber Troop,when the scene began, related to the rescinding or suspension of a resolution which had been come to at the previous meeting, expressive of the intention of the Troop to salute her Majesty, by a volley from Troop Hall, when she entered the City at Temple-bar. Four or five Troopers were reproaching comrade Stout for having communicated the intention of the Troop to the City authorities, and. thus frustrated their wishes, when he observed that he had been deputed by some other Troopers to do what he had done.
Seven or eight comrades— “Who deputed you to do it? Name, name.” (Loud cheers, and cries of “Hear, hear!”)
Comrade Stout raised his glass of brandy-and-water to his mouth with infinite coolness, but uttered not a word.
Comrade Blood— There’s a pretty go of it, to undertake to anything of the kind, and then shelter himself under the authority of some other Troopers. (Hear, hear, hear, he-ar! and laughter at the drawling way in which the last “hear” was pronounced.
Comrade Stout.- I say that I did not shelter myself under authority of any one. (Cries of “Oh oh”’
Attention! and great uproar.)
Comrade Blank -Colonel officers, and comrades, I rise to order. I protest against this proceeding. We have nothing [-112-] before us. If we are to have a debate, let us have something to debate about. (Cries of “So we have,” drowned by cries of We have not.”) -
Comrade Blank, with prodigious emphasis—I say we have not: the resolution has not yet been read.
A perfect hurricane of cries of “Read the resolution,” “Read the revolution,” succeeded the last observation.
Major Stumps—The resolution is on the books, and therefore there is no necessity for reading it.
Deafening cries of “There is, there is,” “Read it, read it,” followed this remark. In the midst of this uproar, eight or ten Troopers rose all at once in different parts of the Hall, each protesting, in the loudest tones, and with the most violent gesticulation,—” I’ll be heard; I’m determined I’ll be heard.” The Colonel in the meantime kept knocking as regularly with his brass hammer on the table as if he had been a blacksmith at the anvil, accompanying every knock with a loud call for “Attention.” Past-Colonel Birch, on the other hand, who acted as vice-chairman at the other end of the room, took the whole thing with the most perfect coolness, smoking his pipe as if he had been sitting at his own fireside, and never uttering a word, or making any attempt to restore subordination among the disorderly Troops, beyond an occasional gentle application of his hammer to the table. Amidst the Niagarian roar of Lumber Troop voices, which threatened to “split the house,” as one of the visitors observed, that of Comrade Blood occasionally rose above all the rest. He was heard repeatedly to say, though no one paid the least attention to him — I rise to a pint —(Cries of “A pint of half-and-half,” and laughter,) — of order; and I von’t be called down by any one. Not by any comrade, he continued, after an expressive pause, and flourishing his right hand above his head in the air. I’m an old officer of this ‘ere anshent and honourable Lumber Troop.—(Loud cries of” No, no.”) Who’s that a-saying “No, no,” I should like to know? Several voices here said—” I say it,” followed by roars of laughter, and an extraordinary scene of confusion, in the midst of which, Comrade Trope was repeatedly heard roundly rating the waiter for not bringing him a fresh supply of troop-sand.
At this moment, another Trooper named Tickler, rejoicing in the rank of lieutenant-colonel, who had been on his legs for the previous five minutes, but without uttering, or even attempting to utter a word, now laid down the glass tf ale he held in his hand, and said, in a voice of stentorian power, “I’ll stay here till the Troop break up, rather than be defeated in my attempts to obtain a hearing.” (Cries of “I wish you may get it,” drowned amidst exclamations of “ Hear him, hear hin.”)
[-113-] Lieutenant-colonel Tickler here looked at his watch: it wanted precisely two hours to the usual time of breaking up the meeting. At this moment, some one behind the gallant officer, as a proof of his respect for the Troop, and his own acquisitions in military discipline, put an open handkerchief with a yellow ground, and liberally embellished with large black spots, around his head, which made the upper story of the Trooper look wonderfully like a leopard’s hide. The walls of Troop Hall literally resounded with the peals of laughter which followed. Not even the gallant Colonel himself who presided, could in this instance refrain from joining in the universal laugh, however indignant he must have been at the deplorable want of military respect which the party had exhibited.
When the roars of laughter had subsided, which they eventually did from the mere exhaustion of the Troopers, the cry of “Read the resolution” was again raised with redoubled vigour.
Lieutenant-colonel Tickler — Troopers may assail and attempt to annoy inc in any way they please, but here I ‘II stand till I’m heard. I’ve got plenty of time. My time is of no importance. (Laughter, mingled with groans and hisses; in the midst of which, the gallant officer took out his box, and assisted himself to a pinch of snuff with the most perfect composure; after which he called for another go of brandy and water—the water to be quite hot.)
The Colonel here interposed with success, for the first time, and said, addressing himself to Lieutenant-colonel Tickler. If you wait till, the resolution is read, I’ll hear you for an hour, if
you like. (Loud cheers, in which the Lieutenant-colonel cordially joined.)
At this moment, another officer, whose name I could not learn, rose, and was proceeding to address the Troop, but had not uttered many words, when his voice was drowned amidst the universal uproar which followed.
The resolution was at length permitted to be read; on which Comrade Blank rose, and moved—” That the standing order of the body be rescinded.”
Lieutebant-colonel Tickler Not “body;” “Troop,” Sir, if you please.”
Comrade Blank- Then “Troop,” if you wish it, Mr. Critic; but I contend that the Troop is a body. (Loud cries of “No, no,” and “Yes, yes,”- amidst stentorian instructions to the waiters to bring more troop-sand, and to fill up certain glasses again.) -
A. TrooperThe effect of the motion will be, if carried, to prewent the firing of the artillery on the Queen’s wisit to the City. I vish to know vy ve should not persist in our original intention?”
[-114-] A host of voices—Because we’ve got a letter from the City authorities a-forbiddin’ it. (Loud cries of “Read the letter.”)
Comrade Jones —I advise the Troop to be cautious; for the public press is ready to hold us up to ridicule. (Tremendous cries of “No! no !“ with equally loud exclamations of “ Yes yes !“)
Comrade Jones, with an emphatic application of his fist to the table—I say yes, though. They ridicule us as smokers, revellers, and uproarious persons. (Roars of laughter.) -
Comrade Blank—I rise, Colonel, officers, and comrades, to order. (“ Hear! hear! hear! hear! hear.”) Comrade Jones is quite out of order. He is not speaking to the question.
Comrade Jones (to Comrade Blank)—If you don’t like my speech, I’m blow’d if you don’t have a precious dose of it. (Deafening peals of laughter, mingled with cries of “ Oh, oh !)
After a moment’s pause, Comrade Jones gave a significant shake of his head, and said energetically— I say he shall, though; aye, and so shall the Troop too.—(Renewed bursts of laughter, with loud expressions of disapprobation.) I repeat——(Loud cries of “ Question! question !“) I’m astonished—(Here comrade Jones scornfully tossed his head, and curled his lip)—I’m astonished at those who cry ‘Question.’— (Renewed cries of “Question! question !“) Yes, I do say I’m asto——--(Renewed cries of “Question! question!” from a score of voices.) Will any person tell me that I am not speaking to the question?
The ludicrous gravity with which this last sentence was spoken was so great, that another universal shout of laughter resounded through the room, as if all the Troopers had been subjected in a. moment to the effect of a mental electrical agency,—if there be not an impropriety in the expression.
Comrade Jones—I repeat the question: will any man tell me that I am not speaking to the question?
Comrade Blank (winking at a friend)—I do.
As Comrade Blank uttered the last two words, he took a liberal draught of cold water.
Comrade Jones (assuming an aspect of great seriousness) Will you tell me your name, Sir ?—(Loud cries of “Order! order !
Comrade Blank (quite coolly)—There is no occasion. (Laughter and cheers.)
Comrade Jones—I must know what comrade I am addressing. (Loud cries of” Order! order !“ “Chair! chair !“)
Comrade Blank—My name is Fergusson. (Loud laughter.)
A Trooper (with great energy)—I say that person’s name is not Fergusson. (Tremendous uproar, during which the gal-[-115-]lant Colonel in the chair, seeing the utter impossibility of preserving order, wisely determined, to use the phraseology of a Trooper, to let the unruly and awkward squad have their full swing.) The Trooper resumed, addressing himself to Comrade Blank—-You, Sir, are humbugging the Troop. Yes, Sir; you are, Sir. (Cries of” Shame I shame I
Comrade Jones (looking Comrade Blank fiercely in the face) You, Sir, have some aliases, perhaps. (Renewed cries of “ Order! order!” and a frightful storm of uproar.)
The gallant Colonel, seeing the altercation and uproar Were likely to be protracted to midnight, if not put a stop to, here interposed, and said that both comrades were out of order; Comrade Blood, in not asking the gentleman’5 name through the Chair; and he in giving a wrong name.
Comrade Blank—Very good, Colonel: my name is not Fergusson. I’ll tell you what my real name is, if Comrade Jones sits down.
Comrade Jones—No, I won’t (loud laughter.) Yes, I will. (Renewed peals of laughter.) William, fill up this glass again.
Comrade Blank - Now, then. I’ll first tell you why I called myself Fergusson; and then (looking towards Comrade Jones) I’ll give you my real name. It is—
Comrade Jones— I won’t have it. (Loud laughter, and cries of “Oh! oh !“)
Comrade Blank – I won’t answer any question unless I’m heard. My name is Blank; and if comrade Jones wishes my address it is—
(Here a tremendous burst of applause greeted Comrade Blank for the manly and courageous course which he adopted.) The reason why I gave a wrong name was, that I wished to have a little bit of pleasantry at Comrade Jones’s expense, . (Deafening cries of “Order! order!” “Chair.! chair!” “Waiter, bring me another go of gin and..water;” “More troop-sand here,” &c.)
Comrade Jones - I’m quite delighted to hear it. (Loud laughter.) I assure-. (A cry of Order. here proceeded from some one in the body of the Hall.) Who calls ‘Order’ I should like to know? Will anybody call ‘Order’ again? I assure friend Blank that -
Comrade Blank - I rise to order, Colonel. I insist on my right to be called comrade (Great applause.)
Comrade Jones (sneeringly) —Well then, Comrade Blank gives me his address as if I wished to call him out. I never fights with any other than this ‘ere (pointing to his tongue, amidst great laughter and loud cheers.) I wish, (continued Comrade Jones, looking to the Colonel;) I wish the Colonel would keep his brother officers in summut better order. [-116-] (Loud cheers and laughter, mingled with a cry from the middle of the Hall, “William, bring me some more ‘baccy.”)
The Colonel— O, but I can’t. (Shouts of laughter.)
Comrade Strap—I rise, Colonel, to-move—
Comrade Pewter—I rise to order. I say—
Comrade Strap—I say, Sir, you hold your chat. (Laughter, and cries of “Order! order!’) I’m in possession of the chair and the Troop, Sir. I move, as an amendment to the motion for rescinding the resolution, that it be allowed to stand; my object being, that the guns should be fired on her Majesty’s visit to the City.
Comrade Blank—I rise to object to the amendment. I maintain—
Comrade Jones (interrupting Comrade Blank* (*Comrade Blank is a young man) —You assume too much, young man.—(Loud laughter.) You cannot object to it till it is seconded.— (Renewed laughter.)
Past-Colonel Hodson—I’ve seen many scenes in this place, but I’ve never seen any one equal to this. (“ Hear! hear ! We are betrayed by Troopers. (Cries of” We are , we are.”)
A Trooper (in a small penny-trumpet sort of voice) :—Yes, ye is. I says it, too, past-colonel. Dash my buttons if we ain’t a-being burlesqued! (Cries of” Hem ! hem !“)
Comrade Franks—All this has come from the doings of a disappointed past-suttler. (Immense applause.) Yes; von vot now vishes to disgrace this ‘ere Troop. (Renewed plaudits.)
Here Comrade Blank handed up to the Colonel the motion he had made, as altered, and moved that it be read.
The Colonel commenced reading the resolution; but when he got to the third line, he made a dead pause.
Cries of “Read, read !“ and “Go on !“ resounded from all parts of Troop Hall.
A Trooper—It’s very easy to bawl out—anybody could do that—’ Read, read!’ and ‘Go on;’ but can the Colonel read the writing ?—Some more ‘baccy, vaiter.”(Loud laughter.)
The Colonel—No; I can’t; and I don’t think anybody could. (Laughter and cheers.)
Comrade Blank—Give it to me, and I’ll read it. (Cries of “No, no; it must be read by the Colonel.”) -
Comrade Blank—Then I insist that the Colonel read the alterations made with the pencil.—Waiter, bring me some cold water. (Loud laughter.)
The Colonel again closely scrutinized the pencilship, but was still unable to proceed.
Comrade Blank—Oh! you can’t read it.
[-117-] Comrade Sprat—I rise to order. There’s another insult to the Colonel. I’ll take (to the waiter) another go of brandy-and-water, William.
The Colonel (his face brightening up at the circumstance of being at last able to decipher the MS.)—Comrade Blank requests me to read the pencil writing exactly as it is. It is this, then, officers and comrades: “That the slanding orders—” (Loud laughter, and yells of” Oh! oh! oh !)
The Colonel—I don’t doubt that it means standing orders; but- I have read it as desired, exactly in the way in which it is written.
A Trooper (addressing himself very indignantly to Comrade Blank)—Yes, Sir, you never scores the tops of your t’s.
“No, you don’t, Sir,” echoed a dozen voices, their proprietors severally standing up as they delivered themselves.
A Trooper—You ought to score your t’s, Comrade Blank. Another Trooper (with great emphasis)—And vy don’t you do it, Comrade Blank?
Comrade Scraggs—Really, if we go on at this rate, we’ll never get through the business before the Troop (Loud cries of” Hear! hear !“ and of “ Question! Question!”)
Comrade Tugworth—I move that the amendment be put to the vote.
A Trooper—Vat is the amendment? May I be pounded in a druggist’s mortar, if I knows.—Vaiter, just bring me a little more troop-sand. (Peals of laughter.)
Comrade Duckster—.We can’t put the amendment, because its not formal. - (“ Hear! hear ! “)
Comrade Blank—O, never mind formalities: don’t stand on them.—(Loud cries of “Order! order!” “Chair! chair!” and a scene of uproar, which defies description, followed this proposal to depart from the rules of the Troop.) The scene continued for some time; and during the greater part of it, a forest of hands were seen- cleaving the air, and at least one half of the Troopers present were either on chairs, or on their legs on the floor; while the noise occasioned by the almost universal exclamations or apostrophes to the gallant Colonel, was not only discordant in the highest degree, but absolutely deafening. The Colonel wisely leaned back in his chair until the Troopers had in some degree exhausted themselves; while the past-colonel, who presided at the opposite end, renewed his old practice, on such occasions, of applying his hammer, with a slow but steady hand, to the table, at the rate, on an average, of ten times a minute by the Lumber Troop clock.
“I never saw such an unruly Troop,” said the Colonel, with marked emphasis, and much vehemence of gesture, after order [-118-] had been in some degree restored. “I never saw such an unruly Troop: I’ll leave the chair directly.”—(Loud dries of- “ No! no! Colonel; don’t do that ;“ amidst a renewed scene of disorder and uproar.)
Comrade Tapster —The Colonel must put the original motion. (Loud cries of “No! no!” “The amendment first,”) followed the proposition, and the noise and confusion became still greater than before. Eight or ten Troopers were seen—for they could not be heard— addressing the Colonel at once; while others, in different parts of the Hall, were disputing with and abusing one another at the full stretch of their voice. Almost every one present was on his legs; while growls of “Bow, vow, vow!” groans of every kind, and zoological sounds in all their varieties—many of them I am certain never heard before in any menagerie—issued from every part of the room. And to complete the ludicrousness of the scene, voices were now and then heard calling on the waiter to bring a fresh supply of troop-sand, gin with cold water, brandy “vith varm vater,” &c. Order being again in some degree restored,
Comrade Manson said—Though I seconded the amendment, I never meant to second it.”—(Roars of laughter.)
The amendment was then withdrawn, and the original motion declared to be carried.
Comrade Blank then rose, and said — I am now about to make a motion for a vote of censure on the officer who wrote to the Lord Mayor about the intention of the Troop to fire their guns on her Majesty’s visit to the City; and in doing this, I beg to assure the Troop that I am not to be put down by opposition bullies. (Deafening cries of “Order! order!” “Chair! chair!” and cries of “Apologize,” from comrade Tapster.) I will apologize; and (looking Comrade Tapster in the face) I will pay you in gold instead of copper. (Loud laughter.) I am prepared to— (Here Comrade Blank was interrupted by a growl, exceedingly like that emitted by a surly Newfoundland dog, from the left-hand corner of the Hall.) If you, Colonel, don’t put a stop to this under-growling work, I’ll sit down at once. Unless I be supported— (Here the interruption was renewed from the same quarter, only that the sound was different.) Can you not, Colonel put a stop to the braying of this animal? (Loud laughter.) The press has been aspersed this night; and before I make my motion, allow me to vindicate the press of London from the aspersions thrown on it. (Cries of” No! no! that has nothing to do with t-he question.”) Well, then, since I am denied the liberty of vindicating the character of the London press, I’ll confine myself to the motion.
Comrade Blank then proceeded to denounce, in the most un-[-119-]compromising terms, the conduct of their officer, in writing to the Lord Mayor; and several other speakers gave expression to their sentiments in the same strain, amidst peals of applause which made the walls of Troop Hall resound again: and yet, notwithstanding all this, and the groans and clamour also, which were directed towards him from all parts of the room, the criminated party smoked away at his pipe, supplied as it was with additional troop-sand, and swilled suttler Beck’s sparkling ale, as if nothing had been the matter. When his turn came to address the Troop in vindication of himself, he coolly rose, and after looking about him for some time, began in the usual military phraseology of “Colonel, officers, and comrades;” but before he proceeded farther, he was assailed by such a volley of yells, hisses, groans, and all sorts of menagerie sounds, that
a discharge of the Troop’s twenty-one guns, with their two mortars to boot, would have been comparative silence itself. The scene of uproar which had thus again commenced, lasted for nearly an hour, during which the accused Trooper took up his hat two or three times, and said he would “march” himself home for the night; but that he would be happy to hear his conduct discussed any other evening the Troop chose to appoint. On one of these occasions, he “marched” to the door of Troop Hall, but was induced to return again, on some Trooper promising he would be heard. The second presentation of himself, however, only served, if possible, to add to the uproar. Eventually he desisted from the attempt to address his comrades; but by this time almost every couple of Troopers in the Hall had involved themselves in a nice, snug, private quarrel of their own. The most noisy and the most distinguished of the number was a “man with a Macintosh;” but whether he was a Trooper, or only a visitor, nobody seemed to know. He conducted, with very great spirit, indeed, a smart quarrel with sundry Troopers at once. But his most formidable opponent was a knight of the thimble. “You’re a tailor, Sir,” said “the man with the Macintosh” to his valorous adversary, who was a tall lean personage.
“And. you’re a wagabond,” retorted Snip, giving a smart knock on the table.
“Sir, I repeat, you’re a tailor,” said the other, sneeringly. “And I say you’re vorse nor a wagabond.”
“Hold your tongue, old thread-the-needle” “Sir, if you say that ‘ore agin,” said Snip, now wrought up to the highest pitch of passion.—” I’ll knock your—; I will, as sure as I stands in this ‘ere place.”
“You’ll do what, Sir?” observed the “man with the Macintosh,” eyeing the knight of the thimble steadily.
“Just call me a tailor, agin, Sir.”
[-120-] “You are a tailor.”
“I von’t stand this insult any longer, may I— !“
Here the hand of the tailor was raised, with the view of suiting the action to the implied threat; but it was arrested in its descent towards the person of his antagonist by a friend who chanced at the moment to have elbowed his way towards the particular part of Troop Hall in which the embryo pugilists were stationed.
“What’s all this about ?“ inquired Comrade Spunk, addressing his friend the tailor.
“It’s that ‘ere person has been a insultin’ of me and my trade,” replied the latter, pointing to the “man with the Macintosh.”
“In what way?”
“Vy, he has called me a tailor, vich is no fault of mine. I couldn’t help it, if my father put me to learn that ‘ere bisness.”
“Pooh, pooh!” said the other; “if that’s all, it is not worth fighting about.”
The insulted tailor was about to say something, when the Colonel suddenly rose from his seat, and said that, as no attention was paid to him, there was no use in his sitting there.
“Good night, then, Colonel— I’m off,” observed the “man with the Macintosh.”
“And I’ll be marching too,” said another, taking up his hat, and walking himself out of Troop Hall.
“And we’d better all be gone,” shouted a third.
The suggestion was received with acclamation; the Colonel observing that he had sate there for five hours without relief. The Troopers then quitted the Hall in a most irregular and unsoldierlike manner, without having either adjourned the discussion, or come to any decision on the motion before it.
I have always observed that the uproarious scenes which are so common in Troop Hall, occur when there is the greatest muster of the Troopers. When the attendance is but limited, nothing could pass off more smoothly or quietly. All are on the most friendly terms,—as comrades ought to be. They smoke their pipe, quaff their go of brandy-and-water, and enjoy their song in the most perfect harmony. The Colonel, Past-Colonel Birch, the Secretary and a great many others :whom it is unnecessary to particularize, are as pleasant and intelligent men as any one could wish to spend a social hour with.
One of the principal amusements of the Troopers, when there is no important business to transact, is to hear ~ne another sing. And I have much pleasure in mentioning, that- there are some very excellent vocalists among the body. I have repeatedly heard singing in Troop Hall which would do no discredit to per-[-121-]sons who live, as Shakspeare would say, by “discoursing the sweet music” of their voices. And what has always been to me the source of supreme gratification, is the promptitude with which every Trooper responds to the call of the Colonel, when he appeals to some particular comrade for a song. I am far from meaning to say that there are no unmusical or inharmonious personages in the head-quarters: that could not be expected when there usually is so strong a muster; but this I will say, that I never heard a Trooper refuse to comply with the request of the gallant Colonel, when demanding a song, on the ground that he could not sing. Every visitor to Troop Hall must have contrasted this readiness to “favour the Troop with a song” with the hesitation and excuses, and affected inability to sing, which are so common in private society. To be sure, there are several Troopers who exhibit no variety, either in the matter or style of their singing. They have but one song, and but one way of singing it: still they show their subordination by so readily complying with the call of their Colonel for a song. They do their best, and more cannot be expected from any one. There is one Trooper who has for years treated his comrades to the same song almost every, night he has been present; and yet, notwithstanding the frequency with which he has repeated his vocal performance, he still sings the song with as much zest as he did the first time. It is due to the Troop to say, that, judging from the plaudits with which they receive it, and the fervour and unanimity with which they join in the chorus, they are no less pleased than - the gentleman himself. I am sorry that I do not now tecollect some of the verses of this song; for, if I did, I -would give a specimen or two, because I think there are some clever things in it. The chorus, as well as I can remember, is something like this:
“ Now listen to me, if you please,
And-I’ll soon prove my words,
That the world is but a nest,
And we’re all birds, birds:’
It is impossible to convey any idea of the effect which is produced by a large body of the Troopers, causing the walls of Troop Hall to resound again by the fervour with which they sing this chorus.
Another Trooper is so devotedly wedded to a particular song, beginning with “Mary’s my lily, and Flora’s my rose,”
that no consideration would induce him to sing any other. This Trooper is, I am told,—for I am not personally cognizant of the [-122-] fact,—an undertaker by trade. He thinks he has a sort of prescriptive right to monopolize the singing of this song in Troop Hall. Not long since, a comrade treated the Troop to the same song. It was clear that the undertaker was mortified beyond measure at the circumstance,—the more especially as the vocal performance of his rival was greeted with loud applause. Every manifestation of approbation was like plunging a dagger into the bosom of the poor undertaker. Some of his friends observing this, expressed their opinion that he sang the song much better than his rival. Some admirers of the vocal capabilities of the latter, intimated their dissent from this. A fierce discussion in the first instance, and afterwards a rather violent altercation, as to the comparative merits of the vocal rivals, followed. It was eventually proposed that they should both sing again, and that the sense of the Troop should be taken as to whose vocal performance was most meritorious. The undertaker declined the competition that evening, on the alleged ground that he did not then feel himself in good condition for singing; but signified his readiness to enter the lists with his rival on the next meeting of the Troop. The proposal was agreed to. In the interim,—the interim, namely, of a week,—there was a constant clearing of throats, and an assiduous preparation on the part of the rivals for the grand vocal competition. Troop Hall was crowded on the next Wednesday evening, to enjoy the affair. Comrade Swan, the opponent of the undertaker, was called on by the Colonel for a song, and the other promptly responded to the call, -by singing, in his best style,
“Mary’s my lily, and Flora’s my rose.”
The applause was pretty cordial, and general; but the Troopers were surprised to find that nine or ten persons, sitting beside each other, and rejoicing in what Mr. O’Connell would call “churchyard-looking” visages, were wonderfully active, fervid, and unanimous, in their expression of disapprobation of Comrade Swan’s vocal exhibition. It was now the’ undertaker’s turn to sing. After taking out of his pocket a handkerchief of a greater number of colours than Sir Isaac Newton ever dreamed of and applying it to his forehead for the purpose of drying up a perfect pool of perspiration which had gathered there, in consequence of the agony of fear as to the result under which he laboured,—he gave two or three forced coughs, with the ~ddition of a couple of hems, and then commenced. Before he had finished the first note, the assemblage of demure-looking personages, already referred to, burst forth, as if moved by some unaccountable sympathy with each other, into a literal roar of applause. Of course [-123-] the undertaker’s voice was drowned; while that of the Colonel, in calling “Attention!” “Silence “ and so forth, was scarcely in the first instance heard. Their cheers at last died away; but were renewed with undiminished energy when the undertaker had reached the end of verse the first. A regular round of applause from the same vociferous party followed the last word of each succeeding verse,—in which plaudits, several of the most disciplined of the Troopers, carried unconsciously away by their enthusiasm, could not refrain from joining. It was clear to all that the undertaker was greatly encouraged by these demonstrations of applause; for he waxed more and more confident, till he reached the end of the song, when he concluded by a vocal flourish, appropriately accompanied by a flourish of his right hand in the air, which afforded demonstrative proof that he already regarded himself as the victor. The melancholy-looking gentry, who had been so active in cheering the songster as he proceeded, rose to their feet as he resumed his seat and waving their bats above their heads, rent the air of Troop Hall with their plaudits. A general, though more moderate manifestation of applause from the Troopers, confirmed the undertaker’s anticipations of a triumph over his rival. The Colonel was about to put the question to the vote, as to who had sung “Mary’s my lily, and Flora’s my rose,” best, when one of the proprietors of the demure physiognomies unguardedly shouted aloud, “Vy, master’s von the day, to be sure: he be the best; blow me, if he ben’t.”
The Troopers first looked at each other with amazement, and then at the stranger who had made the unintelligible remark.
“Who are you, Sir P’ said. the Colonel, authoritatively.
“Who am I?” answered the other, coolly.
“Aye; who are you!” interrogated the Colonel, with increased emphasis.
“Vy, I be’s in the sarvice of that ‘ere gemman,” pointing to the undertaker, “vot’s jost a-been a-singin’; and ve came to this ‘ere place to—”
Here another of the sombre-looking party suddenly started up, and clapping his hand on the mouth of the speaker, caused him to break off in the middle of the sentence.
“Come, do tell us what you came here for,” said the Colonel, beginning to suspect that something was wrong. The undertaker’s countenance exhibited double its usual longitude, as the gallant gentleman put the question.
“Must I tell?” inquired the other, with great simplicity.
“Certainly you must,” exclaimed a host of Troopers at once.
“No, don’t,” whispered one of the demure-looking gentry.
[-124-] “Order, Sir !“ said the Colonel, with some sternness, hooking the latter hard in the face. The undertaker now appeared as crestfallen as if he had been about to be expelled from the Troop.
“Come, Sir,” repeated the Colonel, “tell us what you came here for.”
“Vy, then, if so be as I must speak the truth, master engaged nine on us to come here to-night, and to cheer his song, and to interrupt the gemman vot’s sung before him. Ve are all in master’s sarvice: ve assists him in performing funerals.”
It is impossible to describe the effect produced on the Troopers by this unexpected disclosure of one of the undertaker’s mutes. The conduct of the party, so unaccountable before, was perfectly intelligible now. The undertaker saved himself from a vote of censure in his own presence, for the deception he had practised, by snatching up his hat, and quitting Troop Hall with an edifying expedition. He has never since crossed its threshold.
I have often admired the polite way in which the Lumber Troop rid themselves of the presence of any comrade who has so far forgotten himself, and the respect due to the ancient and honourable body with whom he is associated, as to get drunk. The Colonel authoritatively desires the suttler, for the time being, to “see that gentleman safely conducted out of the Hall.” A more genteel way of ejecting a troublesome customer, I hold it were impossible to imagine. The suttler, thus instructed by the Colonel, gently, in the first instance, takes hold of the inebriated comrade by the breast of the coat. If the latter offers no resistance, but resigns himself to the safe guidance of the suttler, good; all passes off quietly- enough. But if he takes it into his head to refuse quitting Troop Hall, as intoxicated comrades often do, then he must expect to be handled a little more roughly. The suttler brings all the physical energy of which he is proprietor, to bear on the forcible ejectment of the refractory Trooper; and if he be not competent for the task himself, there are always plenty of comrades present, willing and ready on a moment’s notice, to lend a helping hand in a work which so nearly concerns the honour and respectability of the Troop. My only surprise is, that the Troop content themselves with the mere ejection of such persons, and the exaction of a, fine of a shilling or sixpence, according as the offender is an officer or a private. If I were a Trooper, one of the first motions I would make, would be, that such members of the body as could disgrace both themselves and the Troop in this way, should be expelled at once. It strikes me, that this would be the proper course to adopt, if the Troop are desirous of insuring well-conducted soldiers, and due decorum in the proceedings at head-quarters. I am sure I need not repeal that, under the existing system of dis-[-125-]cipline, singularly lenient as that system is, the breaches of military subordination are of rare occurrence, when the number of Troopers is considered. But the adoption of a more rigid code would have the effect of purging the Troop of all disreputable persons. And here let me observe, that I would be for bringing under the operation of the code I am recommending, all those comrades, whether drunk or sober, who persist in creating a disturbance in Troop Hall, by unnecessarily interrupting the due course of the proceedings. There are many individuals, as may be inferred from what I have said in a former part of the chapter, who join the Troop for no other purpose in the world than that of getting up what they call “scenes.” There ought to be a law for the summary expulsion of such individuals. It was clear, that there were many of these individuals in Troop Hail on the evening of the first of last month, when the scene, of which I have attempted to give some idea in a previous part of the chapter, occurred. And had the strict system of discipline I am recommending obtained at that time, and been duly enforced, all the disturbance and uproar, which threw so much discredit on the proceedings that evening, would have been prevented My plan would be very simple: I would hold it competent for any Trooper to move that any comrade, whom he supposed to be seeking to create a disturbance, or to burlesque the Troop, ought to be expelled Troop Hall at once. Let the question then be put to the vote, and there would at once be an end to the matter.
As it is, as before mentioned, any person wishing to enjoy two or three hours’ peaceable and pleasant conversation at a cheap rate, may have it at the small charge of twopence by going to Troop Hall in the capacity of a visitor, on the Wednesday evenings, when what is called the usual meetings of the Troop are held. The lovers of uproar and confusion - for singular as the taste is, there are some persons who only feel themselves in their clement when in the midst of such scenes- may have their tastes gratified to their heart’s content, by visiting Troop Hall on those evenings appropriated for the election of officers, or for the transaction of other important Lumber Troop business. The annual election of officers takes place about the middle of next month, when, as a matter of course, the usual amount of disorder, noise, and uproar, will be exhibited.
If any one is ambitious of being a member of the Troop, in order that he may have a right to take part in their discussions and to vote on all questions submitted for discussion surely the annual payment of five shillings is not too great a price for so important a Privilege. Let no man be deterred from allowing [-126-] himself to be put in nomination for membership, from an apprehension that his pretensions to the honour will be too severely scrutinized. There could not be a more unfounded apprehension. To speak the truth, there is not—unless under some very peculiar circumstances—any scrutiny at all. A Trooper proposes that Mr. So-and-so “be admitted a member of the Ancient and Honourable Lumber Troop;” another Trooper seconds the motion; and the Colonel, addressing himself to the party nominated, who receives a hint to assume a perpendicular position on the occasion, says—” Is it, Mr. So-and-so, with your own freewill and consent, that you are proposed for admission into this Ancient and Honourable Lumber Troop?” The party either answers “Yes,” or gives an affirmative nod; and is that instant pronounced by the Colonel to be a Trooper.
It is really amusing to hear the Troopers talking in regular military style. Many of them can do it with the strictest propriety. I doubt if Wellington himself be more conversant with military phraseology than are some of the Lumber Troopers of the greatest standing. I am almost convinced that the officers do, on particular occasions, forget that they are plain citizens, and that they actually, for the time being, fancy themselves to be officers of regular regiments of soldiers. Even their written addresses are penned in the genuine military style. Let any one who doubts this, visit Troop Hall at his convenience, and he will see the walls placarded with the following:
SUPPORT YOUR BENEVOLENT FUND
And here let me give expression to the hope, that the appeal thus made to the Troopers will be promptly responded to, and that a liberal support will be extended to the Benevolent Fund; for the object of that fund is truly benevolent, being nothing else than to assist Troopers who, by ill health, old age, or adverse circumstances, are fit subjects of relief by those who are more fortunate in the world.
There are two of the rules of the Lumber Troop which appear to me to be exceedingly injudicious in so far as respects the enlistment of new soldiers. I refer to the rule which prohibits the drinking of ale or porter out of any pewter vessel; and to that which denies the members permission to eat anything in the character of Troopers.
With regard to the first prohibition, everybody knows that there are many persons who would rather not drink ale or porter at all, than drink either out of a glass. Their affection for [-127-] pewter pots is so great, that one cannot help thinking there is something in the peculiar metal itself as palatable to their taste, though only put to their mouths, as is the liquid which it contains. One of the late Irish M. P.’s was so devotedly attached to drinking porter out of a pewter pot, that he rather preferred running the risk, when he went into any tavern, of being voted, as he used to say, “ungenteel,” than submit to the privation of not having the liquid in a pewter pot. His plan for concealing his metallic partialities from the other persons in the room, was to instruct the waiter, when he brought in the porter, to place it under the table. This done, the ex-honourable gentleman bowed down his head, and took draught after draught of Whitbread and Co.’s “Entire,” as occasion required, replacing the pewter pot with its contents, each time, in its locality beneath the table. Supposing, now, that the quondam M.P. for D—, had intended to join the Lumber Troop, the circumstance of pewter vessels being prohibited in Troop Hall would, with him, have been an unconquerable objection to his becoming a comrade. And I have no doubt whatever, that many others who would have shed a lustre on the Troop, have been deterred from enlisting themselves under its banners for the same reason.
As regards the prohibition of eating anything in the headquarters, I am no less convinced- that it has largely contributed to keep down the numbers of the Troop. Many people have no notion of sitting for hours in a public-house, swilling ale or porter, or quaffing go after go of brandy-and-water, without partaking of something of a solid kind. It is only a short time since the Troopers had a practical illustration furnished them of the strong disapprobation with which some persons regard the rule which prohibits eating, as well as drinking out of the pewter. A stout country-looking man, whose dialect clearly proved that he was a recent importation from Yorkshire, chanced to drop one evening into Troop Hall, without knowing anything of the Troop. William, as usual, before the visitor had well seated himself, seductively inquired, looking up in his face, what he would take. “A pint of half-and-half,” was the answer.
“Yes, Sir,” said the waiter, and away he flew to meet the wishes of his customer. In an incredibly short time he returned with the liquid in a glass vessel, and was in the act of depositing it on the table before the Yorkshireman, when the latter said, “Be kind enough to bring it me in the pewter.”
“No pewter jugs allowed; Sir, to-night.”
“Qh, Sir, because it’s a rule of the place.”
“Coom, coom, none of your nonsense,” said the other, as if looking on the thing as a joke.
[-128-] “Quite true, Sir, I assure you,” repeated William, with much politeness.
“Are you serious?”
“Oh; then there is no help for it, I suppose. Just bring me a crust of bread and cheese.”
“Can’t, Sir,” said the waiter.
“Can’t bring a customer some bread and cheese !“ said the Yorkshireman, looking as much amazed as if he were at a loss to know whether or not he ought to credit the evidence of his ears. — “Why, good man, I don’t want it for nothing: I mean to pay for it.”
“Don’t doubt that, Sir; but can’t bring it. It’s contrary to the rules.”
“What rules?” inquired the other, with considerable emphasis.
“The rules of the Troop, Sir.”
“The Troop! What Troop?” Lumber Troop, Sir.”
“The Ancient and Honourable
The countryman was as much in the dark as before; but some one sitting beside him entered into such details as eventually enabled him to form some idea of the nature of the institution. —“But still,” he observed, after the other had concluded his explanations; “but still, I don’t see why a man should coom into a public-house to be refused bread and cheese, when he is willing to pay for it.—Waiter, you bring me some.”
“Can’t do it, Sir,” answered William, pathetically.
“But I insist that you shall. I have a right to demand it,” said the other, with considerable warmth; his Yorkshire blood rising some degrees at the reiterated refusal to meet his wishes.
A regular squabble ensued between the countryman and several of the Troopers around him, in consequence of their asserting the propriety of the prohibition.
“ Who is that gentleman?” inquired the Colonel, while the altercation was at its height. “Is he a Trooper?”
“He is only a visitor,” answered two or three voices at once.
“Then, Mr. Beck, you see that gentleman conducted safely along the passage,” said the Colonel.
Mr. Beck advanced for this purpose, when the Yorkshireman dared any man to lay a hand upon him, but signified his intention of quitting Troop Hall of his own accord. He accordingly proceeded along the passage, and on reaching the door, took the knob in his hand, and, turning about, shouted as loud as he was able, “What a precious starved squad you must be, when you never goes to mess!” and so saying, he violently slammed the door, and bolted out of Bolt-court.
[nb. grey numbers in brackets indicate page number, (ie. where new page begins), ed.]