Chapter 3

It was about three o’clock in the afternoon that the Captain came to an inn, where unhorsing and unsaddling, Teague took the steed, and the master went to sleep on a sopha in the passage. Unless it is in a very deep sleep, the mind is in some degree awake, and has what are called dreams. These are frequently composed of a recollection of late events. Sometimes the mind recovers incidents long since past, and makes comments, but most usually, out of mere indolence, takes up with what is next at hand. It happened so on this occasion; for the Captain thought himself still in conversation with the Scotchman on the subject of the late election. It seemed to him that he said, Mr. M’Donald, for that was the name of the Scotch gentleman--You do not seem to have a high opinion of our republican form of government, when the most contemptible can obtain the people’s suffrage.

The Scotchman seemed to answer in his own dialect, saying, Ye are much mistaken man, if ye draw that conclusion. I think there is a worse chance for merit to come forth where apointments are in the hand of one than when with many; for it is much easier to scratch the rump of one, than to tickle the hurdies o’ a thousand. Ye see our executive dinna do much better in their appointments to judicial and ministerial offices, than the rabble folk themselves to the legislative. It all comes to the same thing in every government; the wind blaws, and the feathers and the fern get uppermost.

At this instant he was awakened by a bustle out of doors. --The fact was; a disagreement had taken place between Teague and the hostler at the inn, about their skill respectively in rubbing down and currying horses. Teague had made use of a single grab of hay, which he held with both hands, and impressed the horse, rubbing him from side to side, and up and down with all his might. The other with a wisp in each hand, rubbed; the right hand passing to the left, while the left hand passed to the right, in a traverse or diagonal direction. The hostler valued himself on having been groom, as he pretended, to some nobleman in England, and therefore must be supposed to understand the true art of currying. Teague maintained his opinion, and way of working with a good deal of obstinacy, until at last it came to blows. The first stroke was given by Teague, who hit the hostler on the left haunch with his foot, when he was stooping down to show Teague how to rub the fetlock. The hostler recovering, and seizing Teague by the breast, pushed him back with a retrograde motion, until he was brought up by a cheek of the stable door. Resting against this, Teague made a sally, and impelled his antagonist several yards back, who finding at length behind him the support of a standing trough which the carriers used for a manger to feed their horses, recovered his position, and elanced Teague some distance from the place of projection. But Teague still keeping hold of the collar of his adversary, had brought him along with him, and both were now on the ground struggling for victory. But, Teague turning on his belly, and drawing up his knees, was making an effort to raise himself to his feet. The other in the mean time, partly by the same means, and partly by retaining hold of the Irishman, was in the attitude of rising with him. They were now both up, locked fast in the grasp of each other, their heads inclining in conjunction, but their feet apart, like muskets stacked after a review, or like the arch of a bridge. The head of each supported by the abutment of the feet. Few blows were given, and therefore not much damage done. But the persons present calling out fair play, and making a bustle in the porch of the inn, had awakened the Captain, and brought him to the door, who, seeing what was going on, took upon him to command the peace; and the people supposing him to be a magistrate, assisted to part the combatants; when the Captain ordering both of them before him, made enquiry into the cause of the dispute. Teague gave his account of the matter; adding, that if he had had a shallelah, he would have been after making him know dat de paple in dis country, could curry a horse, or a cow, or a shape, as well as any Englishman in de world, though he have been hastler to a great lord, or the king himself, at his own stable where he has his harse.

Teague, said the Captain, this may be true; but it was unbecoming a philosopher, to attempt to establish this by blows. Force proves nothing but the quantum of the force. Reason is the only argument that belongs to man. You have been the aggressor, and therefore in the power of the law. But as to you, Mr. Hostler, you have given provocation; I have had this lad with me several years, and I say that he curries and rubs down a horse well. It is no uncommon thing for men of your country, to undervalue other nations. You naturally associate your own attainments with the bulk and populousness of large cities: but can the looking at a large building , or a tall spire, add an inch to your stature? Because Fox is eloquent, is every one that hears him so too? Is not human ingenuity the same here as on the other side of the water? Our generals have fought as well, in the late war, as any Clinton or Cornwallis that you have. Our politicians have wrote, and our patriots have spoke, as well as your Burkes, or your Sheridans, or any other; and yet when you come here, there is no bearing the airs of superiority you take upon yourselves. I wonder if the wasps that are in your London garrets, consider themselves better than the wasps that are in these woods? I should suppose it must be so; such is the contemptible vanity of an island, which, taken in its whole extent, would be little more than a urinal to one of our Patagonians in South America.

This the Captain said to mortify the hostler; though by the bye, there is a good deal of truth in the observation, that the people of an old country undervalue the new; and when they think of themselves, conjoin the adventitious circumstances of all that exists where they have lived. I have found a prejudice of this nature even with the wisest men. What wonder, therefore, that a poor illiterate hostler should be subject to it? But if he did undervalue an American born, yet he ought to have considered that Teague, though not born in Britain, was born near it, and therefore might considerably approach the same skill in any handy-craft work.

In natural history, we do not value animals on account of the place from whence they are taken but on account of what they are themselves; and in things that are made by hands, not by the manufacturer, but by the quality. We prefer the trout of the rivulet, to the mullet of the river; and we judge of the pudding not by the maker, but the eating. There is a proverb that establishes this; for proverbs are the deductions of experience, and to which we assent as soon as expressed; containing in them an obvious truth, which the simplest understand.

 


It is not for the sake of any moral, that I have related this scuffle that took place between the Irishman and the hostler; but for the sake of showing in what manner incidents are to be related; that is, with great simplicity of stile, and minuteness of description. That part of Livy which contains the combat of the Horatii, and the Curatii, is frequently given to the students at a college to translate, that by this means they may be taught to imitate the like delicacy in the choice of words, and particularity of the recital. The above may answer the same purpose. It is true, there is not the like incidents in this combat, as in that described by Livy; nevertheless, the same art is herein discovered, as the sound critic will observe. I know it will be thought by any one who reads it, that he could use the very same words, and give the same liveliness of picture, were he to attempt it. Should he try it, he will find himself disappointed.--Suder multum, frustraque laboret, ausus idem.--

It may be thought, that though style is my object, yet I might now and then bring in a thought to entertain the reader, and introduce some subject of moment, rather than the fisty-cuffs of two raggamuffins. I would just ask this question: Is not the talent of the artist shown as much in painting a fly, as a waggon wheel? If this were intended as a book of morals, or physiology, and not as a mere belle lettre composition, there might be something said; as the case is, critics must be silent.