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WIZARDS OF THE EAST, WEST, NORTH, AND SOUTH. 297
The worthy pair í have just mentioned having half persuaded the owner, and quite persuaded many others, that there is something wrong about the horse (for the opinion or even insinuation of a third party will in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred go further in persuading people that a horse has some fault than all the owner can say to the contrary) they now seek a little adjunct in the servant. If he is a fool, they really do satisfy him the horse is worth little more than they have offered; and then letting him know that a couple of sovereigns will be his if they buy, in no way of course tends to induce him to alter this opinion; and he then begins to recommend his master to sell if possible. Should they, however, find the man has sense enough not to be their dupe, they then try his honesty and bid high; and I fear on this tack they too often succeed. Having paved the way in either case to the assistant offices of the servant, their game is now to appear to have given up all wish for the horse, which one of them, however, keeps a sharp eye on, and also on every one they see even looking at him. Should any one seem disposed to do this, the fellow on the watch accosts him “ Nice nag that, Sir, TO LOOK AT! I was pretty near putting my foot in it with him.”—“Why," says the looker-on, “is any thing the matter with him ?” — " Oh no, not for some people; but — ” And he walks away, imitating a lame horse. This is enough; the looker-on thanks his stars he was not done, and how fortunate he was to have seen that man! The other miscreant, while this is going on, gets back again to Catch'em Corner to see if he can start any fresh game, taking care, however, to pass and repass the owner of the horse as often as he can, to show he 298 “LOUD LAUGHS, LOW GIBE, AND BITTER JOKE.” has given him up, waiting, hoping, and fully expecting (in which he is seldom disappointed) that the owner will come to him. I think I see the fellow standing with a longish ground ash in his hand, which he either keeps bending about or has it with his hand deep in his coat-pocket. I know the very position of the vagabond. Here he stops every passing horse, with something like the following very pleasant mode of address. If he sees a gentleman on a horse that is not a colt, he begins, in a particularly civil voice, 66 Beg pardon, Sir! what are you axing for the old horse ?” Should a servant be on one that looks in good working condition, he begins with, “Now, then, how much for the notomy? wo, old Step-and-fetch-it: let's look at you" — this of course loud enough to be heard by all by-standers. The chance is, that some friend or other of the dealer, seeing what is going on, gives the thing a lift, and, addressing him, says, “I say, Brown,” (or whatever the fellow's name may be,) "are you going to stound Smithfield ?” This raises a laugh against both groom and horse. Now, nothing people hate more than to be laughed at. The dealer knows this; so tells the groom to come on one side out of the crowd. Glad to make his escape, he goes. Here both soap and money are tried on; and, as the groom would almost sell himself rather than be again exposed to the sneers of the multitude, it will be no wonder if he is anxious to sell the horse, which he does if the price is left to him; if not, he does all he can to persuade his master to do so. The dislike to this kind of publicity that most respectable persons have is one of the many engines these fellows work to obtain their ends, either in buying or selling; and many good horses are really sold at half what the
299 owner expected, and many bad ones bought, actually to avoid the slang and blackguardism of these low vagabonds and their companions.
Now we will suppose, what probably will be the result, does occur. The former gentleman, finding to his great surprise (not being aware of the sale of his horse having been purposely spoiled) that he gets no offers made for him except by friends of the dealer, who have been sent to offer him even less than he did, he goes to the dealer, and talks of taking, say 101. more than he had offered, and 301. less than he (the owner) had asked: but he now finds the case altered; that is, it is represented to be so: he will be told that the dealer, having seen more of the horse, does not like him at all, or he has bought two others, which are all he wants : besides,“ talking of thirty pounds, Sir, why, there's a horse! I bought him (showing one belonging to some friend who is perhaps asking 501. for him) for 181.: he is worth two of this here old 'un.” — “Very well,” says the gentleman, " then you decline him; go home, Thomas.”—“Why, as to that, Sir, I don't mind buying him at a price.” “ Well, wait, Thomas.”—He now tries the civil, candid tack; “ dares to say the horse is a good horse ; is sure the gentleman would not deceive him — (Mem. no fear of that!) — dares to say the gentleman thinks he offers a low price; but country gentlemen don't know what sich horses are worth in Lunnun: he couldn't sell him as a sound un to none of his customers, not by no means: he should sell him for a hommibus to his brother, who wanted one; he might do a little vork in leather; wishes for the gentleman's sake he could give more; 'twould be better for he and the gentleman too if he could! he has three fivers
300 CATCHING A WEASEL ASLEEP. left; he would give that, but he would as soon be without him.” It ends in his getting him: he gives the servant half-a-crown openly — (says nothing of the two sovereigns given before) — then tells the gentleman “he hopes he'll remember his man ; says the rule is a gentleman gives double what the dealer gives.” The man gets five shillings, half of which goes to the master. Thus this and many other horses are sold, and this is often the result of people unaccustomed to such places going to fairs to sell their own horses. They are detected at once by such vagabonds as I have described: a regular plant is made on them, and they are legally robbed of their property, or at least something very near it.
A man who may read what I have described may say he would not be so green as to be done in that way. Probably he might not, but there are hundreds who would;' and it is still possible, that, had the gentleman not read what I have written on the subject, he might, notwithstanding his confidence in himself, have been done precisely in such a manner. Having had the plot laid bare to him, he thinks it would never have succeeded with him. This cannot be proved; so it only remains a matter of opinion between him and me: and though our opinions in this differ, if I have put him a little on his guard for the future, I have, I feel, done him some service, though he thinks, that, like weazels, he was not to be caught asleep. But let me tell him, there are some nice lads among the low-dealing fraternity, and perhaps simplelooking ones too, who would even take the abovenamed watchful animal Jozing. I have only mentioned one among the thousand modes of doing the provincials, and I should like to bet any wide-awake “ JOCKEY OF NORFOLK, BE NOT TOO BOLD.” 301 friend long odds that if he goes into a fair they will find a moment to catch him napping. When they have, he will perhaps wish he had taken Harry Hie'over's advice, and not trusted to his weazel-like attributes, or fancied himself to have got au fond de son métier as a salesman.
I have merely attempted to give a rough sketch of one of the scenes in a fair: it would render these hints too lengthened were I even to give the heads of the various changes to be rung by rascality, all tending to the same result, where the actors are of the same class; and I can assure my friends, at least those who have but ordinary experience in such matters, that on all and every occasion where the deal with such scamps as I allude to takes place, they will be robbed to a certainty. Let them not fancy they can escape, for escape is all but impossible. The most knowing are not always a match for deliberate, and, above all, confederate villany. • The once celebrated George Barrington was on some occasion brought in contact with a magistrate in the latter's private room. On Barrington pulling out his handkerchief, he with it pulled out of his pocket a queer-looking little instrument with a hook or hooks at the end of it. The magistrate inquired its use. On being plainly told it had been made for the purpose of picking pockets, the magistrate jokingly asked Barrington if he thought he could by this means extract any thing from his pocket without his feeling it ? He replied, he did not think he could; and the magistrate as confidently felt he could not. Shortly after, Barrington went to the window and began abusing some passer-by on some pretended charge of ill-usage of himself: he (the stranger) of course ex