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402 A FAITH FUL SERVANT.
getically puffing away, nearly invisible in the dense cloud, which had ascended, till, as a hive of bees, he had fairly smoked them out. Words were useless, excuses equally so: he “only waited for his missus's bonnet.” To send it home unfinished was annoying to Mademoiselle, but the smoke was intolerable ; so of course the bonnet was produced, and Old George gratuitously gave one of his best Sunday grins by way of a dormez-vous bien, Mademoiselles / Poor George if I were to direct any man how to be most faithful and most honest, I would advise him to take thee as his model: a grateful master offers this small tribute to thy memory.
I must confess I have made tolerably free hitherto with Master Nickem, notwithstanding I had the law of libel before my eyes; but like many men professing heroic feelings, I am heroic when no danger threatens; for who is Nickem If any man or men choose to stand up and defend him, why then, I say, “Bucks, have at ye all.” Honest men will not: they will say, “Let the galled jade wince, our withers are unwrung.” Poor Nickem sometimes, like the neverto-be-forgotten pack of Osbaldeston, with the immortal (would that he was 1) Squire at their side, we have rattled thee along at the pace “that kills;” when at others, like the old Southern Bluemottles of Dorking or Leatherhead notoriety, true to the scent, we have followed thee through many of the doubles thou hast made in any particular chase we have alluded to : but where the shifts of all sorts of game are combined in one, I know not the kind of hound adapted to the sport; so I will not promise a “kill:” all I profess to do is, to give an occasional burst: so here goes to “hit him off” again.
CONVENIENT AUCTIONS. 403
I have mentioned before that some Repositories have a regular auction once or twice a week. These at times are like the addenda or appendix to an author's work, when used merely to make out a book at the expense of the reader; but at others, like the codicil to a will, producing greater effect than all the preceding seven skins of parchment put together. Also like an outrigger, ugly to look at, but useful when roads run bad. Or like a unicorn team, awkward to drive, but not to be despised when the option would be a heavy loaded coach and pair. Now, to do Nick justice, he is not disposed to be a slow coach: in truth, he goes over some ground rather too fast; and I have been showing some of my readers how to put the “skid" on without hurting their fingers. If they incautiously burn them in taking it off any little boy, who gets threepence a week from the coachman for doing it, will teach them better.
If I understand the term “auction,” it was originally meant (that must have been before the Flood) the putting property up for sale to be really sold to the highest bidder. I have no doubt but that, if property of any sort was sent for sale in the true spirit of a sale by auction, and proper time given to acquaint purchasers of such that it was bond fide to be sold, such property would, in the generality of cases, bring its fair value; but if three or four hunters, however great their merits might be, were sent to be sold even by Mr. Tattersall, if they were unknown horses, of course they would be, figuratively speaking, given away. Why? Not because auctions are bad places to sell horses at, but because hunters are sold for their merits, and of course people will not bid for merits that they
do not know exist. But supposing (may it never
404 A RARE CHANCE FOR THE CORNER.
happen to such men ) that Lords Wilton, Waterford, Maidstone, and many others, were induced to give up hunting, let their horses be sent to Tattersall's, they would bring all they were worth (perhaps more): they would bring their value, because their relative merits as hunters are as well known as those of Dickey Misfortune as a pedestrian, or Euclid as a race-horse. They often bring more, because men who buy such horses do not merely consider what the horse is worth, but what they choose to give to get him ; and when such men thus compete with each other, the price is sometimes astounding; and if such horsemen and such riders as I have mentioned and alluded to could be brought to the hammer, the prices they would bring would be a little more astounding still. Unquestionably a fair auction is where things are to be sold, and positively sold, to the highest bidder; and if dealers in the property on sale could be excluded, this might be done: but while they form a part of those who attend auctions, it cannot, at least not in a general way. If dealers would fairly bid like other persons, their money is as good as that of those other persons; but this they will rarely do: they are a clique, a community, that hang together, know each other's object, and combine to bring it about: so, if property was always put up for unreserved sale, what between their hints, their advice, their ridicule, and their bullying, half the company would be deterred from bidding at all; and as dealers would not bid against each other, property would be all but left to their tender mercy. Dealers will often say they give more for horses at an auction than any one else there: I know they do, no thanks to them: they do this when they are commissioned to buy for any gentleman:
they will then employ each other to oppose each other, and this produces several good effects to them : it makes the public think there is no sort of combination among them: it holds the dealer who buys the horse harmless, whatever he may give, as he can say (nay prove) that D. of such a place, E. of another, and F. of a third, bid nearly the sum he gave; and he, and all of them, always wish a gentleman to pay enormously for any thing he buys that does not come out of their hands, as well as what does. Let any one watch the dealers when a horse is at auction : a bid is made; he will see all their faces turned immediately from the horse and to the company: he will see them peeping and peering about, standing on tiptoe, all on the alert. This is to see who bids, for the who makes all the difference. If a dealer has bid, and they know he wants the horse for himself, they are not only still as mice, but my life on it they walk away, as much as to say “We would not have him at any price;” and a word or quiz, loud enough to be heard, leaves the horse nearly in their brother dealer's hands. If they find he has got beyond the price their chum intends to give, and they find a gentleman or gentlemen (as they would say) “sweet upon him,” back they all come, and run the horse up ; as the next best thing to throwing him into the hands of one of themselves is the making a gentleman pay for daring to buy of any one else. It may be asked if they never get caught in their own trap, and get a horse knocked down to them at more than his value? Certainly sometimes they do, but very seldom; for they generally can judge pretty accurately by circumstances how far they dare go in their bidding. When, however, they do get caught, it is no great matter: the loss (if any)
406 A SELECT FEW.
is borne among the clique: so it is a mere nothing to each, and eventually it serves the trade. If two or three or more dealers know there is a horse to be sold that would, “at a price,” suit each of them, do not flatter yourself (if you knew this) that your horse, or rather yourself, will get a better price on that account; you will in fact get a worse; for it then becomes the personal interest of all these to prevent it. He will be bought by any one of them fired upon, and then be resold by a kind of private auction among those who would have been disposed to bid for him. Nor is it in the power of any auctioneer to totally prevent this combination among the trade, try what he will. No man endeavours to do so more than Mr. Tattersall: he is always ready to show dealers every proper attention, civility, and accommodation; but his interest, his character, and it is only doing him bare justice to say, his principles, make him at all times hostile to any thing he thinks looks like combination among them to the injury of gentlemen. If he had not done this, the “Corner” would long since have been deserted by them, instead of being, as it is, and has been for more than half a century, the resort of all the aristocracy of this kingdom, and that of others (when here) who make horses one of their pursuits. This would render any panegyric on Mr. Tattersall or his establishment quite useless on my part if I wished to write one, which I in no way contemplate. I mention the establishment among other things: I have no earthly interest in what I say of it. It is true I have been known to Mr. Tattersall from a boy (though not as HARRY HIE'ovER); but I never received a favour from him in my life, and dare say never shall. It has, moreover, happened I never had occasion to sell or buy half a