We fed on plenty; nicer food than Rippenger’s,
minus puddings. After dinner I was ready for mischief.
My sensations on seeing Kiomi beg of a gentleman were
remarkable. I reproached her. She showed
me sixpence shining in the palm of her hand. I
gave her a shilling to keep her from it. She had
now got one and sixpence, she said: meaning,
I supposed upon reflection, that her begging had produced
that sum, and therefore it was a good thing. The
money remaining in my pocket amounted to five shillings
and a penny. I offered it to Kiomi’s mother,
who refused to accept it; so did the father, and Osric
also. I might think of them, they observed, on
my return to my own house: they pointed at Riversley.
‘No,’ said I, ’I shan’t go
there, you may be sure.’ The women grinned,
and the men yawned. The business of the men appeared
to be to set to work about everything as if they had
a fire inside them, and then to stretch out their
legs and lie on their backs, exactly as if the fire
had gone out. Excepting Osric’s practice
on the fiddle, and the father’s bringing in
and leading away of horses, they did little work in
my sight but brown themselves in the sun. One
morning Osric’s brother came to our camp with
their cousin the prizefighter—a young man
of lighter complexion, upon whom I gazed, remembering
John Thresher’s reverence for the heroical profession.
Kiomi whispered some story concerning her brother
having met the tramp. I did not listen; I was
full of a tempest, owing to two causes: a studious
admiration of the smart young prizefighter’s
person, and wrathful disgust at him for calling Kiomi
his wife, and telling her he was prepared to marry
her as soon as she played her harp like King David.
The intense folly of his asking a girl to play like
David made me despise him, but he was splendidly handsome
and strong, and to see him put on the gloves for a
spar with big William, Kiomi’s brother, and evade
and ward the huge blows, would have been a treat to
others besides old John of Dipwell Farm. He had
the agile grace of a leopard; his waistcoat reminded
me of one; he was like a piece of machinery in free
action. Pleased by my enthusiasm, he gave me
a lesson, promising me more.
‘He’ll be champion some day,’ said
Kiomi, at gnaw upon an apple he had given her.
I knocked the apple on the ground, and stamped on
it. She slapped my cheek. In a minute we
stood in a ring. I beheld the girl actually squaring
‘Fight away,’ I said, to conceal my shame,
and imagining I could slip from her hits as easily
as the prizefighter did from big William’s.
I was mistaken.
‘Oh! you think I can’t defend myself,’
said Kiomi; and rushed in with one, two, quick as
a cat, and cool as a statue.
‘Fight, my merry one; she takes punishment,’
the prizefighter sang out. ’First blood
to you, Kiomi; uncork his claret, my duck; straight
at the nozzle, he sees more lamps than shine in London,
I warrant. Make him lively, cook him; tell him
who taught you; a downer to him, and I’ll marry