Part 5 out of 10
of the girls was it? To be sure, he spent three hours every morning with
Fanny; but then, he never left Matilda the whole evening. He had given his
miniature to one; a locket with his hair was a present to the sister.
The major thinks he saw his arm round Matilda's waist in the garden; the
housemaid swears she saw him kiss Fanny in the pantry. Matilda smiles when
we talk of his name with her sister's; Fanny laughs outright, and
says, "Poor Matilda! the man never dreamed of her." This is becoming
uncomfortable. The major must ask his intentions. It is certainly one
or the other; but then, we have a right to know which. Such was a very
condensed view of Mrs. Dalrymple's reflections on this important topic,--a
view taken with her usual tact and clear-sightedness.
Matters were in this state when Power at length arrived in Cork, to
take command of our detachment and make the final preparations for our
departure. I had been, as usual, spending the evening at the major's, and
had just reached my quarters, when I found my friend sitting at my fire,
smoking his cigar and solacing himself with a little brandy-and-water.
"At last," said he, as I entered,--"at last! Why, where the deuce have you
been till this hour,--past two o'clock? There is no ball, no assembly going
"No," said I, half blushing at the eagerness of the inquiry; "I've been
spending the evening with a friend."
"Spending the evening! Say, rather, the night! Why, confound you, man, what
is there in Cork to keep you out of bed till near three?"
"Well, if you must know, I have been supping at a Major Dalrymple's,--a
devilish good fellow, with two such daughters!"
"Ahem!" said Power, shutting one eye knowingly, and giving a look like a
Yorkshire horse-dealer. "Go on."
"Why, what do you mean?"
"Go on; continue."
"I've finished; I've nothing more to tell."
"So, they're here, are they?" said he, reflectingly.
"Who?" said I.
"Matilda and Fanny, to be sure."
"Why, you know them, then?"
"I should think I do."
"Where have you met them?"
"Where have I not? When I was in the Rifles they were quartered at Zante.
Matilda was just then coming it rather strong with Villiers, of ours, a
regular greenhorn. Fanny, also, nearly did for Harry Nesbitt, by riding a
hurdle race. Then they left for Gibraltar, in the year,--what year was it?"
"Come, come," said I, "this is a humbug; the girls are quite young; you
just have heard their names."
"Well, perhaps so; only tell me which is your peculiar weakness, as they
say in the west, and may be I'll convince you."
"Oh, as to that," said I, laughing, "I'm not very far gone on either side."
"Then, Matilda, probably, has not tried you with Cowley, eh?--you look a
little pink--'There are hearts that live and love alone.' Oh, poor fellow,
you've got it! By Jove, how you've been coming it, though, in ten days! She
ought not to have got to that for a month, at least; and how like a young
one it was, to be caught by the poetry. Oh, Master Charley, I thought that
the steeple-chaser might have done most with your Galway heart,--the girl
in the gray habit, that sings 'Moddirederoo,' ought to have been the prize!
Halt! by Saint George, but that tickles you also! Why, zounds, if I go on,
probably, at this rate, I'll find a tender spot occupied by the 'black
It was no use concealing, or attempting to conceal, anything from my
inquisitive friend; so I mixed my grog, and opened my whole heart; told how
I had been conducting myself for the entire preceding fortnight; and when
I concluded, sat silently awaiting Power's verdict, as though a jury were
about to pronounce upon my life.
"Have you ever written?"
"Never; except, perhaps, a few lines with tickets for the theatre, or
something of that kind."
"Have you copies of your correspondence?"
"Of course not. Why, what do you mean?"
"Has Mrs. Dal ever been present; or, as the French say, has she assisted at
any of your tender interviews with the young ladies?"
"I'm not aware that one kisses a girl before mamma."
"I'm not speaking of that; I merely allude to an ordinary flirtation."
"Oh, I suppose she has seen me attentive."
"Very awkward, indeed! There is only one point in your favor; for as your
attentions were not decided, and as the law does not, as yet, permit
"Come, come, you know I never thought of marrying."
"Ah, but they did."
"Not a bit of it."
"Ay, but they did. What do you wager but that the major asks your
intentions, as he calls it, the moment he hears the transport has arrived?"
"By Jove! now you remind me, he asked this evening, when he could have a
few minutes' private conversation with me to-morrow, and I thought it was
about some confounded military chest or sea-store, or one of his infernal
contrivances that he every day assures me are indispensable; though, if
every officer had only as much baggage as I have got, under his directions,
it would take two armies, at least, to carry the effects of the fighting
"Poor fellow!" said he, starting upon his legs; "what a burst you've made
of it!" So saying, he began in a nasal twang,--
"I publish the banns of marriage between Charles O'Malley, late of his
Majesty's 14th Dragoons, and ------ Dalrymple, spinster, of this city--"
"I'll be hanged if you do, though," said I, seeing pretty clearly, by this
time, something of the estimation my friends were held in. "Come, Power,
pull me through, like a good fellow,--pull me through, without doing
anything to hurt the girls' feelings."
"Well, we'll see about it," said he,--"we'll see about it in the morning;
but, at the same time, let me assure you, the affair is not so easy as
you may at first blush suppose. These worthy people have been so often
'done'--to use the cant phrase--before, that scarcely a _ruse_ remains
untried. It is of no use pleading that your family won't consent; that your
prospects are null; that you arc ordered for India; that you are engaged
elsewhere; that you have nothing but your pay; that you are too young or
too old,--all such reasons, good and valid with any other family, will
avail you little here. Neither will it serve your cause that you may
be warranted by a doctor as subject to periodical fits of insanity;
monomaniacal tendencies to cut somebody's throat, etc. Bless your heart,
man, they have a soul above such littlenesses! They care nothing for
consent of friends, means, age, health, climate, prospects, or temper.
Firmly believing matrimony to be a lottery, they are not superstitious
about the number they pitch upon; provided only that they get a ticket,
they are content."
"Then it strikes me, if what you say is correct, that I have no earthly
chance of escape, except some kind friend will undertake to shoot me."
"That has been also tried."
"Why, how do you mean?"
"A mock duel, got up at mess,--we had one at Malta. Poor Vickers was the
hero of that affair. It was right well planned, too. One of the letters
was suffered, by mere accident, to fall into Mrs. Dal's hands, and she was
quite prepared for the event when he was reported shot the next morning.
Then the young lady, of course, whether she cared or not, was obliged to be
perfectly unconcerned, lest the story of engaged affections might get wind
and spoil another market. The thing went on admirably, till one day, some
few months later, they saw, in a confounded army-list, that the late
George Vickers was promoted to the 18th Dragoons, so that the trick was
discovered, and is, of course, stale at present."
"Then could I not have a wife already, and a large family of interesting
"No go,--only swell the damages, when they come to prosecute. Besides, your
age and looks forbid the assumption of such a fact. No, no; we must go
deeper to work."
"But where shall we go?" said I, impatiently; "for it appears to me these
good people have been treated to every trick and subterfuge that ever
"Come, I think I have it; but it will need a little more reflection.
So, now, let us to bed. I'll give you the result of my lucubrations at
breakfast; and, if I mistake not, we may get you through this without any
ill-consequences. Good-night, then, old boy; and now dream away of your
lady-love till our next meeting."
To prevent needless repetitions in my story, I shall not record here the
conversation which passed between my friend Power and myself on the morning
following at breakfast. Suffice it to say, that the plan proposed by him
for my rescue was one I agreed to adopt, reserving to myself, in case
of failure, a _pis aller_ of which I knew not the meaning, but of whose
efficacy Power assured me I need not doubt.
"If all fail," said he,--"if every bridge break down beneath you, and no
road of escape be left, why, then, I believe you must have recourse to
another alternative. Still I should wish to avoid it, if possible, and I
put it to you, in honor, not to employ it unless as a last expedient. You
promise me this?"
"Of course," said I, with great anxiety for the dread final measure. "What
He paused, smiled dubiously, and resumed,--
"And, after all,--but, to be sure, there will not be need for it,--the
other plan will do,--must do. Come, come, O'Malley, the admiralty say that
nothing encourages drowning in the navy like a life-buoy. The men have such
a prospect of being picked up that they don't mind falling overboard; so,
if I give you this life-preserver of mine, you'll not swim an inch. Is it
not so, eh?"
"Far from it," said I. "I shall feel in honor bound to exert myself the
more, because I now see how much it costs you to part with it."
"Well, then, hear it. When everything fails; when all your resources are
exhausted; when you have totally lost your memory, in fact, and your
ingenuity in excuses say,--but mind, Charley, not till then,--say that you
must consult your friend, Captain Power, of the 14th; that's all."
"And is this it?" said I, quite disappointed at the lame and impotent
conclusion to all the high-sounding exordium; "is this all?"
"Yes," said he, "that is all. But stop, Charley; is not that the major
crossing the street there? Yes, to be sure it is; and, by Jove! he has got
on the old braided frock this morning. Had you not told me one word of your
critical position, I should have guessed there was something in the wind
from that. That same vestment has caused many a stout heart to tremble that
never quailed before a shot or shell."
"How can that be? I should like to hear."
"Why, my dear boy, that's his explanation coat, as we called it at
Gibraltar. He was never known to wear it except when asking some poor
fellow's 'intentions.' He would no more think of sporting it as an
every-day affair, than the chief-justice would go cook-shooting in his
black cap and ermine. Come, he is bound for your quarters, and as it
will not answer our plans to let him see you now, you had better hasten
down-stairs, and get round by the back way into George's Street, and you'll
be at his house before he can return."
Following Power's directions, I seized my foraging-cap and got clear out of
the premises before the major had reached them. It was exactly noon as I
sounded my loud and now well-known summons at the major's knocker. The door
was quickly opened; but instead of dashing up-stairs, four steps at a time,
as was my wont, to the drawing-room, I turned short into the dingy-looking
little parlor on the right, and desired Matthew, the venerable servitor of
the house, to say that I wished particularly to see Mrs. Dalrymple for a
few minutes, if the hour were not inconvenient.
There was something perhaps of excitement in my manner, some flurry in my
look, or some trepidation in my voice, or perhaps it was the unusual hour,
or the still more remarkable circumstance of my not going at once to the
drawing-room, that raised some doubts in Matthew's mind as to the object of
my visit; and instead of at once complying with my request to inform Mrs.
Dalrymple that I was there, he cautiously closed the door, and taking a
quick but satisfactory glance round the apartment to assure himself that we
were alone, he placed his back against it and heaved a deep sigh.
We were both perfectly silent: I in total amazement at what the old man
could possibly mean; he, following up the train of his own thoughts,
comprehended little or nothing of my surprise, and evidently was so
engrossed by his reflections that he had neither ears nor eyes for aught
around him. There was a most singular semi-comic expression in the old
withered face that nearly made me laugh at first; but as I continued to
look steadily at it, I perceived that, despite the long-worn wrinkles that
low Irish drollery and fun had furrowed around the angles of his mouth, the
real character of his look was one of sorrowful compassion.
Doubtless, my readers have read many interesting narratives wherein the
unconscious traveller in some remote land has been warned of a plan to
murder him, by some mere passing wink, a look, a sign, which some one, less
steeped in crime, less hardened in iniquity than his fellows, has ventured
for his rescue. Sometimes, according to the taste of the narrator, the
interesting individual is an old woman, sometimes a young one, sometimes
a black-bearded bandit, sometimes a child; and not unfrequently, a dog is
humane enough to do this service. One thing, however, never varies,--be the
agent biped or quadruped, dumb or speechful, young or old, the stranger
invariably takes the hint, and gets off scott free for his sharpness. This
never-varying trick on the doomed man, I had often been sceptical enough to
suspect; however, I had not been many minutes a spectator of the old man's
countenance, when I most thoroughly recanted my errors, and acknowledged
myself wrong. If ever the look of a man conveyed a warning, his did; but
there was more in it than even that,--there was a tone of sad and pitiful
compassion, such as an old gray-bearded rat might be supposed to put on at
seeing a young and inexperienced one opening the hinge of an iron trap,
to try its efficacy upon his neck. Many a little occasion had presented
itself, during my intimacy with the family, of doing Matthew some small
services, of making him some trifling presents; so that, when he assumed
before me the gesture and look I have mentioned, I was not long in
deciphering his intentions.
"Matthew!" screamed a sharp voice which I recognized at once for that of
Mrs. Dalrymple. "Matthew! Where is the old fool?"
But Matthew heard not, or heeded not.
"Matthew! Matthew! I say."
"I'm comin', ma'am," said he, with a sigh, as, opening the parlor-door, he
turned upon me one look of such import that only the circumstances of my
story can explain its force, or my reader's own ingenious imagination can
"Never fear, my good old friend," said I, grasping his hand warmly, and
leaving a guinea in the palm,--"never fear."
"God grant it, sir!" said he, setting on his wig in preparation for his
appearance in the drawing-room.
"Matthew! The old wretch!"
"Mr. O'Malley," said the often-called Matthew, as opening the door, he
announced me unexpectedly among the ladies there assembled, who, not
hearing of my approach, were evidently not a little surprised and
astonished. Had I been really the enamored swain that the Dalrymple family
were willing to believe, I half suspect that the prospect before me might
have cured me of my passion. A round bullet-head, _papilloté_, with
the "Cork Observer," where still-born babes and maids-of-all-work were
descanted upon in very legible type, was now the substitute for the classic
front and Italian ringlets of _la belle_ Matilda; while the chaste Fanny
herself, whose feet had been a fortune for a statuary, was, in the most
slatternly and slipshod attire, pacing the room in a towering rage, at
some thing, place, or person, unknown (to me). If the ballet-master at the
_Académie_ could only learn to get his imps, demons, angels, and goblins
"off" half as rapidly as the two young ladies retreated on my being
announced, I answer for the piece so brought out having a run for half the
season. Before my eyes had regained their position parallel to the plane of
the horizon, they were gone, and I found myself alone with Mrs. Dalrymple.
Now, she stood her ground, partly to cover the retreat of the main body,
partly, too, because--representing the baggage wagons, ammunition stores,
hospital, staff, etc.--her retirement from the field demanded more time and
circumspection than the light brigade.
Let not my readers suppose that the _mère_ Dalrymple was so perfectly
faultless in costume that her remaining was a matter of actual
indifference; far from it. She evidently had a struggle for it; but a sense
of duty decided her, and as Ney doggedly held back to cover the retreating
forces on the march from Moscow, so did she resolutely lurk behind till
the last flutter of the last petticoat assured her that the fugitives were
safe. Then did she hesitate for a moment what course to take; but as I
assumed my chair beside her, she composedly sat down, and crossing her
hands before her, waited for an explanation of this ill-timed visit.
Had the Horse Guards, in the plenitude of their power and the perfection of
their taste, ordained that the 79th and 42d Regiments should in future,
in lieu of their respective tartans, wear flannel kilts and black worsted
hose, I could readily have fallen into the error of mistaking Mrs.
Dalrymple for a field officer in the new regulation dress; the philabeg
finding no mean representation in a capacious pincushion that hung down
from her girdle, while a pair of shears, not scissors, corresponded to the
dirk. After several ineffectual efforts on her part to make her vestment (I
know not its fitting designation) cover more of her legs than its length
could possibly effect, and after some most bland smiles and half blushes at
_dishabille_, etc., were over, and that I had apologized most humbly for
the unusually early hour of my call, I proceeded to open my negotiations,
and unfurl my banner for the fray.
"The old 'Racehorse' has arrived at last," said I, with a half-sigh, "and I
believe that we shall not obtain a very long time for our leave-taking; so
that, trespassing upon your very great kindness, I have ventured upon an
"The 'Racehorse,' surely can't sail to-morrow," said Mrs. Dalrymple, whose
experience of such matters made her a very competent judge; "her stores--"
"Are taken in already," said I; "and an order from the Horse Guards
commands us to embark in twenty-four hours; so that, in fact, we scarcely
have time to look about us."
"Have you seen the major?" inquired Mrs. Dalrymple, eagerly.
"Not to-day," I replied, carelessly; "but, of course, during the morning we
are sure to meet. I have many thanks yet to give him for all his most kind
"I know he is most anxious to see you," said Mrs. Dalrymple, with a very
peculiar emphasis, and evidently desiring that I should inquire the
reasons of this anxiety. I, however, most heroically forbore indulging my
curiosity, and added that I should endeavor to find him on my way to the
barracks; and then, hastily looking at my watch, I pronounced it a full
hour later than it really was, and promising to spend the evening--my last
evening--with them, I took my leave and hurried away, in no small flurry to
be once more out of reach of Mrs. Dalrymple's fire, which I every moment
expected to open upon me.
Power and I dined together _tête-à-tête_ at the hotel, and sat chatting
over my adventures with the Dalrymples till nearly nine o'clock.
"Come, Charley," said he, at length, "I see your eye wandering very often
towards the timepiece; another bumper, and I'll let you off. What shall it
"What you like," said I, upon whom a share of three bottles of strong
claret had already made a very satisfactory impression.
"Then champagne for the _coup-de-grace_. Nothing like your _vin mousseux_
for a critical moment,--every bubble that rises sparkling to the surface
prompts some bright thought, or elicits some brilliant idea, that would
only have been drowned in your more sober fluids. Here's to the girl you
love, whoever she be."
"To her bright eyes, then, be it," said I, clearing off a brimming goblet
of nearly half the bottle, while my friend Power seemed multiplied into
any given number of gentlemen standing amidst something like a glass
manufactory of decanters.
"I hope you feel steady enough for this business," said my friend,
examining me closely with the candle.
"I'm an archdeacon," muttered I, with one eye involuntarily closing.
"You'll not let them double on you!"
"Trust me, old boy," said I, endeavoring to look knowing.
"I think you'll do," said he, "so now march. I'll wait for you here,
and we'll go on board together; for old Bloater the skipper says he'll
certainly weigh by daybreak."
"Till then," said I, as opening the door, I proceeded very cautiously to
descend the stairs, affecting all the time considerable _nonchalance_, and
endeavoring, as well as my thickened utterance would permit, to hum:--
"Oh, love is the soul of an Irish dragoon."
If I was not in the most perfect possession of my faculties in the house,
the change to the open air certainly but little contributed to their
restoration; and I scarcely felt myself in the street when my brain became
absolutely one whirl of maddened and confused excitement. Time and space
are nothing to a man thus enlightened, and so they appeared to me; scarcely
a second had elapsed when I found myself standing in the Dalrymples'
If a few hours had done much to metamorphose _me_, certes, they had done
something for my fair friends also; anything more unlike what they appeared
in the morning can scarcely be imagined. Matilda in black, with her hair in
heavy madonna bands upon her fair cheek, now paler even than usual, never
seemed so handsome; while Fanny, in a light-blue dress, with blue flowers
in her hair, and a blue sash, looked the most lovely piece of coquetry ever
man set his eyes upon. The old major, too, was smartened up, and put into
an old regimental coat that he had worn during the siege of Gibraltar; and
lastly, Mrs. Dalrymple herself was attired in a very imposing costume that
made her, to my not over-accurate judgment, look very like an elderly
bishop in a flame-colored cassock. Sparks was the only stranger, and
wore upon his countenance, as I entered, a look of very considerable
embarrassment that even my thick-sightedness could not fail of detecting.
_Parlez-moi de I'amitié_, my friends. Talk to me of the warm embrace of
your earliest friend, after years of absence; the cordial and heartfelt
shake hands of your old school companion, when in after years, a chance
meeting has brought you together, and you have had time and opportunity for
becoming distinguished and in repute, and are rather a good hit to be known
to than otherwise; of the close grip you give your second when he comes up
to say, that the gentleman with the loaded detonator opposite won't fire,
that he feels he's in the wrong. Any or all of these together, very
effective and powerful though they be, are light in the balance when
compared with the two-handed compression you receive from the gentleman
that expects you to marry one of his daughters.
"My dear O'Malley, how goes it? Thought you'd never come," said he, still
holding me fast and looking me full in the face, to calculate the extent to
which my potations rendered his flattery feasible.
"Hurried to death with preparations, I suppose," said Mrs. Dalrymple,
smiling blandly. "Fanny dear, some tea for him."
"Oh, Mamma, he does not like all that sugar; surely not," said she, looking
up with a most sweet expression, as though to say, "I at least know his
"I believed you were going without seeing us," whispered Matilda, with a
very glassy look about the corner of her eyes.
Eloquence was not just then my forte, so that I contented myself with a
very intelligible look at Fanny, and a tender squeeze of Matilda's hand, as
I seated myself at the table.
Scarcely had I placed myself at the tea-table, with Matilda beside and
Fanny opposite me, each vying with the other in their delicate and kind
attentions, when I totally forgot all my poor friend Power's injunctions
and directions for my management. It is true, I remembered that there was
a scrape of some kind or other to be got out of, and one requiring some
dexterity, too; but what or with whom I could not for the life of me
determine. What the wine had begun, the bright eyes completed; and amidst
the witchcraft of silky tresses and sweet looks, I lost all my reflection,
till the impression of an impending difficulty remained fixed in my mind,
and I tortured my poor, weak, and erring intellect to detect it. At last,
and by a mere chance, my eyes fell upon Sparks; and by what mechanism I
contrived it, I know not, but I immediately saddled him with the whole of
my annoyances, and attributed to him and to his fault any embarrassment I
The physiological reason of the fact I'm very ignorant of, but for the
truth and frequency I can well vouch, that there are certain people,
certain faces, certain voices, certain whiskers, legs, waistcoats, and
guard-chains, that inevitably produce the most striking effects upon the
brain of a gentleman already excited by wine, and not exactly cognizant of
his own peculiar fallacies.
These effects are not produced merely among those who are quarrelsome in
their cups, for I call the whole 14th to witness that I am not such; but to
any person so disguised, the inoffensiveness of the object is no security
on the other hand,--for I once knew an eight-day clock kicked down a
barrack stairs by an old Scotch major, because he thought it was laughing
at him. To this source alone, whatever it be, can I attribute the feeling
of rising indignation with which I contemplated the luckless cornet, who,
seated at the fire, unnoticed and uncared for, seemed a very unworthy
object to vent anger or ill-temper upon.
"Mr. Sparks, I fear," said I, endeavoring at the time to call up a look of
very sovereign contempt,--"Mr. Sparks, I fear, regards my visit here in the
light of an intrusion."
Had poor Mr. Sparks been told to proceed incontinently up the chimney
before him, he could not have looked more aghast. Reply was quite out of
his power. So sudden and unexpectedly was this charge of mine made that he
could only stare vacantly from one to the other; while I, warming with
my subject, and perhaps--but I'll not swear it--stimulated by a gentle
pressure from a soft hand near me, continued:--
"If he thinks for one moment that my attentions in this family are in any
way to be questioned by him, I can only say--"
"My dear O'Malley, my dear boy!" said the major, with the look of a
father-in-law in his eye.
"The spirit of an officer and a gentleman spoke there," said Mrs.
Dalrymple, now carried beyond all prudence by the hope that my attack might
arouse my dormant friend into a counter-declaration; nothing, however, was
further from poor Sparks, who began to think he had been unconsciously
drinking tea with five lunatics.
"If he supposes," said I, rising from my chair, "that his silence will pass
with me as any palliation--"
"Oh, dear! oh, dear! there will be a duel. Papa, dear, why don't you speak
to Mr. O'Malley?"
"There now, O'Malley, sit down. Don't you see he is quite in error?"
"Then let him say so," said I, fiercely.
"Ah, yes, to be sure," said Fanny. "Do say it; say anything he likes, Mr.
"I must say," said Mrs. Dalrymple, "however sorry I may feel in my own
house to condemn any one, that Mr. Sparks is very much in the wrong."
Poor Sparks looked like a man in a dream.
"If he will tell Charles,--Mr. O'Malley, I mean," said Matilda, blushing
scarlet, "that he meant nothing by what he said--"
"But I never spoke, never opened my lips!" cried out the wretched man, at
length sufficiently recovered to defend himself.
"Oh, Mr. Sparks!"
"Oh, Mr. Sparks!"
"Oh, Mr. Sparks!" chorussed the three ladies.
While the old major brought up the rear with an "Oh, Sparks, I must say--"
"Then, by all the saints in the calendar, I must be mad," said he; "but if
I have said anything to offend you, O'Malley, I am sincerely sorry for it."
"That will do, sir," said I, with a look of royal condescension at the
_amende_ I considered as somewhat late in coming, and resumed my seat.
This little _intermezzo_, it might be supposed, was rather calculated to
interrupt the harmony of our evening. Not so, however. I had apparently
acquitted myself like a hero, and was evidently in a white heat, in which I
could be fashioned into any shape. Sparks was humbled so far that he would
probably feel it a relief to make any proposition; so that by our opposite
courses we had both arrived at a point at which all the dexterity and
address of the family had been long since aiming without success.
Conversation then resumed its flow, and in a few minutes every trace of our
late _fracas_ had disappeared.
By degrees I felt myself more and more disposed to turn my attention
towards Matilda, and dropping my voice into a lower tone, opened a
flirtation of a most determined kind. Fanny had, meanwhile, assumed a place
beside Sparks, and by the muttered tones that passed between them, I could
plainly perceive they were similarly occupied. The major took up the
"Southern Reporter," of which he appeared deep in the contemplation, while
Mrs. Dal herself buried her head in her embroidery and neither heard nor
saw anything around her.
I know, unfortunately, but very little what passed between myself and my
fair companion; I can only say that when supper was announced at twelve (an
hour later than usual), I was sitting upon the sofa with my arm round
her waist, my cheek so close that already her lovely tresses brushed my
forehead, and her breath fanned my burning brow.
"Supper, at last," said the major, with a loud voice, to arouse us from
our trance of happiness without taking any mean opportunity of looking
unobserved. "Supper, Sparks, O'Malley; come now, it will be some time
before we all meet this way again."
"Perhaps not so long, after all," said I, knowingly.
"Very likely not," echoed Sparks, in the same key.
"I've proposed for Fanny," said he, whispering in my ear.
"Matilda's mine," replied I, with the look of an emperor.
"A word with you, Major," said Sparks, his eye flashing with enthusiasm,
and his cheek scarlet. "One word,--I'll not detain you."
They withdrew into a corner for a few seconds, during which Mrs. Dalrymple
amused herself by wondering what the secret could be, why Mr. Sparks
couldn't tell her, and Fanny meanwhile pretended to look for something at a
side table, and never turned her head round.
"Then give me your hand," said the major, as he shook Sparks's with a
warmth of whose sincerity there could be no question. "Bess, my love," said
he, addressing his wife. The remainder was lost in a whisper; but whatever
it was, it evidently redounded to Sparks's credit, for the next moment a
repetition of the hand-shaking took place, and Sparks looked the happiest
"_A mon tour_," thought I, "now," as I touched the major's arm, and led him
towards the window. What I said may be one day matter for Major Dalrymple's
memoirs, if he ever writes them; but for my part I have not the least idea.
I only know that while I was yet speaking he called over Mrs. Dal, who,
in a frenzy of joy, seized me in her arms and embraced me. After which, I
kissed her, shook hands with the major, kissed Matilda's hand, and laughed
prodigiously, as though I had done something confoundedly droll,--a
sentiment evidently participated in by Sparks, who laughed too, as did the
others; and a merrier, happier party never sat down to supper.
"Make your company pleased with themselves," says Mr. Walker, in his
_Original_ work upon dinner-giving, "and everything goes on well." Now,
Major Dalrymple, without having read the authority in question, probably
because it was not written at the time, understood the principle fully
as well as the police-magistrate, and certainly was a proficient in the
practice of it.
To be sure, he possessed one grand requisite for success,--he seemed most
perfectly happy himself. There was that _air dégagé_ about him which, when
an old man puts it on among his juniors, is so very attractive. Then the
ladies, too, were evidently well pleased; and the usually austere mamma had
relaxed her "rigid front" into a smile in which any _habitué_ of the house
could have read our fate.
We ate, we drank, we ogled, smiled, squeezed hands beneath the table,
and, in fact, so pleasant a party had rarely assembled round the major's
mahogany. As for me, I made a full disclosure of the most burning love,
backed by a resolve to marry my fair neighbor, and settle upon her a
considerably larger part of my native county than I had ever even rode
over. Sparks, on the other side, had opened his fire more cautiously,
but whether taking courage from my boldness, or perceiving with envy the
greater estimation I was held in, was now going the pace fully as fast as
myself, and had commenced explanations of his intentions with regard to
Fanny that evidently satisfied her friends. Meanwhile the wine was passing
very freely, and the hints half uttered an hour before began now to be more
openly spoken and canvassed.
Sparks and I hob-nobbed across the table and looked unspeakable things at
each other; the girls held down their heads; Mrs. Dal wiped her eyes; and
the major pronounced himself the happiest father in Europe.
It was now wearing late, or rather early; some gray streaks of dubious
light were faintly forcing their way through the half-closed curtains, and
the dread thought of parting first presented itself. A cavalry trumpet,
too, at this moment sounded a call that aroused us from our trance of
pleasure, and warned us that our moments were few. A dead silence crept
over all; the solemn feeling which leave-taking ever inspires was
uppermost, and none spoke. The major was the first to break it.
"O'Malley, my friend, and you, Mr. Sparks; I must have a word with you,
boys, before we part."
"Here let it be, then, Major," said I, holding his arm as he turned to
leave the room,--"here, now; we are all so deeply interested, no place is
"Well, then," said the major, "as you desire it, now that I'm to regard
you both in the light of my sons-in-law,--at least, as pledged to become
so,--it is only fair as respects--"
"I see,--I understand perfectly," interrupted I, whose passion for
conducting the whole affair myself was gradually gaining on me. "What
you mean is, that we should make known our intentions before some mutual
friends ere we part; eh, Sparks? eh, Major?"
"Right, my boy,--right on every point."
"Well, then, I thought of all that; and if you'll just send your servant
over to my quarters for our captain,--he's the fittest person, you know, at
such a time--"
"How considerate!" said Mrs. Dalrymple.
"How perfectly just his idea is!" said the major.
"We'll then, in his presence, avow our present and unalterable
determination as regards your fair daughters; and as the time is short--"
Here I turned towards Matilda, who placed her arm within mine; Sparks
possessed himself of Fanny's hand, while the major and his wife consulted
for a few seconds.
"Well, O'Malley, all you propose is perfect. Now, then, for the captain.
Who shall he inquire for?"
[Illustration: CHARLES POPS THE QUESTION.]
"Oh, an old friend of yours," said I, jocularly; "you'll be glad to see
"Indeed!" said all together.
"Oh, yes, quite a surprise, I'll warrant it."
"Who can it be? Who on earth is it?"
"You can't guess," added I, with a very knowing look. "Knew you at Corfu; a
very intimate friend, indeed, if he tell the truth."
A look of something like embarrassment passed around the circle at these
words, while I, wishing to end the mystery, resumed:--
"Come, then, who can be so proper for all parties, at a moment like this,
as our mutual friend Captain Power?"
Had a shell fallen into the cold grouse pie in the midst of us, scattering
death and destruction on every side, the effect could scarcely have been
more frightful than that my last words produced. Mrs. Dalrymple fell with
a sough upon the floor, motionless as a corpse; Fanny threw herself,
screaming, upon a sofa; Matilda went off into strong hysterics upon the
hearth-rug; while the major, after giving me a look a maniac might have
envied, rushed from the room in search of his pistols with a most terrific
oath to shoot somebody, whether Sparks or myself, or both of us, on his
return, I cannot say. Fanny's sobs and Matilda's cries, assisted by a
drumming process by Mrs. Dal's heels upon the floor, made a most infernal
concert and effectually prevented anything like thought or reflection; and
in all probability so overwhelmed was I at the sudden catastrophe I had so
innocently caused, I should have waited in due patience for the major's
return, had not Sparks seized my arm, and cried out,--
"Run for it, O'Malley; cut like fun, my boy, or we're done for."
"Run; why? What for? Where?" said I, stupefied by the scene before me.
"Here he is!" called out Sparks, as throwing up the window, he sprang out
upon the stone sill, and leaped into the street. I followed mechanically,
and jumped after him, just as the major had reached the window. A ball
whizzed by me, that soon determined my further movements; so, putting on
all speed, I flew down the street, turned the corner, and regained the
hotel breathless and without a hat, while Sparks arrived a moment later,
pale as a ghost, and trembling like an aspen-leaf.
"Safe, by Jove!" said Sparks, throwing himself into a chair, and panting
"Safe, at last," said I, without well knowing why or for what.
"You've had a sharp run of it, apparently," said Power, coolly, and without
any curiosity as to the cause; "and now, let us on board; there goes the
trumpet again. The skipper is a surly old fellow, and we must not lose his
tide for him." So saying, he proceeded to collect his cloaks, cane, etc.,
and get ready for departure.
When I awoke from the long, sound sleep which succeeded my last adventure,
I had some difficulty in remembering where I was or how I had come there.
From my narrow berth I looked out upon the now empty cabin, and at length
some misty and confused sense of my situation crept slowly over me. I
opened the little shutter beside me and looked out. The bold headlands of
the southern coast were frowning in sullen and dark masses about a couple
of miles distant, and I perceived that we were going fast through the
water, which was beautifully calm and still. I now looked at my watch;
it was past eight o'clock; and as it must evidently be evening, from the
appearance of the sky, I felt that I had slept soundly for above twelve
In the hurry of departure the cabin had not been set to rights, and there
lay every species of lumber and luggage in all imaginable confusion.
Trunks, gun-cases, baskets of eggs, umbrellas, hampers of sea-store,
cloaks, foraging-caps, maps, and sword-belts were scattered on every
side,--while the _débris_ of a dinner, not over-remarkable for its
propriety in table equipage, added to the ludicrous effect. The heavy tramp
of a foot overhead denoted the step of some one taking his short walk of
exercise; while the rough voice of the skipper, as he gave the word to "Go
about!" all convinced me that we were at last under way, and off to "the
The confusion our last evening on shore produced in my brain was such
that every effort I made to remember anything about it only increased my
difficulty, and I felt myself in a web so tangled and inextricable that
all endeavor to escape free was impossible. Sometimes I thought that I had
really married Matilda Dalrymple; then, I supposed that the father had
called me out, and wounded me in a duel; and finally, I had some confused
notion about a quarrel with Sparks, but what for, when, and how it ended, I
knew not. How tremendously tipsy I must have been! was the only conclusion
I could draw from all these conflicting doubts; and after all, it was the
only thing like fact that beamed upon my mind. How I had come on board and
reached my berth was a matter I reserved for future inquiry, resolving that
about the real history of my last night on shore I would ask no questions,
if others were equally disposed to let it pass in silence.
I next began to wonder if Mike had looked after all my luggage, trunks,
etc., and whether he himself had been forgotten in our hasty departure.
About this latter point I was not destined for much doubt; for a well-known
voice, from the foot of the companion-ladder, at once proclaimed my
faithful follower, and evidenced his feelings at his departure from his
home and country.
Mr. Free was, at the time I mention, gathered up like a ball opposite a
small, low window that looked upon the bluff headlands now fast becoming
dim and misty as the night approached. He was apparently in low spirits,
and hummed in a species of low, droning voice, the following ballad, at the
end of each verse of which came an Irish chorus which, to the erudite in
such matters, will suggest the air of Moddirederoo:--
MICKEY FREE'S LAMENT.
Then fare ye well, ould Erin dear;
To part, my heart does ache well:
From Carrickfergus to Cape Clear,
I'll never see your equal.
And though to foreign parts we're bound,
Where cannibals may ate us,
We'll ne'er forget the holy ground
Of potteen and potatoes.
Moddirederoo aroo, aroo, etc.
When good Saint Patrick banished frogs,
And shook them from his garment,
He never thought we'd go abroad,
To live upon such varmint;
Nor quit the land where whiskey grew
To wear King George's button,
Take vinegar for mountain dew,
And toads for mountain mutton.
Moddirederoo aroo, aroo, etc.
"I say, Mike, stop that confounded keen, and tell me where are we?"
"Off the ould head of Kinsale, sir."
"Where is Captain Power?"
"Smoking a cigar on deck, with the captain, sir."
"And Mr. Sparks?"
"Mighty sick in his own state-room. Oh, but it's himself has enough of
glory--bad luck to it!--by this time. He'd make your heart break to look at
"Who have you got on board besides?"
"The adjutant's here, sir; and an old gentleman they call the major."
"Not Major Dalrymple?" said I, starting up with terror at the thought, "eh,
"No, sir, another major; his name is Mulroon, or Mundoon, or something like
"Monsoon, you son of a lumper potato," cried out a surly, gruff voice from
a berth opposite. "Monsoon. Who's at the other side?"
"Mr. O'Malley, 14th," said I, by way of introduction.
"My service to you, then," said the voice. "Going to join your regiment?"
"Yes; and you, are you bound on a similar errand?"
"No, Heaven be praised! I'm attached to the commissariat, and only going to
Lisbon. Have you had any dinner?"
"Not a morsel; have you?"
"No more than yourself; but I always lie by for three or four days this
way, till I get used to the confounded rocking and pitching, and with
a little grog and some sleep, get over the time gayly enough. Steward,
another tumbler like the last; there--very good--that will do. Your good
health, Mr.--what was it you said?"
"O'Malley--your good health! Good-night." And so ended our brief colloquy,
and in a few minutes more, a very decisive snore pronounced my friend to be
fulfilling his precept for killing the hours.
I now made the effort to emancipate myself from my crib, and at last
succeeded in getting on the floor, where, after one _chassez_ at a small
looking-glass opposite, followed by a very impetuous rush at a little brass
stove, in which I was interrupted by a trunk and laid prostrate, I finally
got my clothes on, and made my way to the deck. Little attuned as was my
mind at the moment to admire anything like scenery, it was impossible to be
unmoved by the magnificent prospect before me. It was a beautiful evening
in summer; the sun had set above an hour before, leaving behind him in the
west one vast arch of rich and burnished gold, stretching along the whole
horizon, and tipping all the summits of the heavy rolling sea, as it rolled
on, unbroken by foam or ripple, in vast moving mountains, from the far
coast of Labrador. We were already in blue water, though the bold cliffs
that were to form our departing point were but a few miles to leeward.
There lay the lofty bluff of Old Kinsale, whose crest, overhanging, peered
from a summit of some hundred feet into the deep water that swept its rocky
base, many a tangled lichen and straggling bough trailing in the flood
beneath. Here and there upon the coast a twinkling gleam proclaimed the hut
of the fisherman, whose swift hookers had more than once shot by us and
disappeared in a moment. The wind, which began to fall at sunset, freshened
as the moon rose; and the good ship, bending to the breeze, lay gently
over, and rushed through the waters with a sound of gladness. I was alone
upon the deck. Power and the captain, whom I expected to have found, had
disappeared somehow, and I was, after all, not sorry to be left to my own
My thoughts turned once more to my home,--to my first, my best, earliest
friend, whose hearth I had rendered lonely and desolate, and my heart
sank within me as I remembered it. How deeply I reproached myself for the
selfish impetuosity with which I had ever followed any rising fancy, any
new and sudden desire, and never thought of him whose every hope was in,
whose every wish was for me. Alas! alas, my poor uncle! how gladly would
I resign every prospect my soldier's life may hold out, with all its
glittering promise, and all the flattery of success, to be once more beside
you; to feel your warm and manly grasp; to see your smile; to hear your
voice; to be again where all our best feelings are born and nurtured, our
cares assuaged, our joys more joyed in, and our griefs more wept,--at home!
These very words have more music to my ears than all the softest strains
that ever siren sung. They bring us back to all we have loved, by ties that
are never felt but through such simple associations. And in the earlier
memories called up, our childish feelings come back once more to visit us
like better spirits, as we walk amidst the dreary desolation that years of
care and uneasiness have spread around us.
Wretched must he be who ne'er has felt such bliss; and thrice happy he who,
feeling it, knows that still there lives for him that same early home, with
all its loved inmates, its every dear and devoted object waiting his coming
and longing for his approach.
Such were my thoughts as I stood gazing at the bold line of coast now
gradually growing more and more dim while evening fell, and we continued
to stand farther out to sea. So absorbed was I all this time in my
reflections, that I never heard the voices which now suddenly burst upon my
ears quite close beside me. I turned, and saw for the first time that at
the end of the quarter-deck stood what is called a roundhouse, a small
cabin, from which the sounds in question proceeded. I walked gently forward
and peeped in, and certainly anything more in contrast with my late revery
need not be conceived. There sat the skipper, a bluff, round-faced,
jolly-looking little tar, mixing a bowl of punch at a table, at which sat
my friend Power, the adjutant, and a tall, meagre-looking Scotchman, whom
I once met in Cork, and heard that he was the doctor of some infantry
regiment. Two or three black bottles, a paper of cigars, and a tallow
candle were all the table equipage; but certainly the party seemed not to
want for spirits and fun, to judge from the hearty bursts of laughing that
every moment pealed forth, and shook the little building that held them.
Power, as usual with him, seemed to be taking the lead, and was evidently
amusing himself with the peculiarities of his companions.
"Come, Adjutant, fill up; here's to the campaign before us. We, at least,
have nothing but pleasure in the anticipation; no lovely wife behind; no
charming babes to fret and be fretted for, eh?"
"Vara true," said the doctor, who was mated with a _tartar_, "ye maun have
less regrets at leaving hame; but a married man is no' entirely denied his
"Good sense in that," said the skipper; "a wide berth and plenty of sea
room are not bad things now and then."
"Is that your experience also?" said Power, with a knowing look. "Come,
come, Adjutant, we're not so ill off, you see; but, by Jove, I can't
imagine how it is a man ever comes to thirty without having at least one
wife,--without counting his colonial possessions of course."
"Yes," said the adjutant, with a sigh, as he drained his glass to the
bottom. "It is devilish strange,--woman, lovely woman!" Here he filled and
drank again, as though he had been proposing a toast for his own peculiar
"I say, now," resumed Power, catching at once that there was something
working in his mind,--"I say, now, how happened it that you, a right
good-looking, soldier-like fellow, that always made his way among the fair
ones, with that confounded roguish eye and slippery tongue,--how the deuce
did it come to pass that you never married?"
"I've been more than once on the verge of it," said the adjutant, smiling
blandly at the flattery.
"And nae bad notion yours just to stay there," said the doctor, with a very
peculiar contortion of countenance.
"No pleasing you, no contenting a fellow like you," said Power, returning
to the charge; "that's the thing; you get a certain ascendancy; you have a
kind of success that renders you, as the French say, _téte montée_, and you
think no woman rich enough or good-looking enough or big enough."
"No; by Jove you're wrong," said the adjutant, swallowing the bait, hook
and all,--"quite wrong there; for some how, all my life, I was decidedly
susceptible. Not that I cared much for your blushing sixteen, or budding
beauties in white muslin, fresh from a back-board and a governess; no, my
taste inclined rather to the more sober charms of two or three-and-thirty,
the _embonpoint_, a good foot and ankle, a sensible breadth about the
"Somewhat Dutch-like, I take it," said the skipper, puffing out a volume of
smoke; "a little bluff in the bows, and great stowage, eh"
"You leaned then towards the widows?" said Power.
"Exactly; I confess, a widow always was my weakness. There was something
I ever liked in the notion of a woman who had got over all the awkward
girlishness of early years, and had that self-possession which habit and
knowledge of the world confer, and knew enough of herself to understand
what she really wished, and where she would really go."
"Like the trade winds," puffed the skipper.
"Then, as regards fortune, they have a decided superiority over
the spinster class. I defy any man breathing,--let him be half
police-magistrate, half chancellor,--to find out the figure of a young
lady's dower. On your first introduction to the house, some kind friend
whispers, 'Go it, old boy; forty thousand, not a penny less.' A few weeks
later, as the siege progresses, a maiden aunt, disposed to puffing, comes
down to twenty; this diminishes again one half, but then 'the money is in
bank stock, hard Three-and-a-Half.' You go a little farther, and as you sit
one day over your wine with papa, he certainly promulgates the fact that
his daughter has five thousand pounds, two of which turn out to be in
Mexican bonds, and three in an Irish mortgage."
"Happy for you," interrupted Power, "that it be not in Galway, where a
proposal to foreclose, would be a signal for your being called out and shot
without benefit of clergy."
"Bad luck to it, for Galway," said the adjutant. "I was nearly taken in
there once to marry a girl that her brother-in-law swore had eight hundred
a year; and it came out afterwards that so she had, but it was for one year
only; and he challenged me for doubting his word too."
"There's an old formula for finding out an Irish fortune," says Power,
"worth, all the algebra they ever taught in Trinity. Take the half of the
assumed sum, and divide it by three; the quotient will be a flattering
representative of the figure sought for."
"Not in the north," said the adjutant, firmly,--"not in the north, Power.
They are all well off there. There's a race of canny, thrifty, half-Scotch
niggers,--your pardon, Doctor, they are all Irish,--linen-weaving,
Presbyterian, yarn-factoring, long-nosed, hard-drinking fellows, that lay
by rather a snug thing now and then. Do you know, I was very near it once
in the north. I've half a mind to tell you the story; though, perhaps,
you'll laugh at me."
The whole party at once protested that nothing could induce them to deviate
so widely from the line of propriety; and the skipper having mixed a fresh
bowl and filled all the glasses round, the cigars were lighted, and the
THE ADJUTANT'S STORY.--LIFE IN DERBY.
"It is now about eight, may be ten, years since we were ordered to march
from Belfast and take up our quarters in Londonderry. We had not been more
than a few weeks altogether in Ulster when the order came; and as we had
been, for the preceding two years, doing duty in the south and west, we
concluded that the island was tolerably the same in all parts. We opened
our campaign in the maiden city exactly as we had been doing with
'unparalleled success' in Cashel, Fermoy, Tuam, etc.,--that is to say, we
announced garrison balls and private theatricals; offered a cup to be run
for in steeple-chase; turned out a four-in-hand drag, with mottled grays;
and brought over two Deal boats to challenge the north."
"The 18th found the place stupid," said his companions.
"To be sure, they did; slow fellows like them must find any place stupid.
No dinners; but they gave none. No fun; but they had none in themselves.
In fact, we knew better; we understood how the thing was to be done, and
resolved that, as a mine of rich ore lay unworked, it was reserved for us
to produce the shining metal that others, less discerning, had failed to
discover. Little we knew of the matter; never was there a blunder like
ours. Were you ever in Derry?"
"Never," said the three listeners.
"Well, then, let me inform you that the place has its own peculiar
features. In the first place, all the large towns in the south and west
have, besides the country neighborhood that surrounds them, a certain
sprinkling of gentlefolk, who, though with small fortunes and not much
usage of the world, are still a great accession to society, and make up the
blank which, even in the most thickly peopled country, would be sadly
felt without them. Now, in Derry, there is none of this. After the great
guns--and, _per Baccho!_ what great guns they are!--you have nothing but
the men engaged in commerce,--sharp, clever, shrewd, well-informed fellows;
they are deep in flax-seed, cunning in molasses, and not to be excelled
in all that pertains to coffee, sassafras, cinnamon, gum, oakum, and
elephants' teeth. The place is a rich one, and the spirit of commerce is
felt throughout it. Nothing is cared for, nothing is talked of, nothing
alluded to, that does not bear upon this; and, in fact, if you haven't a
venture in Smyrna figs, Memel timber, Dutch dolls, or some such commodity,
you are absolutely nothing, and might as well be at a ball with a cork leg,
or go deaf to the opera."
"Now, when I've told thus much, I leave you to guess what impression our
triumphal entry into the city produced. Instead of the admiring crowds
that awaited us elsewhere, as we marched gayly into quarters, here we saw
nothing but grave, sober-looking, and, I confess it, intelligent-looking
faces, that scrutinized our appearance closely enough, but evidently with
no great approval and less enthusiasm. The men passed on hurriedly to the
counting-houses and wharves; the women, with almost as little interest,
peeped at us from the windows, and walked away again. Oh, how we wished for
Galway, glorious Galway, that paradise of the infantry that lies west of
the Shannon! Little we knew, as we ordered the band, in lively anticipation
of the gayeties before us, to strike up 'Payne's first set,' that, to the
ears of the fair listeners in Ship Quay Street, the rumble of a sugar
hogshead or the crank of a weighing crane were more delightful music."
"By Jove!" interrupted Power, "you are quite right. Women are strongly
imitative in their tastes. The lovely Italian, whose very costume is a
natural following of a Raphael, is no more like the pretty Liverpool damsel
than Genoa is to Glasnevin; and yet what the deuce have they, dear souls,
with their feet upon a soft carpet and their eyes upon the pages of Scott
or Byron, to do with all the cotton or dimity that ever was printed? But
let us not repine; that very plastic character is our greatest blessing."
"I'm not so sure that it always exists," said the doctor, dubiously, as
though his own experience pointed otherwise.
"Well, go ahead!" said the skipper, who evidently disliked the digression
thus interrupting the adjutant's story.
"Well, we marched along, looking right and left at the pretty faces--and
there were plenty of them, too--that a momentary curiosity drew to the
windows; but although we smiled and ogled and leered as only a newly
arrived regiment can smile, ogle, or leer, by all that's provoking we might
as well have wasted our blandishments upon the Presbyterian meeting-house,
that frowned upon us with its high-pitched roof and round windows.
"'Droll people, these,' said one; 'Rayther rum ones,' cried another; 'The
black north, by Jove!' said a third: and so we went along to the barracks,
somewhat displeased to think that, though the 18th were slow, they might
have met their match.
"Disappointed, as we undoubtedly felt, at the little enthusiasm that marked
our _entrée_, we still resolved to persist in our original plan, and
accordingly, early the following morning, announced our intention of giving
amateur theatricals. The mayor, who called upon our colonel, was the first
to learn this, and received the information with pretty much the same
kind of look the Archbishop of Canterbury might be supposed to assume if
requested by a a friend to ride 'a Derby.' The incredulous expression of
the poor man's face, as he turned from one of us to the other, evidently
canvassing in his mind whether we might not, by some special dispensation
of Providence, be all insane, I shall never forget.
"His visit was a very short one; whether concluding that we were not quite
safe company, or whether our notification was too much for his nerves, I
"We were not to be balked, however. Our plans for gayety, long planned and
conned over, wore soon announced in all form; and though we made efforts
almost super-human in the cause, our plays were performed to empty benches,
our balls were unattended, our picnic invitations politely declined, and,
in a word, all our advances treated with a cold and chilling politeness
that plainly said, 'We'll none of you.'
"Each day brought some new discomfiture, and as we met at mess, instead
of having, as heretofore, some prospect of pleasure and amusement to chat
over, it was only to talk gloomily over our miserable failures, and lament
the dreary quarters that our fates had doomed us to.
"Some months wore on in this fashion, and at length--what will not time
do?--we began, by degrees, to forget our woes. Some of us took to late
hours and brandy-and-water; others got sentimental, and wrote journals and
novels and poetry; some made acquaintances among the townspeople, and out
in to a quiet rubber to pass the evening; while another detachment, among
which I was, got up a little love affair to while away the tedious hours,
and cheat the lazy sun.
"I have already said something of my taste in beauty; now, Mrs. Boggs
was exactly the style of woman I fancied. She was a widow; she had black
eyes,--not your jet-black, sparkling, Dutch-doll eyes, that roll about and
twinkle, but mean nothing; no, hers had a soft, subdued, downcast, pensive
look about them, and were fully as melting a pair of orbs as any blue eyes
you ever looked at.
"Then, she had a short upper lip, and sweet teeth; by Jove, they were
pearls! and she showed them too, pretty often. Her figure was well-rounded,
plump, and what the French call _nette_. To complete all, her instep and
ankle were unexceptional; and lastly, her jointure was seven hundred pounds
per annum, with a trifle of eight thousand more that the late lamented
Boggs bequeathed, when, after four months of uninterrupted bliss, he left
Derry for another world.
"When chance first threw me in the way of the fair widow, some casual
coincidence of opinion happened to raise me in her estimation, and I soon
afterwards received an invitation to a small evening party at her house, to
which I alone of the regiment was asked.
"I shall not weary you with the details of my intimacy; it is enough that I
tell you I fell desperately in love. I began by visiting twice or thrice a
week, and in less than two months, spent every morning at her house, and
rarely left it till the 'Roast beef' announced mess.
"I soon discovered the widow's cue; she was serious. Now, I had conducted
all manner of flirtatious in my previous life; timid young ladies, manly
young ladies, musical, artistical, poetical, and hysterical,--bless you, I
knew them all by heart; but never before had I to deal with a serious one,
and a widow to boot. The case was a trying one. For some weeks it was all
very up-hill work; all the red shot of warm affection I used to pour in on
other occasions was of no use here. The language of love, in which I was
no mean proficient, availed me not. Compliments and flattery, those rare
skirmishers before the engagement, were denied me; and I verily think that
a tender squeeze of the hand would have cost me my dismissal.
"'How very slow, all this!' thought I, as, at the end of two months siege,
I still found myself seated in the trenches, and not a single breach in the
fortress; 'but, to be sure, it's the way they have in the north, and one
must be patient.'
"While thus I was in no very sanguine frame of mind as to my prospects, in
reality my progress was very considerable. Having become a member of Mr.
M'Phun's congregation, I was gradually rising in the estimation of the
widow and her friends, whom my constant attendance at meeting, and my very
serious demeanor had so far impressed that very grave deliberation was held
whether I should not be made an elder at the next brevet.
"If the widow Boggs had not been a very lovely and wealthy widow; had she
not possessed the eyes, lips, hips, ankles, and jointure aforesaid,--I
honestly avow that neither the charms of that sweet man Mr. M'Phun's
eloquence, nor even the flattering distinction in store for me, would have
induced me to prolong my suit. However, I was not going to despair when in
sight of land. The widow was evidently softened. A little time longer, and
the most scrupulous moralist, the most rigid advocate for employing time
wisely, could not have objected to my daily system of courtship. I was
none of your sighing, dying, ogling, hand-squeezing, waist-pressing,
oath-swearing, everlasting-adoring affairs, with an interchange of rings
and lockets; not a bit of it. It was confoundedly like a controversial
meeting at the Rotundo, and I myself had a far greater resemblance to
Father Tom Maguire than a gay Lothario.
"After all, when mess-time came, when the 'Roast beef' played, and we
assembled at dinner, and the soup and fish had gone round, with two glasses
of sherry in, my spirits rallied, and a very jolly evening consoled me for
all my fatigues and exertions, and supplied me with energy for the morrow;
for, let me observe here, that I only made love before dinner. The evenings
I reserved for myself, assuring Mrs. Boggs that my regimental duties
required all my time after mess hour, in which I was perfectly correct:
for at six we dined; at seven I opened the claret No. 1; at eight I had
uncorked my second bottle; by half-past eight I was returning to the
sherry; and at ten, punctual to the moment, I was repairing to my quarters
on the back of my servant, Tim Daly, who had carried me safely for eight
years, without a single mistake, as the fox-hunters say. This was a way we
had in the --th. Every man was carried away from mess, some sooner, some
later. I was always an early riser, and went betimes.
"Now, although I had very abundant proof, from circumstantial evidence,
that I was nightly removed from the mess-room to my bed in the mode I
mention, it would have puzzled me sorely to prove the fact in any direct
way; inasmuch as by half-past nine, as the clock chimed, and Tim entered to
take me, I was very innocent of all that was going on, and except a certain
vague sense of regret at leaving the decanter, felt nothing whatever.
"It so chanced--what mere trifles are we ruled by in our destiny!--that
just as my suit with the widow had assumed its most favorable footing, old
General Hinks, that commanded the district, announced his coming over to
inspect our regiment. Over he came accordingly, and to be sure, we had a
day of it. We were paraded for six mortal hours; then we were marching and
countermarching, moving into line, back again into column, now forming open
column, then into square; till at last, we began to think that the old
general was like the Flying Dutchman, and was probably condemned to keep on
drilling us to the day of judgment. To be sure, he enlivened the proceeding
to me by pronouncing the regiment the worst-drilled and appointed corps in
the service, and the adjutant (me!) the stupidest dunderhead--these were
his words--he had ever met with.
"'Never mind,' thought I; 'a few days more, and it's little I'll care for
the eighteen manoeuvres. It's small trouble your eyes right or your left,
shoulders forward, will give me. I'll sell out, and with the Widow Boggs
and seven hundred a year,--but no matter.'
"This confounded inspection lasted till half-past five in the afternoon; so
that our mess was delayed a full hour in consequence, and it was past seven
as we sat down to dinner. Our faces were grim enough as we met together at
first; but what will not a good dinner and good wine do for the surliest
party? By eight o'clock we began to feel somewhat more convivially
disposed; and before nine, the decanters were performing a quick-step round
the table, in a fashion very exhilarating and very jovial to look at.
"'No flinching to-night,' said the senior major. 'We've had a severe day;
let us also have a merry evening.'
"'By Jove! Ormond,' cried another, 'we must not leave this to-night.
Confound the old humbugs and their musty whist party; throw them over.'
"'I say, Adjutant,' said Forbes; addressing me, 'you've nothing particular
to say to the fair widow this evening? You'll not bolt, I hope?'
"'That he sha'n't,' said one near me; 'he must make up for his absence
to-morrow, for to-night we all stand fast.'
"'Besides,' said another, 'she's at meeting by this.
Old--what-d'ye-call-him?--is at fourteenthly before now.'
"'A note for you, sir,' said the mess waiter, presenting me with a
rose-colored three-cornered billet. It was from _la chère_ Boggs herself,
and ran thus:--
DEAR SIR,--Mr. M'Phun and a few friends are coming to tea at
my house after meeting; perhaps you will also favor us with your
"What was to be done? Quit the mess; leave a jolly party just at the
jolliest moment; exchange Lafitte and red hermitage for a _soirée_ of
elders, presided over by that sweet man, Mr. M'Phun! It was too bad!--but
then, how much was in the scale! What would the widow say if I declined?
What would she think? I well knew that the invitation meant nothing less
than a full-dress parade of me before her friends, and that to decline was
perhaps to forfeit all my hopes in that quarter forever.
"'Any answer, sir?' said the waiter.
"'Yes,' said I, in a half-whisper, 'I'll go,--tell the servant, I'll go.'
"At this moment my tender epistle was subtracted from before me, and ere I
had turned round, had made the tour of half the table. I never perceived
the circumstance, however, and filling my glass, professed my resolve to
sit to the last, with a mental reserve to take my departure at the very
first opportunity. Ormond and the paymaster quitted the room for a moment,
as if to give orders for a broil at twelve, and now all seemed to promise a
very convivial and well-sustained party for the night.
"'Is that all arranged?' inquired the major, as Ormond entered.
"'All right,' said he; 'and now let us have a bumper and a song. Adjutant,
old boy, give us a chant.'
"'What shall it be, then?' inquired I, anxious to cover my intended retreat
by any appearance of joviality.
"When I was in the Fusiliers
Some fourteen years ago."'
"'No, no; confound it! I've heard nothing else since I joined the regiment.
Let us have the "Paymaster's Daughter."'
"'Ah! that's pathetic; I like that,' lisped a young ensign.
"'If I'm to have a vote,' grunted out the senior major, 'I pronounce for
"West India Quarters."'
"'Yes, yes,' said half-a-dozen voices together; 'let's have "West India
Quarters." Come, give him a glass of sherry, and let him begin.'
"I had scarcely finished off my glass, and cleared my throat for my song,
when the clock on the chimney-piece chimed half-past nine, and the same
instant I felt a heavy hand fall upon my shoulder. I turned and beheld my
servant Tim. This, as I have already mentioned, was the hour at which Tim
was in the habit of taking me home to my quarters; and though we had dined
an hour later, he took no notice of the circumstance, but true to his
custom, he was behind my chair. A very cursory glance at my 'familiar' was
quite sufficient to show me that we had somehow changed sides; for Tim, who
was habitually the most sober of mankind, was, on the present occasion,
exceedingly drunk, while I, a full hour before that consummation, was
"'What d'ye want, sir?' inquired I, with something of severity in my
"'Come home,' said Tim, with a hiccough that set the whole table in a roar.
"'Leave the room this instant,' said I, feeling wrath at being thus made
a butt of for his offences. 'Leave the room, or I'll kick you out of it.'
Now, this, let me add in a parenthesis, was somewhat of a boast, for Tim
was six feet three, and strong in proportion, and when in liquor, fearless
as a tiger.
"'You'll kick me out of the room, eh, will you? Try, only try it, that's
all.' Here a new roar of laughter burst forth, while Tim, again placing an
enormous paw upon my shoulder, continued, 'Don't be sitting there, making a
baste of yourself, when you've got enough. Don't you see you're drunk?'
"I sprang to my legs on this, and made a rush to the fireplace to secure
the poker; but Tim was beforehand with me, and seizing me by the waist with
both hands, flung me across his shoulders as though I were a baby, saying,
at the same time, 'I'll take you away at half-past eight to-morrow, as
you're as rampageous again.' I kicked, I plunged, I swore, I threatened, I
even begged and implored to be set down; but whether my voice was lost in
the uproar around me, or that Tim only regarded my denunciations in the
light of cursing, I know not, but he carried me bodily down the stairs,
steadying himself by one hand on the banisters, while with the other he
held me as in a vice. I had but one consolation all this while; it was
this, that as my quarters lay immediately behind the mess-room, Tim's
excursion would soon come to an end, and I should be free once more; but
guess my terror to find that the drunken scoundrel, instead of going as
usual to the left, turned short to the right hand, and marched boldly
into Ship Quay Street. Every window in the mess-room was filled with our
fellows, absolutely shouting with laughter. 'Go it Tim! That's the fellow!
Hold him tight! Never let go!' cried a dozen voices; while
the wretch, with the tenacity of drunkenness, gripped me still harder, and
took his way down the middle of the street.
[Illustration: THE ADJUTANT'S AFTER DINNER RIDE.]
"It was a beautiful evening in July, a soft summer night, as I made this
pleasing excursion down the most frequented thoroughfare in the maiden
city, my struggles every moment exciting roars of laughter from an
increasing crowd of spectators, who seemed scarcely less amused than
puzzled at the exhibition. In the midst of a torrent of imprecations
against my torturer, a loud noise attracted me. I turned my head, and
saw,--horror of horrors!--the door of the meeting-house just flung open,
and the congregation issuing forth _en masse_. Is it any wonder if I
remember no more? There I was, the chosen one of the widow Boggs, the elder
elect, the favored friend and admired associate of Mr. M'Phun, taking an
airing on a summer's evening on the back of a drunken Irishman. Oh, the
thought was horrible! and certainly the short and pithy epithets by which I
was characterized in the crowd, neither improved my temper nor assuaged my
wrath, and I feel bound to confess that my own language was neither serious
nor becoming. Tim, however, cared little for all this, and pursued the even
tenor of his way through the whole crowd, nor stopped till, having made
half the circuit of the wall, he deposited me safe at my own door; adding,
as he set me down, 'Oh, av you're as throublesome every evening, it's a
wheelbarrow I'll be obleeged to bring for you!'
"The next day I obtained a short leave of absence, and ere a fortnight
expired, exchanged into the --th, preferring Halifax itself to the ridicule
that awaited me in Londonderry."
FRED POWER'S ADVENTURE IN PHILIPSTOWN.
The lazy hours of the long summer day crept slowly over. The sea, unbroken
by foam or ripple, shone like a broad blue mirror, reflecting here and
there some fleecy patches of snow-white cloud as they stood unmoved in the
sky. The good ship rocked to and fro with a heavy and lumbering motion, the
cordage rattled, the bulkheads creaked, the sails flapped lazily against
the masts, the very sea-gulls seemed to sleep as they rested on the long
swell that bore them along, and everything in sea and sky bespoke the calm.
No sailor trod the deck; no watch was stirring; the very tiller ropes were
deserted; and as they traversed backwards and forwards with every roll of
the vessel, told that we had no steerage-way, and lay a mere log upon the
I sat alone in the bow, and fell into a musing fit upon the past and
the future. How happily for us is it ordained that in the most stirring
existences there are every here and there such little resting-spots of
reflection, from which, as from some eminence, we look back upon the road
we have been treading in life, and cast a wistful glance at the dark vista
before us! When first we set out upon our worldly pilgrimage, these are
indeed precious moments, when with buoyant heart and spirit high, believing
all things, trusting all things, our very youth comes back to us, reflected
from every object we meet; and like Narcissus, we are but worshipping our
own image in the water. As we go on in life, the cares, the anxieties, and
the business of the world engross us more and more, and such moments become
fewer and shorter. Many a bright dream has been dissolved, many a fairy
vision replaced, by some dark reality; blighted hopes, false friendships
have gradually worn callous the heart once alive to every gentle feeling,
and time begins to tell upon us,--yet still, as the well-remembered melody
to which we listened with delight in infancy brings to our mature age a
touch of early years, so will the very association of these happy moments
recur to us in our revery, and make us young again in thought. Then it is
that, as we look back upon our worldly career, we become convinced how
truly is the child the father of the man, how frequently are the projects
of our manhood the fruit of some boyish predilection; and that in the
emulative ardor that stirs the schoolboy's heart, we may read the
_prestige_ of that high daring that makes a hero of its possessor.
These moments, too, are scarcely more pleasurable than they are salutary to
us. Disengaged for the time from every worldly anxiety, we pass in review
before our own selves, and in the solitude of our own hearts are we judged.
That still small voice of conscience, unheard and unlistened to amidst the
din and bustle of life, speaks audibly to us now; and while chastened
on one side by regrets, we are sustained on the other by some approving
thought; and with many a sorrow for the past, and many a promise for the
future, we begin to feel "how good it is for us to be here."
The evening wore later; the red sun sank down upon the sea, growing larger
and larger; the long line of mellow gold that sheeted along the distant
horizon grew first of a dark ruddy tinge, then paler and paler, till it
became almost gray; a single star shone faintly in the east, and darkness
soon set in. With night came the wind, for almost imperceptibly the sails
swelled slowly out, a slight rustle at the bow followed, the ship lay
gently over, and we were once more in motion. It struck four bells; some
casual resemblance in the sound of the old pendulum that marked the hour at
my uncle's house startled me so that I actually knew not where I was. With
lightning speed my once home rose up before me with its happy hearts; the
old familiar faces were there; the gay laugh was in my ears; there sat
my dear old uncle, as with bright eye and mellow voice he looked a very
welcome to his guests; there Boyle; there Considine; there the grim-visaged
portraits that graced the old walls whose black oak wainscot stood in broad
light and shadow, as the blazing turf fire shone upon it; there was my own
place, now vacant; methought my uncle's eye was turned towards it and that
I heard him say, "My poor boy! I wonder where is he now!" My heart swelled,
my chest heaved, the tears coursed slowly down my cheeks, as I asked
myself, "Shall I ever see them more?" Oh, how little, how very little to us
are the accustomed blessings of our life till some change has robbed us of
them, and how dear are they when lost to us! My uncle's dark foreboding
that we should never meet again on earth, came for the first time forcibly
to my mind, and my heart was full to bursting. What could repay me for
the agony of that moment as I thought of him, my first, my best, my only
friend, whom I had deserted? And how gladly would I have resigned my bright
day-dawn of ambition to be once more beside his chair, to hear his voice,
to see his smile, to feel his love for me! A loud laugh from the cabin
roused me from my sad, depressing revery, and at the same instant
Mike's well-known voice informed me that the captain was looking for me
everywhere, as supper was on the table. Little as I felt disposed to join
the party at such a moment, as I knew there was no escaping Power, I
resolved to make the best of matters; so after a few minutes I followed
Mickey down the companion and entered the cabin.
The scene before me was certainly not calculated to perpetuate depressing
thoughts. At the head of a rude old-fashioned table, upon which figured
several black bottles and various ill-looking drinking vessels of every
shape and material, sat Fred Power; on his right was placed the skipper, on
his left the doctor,--the bronzed, merry-looking, weather-beaten features
of the one contrasting ludicrously with the pale, ascetic, acute-looking
expression of the other. Sparks, more than half-drunk, with the mark of a
red-hot cigar upon his nether lip, was lower down; while Major Monsoon, to
preserve the symmetry of the party, had protruded his head, surmounted by a
huge red nightcap, from the berth opposite, and held out his goblet to be
replenished from the punch-bowl.
"Welcome, thrice welcome, thou man of Galway!" cried out Power, as he
pointed to a seat, and pushed a wine-glass towards me. "Just in time, too,
to pronounce upon a new brewery. Taste that; a little more of the lemon you
would say, perhaps? Well, I agree with you. Rum and brandy, glenlivet
and guava jelly, limes, green tea, and a slight suspicion of preserved
ginger,--nothing else, upon honor,--and the most simple mixture for the
cure, the radical cure, of blue devils and debt I know of; eh, Doctor? You
advise it yourself, to be taken before bed-time; nothing inflammatory in
it, nothing pugnacious; a mere circulation of the better juices and more
genial spirits of the marly clay, without arousing any of the baser
passions; whiskey is the devil for that."
"I canna say that I dinna like whiskey toddy," said the doctor; "in the
cauld winter nights it's no sae bad."
"Ah, that's it," said Power; "there's the pull you Scotch have upon us poor
Patlanders,--cool, calculating, long-headed fellows, you only come up to
the mark after fifteen tumblers; whereas we hot-brained devils, with a
blood at 212 degrees of Fahrenheit and a high-pressure engine of good
spirits always ready for an explosion, we go clean mad when tipsy; not but
I am fully convinced that a mad Irishman is worth two sane people of any
other country under heaven."
"If you mean by that insin--insin--sinuation to imply any disrespect to the
English," stuttered out Sparks, "I am bound to say that I for one, and the
doctor, I am sure, for another--"
"Na, na," interrupted the doctor, "ye mauna coont upon me; I'm no disposed
to fetch ower our liquor."
"Then, Major Monsoon, I'm certain--"
"Are ye, faith?" said the major, with a grin; "blessed are they who expect
nothing,--of which number you are not,--for most decidedly you shall be
"Never mind, Sparks, take the whole fight to your own proper self, and
do battle like a man; and here I stand, ready at all arms to prove my
position,--that we drink better, sing better, court better, fight better,
and make better punch than every John Bull, from Berwick to the Land's
Sparks, however, who seemed not exactly sure how far his antagonist was
disposed to quiz, relapsed into a half-tipsy expression of contemptuous
silence, and sipped his liquor without reply.
"Yes," said Power, after a pause, "bad luck to it for whiskey; it nearly
got me broke once, and poor Tom O'Reilly of the 5th, too, the best-tempered
fellow in the service. We were as near it as touch and go; and all for some
confounded Loughrea spirits that we believed to be perfectly innocent, and
used to swill away freely without suspicion of any kind."
"Let's hear the story," said I, "by all means."
"It's not a long one," said Power, "so I don't care if I tell it; and
besides, if I make a clean breast of my own sins, I'll insist upon
Monsoon's telling you afterwards how he stocked his cellar in Cadiz. Eh,
Major; there's worse tipple than the King of Spain's sherry?"
"You shall judge for yourself, old boy," said Monsoon, good-humoredly; "and
as for the narrative, it is equally at your service. Of course it goes no
further. The commander-in-chief, long life to him! is a glorious fellow;
but he has no more idea of a joke than the Archbishop of Canterbury, and it
might chance to reach him."
"Recount, and fear not!" cried Power; "we are discreet as the worshipful
company of apothecaries."
"But you forget you are to lead the way."
"Here goes, then," said the jolly captain; "not that the story has any
merit in it, but the moral is beautiful.
"Ireland, to be sure, is a beautiful country; but somehow it would prove a
very dull one to be quartered in, if it were not that the people seem to
have a natural taste for the army. From the belle of Merrion Square down
to the inn-keeper's daughter in Tralee, the loveliest part of the
creation seem to have a perfect appreciation of our high acquirements and
advantages; and in no other part of the globe, the Tonga Islands included,
is a red-coat more in favor. To be sure, they would be very ungrateful if
it were not the case; for we, upon our side, leave no stone unturned to
make ourselves agreeable. We ride, drink, play, and make love to the ladies
from Fairhead to Killarney, in a way greatly calculated to render us
popular; and as far as making the time pass pleasantly, we are the boys for
the 'greatest happiness' principle. I repeat it; we deserve our popularity.
Which of us does not get head and ears in debt with garrison balls and
steeple-chases, picnics, regattas, and the thousand-and-one inventions to
get rid of one's spare cash,--so called for being so sparingly dealt out
by our governors? Now and then, too, when all else fails, we take a
newly-joined ensign and make him marry some pretty but penniless lass in
a country town, just to show the rest that we are not joking, but have
serious ideas of matrimony in the midst of all our flirtations. If it were
all like this, the Green Isle would be a paradise; but unluckily every now
and then one is condemned to some infernal place where there is neither a
pretty face nor tight ankle, where the priest himself is not a good fellow,
and long, ill-paved, straggling streets, filled on market days with booths
of striped calico and soapy cheese, is the only promenade, and a ruinous
barrack, with mouldy walls and a tumbling chimney, the only quarters.
"In vain, on your return from your morning stroll or afternoon canter, you
look on the chimney-piece for a shower of visiting-cards and pink notes of
invitation; in vain you ask your servant, Has any one called. Alas,
your only visitor has been the ganger, to demand a party to assist in
still-hunting amidst that interesting class of the population who, having
nothing to eat, are engaged in devising drink, and care as much for the
life of a red-coat as you do for that of a crow or a curlew. This may seem
overdrawn; but I would ask you, Were you ever for your sins quartered in
that capital city of the Bog of Allen they call Philipstown? Oh, but it is
a romantic spot! They tell us somewhere that much of the expression of the
human face divine depends upon the objects which constantly surround us.
Thus the inhabitants of mountain districts imbibe, as it were, a certain
bold and daring character of expression from the scenery, very different
from the placid and monotonous look of those who dwell in plains and
valleys; and I can certainly credit the theory in this instance, for every
man, woman, and child you meet has a brown, baked, scruffy, turf-like face,
that fully satisfies you that if Adam were formed of clay the Philipstown
people were worse treated and only made of bog mould.
"Well, one fine morning poor Tom and myself were marched off from Birr,
where one might 'live and love forever,' to take up our quarters at this
sweet spot. Little we knew of Philipstown; and like my friend the adjutant
there, when he laid siege to Deny, we made our _entrée_ with all the pomp
we could muster, and though we had no band, our drums and fifes did duty
for it; and we brushed along through turf-creels and wicker-baskets of new
brogues that obstructed the street till we reached the barrack,--the only
testimony of admiration we met with being, I feel bound to admit, from a
ragged urchin of ten years, who, with a wattle in his hand, imitated me as
I marched along, and when I cried halt, took his leave of us by dexterously
fixing his thumb to the side of his nose and outstretching his fingers, as
if thus to convey a very strong hint that we were not half so fine fellows
as we thought ourselves. Well, four mortal summer months of hot sun and
cloudless sky went over, and still we lingered in that vile village, the
everlasting monotony of our days being marked by the same brief morning
drill, the same blue-legged chicken dinner, the same smoky Loughrea
whiskey, and the same evening stroll along the canal bank to watch for
the Dublin packet-boat, with its never-varying cargo of cattle-dealers,
priests, and peelers on their way to the west country, as though the demand
for such colonial productions in these parts was insatiable. This was
pleasant, you will say; but what was to be done? We had nothing else. Now,
nothing saps a man's temper like _ennui_. The cranky, peevish people one
meets with would be excellent folk, if they only had something to do. As
for us, I'll venture to say two men more disposed to go pleasantly down
the current of life it were hard to meet with; and yet, such was the
consequence of these confounded four months' sequestration from all other
society, we became sour and cross-grained, everlastingly disputing
about trifles, and continually arguing about matters which neither were
interested in, nor, indeed, knew anything about. There were, it is true,
few topics to discuss; newspapers we never saw; sporting there was
none,--but then, the drill, the return of duty, the probable chances of our
being ordered for service, were all daily subjects to be talked over, and
usually with considerable asperity and bitterness. One point, however,
always served us when hard pushed for a bone of contention; and which,
begun by a mere accident at first, gradually increased to a sore and
peevish subject, and finally led to the consequences which I have hinted at
in the beginning. This was no less than the respective merits of our mutual
servants; each everlastingly indulging in a tirade against the other for
awkwardness, incivility, unhandiness,--charges, I am bound to confess, most
amply proved on either side.
"'Well, I am sure, O'Reilly, if you can stand that fellow, it's no affair
of mine; but such an ungainly savage I never met,' I would say.
"To which he would reply, 'Bad enough he is, certainly; but, by Jove! when
I only think of your Hottentot, I feel grateful for what I've got.'
"Then ensued a discussion, with attack, rejoinder, charge, and
recrimination till we retired for the night, wearied with our exertions,
and not a little ashamed of ourselves at bottom for our absurd warmth and
excitement. In the morning the matter would be rigidly avoided by each
party until some chance occasion had brought it on the _tapis_, when
hostilities would be immediately renewed, and carried on with the same
vigor, to end as before.
"In this agreeable state of matters we sat one warm summer evening before
the mess-room, under the shade of a canvas awning, discussing, by way of
refrigerant, our eighth tumbler of whiskey punch. We had, as usual, been
jarring away about everything under heaven. A lately arrived post-chaise,
with an old, stiff-looking gentleman in a queue, had formed a kind of
'godsend' for debate, as to who he was, whither he was going, whether
he really had intended to spend the night there, or that he only put up
because the chaise was broken; each, as was customary, maintaining his own
opinion with an obstinacy we have often since laughed at, though, at the
time, we had few mirthful thoughts about the matter.
"As the debate waxed warm, O'Reilly asserted that he positively knew
the individual in question to be a United Irishman, travelling with
instructions from the French government; while I laughed him to scorn by
swearing that he was the rector of Tyrrell's Pass, that I knew him well,
and, moreover, that he was the worst preacher in Ireland. Singular enough
it was that all this while the disputed identity was himself standing
coolly at the inn window, with his snuff-box in his hand, leisurely
surveying us as we sat, appearing, at least, to take a very lively interest
in our debate.
"'Come, now,' said O'Reilly, 'there's only one way to conclude this, and
make you pay for your obstinacy. What will you bet that he's the rector of
"'What odds will you take that he's Wolfe Tone?' inquired I, sneeringly.
"'Five to one against the rector,' said he, exultingly.
"'An elephant's molar to a toothpick against Wolfe Tone,' cried I.
"'Ten pounds even that I'm nearer the mark than you,' said Tom, with a
smash of his fist upon the table.
"'Done,' said I,--'done. But how are we to decide the wager?'
"'That's soon done,' said he. At the same instant he sprang to his legs and
called out: 'Pat, I say, Pat, I want you to present my respects to--'
"'No, no, I bar that; no _ex parte_ statements. Here, Jem, do you simply
"'That fellow can't deliver a message. Do come here, Pat. Just beg of--'
"'He'll blunder it, the confounded fool; so, Jem, do you go.'
"The two individuals thus addressed were just in the act of conveying a
tray of glasses and a spiced round of beef for supper into the mess-room;
and as I may remark that they fully entered into the feelings of jealousy
their respective masters professed, each eyed the other with a look of very
"'Arrah! you needn't be pushing me that way,' said Pat, 'an' the round o'
beef in my hands.'
"'Devil's luck to ye, it's the glasses you'll be breaking with your awkward
"'Then, why don't ye leave the way? Ain't I your suparior?'
"'Ain't I the captain's own man?'
"'Ay, and if you war. Don't I belong to his betters? Isn't my master the
"This, strange as it may sound, was so far true, as I held a commission in
an African corps, with my lieutenancy in the 5th.
"'Be-gorra, av he was six--There now, you done it!'
"At the same moment, a tremendous crash took place and the large dish
fell in a thousand pieces on the pavement, while the spiced round rolled
pensively down the yard.
[Illustration: THE RIVAL FLUNKIES.]
"Scarcely was the noise heard when, with one vigorous kick, the tray of
glasses was sent spinning into the air, and the next moment the disputants
were engaged in bloody battle. It was at this moment that our attention was
first drawn towards them, and I need not say with what feelings of interest
we looked on.
"'Hit him, Pat--there, Jem, under the guard! That's it--go in! Well done,
left hand! By Jove! that was a facer! His eye's closed--he's down! Not a
bit of it-how do you like that? Unfair, unfair! No such thing! I say it
was! Not at all--I deny it!'
"By this time we had approached the combatants, each man patting his own
fellow on the back, and encouraging him by the most lavish promises. Now it
was, but in what way I never could exactly tell, that I threw out my right
hand to stop a blow that I saw coming rather too near me, when, by some
unhappy mischance, my doubled fist lighted upon Tom O'Reilly's nose. Before
I could express my sincere regret for the accident, the blow was returned
with double force, and the next moment we were at it harder than the
others. After five minutes' sharp work, we both stopped for breath, and
incontinently burst out a-laughing. There was Tom, with a nose as large as
three, a huge cheek on one side, and the whole head swinging round like a
harlequin's; while I, with one eye closed, and the other like a half-shut
cockle-shell, looked scarcely less rueful. We had not much time for mirth,
for at the same instant a sharp, full voice called out close beside us--
"To your quarters, sirs. I put you both under arrest, from which you are
not to be released until the sentence of a court-martial decide if conduct
such as this becomes officers and gentlemen.'
"I looked round, and saw the old fellow in the queue.
"'Wolfe Tone, by all that's unlucky!' said I, with an attempt at a smile.
"'The rector of Tyrrell's Pass,' cried out Tom, with a snuffle; 'the worst
preacher in Ireland--eh, Fred?'
"We had not much time for further commentaries upon our friend, for he at
once opened his frock coat, and displayed to our horrified gaze the uniform
of a general officer.
"'Yes, sir, General Johnson, if you will allow me to present him to your
acquaintance; and now, guard, turn out.'
"In a few minutes more the orders were issued, and poor Tom and myself
found ourselves fast confined to our quarters, with a sentinel at the door,
and the pleasant prospect that, in the space of about ten days, we should
be broke, and dismissed the service; which verdict, as the general order
would say, the commander of the forces has been graciously pleased to
"However, when morning came the old general, who was really a trump,
inquired a little further into the matter, saw it was partly accidental,
and after a severe reprimand, and a caution about Loughrea whiskey after
the sixth tumbler, released us from arrest, and forgave the whole affair."
THE VOYAGE CONTINUED.
Ugh, what a miserable thing is a voyage! Here we are now eight days at sea,
the eternal sameness of all around growing every hour less supportable.
Sea and sky are beautiful things when seen from the dark woods and waving
meadows on shore; but their picturesque effect is sadly marred from want
of contrast. Besides that, the "_toujours_ pork," with crystals of salt as
long as your wife's fingers; the potatoes that seemed varnished in French
polish; the tea seasoned with geological specimens from the basin of
London, ycleped maple sugar; and the butter--ye gods, the butter! But why
enumerate these smaller features of discomfort and omit the more glaring
ones?--the utter selfishness which blue water suggests, as inevitably as
the cold fit follows the ague. The good fellow that shares his knapsack
or his last guinea on land, here forages out the best corner to hang his
hammock; jockeys you into a comfortless crib, where the uncalked deck-butt
filters every rain from heaven on your head; votes you the corner
at dinner, not only that he may place you with your back to the
thorough-draught of the gangway ladder, but that he may eat, drink, and lie
down before you have even begun to feel the qualmishness that the dinner of
a troop-ship is well calculated to suggest; cuts his pencil with your best
razor; wears your shirts, as washing is scarce; and winds up all by having
a good story of you every evening for the edification of the other "sharp
gentlemen," who, being too wide awake to be humbugged themselves, enjoy his
success prodigiously. This, gentle reader, is neither confession nor avowal
of mine. The passage I have here presented to you I have taken from
the journal of my brother officer, Mr. Sparks, who, when not otherwise
occupied, usually employed his time in committing to paper his thoughts
upon men, manners, and things at sea in general; though, sooth to say, his
was not an idle life. Being voted by unanimous consent "a junior," he was
condemned to offices that the veriest fag in Eton or Harrow had rebelled
against. In the morning, under the pseudonym of _Mrs_. Sparks, he presided
at breakfast, having previously made tea, coffee, and chocolate for the
whole cabin, besides boiling about twenty eggs at various degrees of
hardness; he was under heavy recognizances to provide a plate of buttered
toast of very alarming magnitude, fried ham, kidneys, etc., to no end.
Later on, when others sauntered about the deck, vainly endeavoring to fix
their attention upon a novel or a review, the poor cornet might be seen
with a white apron tucked gracefully round his spare proportions, whipping
eggs for pancakes, or, with upturned shirt-sleeves, fashioning dough for
a pudding. As the day waned, the cook's galley became his haunt, where,
exposed to a roasting fire, he inspected the details of a _cuisine_; for
which, whatever his demerits, he was sure of an ample remuneration in abuse
at dinner. Then came the dinner itself, that dread ordeal, where nothing
was praised and everything censured. This was followed by the punch-making,
where the tastes of six different and differing individuals were to be
exclusively consulted in the self-same beverage; and lastly, the supper at
night, when Sparkie, as he was familiarly called, towards evening grown
quite exhausted, became the subject of unmitigated wrath and most
"I say, Sparks, it's getting late. The spatch-cock, old boy. Don't be
"By-the-bye, Sparkie, what a mess you made of that pea-soup to-day! By
Jove, I never felt so ill in my life!"
"Na, na; it was na the soup. It was something he pit in the punch, that's
burning me ever since I tuk it. Ou, man, but ye're an awfu' creture wi'
"He'll improve, Doctor; he'll improve. Don't discourage him; the boy's
young. Be alive now, there. Where's the toast?--confound you, where's the
"There, Sparks, you like a drumstick, I know. Mustn't muzzle the ox, eh?
Scripture for you, old boy. Eat away; hang the expense. Hand him over the
jug. Empty--eh, Charley? Come, Sparkie, bear a hand; the liquor's out."
"But won't you let me eat?"
"Eat! Heavens, what a fellow for eating! By George, such an appetite is
clean against the articles of war! Come, man, it's drink we're thinking of.
There's the rum, sugar, limes; see to the hot water. Well, Skipper, how are
we getting on?"
"Lying our course; eight knots off the log. Pass the rum. Why, Mister
"Eh, Sparks, what's this?"
"Sparks, my man, confound it!"
And then, _omnes_ chorussing "Sparks!" in every key of the gamut, the
luckless fellow would be obliged to jump up from his meagre fare and set to
work at a fresh brewage of punch for the others. The bowl and the glasses
filled, by some little management on Power's part our friend the cornet
would be _drawn out_, as the phrase is, into some confession of his
early years, which seemed to have been exclusively spent in
love-making,--devotion to the fair being as integral a portion of his
character as tippling was of the worthy major's.
Like most men who pass their lives in over-studious efforts to
please,--however ungallant the confession be,--the amiable Sparks had
had little success. His love, if not, as it generally happened, totally
unrequited, was invariably the source of some awkward catastrophe, there
being no imaginable error he had not at some time or other fallen into, nor
any conceivable mischance to which he had not been exposed. Inconsolable
widows, attached wives, fond mothers, newly-married brides, engaged
young ladies were by some _contretemps_ continually the subject of his
attachments; and the least mishap which followed the avowal of his passion
was to be heartily laughed at and obliged to leave the neighborhood.
Duels, apologies, actions at law, compensations, etc., were of every-day
occurrence, and to such an extent, too, that any man blessed with a smaller
bump upon the occiput would eventually have long since abandoned the
pursuit, and taken to some less expensive pleasure. But poor Sparks, in the
true spirit of a martyr, only gloried the more, the more he suffered; and
like the worthy man who continued to purchase tickets in the lottery for
thirty years, with nothing but a succession of blanks, he ever imagined
that Fortune was only trying his patience, and had some cool forty thousand
pounds of happiness waiting his perseverance in the end. Whether this prize
ever did turn up in the course of years, I am unable to say; but certainly,
up to the period of his history I now speak of, all had been as gloomy
and unrequiting as need be. Power, who knew something of every man's
adventures, was aware of so much of poor Sparks's career, and usually
contrived to lay a trap for a confession that generally served to amuse us
during an evening,--as much, I acknowledge, from the manner of the recital
as anything contained in the story. There was a species of serious
matter-of-fact simplicity in his detail of the most ridiculous scenes that
left you convinced that his bearing upon the affair in question must have
greatly heightened the absurdity,--nothing, however comic or droll in
itself, ever exciting in him the least approach to a smile. He sat with his
large light-blue eyes, light hair, long upper lip, and retreating chin,
lisping out an account of an adventure, with a look of Listen about him
that was inconceivably amusing.
"Come, Sparks," said Power, "I claim a promise you made me the other night,
on condition we let you off making the oyster-patties at ten o'clock; you
can't forget what I mean." Here the captain knowingly touched the tip of
his ear, at which signal the cornet colored slightly, and drank off his
wine in a hurried, confused way. "He promised to tell us, Major, how
he lost the tip of his left ear. I have myself heard hints of the
circumstance, but would much rather hear Sparks's own version of it."
"Another love story," said the doctor, with a grin, "I'll be bound."
"Shot off in a duel?" said I, inquiringly. "Close work, too."
"No such thing," replied Power; "but Sparks will enlighten you. It is,