The Last Galley Impressions and Tales HTML version

The Lord Of Falconbridge
Tom Cribb, Champion of England, having finished his active career by his two famous
battles with the terrible Molineux, had settled down into the public house which was
known as the Union Arms, at the corner of Panton Street in the Haymarket. Behind the
bar of this hostelry there was a green baize door which opened into a large, red-papered
parlour, adorned by many sporting prints and by the numerous cups and belts which were
the treasured trophies of the famous prize-fighter's victorious career. In this snuggery it
was the custom of the Corinthians of the day to assemble in order to discuss, over Tom
Cribb's excellent wines, the matches of the past, to await the news of the present, and to
arrange new ones for the future. Hither also came his brother pugilists, especially such as
were in poverty or distress, for the Champion's generosity was proverbial, and no man of
his own trade was ever turned from his door if cheering words or a full meal could mend
his condition.
On the morning in question--August 25, 1818--there were but two men in this famous
snuggery. One was Cribb himself--all run to flesh since the time seven years before,
when, training for his last fight, he had done his forty miles a day with Captain Barclay
over the Highland roads. Broad and deep, as well as tall, he was a little short of twenty
stone in weight, but his heavy, strong face and lion eyes showed that the spirit of the
prize-fighter was not yet altogether overgrown by the fat of the publican. Though it was
not eleven o'clock, a great tankard of bitter ale stood upon the table before him, and he
was busy cutting up a plug of black tobacco and rubbing the slices into powder between
his horny fingers. For all his record of desperate battles, he looked what he was--a good-
hearted, respectable householder, law-abiding and kindly, a happy and prosperous man.
His companion, however, was by no means in the same easy circumstances, and his
countenance wore a very different expression. He was a tall and well-formed man, some
fifteen years younger than the Champion, and recalling in the masterful pose of his face
and in the fine spread of his shoulders something of the manly beauty which had
distinguished Cribb at his prime. No one looking at his countenance could fail to see that
he was a fighting man by profession, and any judge of the fancy, considering his six feet
in height, his thirteen stone solid muscle, and his beautifully graceful build, would admit
that he had started his career with advantages which, if they were only backed by the
driving power of a stout heart, must carry him far. Tom Winter, or Spring--as he chose to
call himself--had indeed come up from his Herefordshire home with a fine country record
of local successes, which had been enhanced by two victories gained over formidable
London heavy-weights. Three weeks before, however, he had been defeated by the
famous Painter, and the set-back weighed heavily upon the young man's spirit.
"Cheer up, lad," said the Champion, glancing across from under his tufted eyebrows at
the disconsolate face of his companion. "Indeed, Tom, you take it overhard."