صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[blocks in formation]

knows what the master does not, namely, whether he is likely to make a harness-horse. This in some horses puts on or takes off twenty, perhaps thirty pounds in their value; and this is all done without any exposure to servants. True enough, they know quite well what game is going on, but their place is too good to lose by talking: and if they did, what could they say further than that “ master had tried the horse in every way!" If even the owner caught the horse under this trial, a lie would be ready cut and dried for him: Ude could not turn out an omelette aux fines herbes half as quickly as Nickem could a dozen plats of well-dried, highly-spiced, and seasoned fibs : “'tis his vocation, Hal!” He was seeing him in harness for a match for a gentleman who would buy him in a minute if he seemed likely to take to harness :" or, if he was being leaped, Nickem“ intends to write off immediately to a customer now he can safely say the horse leaps well: he always wishes to sell gentlemen's horses as soon as possible, so he likes to see what they can do: he can then take upon himself to recommend them.” This the owner cannot deny is very fair, proper, and indeed conscientious in Nickem. Very!

Nickem having learnt pretty nearly all he wants about the horse, he must now learn all he can about the gentleman, and see how far he is likely to go quietly or be obstreperous in the harness he intends to put on him. He plies him as to price. Probably Nickem's opinion is asked, and possibly his advice. This advice will of course be given as best suits his own interest. Before, however, he gives in this opinion or advice, he puts in a feeler something in this way :-“ Why, Sir, the price to be taken of course


PUTTING OUT A FEELER. remains with you, and depends a good deal upon whether you wish the horse sold as soon as possible, or whether you are disposed to hold out for price, as in that case we must wait till the right customer comes; and also whether you are determined not to sell under a certain price; or whether you have any objection to him, and are determined not to take him back: but in either case, you know, Sir, it is my interest to get the most I can, for the more you get the more I get ; so it is the interest of both to get the most we can.”—“Humph!”—(Mem. I say humph):the owner said, “ Of course, Mr. Nickem.”

Now this said feeler, with the acute sensibility of touch that Nickem has, brings out more than enough to show him the present determination of the owner. I say present, because a few days and a few tricks very often alter these sort of determinations amazingly. Of course various means are employed to bring this about, varying according to circumstances. In this case, we will suppose a medium kind of determination in the seller. Nickem has persuaded him he ought to take less than he asked ; and it is left that the seller is willing to make a considerable reduction rather than send the horse back. But this reduction does not amount to perhaps more than one fourth of what Nickem wants, so a beginning must be made to bring this about. We will instance one way of beginning. The owner and Nickem see the horse out together. In this case he is not shown so as to make his master more in love with him than he was: in short, he never saw the horse go worse. Nickem looks in so peculiar and attentive a way at the horse's going, that the seller is induced to ask his motive. Before he gives an answer (so delicately tenacious is


359 he of saying an unpleasant thing, and so feelingly alive is he to the interest of his employer), that he says to his man, “ Go down again, Jem: give him his head ; go five miles an hour; that'll do; stand.” He now looks at one foot, then turns to the owner: “I beg pardon for not answering before, Sir ; has this horse ever been a little tender on this foot ?”—“ No, never, Mr. Nickem ; there cannot be a sounder horse !” — “ Oh, I'm sure of that, Sir, from what you say ; but I can't fancy he goes quite level now.” This is feeler the second, and gets a hint how the seller will take anything of this kind : but it does more than this; it just leaves Nickem in a situation to be able hereafter with a good grace to confess his mistake, or to prove the correctness of his eye and judgment: in fact, to make the horse a sound or unsound one as he pleases. Not wishing at present to alarm the owner sufficiently to cause him to fear his horse is not in a state for sale, he now says—“ I see that shoe presses a little hard on the heel ; I have no doubt but that is all. I will get his feet nicely put to rights : they will look all the better for sale, and I have no doubt the horse will be all right immediately. I will see it done myself.”

-(Mem. no doubt of that!)—“ Put a poultice on that horse's off foot, and I will get his shoes altered first thing in the morning: go in. —No occasion, Sir, to make everybody as wise as ourselves: we'll set him to rights, never fear!” Some people might think that if a shoe really pinched, the sooner it was off the better, and would have it off immediately. I should, and so would Nickem in such a case: but then the owner might be inclined to see his horse's foot pared out himself. This would not be so convenient; though even then the thing might be managed right,

- A a 4




and would be, unless the owner was pretty conversant with the anatomy of feet.

Nickem has really done a good deal of business in an hour. He has got ten pounds taken off the price of the horse as a beginning; he has found out that the owner does not wish to get him back if he can at all help it; added to which, he is requested to let him know what offer is made. This, if Nickem does not go to sleep, is ten pounds more off. He has raised something like a doubt of his perfect soundness, has got the opportunity of ascertaining this for his own private satisfaction; has the means of keeping him sound or making him an unsound one; and has put the owner a good deal more out of humour with the horse than he was when he left his stable. Now this is doing business : some particular and illiberal people may also call it DOING customers. This is in fact the grand dish that calls forth all Nickem's talent: the spiced and seasoned fibs are merely little side-dishes, adjuncts, and sauces, required to make the whole look well, and are as necessary to form his chef-d'ouvre as the claret is to stewed carp. A really well-done customer is a glorious dish, always to be found at Nickem's table; and, what is better, instead of costing money, puts money in his pocket. French cooks serve up glorious dishes; but I apprehend on rather a more expensive plan.

Nickem having thus put matters en train, it will now be advisable to wait a bit, and let the customer cool a little. Nothing cools colts or customers more than "standing on the bit,provided we do not keep them long enough at it to ruffle their tempers: and finding no offer made, or at least not one near the mark, is also as great a cooler to a seller as the patent



powders are to ice-creams, claret, or champagne: the two refrigerators make them all just fit to be used ; in fact, to be taken in. After a few days, a letter is sent to the customer, post-mark (we will say) Brighton, something to this effect:

“Mr. Nickem, “Sir - From the very strong recommendation you gave me of the bay horse I saw at your Repository on Wednesday, I am induced to make you an offer for him. If the owner is disposed to take fifty pounds, you may give it for me. This, considering he is not a horse of any known character, I think is his full value. I am, Sir,” &c. — Signed (of course) anybody.

This additional feeler, considering it only cost a shilling to a guard to put it in the post-office, is not an expensive one, and is sent, accompanied by a note from Nickem, giving it as his opinion “that it is not quite what he should recommend being taken, as by holding the horse over he is satisfied he should get a better price.”

This holding over, though it has cooled the customer, now, like the bit, from having been kept some time on, begins to make him restless and fidgetty; so, after reading Anybody's letter, he first d—s the horse, then his ill-luck, and (almost) the Repository ; but inost particularly and especially the dealer from whom he bought him. “ Nickem did, in fact, tell him he had given too much !" He resolves to send his groom for the horse: then comes the after-thought of the trouble, inconvenience, and expense of this, added to the doubt of his being able to sell him at home. Then, in favour of taking the offer, comes the homely adage of making the best of a bad bargain. This is not always to be

« السابقةمتابعة »