Part 7 out of 10
"'Tis five minutes' walk, sir. You'll be there before they're put to
"Horses for Fermoy!" shouted out the postilions, as we tore up to the door
in a gallop. I sprang out, and by the assistance of the waiter, discovered
Sir Henry Howard's quarters, to whom my despatches were addressed. Having
delivered them into the hands of an aide-de-camp, who sat bolt upright in
his bed, rubbing his eyes to appear awake, I again hurried down-stairs, and
throwing myself into the chaise, continued my journey.
"Them's beautiful streets, any how!" said Mike, "av they wasn't kept so
dirty, and the houses so dark, and the pavement bad. That's Mr. Beamish's,
that fine house there with the brass rapper and the green lamp beside it;
and there's the hospital. Faix, and there's the place we beat the police
when I was here before; and the house with the sign of the Highlander is
thrown down; and what's the big building with the stone posts at the door?"
"The bank, sir," said the postilion, with a most deferential air as Mike
addressed him. "What bank, acushla?"
"Not a one of me knows, sir; but they call it the bank, though it's only an
"Cary and Moore's bank, perhaps?" said I, having heard that in days long
past some such names had failed in Cork for a large amount.
"So it is; your honor's right," cried the postilion; while Mike, standing
up on the box, and menacing the house with his clinched fist, shouted out
at the very top of his voice:
"Oh, bad luck to your cobwebbed windows and iron railings! Sure, it's my
father's son ought to hate the sight of you."
"I hope, Mike, your father never trusted his property in such hands?"
"I don't suspect he did, your honor. He never put much belief in the banks;
but the house cost him dear enough without that."
As I could not help feeling some curiosity in this matter, I pressed Mickey
for an explanation.
"But maybe it's not Cary and Moore's, after all; and I may be cursing
Having reassured his mind by telling him that the reservation he made by
the doubt would tell in their favor should he prove mistaken, he afforded
me the following information:--
"When my father--the heavens be his bed!--was in the 'Cork,' they put him
one night on guard at that same big house you just passed, av it was the
same; but if it wasn't that, it was another. And it was a beautiful fine
night in August and the moon up, and plenty of people walking about,
and all kinds of fun and devilment going on,--drinking and dancing and
"Well, my father was stuck up there with his musket, to walk up and down,
and not say, 'God save you kindly,' or the time of day or anything, but
just march as if he was in the barrack-yard; and by reason of his being the
man he was he didn't like it half, but kept cursing and swearing to himself
like mad when he saw pleasant fellows and pretty girls going by, laughing
"'Good-evening, Mickey,' says one. 'Fine sport ye have all to yourself,
with your long feather in your cap.'
"'Arrah, look how proud he is,' says another, 'with his head up as if he
didn't see a body.'
"'Shoulder, hoo!' cried a drunken chap, with a shovel in his hand. Then
they all began laughing away at my father.
"'Let the dacent man alone,' said an ould fellow in a wig. 'Isn't he
guarding the bank, wid all the money in it?'
"'Faix, he isn't,' says another; 'for there's none left.'
"'What's that you're saying?' says my father.
"'Just that the bank's broke; devil a more!' says he.
"'And there's no goold in it?' says my father.
'"Divil a guinea.'
"'No, nor silver; nor as much as sixpence, either.'
"'Didn't ye hear that all day yesterday when the people was coming in with
their notes, the chaps there were heating the guineas in a frying-pan,
pretending that they were making them as fast as they could; and sure, when
they had a batch red-hot they spread them out to cool; and what betune the
hating and the cooling, and the burning the fingers counting them, they
kept the bank open to three o'clock, and then they ran away.'
"'Is it truth yer telling?' says my father.
"'Sorra word o' lie in it! Myself had two-and-fourpence of their notes.'
"'And so they're broke,' says my father, 'and nothing left?'
"'Not a brass farden.'
"'And what am I staying here for, I wonder, if there's nothing to guard?'
"'Faix, if it isn't for the pride of the thing--'
"'Oh, sorra taste!'
"'Well, may be for divarsion.'
"'Nor that either.'
"'Faix, then you're a droll man, to spend the evening that way,' says he;
and all the crowd--for there was a crowd--said the same. So with that my
father unscrewed his bayonet, and put his piece on his shoulder, and walked
off to his bed in the barrack as peaceable as need be. But well, when they
came to relieve him, wasn't there a raal commotion? And faith, you see, it
went mighty hard with my father the next morning; for the bank was open
just as usual, and my father was sintinced to fifty lashes, but got
off with a week in prison, and three more rowling a big stone in the
Thus chatting away, the time passed over, until we arrived at Fermoy.
Here there was some little delay in procuring horses; and during the
negotiation, Mike, who usually made himself master of the circumstances of
every place through which he passed, discovered that the grocer's shop of
the village was kept by a namesake, and possibly a relation of his own.
"I always had a notion, Mister Charles, that I came from a good stock; and
sure enough, here's 'Mary Free' over the door there, and a beautiful place
inside; full of tay and sugar and gingerbread and glue and coffee and bran,
pickled herrings, soap, and many other commodities."
"Perhaps you'd like to claim kindred, Mike," said I, interrupting; "I'm
sure she'd feel flattered to discover a relative in a Peninsular hero."
"It's just what I'm thinking; av we were going to pass the evening here,
I'd try if I couldn't make her out a second cousin at least."
Fortune, upon this occasion, seconded Mike's wishes, for when the horses
made their appearance, I learned, to my surprise, that the near side one
would not bear a saddle, and the off-sider could only run on his own
side. In this conjuncture, the postilion was obliged to drive from what,
_Hibernicè_ speaking, is called the perch,--no ill-applied denomination to
a piece of wood which, about the thickness of one's arm, is hung between
the two fore-springs, and serves as a resting-place in which the luckless
wight, weary of the saddle, is not sorry to repose himself.
"What's to be done?" cried I. "There's no room within; my traps barely
leave space for myself among them."
"Sure, sir," said the postilion, "the other gentleman can follow in the
morning coach; and if any accident happens to yourself on the road, by
reason of a break-down, he'll be there as soon as yourself."
This, at least, was an agreeable suggestion, and as I saw it chimed with
Mike's notions, I acceded at once; he came running up at the moment.
"I had a peep at her through the window, Mister Charles, and, faix, she has
a great look of the family."
"Well, Mickey, I'll leave you twenty-four hours to cultivate the
acquaintance; and to a man like you the time, I know, is ample. Follow me
by the morning's coach. Till then, good-by."
Away we rattled once more, and soon left the town behind us. The wild
mountain tract which stretched on either side of the road presented one
bleak and brown surface, unrelieved by any trace of tillage or habitation;
an apparently endless succession of fern-clad hills lay on every side;
above, the gloomy sky of leaden, lowering aspect, frowned darkly; the sad
and wailing cry of the pewet or the plover was the only sound that broke
the stillness, and far as the eye could reach, a dreary waste extended.
The air, too, was cold and chilly; it was one of those days which, in our
springs, seemed to cast a retrospective glance towards the winter they have
left behind them. The prospect was no cheering one; from heaven above or
earth below there came no sight nor sound of gladness. The rich glow of the
Peninsular landscape was still fresh in my memory,--the luxurious verdure;
the olive, the citron, and the vine; the fair valleys teeming with
abundance; the mountains terraced with their vineyards; the blue
transparent sky spreading o'er all; while the very air was rife with the
cheering song of birds that peopled every grove. What a contrast was here!
We travelled on for miles, but no village nor one human face did we see.
Far in the distance a thin wreath of smoke curled upward; but it came from
no hearth; it arose from one of those field-fires by which spendthrift
husbandry cultivates the ground. It was, indeed, sad; and yet, I know not
how, it spoke more home to my heart than all the brilliant display and all
the voluptuous splendor I had witnessed in London. By degrees some traces
of wood made their appearance, and as we descended the mountain towards
Cahir, the country assumed a more cultivated and cheerful look,--patches of
corn or of meadow-land stretched on either side, and the voice of children
and the lowing of oxen mingled with the cawing of the rooks, as in dense
clouds they followed the ploughman's track. The changed features of the
prospect resembled the alternate phases of temperament of the dweller on
the soil,--the gloomy determination; the smiling carelessness; the dark
spirit of boding; the reckless jollity; the almost savage ferocity of
purpose, followed by a child-like docility and a womanly softness; the
grave, the gay, the resolute, the fickle; the firm, the yielding, the
unsparing, and the tender-hearted,--blending their contrarieties into one
nature, of whose capabilities one cannot predicate the bounds, but to whom,
by some luckless fatality of fortune, the great rewards of life have been
generally withheld until one begins to feel that the curse of Swift was
less the sarcasm wrung from indignant failures than the cold and stern
prophecy of the moralist.
But how have I fallen into this strain! Let me rather turn my eyes forward
towards my home. How shall I find all there? Have his altered fortunes
damped the warm ardor of my poor uncle's heart? Is his smile sicklied over
by sorrow; or shall I hear his merry laugh and his cheerful voice as in
days of yore? How I longed to take my place beside that hearth, and in the
same oak-chair where I have sat telling the bold adventures of a fox-chase
or some long day upon the moors, speak of the scenes of my campaigning
life, and make known to him those gallant fellows by whose side I have
charged in battle, or sat in the bivouac! How will he glory in the
soldier-like spirit and daring energy of Fred Power! How will he chuckle
over the blundering earnestness and Irish warmth of O'Shaughnessy! How will
he laugh at the quaint stories and quainter jests of Maurice Quill! And how
often will he wish once more to be young in hand as in heart to mingle with
such gay fellows, with no other care, no other sorrow, to depress him, save
the passing fortune of a soldier's life!
A rude shock awoke me as I lay asleep in the corner of the chaise; a shout
followed, and the next moment the door was torn open, and I heard the
postilion's voice crying to me:--
"Spring out! Jump out quickly, sir!"
A whole battery of kicks upon the front panel drowned the rest of his
speech; but before I could obey his injunction, he was pitched upon the
road, the chaise rolled over and the pole snapped short in the middle,
while the two horses belabored the carriage and each other with all their
might. Managing, as well as I was able, to extricate myself, I leaped out
upon the road, and by the aid of a knife, and at the cost of some bruises,
succeeded in freeing the horses from their tackle. The postboy, who had
escaped without any serious injury, labored manfully to aid me, blubbering
the whole time upon the consequences his misfortune would bring down upon
"Bad luck to ye!" cried he, apostrophizing the off-horse, a tall, raw-boned
beast, with a Roman nose, a dipped back, and a tail ragged and jagged like
a hand-saw,--"bad luck to ye! there never was a good one of your color!"
This, for the information of the "unjockeyed," I may add, was a species of
"How did it happen, Patsey; how did it happen, my lad?"
"It was the heap o' stones they left in the road since last autumn; and
though I riz him at it fairly, he dragged the ould mare over it and broke
the pole. Oh, wirra, wirra!" cried he, wringing his hands in an agony of
grief, "sure there's neither luck nor grace to be had with ye since the day
ye drew the judge down to the last assizes!"
"Well, what's to be done?"
"Sorra a bit o' me knows; the shay's ruined intirely, and the ould divil
there knows he's conquered us. Look at him there, listening to every word
we're saying! You eternal thief, may be its ploughing you'd like better!"
"Come, come," said I, "this will never get us forward. What part of the
country are we in?"
"We left Banagher about four miles behind us; that's Killimur you see with
the smoke there in the hollow."
Now, although I did not see Killimur (for the gray mist of the morning
prevented me recognizing any object a few hundred yards distant), yet from
the direction in which he pointed, and from the course of the Shannon,
which I could trace indistinctly, I obtained a pretty accurate notion of
where we were.
"Then we are not very far from Portumna?"
"Just a pleasant walk before your breakfast."
"And is there not a short cut to O'Malley Castle over that mountain?"
"Faix, and so there is; and ye can be no stranger to these parts if ye know
"I have travelled it before now. Just tell me, is the wooden bridge
standing over the little stream? It used to be carried away every winter in
"It's just the same now. You'll have to pass by the upper ford; but it
comes to the same, for that will bring you to the back gate of the demesne,
and one way is just as short as the other."
"I know it, I know it; so now, do you follow me with my luggage to the
castle, and I'll set out on foot."
So saying, I threw off my cloak, and prepared myself for a sharp walk of
some eight miles over the mountain. As I reached the little knoll of land
which, overlooking the Shannon, affords a view of several miles in every
direction, I stopped to gaze upon the scene where every object around was
familiar to me from infancy: the broad, majestic river, sweeping in bold
curves between the wild mountains of Connaught and the wooded hills and
cultivated slopes of the more fertile Munster, the tall chimneys of many a
house rose above the dense woods where in my boyhood I had spent hours and
days of happiness. One last look I turned towards the scene of my late
catastrophe ere I began to descend the mountain. The postboy, with the
happy fatalism of his country, and a firm trust in the future, had
established himself in the interior of the chaise, from which a blue curl
of smoke wreathed upward from his pipe; the horses grazed contentedly by
the roadside; and were I to judge from the evidence before me, I should say
that I was the only member of the party inconvenienced by the accident. A
thin sleeting of rain began to fall; the wind blew sharply in my face, and
the dark clouds, collecting in masses above, seemed to threaten a storm.
Without stopping for even a passing look at the many well-known spots
about, I pressed rapidly on. My old experience upon the moors had taught
me that sling trot in which jumping from hillock to hillock over the
boggy surface, you succeed in accomplishing your journey not only with
considerable speed, but perfectly dryshod.
By the lonely path which I travelled, it was unlikely I should meet any
one. It was rarely traversed except by the foot of the sportsman, or some
stray messenger from the castle to the town of Banagher. Its solitude,
however, was in no wise distasteful to me; my heart was full to bursting.
Each moment as I walked some new feature of my home presented itself
before me. Now it was all happiness and comfort; the scene of its ancient
hospitable board, its warm hearth, its happy faces, and its ready welcome
were all before me, and I increased my speed to the utmost, when suddenly a
sense of sad and sorrowing foreboding would draw around me, and the image
of my uncle's sick-bed, his worn features, his pallid look, his broken
voice would strike upon my heart, and all the changes that poverty,
desertion, and decay can bring to pass would fall upon my heart, and weak
and trembling I would stand for some moments unable to proceed.
Oh, how many a reproachful thought came home to me at what I scrupled
not to call to myself the desertion of my home! Oh, how many a prayer I
uttered, in all the fervor of devotion, that my selfish waywardness and
my yearning for ambition might not bring upon me, in after-life, years
of unavailing regret! As I thought thus, I reached the brow of a little
mountain ridge, beneath which, at a distance of scarcely more than a mile,
the dark woods of O'Malley Castle stretched, before me. The house itself
was not visible, for it was situated in a valley beside the river. But
there lay the whole scene of my boyhood: there the little creek where my
boat was kept, and where I landed on the morning after my duel with Bodkin;
there stretched for many a mile the large, callow meadows, where I trained
my horses, and schooled them for the coming season; and far in the
distance, the brown and rugged peak of old Scariff was lost in the clouds.
The rain by this time had ceased, the wind had fallen, and an almost
unnatural stillness prevailed around; but yet the heavy masses of vapor
frowned ominously, and the leaden hue of land and water wore a gloomy and
depressing aspect. My impatience to get on increased every moment, and
descending the mountain at the top of my speed, I at length reached the
little oak paling that skirted the wood, opened the little wicket, and
entered the path. It was the self-same one I had trod in revery and
meditation the night before I left my home. I remember, too, sitting down
beside the little well which, enclosed in a frame of rock, ran trickling
across the path to be lost among the gnarled roots and fallen leaves
around. Yes, this was the very spot.
Overcome for the instant by my exertion and by my emotion, I sat down upon
the stone, and taking off my cap, bathed my heated and throbbing temples in
the cold spring, Refreshed at once, I was about to rise and press onward,
when suddenly my attention was caught by a sound which, faint from
distance, scarce struck upon my ear. I listened again; but all was still
and silent, the dull splash of the river as it broke upon the reedy shore
was the only sound I heard. Thinking it probably some mere delusion of my
heated imagination, I rose to push forward; but at the moment a slight
breeze stirred in the leaves around me, the light branches rustled and bent
beneath it, and a low moaning sound swelled upward, increasing each instant
as it came; like the distant roar of some mighty torrent it grew louder as
the wind bore it towards me, and now falling, now swelling, it burst
forth into one loud, prolonged cry of agony and grief. O God! it was the
death-wail! I fell upon my knees, my hands clasped in agony; the sweat
of misery dropped off my brow, and with a heart bleeding and breaking I
prayed--I know not what. Again the terrible cry smote upon my ear, and I
could mark the horrible cadences of the death-song, as the voices of the
mourners joined in chorus.
My suspense became too great to bear. I dashed madly forward, one sound
still ringing in my ears, one horrid image before my eyes. I reached the
garden wall; I cleared the little rivulet beside the flower-garden; I
traversed its beds (neglected and decayed); I gained the avenue, taking
no heed of the crowds before me,--some on foot, some on horseback, others
mounted upon the low country car, many seated in groups upon the grass,
their heads bowed upon their bosoms, silent and speechless. As I neared the
house the whole approach was crowded with carriages and horsemen. At the
foot of the large flight of steps stood the black and mournful hearse,
its plumes nodding in the breeze. With the speed of madness and the
recklessness of despair I tore my way through the thickly standing groups
upon the steps; I could not speak, I could not utter. Once more the
frightful cry swelled upward, and in its wild notes seemed to paralyze me;
for with my hands upon my temples, I stood motionless and still. A heavy
footfall as of persons marching in procession came nearer and nearer, and
as the sounds without sank into sobs of bitterness and woe, the black pall
of a coffin, borne on men's shoulders, appeared at the door, and an old man
whose gray hair floated in the breeze, and across whose stern features a
struggle for self-mastery--a kind of spasmodic effort--was playing, held
out his hand to enforce silence. His eye, lack-lustre and dimmed with age,
roved over the assembled multitude, but there was no recognition in his
look until at last he turned it on me. A slight hectic flush colored his
pale cheek, his lip trembled, he essayed to speak, but could not. I sprang
towards him, but choked by agony, I could not utter; my look, however,
spoke what my tongue could not. He threw his arms around me, and muttering
the words, "Poor Godfrey!" pointed to the coffin.
Many, many years have passed away since the time I am now about to speak
of, and yet I cannot revert, even for a moment, to the period without a sad
and depressing feeling at my heart. The wreck of fortune, the thwarting of
ambition, the failure in enterprise, great though they be, are endurable
evils. The never-dying hope that youth is blessed with will find its
resting-place still within the breast, and the baffled and beaten will
struggle on unconquered; but for the death of friends, for the loss of
those in whom our dearest affections were centred, there is no solace,--the
terrible "never" of the grave knows no remorse, and even memory, that in
our saddest hours can bring bright images and smiling faces before us,
calls up here only the departed shade of happiness, a passing look at that
Eden of our joys from which we are separated forever. And the desolation of
the heart is never perfect till it has felt the echoes of a last farewell
on earth reverberating within it.
Oh, with what tortures of self-reproach we think of all former intercourse
with him that is gone! How would we wish to live our lives once more,
correcting each passage of unkindness or neglect! How deeply do we blame
ourselves for occasions of benefit lost, and opportunities unprofited by;
and how unceasingly, through after-life, the memory of the departed recurs
to us! In all the ties which affection and kindred weave around us, one
vacant spot is there, unseen and unknown by others, which no blandishments
of love, no caresses of friendship can fill up; although the rank grass
and the tall weeds of the churchyard may close around the humble tomb,
the cemetery of the heart is holy and sacred, pure from all the troubled
thoughts and daily cares of the busy world. To that hallowed spot do we
retire as into our chamber, and when unrewarded efforts bring discomfiture
and misery to our minds, when friends are false, and cherished hopes are
blasted, we think on those who never ceased to love till they had ceased to
live; and in the lonely solitude of our affliction we call upon those who
hear not, and may never return.
Mine was a desolate hearth. I sat moodily down in the old oak parlor, my
heart bowed down with grief. The noiseless steps, the mourning garments of
the old servants; the unnatural silence of those walls within which from
my infancy the sounds of merriment and mirth had been familiar; the large
old-fashioned chair where he was wont to sit, now placed against the
wall,--all spoke of the sad past. Yet, when some footsteps would draw near,
and the door would open, I could not repress a thrill of hope that he was
coming; more than once I rushed to the window and looked out; I could have
sworn I heard his voice.
The old cob pony he used to ride was grazing peacefully before the door;
poor Carlo, his favorite spaniel, lay stretched upon the terrace, turning
ever and anon a look towards the window, and then, as if wearied of
watching for him who came not, he would utter a long, low, wailing cry, and
lie down again to sleep. The rich lawn, decked with field flowers of many
a hue, stretched away towards the river, upon whose calm surface the
white-sailed lugger scarce seemed to move; the sounds of a well-known Irish
air came, softened by distance, as some poor fisherman sat mending his net
upon the bank, and the laugh of children floated on the breeze. Yes, they
Two months had elapsed since my return home; how passed by me I know not; a
lethargic stupor had settled upon me. Whole days long I sat at the window,
looking listlessly at the tranquil river, and watching the white foam as,
borne down from the rapids, it floated lazily along. The count had left me
soon, being called up to Dublin by some business, and I was utterly alone.
The different families about called frequently to ask after me, and would,
doubtless, have done all in their power to alleviate my sorrow, and lighten
the load of my affliction; but with a morbid fear, I avoided every one, and
rarely left the house except at night-fall, and then only to stroll by some
lonely and deserted path.
Life had lost its charm for me; my gratified ambition had ended in the
blackest disappointment, and all for which I had labored and longed was
only attained that I might feel it valueless.
Of my circumstances as to fortune I knew nothing, and cared not more;
poverty and riches could matter little now; all my day dreams were
dissipated now, and I only waited for Considine's return to leave Ireland
forever. I had made up my mind, if by any unexpected turn of fate the war
should cease in the Peninsula, to exchange into an Indian regiment. The
daily association with objects which recalled but one image to my brain,
and that ever accompanied by remorse of conscience, gave me not a moment's
peace. My every thought of happiness was mixed up with scenes which now
presented nothing but the evidences of blighted hope; to remain, then,
where I was, would be to sink into the heartless misanthropist, and I
resolved that with my sword I would carve out a soldier's fortune and a
Considine came at last. I was sitting alone, at my usual post beside the
window, when the chaise rattled up to the door; for an instant I started to
my legs; a vague sense of something like hope shot through me, the whole
might be a dream, and _he_--The next moment I became cold and sick, a
faintish giddiness obscured my sight, and though I felt his grasp as he
took my hand, I saw him not. An indistinct impression still dwells upon my
mind of his chiding me for my weakness in thus giving way; of his calling
upon me to assert my position, and discharge the duties of him whose
successor I now was. I heard him in silence; and when he concluded, faintly
pledging myself to obey him, I hurried to my room, and throwing myself upon
my bed burst into an agony of tears. Hitherto my pent up sorrow had wasted
me day by day; but the rock was now smote, and in that gush of misery my
heart found relief.
When I appeared the following morning, the count was struck with my altered
looks; a settled sorrow could not conceal the changes which time and
manhood had made upon me; and as from a kind of fear of showing how deeply
I grieved, I endeavored to conceal it, by degrees I was enabled to converse
calmly and dispassionately upon my fortunes.
"Poor Godfrey," said he, "appointed me his sole executor a few days before
it happened; he knew the time was drawing near, and strange enough,
Charley, though he heard of your return to England, he would not let us
write. The papers spoke of you as being at Carlton House almost daily; your
name appeared at every great festival; and while his heart warmed at your
brilliant success, he absolutely dreaded your coming home. 'Poor
fellow,' he would say, 'what a change for him, to leave the splendor
and magnificence of his Prince's board for our meagre fare and altered
fortunes! And then,' he added, 'as for me--God forgive me!--I can go now;
but how should I bear to part with him if he comes back to me.' And now,"
said the count, when he had concluded a detailed history of my dear uncle's
last illness,--"and now, Charley, what are your plans?"
Briefly, and in a few words, I stated to him my intentions. Without placing
much stress upon the strongest of my reasons--my distaste to what had once
been home--I avowed my wish to join my regiment at once.
He heard me with evident impatience, and as I finished, seized my arm
in his strong grasp. "No, no, boy, none of this; your tone of assumed
composure cannot impose on Bill Considine. You must not return to the
Peninsula--at least not yet awhile; the disgust of life may be strong at
twenty, but it's not lasting; besides, Charley," here his voice faltered
slightly, "_his_ wishes you'll not treat lightly. Read this."
As he spoke, he took a blotted and ill-written letter from his
breast-pocket, and handed it to me. It was in my poor uncle's hand, and
dated the very morning of his death. It ran thus:--
Dear Bill,--Charley must never part with the old house,
come what will; I leave too many ties behind for a stranger's heritage;
he must live among my old friends, and watch, protect
and comfort them. He has done enough for fame; let him now
do something for affection. We have none of us been over good
to these poor people; one of the name must try and save our
credit. God bless you both! It is, perhaps, the last time I shall
I read these few and, to me, affecting lines over and over, forgetful of
all save of him who penned them; when Considine, who supposed that my
silence was attributable to doubt and hesitation, called out:--
"Well, what now?"
"I remain," said I, briefly.
He seized me in his arms with transport, as he said:--
"I knew it, boy, I knew it. They told me you were spoiled by flattery, and
your head turned by fortune; they said that home and country would weigh
lightly in the balance against fame and glory; but I said no, I knew you
better. I told them indignantly that I had nursed you on my knee; that I
watched you from infancy to boyhood, from boy to man; that he of whose
stock you came had one feeling paramount to all, his love of his own
fatherland, and that you would not disgrace him. Besides, Charley, there's
not an humble hearth for many a long mile around us, where, amidst the
winter's blast, tempered not excluded, by frail walls and poverty,--there's
not one such but where poor Godfrey's name rises each night in prayer, and
blessings are invoked on him by those who never felt them themselves."
"I'll not desert them."
"I know you'll not, boy, I know you'll not. Now for the means."
Here he entered into a long and complicated exposure of my dear uncle's
many difficulties, by which it appeared that, in order to leave the estate
free of debt to me, he had for years past undergone severe privations.
These, however,--such is the misfortune of an unguided effort,--had but
ill succeeded, and there was scarcely a farm on the property without its
mortgage. Upon the house and demesne a bond for three thousand pounds still
remained; and to pay off this, Considine advised my selling a portion of
"It's old Blake lent the money; and only a week before your uncle died,
he served a notice for repayment. I never told Godfrey; it was no use. It
could only embitter his last few hours; and, besides, we had six months to
think of it. The half of that time has now elapsed, however; we must see to
"And did Blake really make this demand, knowing my poor uncle's
"Why, I half think he did not; for Godfrey was too fine a fellow ever to
acknowledge anything of the sort. He had twelve sheep killed for the poor
in Scariff, at a time when not a servant of the house tasted meat for
months; ay, and our own table, too, none of the most abundant, I assure
What a picture was this, and how forcibly did it remind me of what I had
witnessed in times past. Thus meditating, we returned to the house; and
Considine, whose activity never slumbered, sat down to con over the
rent-roll with old Maguire the steward.
When I joined the count in the evening, I found him surrounded by maps,
rent-rolls, surveys, and leases. He had been poring over these various
documents, to ascertain from which portion of the property we could best
recruit our failing finances. To judge from the embarrassed look and manner
with which he met me, the matter was one of no small difficulty. The
encumbrances upon the estate had been incurred with an unsparing hand; and
except where some irreclaimable tract of bog or mountain rendered a loan
impracticable, each portion of the property had its share of debt.
"You can't sell Killantry, for Basset has above six thousand pounds on it
already. To be sure, there's the Priest's Meadows,--fine land and in good
heart; but Malony was an old tenant of the family, and I cannot recommend
your turning him over to a stranger. The widow M'Bride's farm is perhaps
the best, after all, and it would certainly bring the sum we want; still,
poor Mary was your nurse, Charley, and it would break her heart to do it."
Thus, wherever we turned, some obstacle presented itself, if not from
moneyed causes, at least from those ties and associations which, in an
attached and faithful tenantry, are sure to grow up between them and the
owner of the soil.
Feeling how all-important these things were--endeavoring as I was to fulfil
the will and work out the intentions of my uncle--I saw at once that to
sell any portion of the property must separate me, to a certain extent,
from those who long looked up to our house, and who, in the feudalism of
the west, could ill withdraw their allegiance from their own chief to swear
fealty to a stranger. The richer tenants were those whose industry and
habits rendered them objects of worth and attachment; to the poorer ones,
to whose improvidence and whose follies (if you will) their poverty was
owing, I was bound by those ties which the ancient habit of my house had
contracted for centuries. The bond of benefit conferred can be stronger
than the debt of gratitude itself. What was I then to do? My income would
certainly permit of my paying the interest upon my several mortgages, and
still retaining wherewithal to live; the payment of Blake's bond was my
only difficulty, and small as it was, it was still a difficulty.
"I have it, Charley!" said Considine; "I've found out the way of doing it.
Blake will have no objection, I'm sure, to take the widow's farm in payment
of his debt, giving you a power of redemption within five years. In that
time, what with economy, some management, perhaps," added he, smiling
slightly,--"perhaps a wife with money may relieve all your embarrassments
at once. Well, well, I know you are not thinking of that just now; but
come, what say you to my plan?"
"I know not well what to say. It seems to be the best; but still I have my
"Of course you have, my boy; nor could I love you if you'd part with an old
and faithful follower without them. But, after all, she is only a hostage
to the enemy; we'll win her back, Charley."
"If you think so--"
"I do. I know it."
"Well, then, be it so; only one thing I bargain,--she must herself consent
to this change of masters. It will seem to her a harsh measure that the
child she had nursed and fondled in her arms should live to disunite her
from those her oldest attachments upon earth. We must take care, sir, that
Blake cannot dispossess her; this would be too hard."
"No, no; that we'll guard against. And now, Charley, with prudence and
caution, we'll clear off every encumbrance, and O'Malley Castle shall yet
be what it was in days of yore. Ay, boy, with the descendant of the old
house for its master, and not that general--how do you call him?--that came
down here to contest the county, who with his offer of thirty thousand
pounds thought to uproot the oldest family of the west. Did I ever show you
the letter we wrote him?"
"No, sir," replied I, trembling with agitation as I spoke; "you merely
alluded to it in one of yours."
"Look here, lad!" said he, drawing it from the recesses of a black leather
pocket-book. "I took a copy of it; read that."
The document was dated, "O'Malley Castle, December 9th." It ran thus:--
Sir,--I have this moment learned from my agent, that you, or
some one empowered by you for the purpose, made an offer of several
thousand pounds to buy up the different mortgages upon my property,
with a subsequent intention of becoming its possessor. Now, sir, I
beg to tell you, that if your ungentlemanlike and underhand plot
had succeeded, you dared not darken with your shadow the door-sill
of the house you purchased. Neither your gold nor your flattery--and
I hear you are rich in both--could wipe out from the minds
and hearts of my poor tenantry the kindness of centuries. Be advised,
then, sir; withdraw your offer; let a Galway gentleman settle
his own difficulties his own way; his troubles and cares are quite
sufficient, without your adding to them. There can be but one
mode in which your interference with him could be deemed acceptable:
need I tell you, sir, who are a soldier, how that is? As I
know your official duties are important, and as my nephew--who
feels with me perfectly in this business--is abroad, I can only say
that failing health and a broken frame shall not prevent my undertaking
a journey to England, should my doing so meet your wishes
on this occasion. I am, sir,
Your obedient servant, GODFREY O'MALLEY.
"This letter," continued Considine, "I enclosed in an envelope, with the
following few lines of my own:"--
"Count Considine presents his compliments to Lieutenant-General
Dashwood; and feeling that as the friend of Mr. Godfrey O'Malley,
the mild course pursued by that gentleman may possibly be attributed
to his suggestion, he begs to assure General Dashwood that the reverse
was the case, and that he strenuously counselled the propriety
of laying a horsewhip upon the general's shoulders, as a preliminary
step in the transaction.
"Count Considine's address is No. 16 Kildare Street."
"Great God!" said I, "is this possible?"
"Well may you say so, my boy: for--would you believe it?--after all that,
he writes a long blundering apology, protesting I know not what about
motives of former friendship, and terminating with a civil hint that we
have done with him forever. And of my paragraph he takes no notice; and
thus ends the whole affair."
"And with it my last hope also!" muttered I to myself.
That Sir George Dashwood's intentions had been misconstrued and mistaken I
knew perfectly well; that nothing but the accumulated evils of poverty and
sickness could have induced my poor uncle to write such a letter I was
well aware; but now the mischief was accomplished, the evil was done, and
nothing remained but to bear with patience and submission, and to endeavor
to forget what thus became irremediable.
"Sir George Dashwood made no allusion to me, sir, in his reply?" inquired
I, catching at anything like a hope.
"Your name never occurs in his letter. But you look pale, boy; all these
discussions come too early upon you; besides, you stay too much at home,
and take no exercise."
So saying, Considine bustled off towards the stables to look after some
young horses that had just been taken up; and I walked out alone to ponder
over what I had heard, and meditate on my plans for the future.
AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE.
As I wandered on, the irritation of my spirit gradually subsided. It was,
to be sure, distressing to think over the light in which my uncle's letter
had placed me before Sir George Dashwood, had even my reputation only with
him been at stake; but with my attachment to his daughter, it was
almost maddening. And yet there was nothing to be done; to disavow my
participation would be to throw discredit upon my uncle. Thus were my hopes
blighted; and thus, at that season when life was opening upon me, did I
feel careless and indifferent to everything. Had my military career still
remained to me, that at least would have suggested scenes sufficient to
distract me from the past; but now my days must be spent where every spot
teemed with memories of bygone happiness and joys never to come back again.
My mind was, however, made up; and without speaking a word to Considine, I
turned homeward, and sat down at my writing-table. In a few brief lines I
informed my army agent of my intention of leaving the service, and desired
that he would sell out for me at once. Fearing lest my resolution might not
be proof against the advice and solicitation of my friends, I cautioned him
against giving my address, or any clew by which letters might reach me.
This done, I addressed a short note to Mr. Blake, requesting to know the
name of his solicitor, in whose hands the bond was placed, and announcing
my intention of immediate repayment.
Trifling as these details were in themselves, I cannot help recording how
completely they changed the whole current of my thoughts. A new train of
interests began to spring up within me; and where so lately the clang of
the battle, the ardor of the march, the careless ease of the bivouac, had
engrossed every feeling, now more humble and homely thoughts succeeded; and
as my personal ambition had lost its stimulant, I turned with pleasure to
those of whose fate and fortunes I was in some sort the guardian. There may
be many a land where the verdure blooms more in fragrance and in richness,
where the clime breathes softer, and a brighter sky lights up the
landscape; but there is none--I have travelled through many a one--where
more touching and heart-bound associations are blended with the features
of the soil than in Ireland, and cold must be the spirit, and barren the
affections of him who can dwell amidst its mountains and its valleys, its
tranquil lakes, its wooded fens, without feeling their humanizing influence
upon him. Thus gradually new impressions and new duties succeeded; and ere
four months elapsed, the quiet monotony of my daily life healed up the
wounds of my suffering, and in the calm current of my present existence, a
sense of content, if not of happiness, crept gently over me, and I ceased
to long for the clash of arms and the loud blast of the trumpet.
Unlike all my former habits, I completely abandoned the sports of the
field. He who had participated in them with me was no longer there; and the
very sight of the tackle itself suggested sad and depressing thoughts.
My horses I took but little pleasure in. To gratify the good and kind
people about, I would walk through the stables, and make some passing
remark, as if to show some interest; but I felt it not. No; it was only by
the total change of all the ordinary channels of my ideas that I could bear
up; and now my days were passed in the fields, either listlessly strolling
along, or in watching the laborers as they worked. Of my neighbors I saw
nothing; returning their cards, when they called upon me, was the extent of
our intercourse; and I had no desire for any further. As Considine had left
me to visit some friends in the south, I was quite alone, and for the first
time in my life, felt how soothing can be such solitude. In each happy
face, in every grateful look around me, I felt that I was fulfilling my
uncle's last behest; and the sense of duty, so strong when it falls upon
the heart accompanied by the sense of power, made my days pass rapidly
It was towards the close of autumn, when I one morning received a letter
from London, informing me that my troop had been sold, and the purchase
money--above four thousand pounds--lodged to my credit at my banker's.
As Mr. Blake had merely answered my former note by a civil message that the
matter in question was by no means pressing, I lost not a moment, when
this news reached me, to despatch Mike to Gurt-na-Morra with a few lines,
expressing my anxious desire to finish the transaction, and begging of Mr.
Blake to appoint a day for the purpose.
To this application Mr. Blake's reply was, that he would do himself the
honor of waiting upon me the following day, when the arrangements I desired
could be agreed upon. Now this was exactly what I wished, if possible,
to avoid. Of all my neighbors, he was the one I predetermined to have no
intercourse with; I had not forgotten my last evening at his house, nor had
I forgiven his conduct to my uncle. However, there was nothing for it but
submission; the interview need not be a long, and it should be a last one.
Thus resolving, I waited in patience for the morrow.
I was seated at my breakfast the next morning, conning between whiles the
columns of the last paper, and feeding my spaniel, who sat upon a large
chair beside me, when the door opened, and the servant announced, "Mr.
Blake;" and the instant after that gentleman bustled in holding out both
his hands with all evidences of most friendly warmth, and calling out,--
"Charley O'Malley, my lad! I'm delighted to see you at last!"
Now, although the distance from the door to the table at which I sat
was not many paces, yet it was quite sufficient to chill down all my
respectable relative's ardor before he approached: his rapid pace became
gradually a shuffle, a slide, and finally a dead stop; his extended arms
were reduced to one hand, barely advanced beyond his waistcoat; his voice,
losing the easy confidence of its former tone, got husky and dry, and broke
into a cough; and all these changes were indebted to the mere fact of
my reception of him consisting in a cold and distant bow, as I told the
servant to place a chair and leave the room.
Without any preliminary whatever, I opened the subject of our negotiation,
expressed my regret that it should have waited so long, and my desire to
Whether it was that the firm and resolute tone I assumed had its effect at
once, or that disappointed at the mode in which I received his advances he
wished to conclude our interview as soon as need be, I know not; but he
speedily withdrew from a capacious pocket a document in parchment, which,
having spread at large upon the table, and having leisurely put on his
spectacles, he began to hum over its contents to himself in an undertone.
"Yes, sir, here it is," said he. "'Deed of conveyance between Godfrey
O'Malley, of O'Malley Castle, Esq., on the one part'--perhaps you'd like
your solicitor to examine it,--'and Blake, of Gurt'--because there is no
hurry, Captain O'Malley--'on the other.' In fact, after all, it is a mere
matter of form between relatives," said he, as I declined the intervention
of a lawyer. "I'm not in want of the money--'all the lands and tenements
adjoining, in trust, for the payment of the said three thousand'--thank
God, Captain, the sum is a trifle that does not inconvenience me! The boys
are provided for; and the girls--the pickpockets, as I call them, ha,
ha, ha!--not ill off neither;--'with rights of turbary on the said
premises'--who are most anxious to have the pleasure of seeing you. Indeed,
I could scarcely keep Jane from coming over to-day. 'Sure he's my cousin,'
says she; 'and what harm would it be if I went to see him?' Wild,
good-natured girls, Captain! And your old friend Matthew--you haven't
forgot Matthew?--has been keeping three coveys of partridge for you
this fortnight. 'Charley,' says he,--they call you Charley still,
Captain,--'shall have them, and no one else.' And poor Mary--she was
a child when you were here--Mary is working a sash for you. But I'm
forgetting--I know you have so much business on your hands--"
"Pray, Mr. Blake, be seated. I know nothing of any more importance than the
matter before us. If you will permit me to give you a check for this money.
The papers, I'm sure, are perfectly correct."
"If I only thought it did not inconvenience you--"
"Nothing of the kind, I assure you. Shall I say at sight, or in ten days
"Whenever you please, Captain. But it's sorry I am to come troubling you
about such things, when I know you are thinking of other matters. And, as
I said before, the money does not signify to me; the times, thank God, are
good, and I've never been very improvident."
"I think you'll find that correct."
"Oh, to be sure it is! Well, well; I'm going away without saying half what
"Pray do not hurry yourself. I have not asked have you breakfasted, for I
remember Galway habits too well for that. But if I might offer you a glass
of sherry and water after your ride?"
"Will you think me a beast if I say yes, Captain? Time was when I didn't
care for a canter of ten or fifteen miles in the morning no more than
yourself; and that's no small boast; God forgive me, but I never see that
clover-field where you pounded the Englishman, without swearing there never
was a leap made before or since. Is this Mickey, Captain? Faith, and it's
a fine, brown, hearty-looking chap you're grown, Mickey. That's mighty
pleasant sherry, but where would there be good wine if it wasn't here? Oh,
I remember now what it was I wanted. Peter,--my son Peter, a slip of a boy,
he's only sixteen,--well, d'you see, he's downright deranged about the
army: he used to see your name in the papers every day, and that terrible
business at--what's the name of the place?--where you rode on the chap's
back up the breach."
"Ciudad Rodrigo, perhaps," said I, scarcely able to repress a laugh.
"Well, sir, since that he'll hear of nothing but going into the army; ay,
and into the dragoons too. Now, Captain, isn't it mighty expensive in the
"Why, no, not particularly so,--at least in the regiment I served with."
"I promised him I'd ask you; the boy's mad, that's the fact. I wish,
Captain, you'd just reason with him a little; he'll mind what you say,
there's no fear of that. And you see, though I'd like to do what's fair,
I'm not going to cut off the girls for the sake of the boys; with the
blessing of Providence, they'll never be able to reproach me for that. What
I say is this: treat _me_ well, and I'll treat you the same. Marry the man
my choice would pick out for you, and it's not a matter of a thousand or
two I'll care for. There was Bodkin--you remember him?" said he, with a
grin; "he proposed for Mary, but since the quarrel with you, she could
never bear the sight of him, and Alley wouldn't come down to dinner if he
was in the house. Mary's greatly altered; I wish you heard her sing 'I'd
mourn the hopes that leave me.' Queer girl she is; she was little more
than a child when you were here, and she remembers you just as if it was
While Mr. Blake ran on at this rate, now dilating upon my own manifold
virtues and accomplishments, now expatiating upon the more congenial
theme,--the fascinations of his fair daughters, and the various merits of
his sons,--I could not help feeling how changed our relative position was
since our last meeting; the tone of cool and vulgar patronage he then
assumed towards the unformed country lad was now converted into an air of
fawning and deferential submission, still more distasteful.
Young as I was, however, I had already seen a good deal of the world; my
soldiering had at least taught me something of men, and I had far less
difficulty in deciphering the intentions and objects of my worthy relative,
than I should have had in the enigmatical mazes of the parchment bond of
which he was the bearer. After all, to how very narrow an extent in life
are we fashioned by our own estimate of ourselves! My changed condition
affected me but little until I saw how it affected others; that the
position I occupied should seem better now that life had lost the great
stimulus of ambition, was somewhat strange; and that flattery should pay
its homage to the mourning coat which it would have refused to my soldier's
garb, somewhat surprised me. Still my bettered fortunes shone only brightly
by reflected light; for in my own heart I was sad, spiritless, and
Feeling somewhat ashamed at the coldness with which I treated a man so much
my elder, I gradually assumed towards Mr. Blake a manner less reserved. He
quickly availed himself of the change, and launched out into an eloquent
_exposé_ of my advantages and capabilities; the only immediate effect of
which was to convince me that my property and my prospects must have been
very accurately conned over and considered by that worthy gentleman before
he could speak of the one or the other with such perfect knowledge.
"When you get rid of these little encumbrances, your rent-roll will be
close on four thousand a year. There's Bassett, sure, by only reducing his
interest from ten to five per cent, will give you a clear eight hundred per
annum; let him refuse, and I'll advance the money. And, besides, look at
Freney's farm; there's two hundred acres let for one third of the value,
and you must look to these tilings; for, you see, Captain, we'll want you
to go into Parliament; you can't help coming forward at the next election,
and by the great gun of Athlone, we'll return you."
Here Mr. Blake swallowed a full bumper of sherry, and getting up a little
false enthusiasm for the moment, grasped me by both hands and shook me
violently; this done, like a skilful general, who, having fired the last
shot of his artillery, takes care to secure his retreat, he retired towards
the door, where his hat and coat were lying.
"I've a hundred apologies to make for encroaching upon your time; but, upon
my soul, Captain, you are so agreeable, and the hours have passed away so
pleasantly--May I never, if it is not one o'clock!--but you must forgive
My sense of justice, which showed me that the agreeability had all been on
Mr. Blake's side, prevented me from acknowledging this compliment as it
deserved; so I merely bowed stiffly, without speaking. By this time he had
succeeded in putting on his great-coat, but still, by some mischance or
other, the moment of his leaving-taking was deferred; one time he buttoned
it awry, and had to undo it all again; then, when it was properly adjusted,
he discovered that his pocket-handkerchief was not available, being left in
the inner coat-pocket; to this succeeded a doubt as to the safety of the
check, which instituted another search, and it was full ten minutes before
he was completely caparisoned and ready for the road.
"Good-by, Captain, good-by!" said he warmly, yet warily, not knowing at
what precise temperature the metal of my heart was fusible. At a mild heat
I had been evidently unsinged, and the white glow of his flattery seemed
only to harden me. The interview was now over, and as I thought sufficient
had been done to convince my friend that the terms of distant acquaintance
were to be the limits of our future intercourse, I assumed a little show of
friendliness, and shook his hand warmly.
"Good-by, Mr. Blake; pray present my respectful compliments to your
friends. Allow me to ring for your horse; you are not going to have a
shower, I hope."
"No, no, Captain, only a passing cloud," said he, warming up perceptibly
under the influence of my advances, "nothing more. Why, what is it I'm
forgetting now! Oh, I have it! May be I'm too bold; but sure an old friend
and relation may take a liberty sometimes. It was just a little request
of Mrs. Blake, as I was leaving the house." He stopped here as if to take
soundings, and perceiving no change in my countenance, continued: "It was
just to beg, that, in a kind and friendly way, you'd come over and eat your
dinner with us on Sunday; nobody but the family, not a soul--Mrs. Blake and
the girls; a boiled leg of mutton; Matthew; a fresh trout, if we can catch
one! Plain and homely, but a hearty welcome, and a bottle of old claret,
may be, too--ah! ah! ah!"
Before the cadence of Mr. Blake's laugh had died away, I politely but
resolutely declined the proffered invitation, and by way of setting the
question at rest forever, gave him to understand that, from impaired health
and other causes, I had resolved upon strictly confining myself to the
limits of my own house and grounds, at least for the present.
Mr. Blake then saluted me for the last time, and left the room. As he
mounted his hackney, I could not help overhearing an abortive effort he
made to draw Mike into something like conversation; but it proved an utter
failure, and it was evident he deemed the man as incorrigible as the
"A very fine young man the captain is--remarkable!--and it's proud I am to
have him for a nephew!"
So saying, he cantered down the avenue, while Mickey, as he looked after
him, muttered between his teeth, "And faix, it's prouder you'd be av he was
Mike's soliloquy seemed to show me, in a new light, the meaning of my
relative's manner. It was for the first time in my life that such a thought
had occurred to me, and it was not without a sense of shame that I now
If there be something which elevates and exalts us in our esteem, tinging
our hearts with heroism and our souls with pride, in the love and
attachment of some fair and beautiful girl, there is something equally
humiliating in being the object of cold and speculative calculation to a
match-making family: your character studied; your pursuits watched; your
tastes conned over; your very temperament inquired into; surrounded
by snares; environed by practised attentions; one eye fixed upon the
registered testament of your relative, the other riveted upon your own
caprices; and then those thousand little cares and kindnesses which come so
pleasurably upon the heart when the offspring of true affection, perverted
as they are by base views and sordid interest, are so many shocks to the
feeling and understanding. Like the Eastern sirocco, which seems to breathe
of freshness and of health, and yet bears but pestilence and death upon its
breezes,--so these calculated and well-considered traits of affection only
render callous and harden the heart which had responded warmly, openly, and
abundantly to the true outpourings of affection. At how many a previously
happy hearth has the seed of this fatal passion planted its discord! How
many a fair and lovely girl, with beauty and attractions sufficient to
win all that her heart could wish of fondness and devotion, has, by this
pernicious passion, become a cold, heartless, worldly coquette, weighing
men's characters by the adventitious circumstances of their birth and
fortune, and scrutinizing the eligibility of a match with the practised
acumen with which a notary investigates the solvency of a creditor. How do
the traits of beauty, gesture, voice, and manner become converted into the
common-place and distasteful trickery of the world! The very hospitality of
the house becomes suspect, their friendship is but fictitious; those rare
and goodly gifts of fondness and sisterly affection which grow up in
happier circumstances, are here but rivalry, envy, and ill-conceived
hatred. The very accomplishments which cultivate and adorn life, that light
but graceful frieze which girds the temple of homely happiness, are here
but the meditated and well-considered occasions of display. All the bright
features of womanhood, all the freshness of youth, and all its fascinations
are but like those richly-colored and beautiful fruits, seductive to the
eye and fair to look upon, but which within contain nothing but a core of
rottenness and decay.
No, no; unblessed by all which makes a hearth a home, I may travel on my
weary way through life; but such a one as this I will not make the partner
of my sorrows and my joys, come what will of it!
From the hour of Mr. Blake's departure, my life was no longer molested. My
declaration, which had evidently, under his auspices, been made the subject
of conversation through the country, was at least so far successful, as
it permitted me to spend my time in the way I liked best, and without the
necessity of maintaining the show of intercourse, when in reality I kept
up none, with the neighborhood. While thus, therefore, my life passed on
equably and tranquilly, many mouths glided over, and I found myself already
a year at home, without it appearing more than a few weeks. Nothing seems
so short in retrospect as monotony; the number, the variety, the interest
of the events which occupy us, making our hours pass glibly and flowingly,
will still suggest to the mind the impressions of a longer period than
when the daily routine of our occupations assumes a character of continued
uniformity. It seems to be the _amende_ made by hours of weariness and
tedium, that, in looking back upon them, they appear to have passed rapidly
over. Not that my life, at the period I speak of, was devoid of interest;
on the contrary, devoting myself with zeal and earnestness to the new
duties of my station, I made myself thoroughly acquainted with the
condition of my property, the interest of my tenantry, their prospects,
their hopes, their objects. Investigating them as only he can who is
the owner of the soil, I endeavored to remedy the ancient vices of the
land,--the habits of careless, reckless waste, of indifference for the
morrow; and by instilling a feature of prudent foresight into that
boundless confidence in the future upon which every Irishman of every
rank lives and trusts, I succeeded at last in so far ameliorating their
situation, that a walk through my property, instead of presenting--as it
at first did--a crowd of eager and anxious supplicants, entreating for
abatements in rent, succor for their sick, and sometimes even food itself,
showed me now a happy and industrious people, confident in themselves, and
firmly relying on their own resources.
Another spring was now opening, and a feeling of calm and tranquil
happiness, the result of my successful management of my estate, made my
days pass pleasantly along. I was sitting at a late breakfast in my little
library; the open window afforded a far and wide prospect of the country,
blooming in all the promise of the season, while the drops of the passing
shower still lingered upon the grass, and were sparkling like jewels under
the bright sunshine. Masses of white and billowy cloud moved swiftly
through the air, coloring the broad river with many a shadow as they
passed. The birds sang merrily, the trees shook their leaves in concert,
and there was that sense of movement in everything on earth and sky which
gives to spring its character of lightness and exhilaration. The youth of
the year, like the youth of our own existence, is beautiful in the restless
activity which marks it. The tender flower that seems to open as we look;
the grass that springs before our eyes,--all speak of promise. The changing
phases of the sky, like the smiles and tears of infancy, excite without
weariness, and while they engage our sympathies, they fatigue not our
Partly lost in thought as I looked upon the fair and varied scene before
me, now turning to the pages of the book upon the breakfast-table, the
hours of the morning passed quickly over, and it was already beyond noon. I
was startled from my revery by sounds which I could scarcely trust my
ears to believe real. I listened again, and thought I could detect them
distinctly. It seemed as though some one were rapidly running over the keys
of a pianoforte, essaying with the voice to follow the notes, and sometimes
striking two or three bold and successive chords; then a merry laugh would
follow, and drown all other sounds. "What can it be?" thought I. "There is,
to be sure, a pianoforte in the large drawing-room; but then, who would
venture upon such a liberty as this? Besides, who is capable of it? There,
it can be no inexperienced performer gave that shake; my worthy housekeeper
never accomplished that!" So saying, I jumped from the breakfast-table,
and set off in the direction of the sound. A small drawing-room and the
billiard-room lay between me and the large drawing-room; and as I traversed
them, the music grew gradually louder. Conjecturing that, whoever it might
be, the performance would cease on my entrance, I listened for a few
moments before opening the door. Nothing could be more singular, nothing
more strange, than the effect of those unaccustomed sounds in that silent
and deserted place. The character of the music, too, contributed not
a little to this; rapidly passing from grave to gay, from the melting
softness of some plaintive air to the reckless hurry and confusion of an
Irish jig, the player seemed, as it were, to run wild through all the
floating fancies of his memory; now breaking suddenly off in the saddest
cadence of a song, the notes would change into some quaint, old-fashioned
crone, in which the singer seemed so much at home, and gave the queer
drollery of the words that expression of archness so eminently the
character of certain Irish airs. "But what the deuce is this?" said I, as,
rattling over the keys with a flowing but brilliant finger, she,--for
it was unquestionably a woman,--with a clear and sweet voice, broken by
laughter, began to sing the words of Mr. Bodkin's song, "The Man for
Galway." When she had finished the last verse, her hand strayed, as it
were, carelessly across the instrument, while she herself gave way to a
free burst of merriment; and then, suddenly resuming the air, she chanted
forth the following words, with a spirit and effect I can convey no idea
"To live at home,
And never roam;
To pass his days in sighing;
To wear sad looks,
Read stupid books,
And look half dead or dying;
Not show his face,
Nor join the chase,
But dwell a hermit always:
Oh, Charley, dear!
To me 'tis clear,
You're not the man for Galway!"
"You're not the man for Galway!" repeated she once more, while she closed
the piano with a loud bang.
"And why not, my dear, why not the man for Galway?" said I, as, bursting
open the door, I sprang into the room.
"Oh, it's you, is it?--at last! So I've unearthed you, have I?"
With these words she burst into an immoderate fit of laughter; leaving me,
who intended to be the party giving the surprise, amazed, confused, and
speechless, in the middle of the floor.
[Illustration: BABY BLAKE.]
That my reader may sympathize a little in my distresses, let me present him
with the _tableau_ before me. Seated upon the piano-stool was a young-lady
of at most eighteen years: her face, had it not been for its expression of
exuberant drollery and malicious fun, would have been downright beautiful;
her eyes, of the deepest blue, and shaded by long lashes, instead of
indulging the character of pensive and thoughtful beauty for which Nature
destined them, sparkled with a most animated brightness; her nose,
which, rather short, was still beautifully proportioned, gave, with
her well-curled upper lip, a look of sauciness to the features quite
bewitching; her hair--that brilliant auburn we see in a _Carlo Dolci_--fell
in wild and massive curls upon her shoulders. Her costume was a dark-green
riding-habit, not of the newest in its fashion, and displaying more than
one rent in its careless folds; her hat, whip, and gloves lay on the floor
beside her, and her whole attitude and bearing indicated the most perfect
ease and carelessness.
"So you are caught--taken alive!" said she, as she pressed her hands upon
her sides in a fresh burst of laughter.
"By Jove! this is a surprise indeed!" said I. "And, pray, into whose fair
hands have I fallen a captive?" recovering myself a little, and assuming a
half air of gallantry.
"So you don't know me, don't you?"
"Upon my life I do not!"
"How good! Why, I'm Baby Blake."
"Baby Blake?" said I, thinking that a rather strange appellation for one
whose well-developed proportions betokened nothing of infancy,--"Baby
"To be sure; your cousin Baby."
"Indeed!" said I, springing forward. "Let me embrace my relative."
Accepting my proffered salutation with the most exemplary coolness, she
"Get a chair, now, and let's have a talk together."
"Why the devil do they call you Baby?" said I, still puzzled by this
"Because I am the youngest, and I was always the baby," replied she,
adjusting her ringlets with a most rural coquetry. "Now tell me something.
Why do you live shut up here like a madman, and not come near us at
"Oh, that's a long story, Baby. But, since we are asking questions, how did
you get in here?"
"Just through the window, my dear; and I've torn my habit, as you see."
So saying, she exhibited a rent of about two feet long, thrusting through
it a very pretty foot and ankle at the same time.
"As my inhospitable customs have cost you a habit, you must let me make you
a present of one."
"No, will you though? That's a good fellow. Lord! I told them I knew you
weren't a miser; that you were only odd, that's all."
"And how did you come over, Baby?"
"Just cantered over with little Paddy Byrne. I made him take all the walls
and ditches we met, and they're scraping the mud off him ever since. I'm
glad I made you laugh, Charley; they say you are so sad. Dear me, how
thirsty I am! Have you any beer?"
"To be sure, Baby. But wouldn't you like some luncheon?"
"Of all things. Well, this is fun!" said she, as taking my arm, I led her
from the drawing-room. "They don't know where I'm gone,--not one of them;
and I've a great mind not to tell them, if you wouldn't blab."
"Would it be quite proper?"
"Proper!" cried she, imitating my voice. "I like that! as if I was going to
run away with you! Dear me, what a pretty house, and what nice pictures!
Who is the old fellow up there in the armor?"
"That's Sir Hildebrand O'Malley," said I, with some pride in recognizing an
ancestor of the thirteenth century.
"And the other old fright with the wig, and his hands stuck in his
"My grandfather, Baby."
"Lord, how ugly he is! Why, Charley, he hasn't the look of you. One would
think, too, he was angry at us. Ay, old gentleman, you don't like to see me
leaning on Cousin Charley's arm! That must be the luncheon; I'm sure I hear
knives and forks rattling there."
The old butler's astonishment was not inferior to my own a few minutes
before, when I entered the dining-room with my fair cousin upon my arm.
As I drew a chair towards the table, a thought struck me that possibly
it might only be a due attention to my fair guest if I invited the
housekeeper, Mrs. Magra, to favor us with her presence; and accordingly, in
an undertone, so as not to be overheard by old Simon, I said,--
"Perhaps, Baby, you'd like to have Mrs. Magra to keep us company?"
"Who's she?" was the brief answer.
"The housekeeper; a very respectable old matron."
"Is she funny?"
"Funny! not a bit."
"Oh, then, never mind her. What made you think of her?"
"Why, I thought, perhaps you'd think--That is people might say--In fact I
was doing a little bit proper on your account."
"Oh, that was it, was it? Thank you for nothing, my dear; Baby Blake can
take care of herself. And now just help me to that wing there. Do you know,
Cousin Charley, I think you're an old quiz, and not half as good a fellow
as you used to be?"
"Come, come, Baby, don't be in such a hurry to pronounce upon me. Let us
take a glass of wine. Fill Miss Blake's glass, Simon."
"Well, you may be better when one comes to know you. I detest sherry. No,
never mind, I'll take it, as it's here. Charley, I'll not compliment you
upon your ham; they don't know how to save them here. I'll give you such
a receipt when you come over to see us. But will you come? That's the
"How can you ask me! Don't you think I'll return your visit?"
"Oh, hang your ceremony! Come and see us, like a good-natured fellow that
knew us since we played together and quarrelled over our toys on the grass.
Is that your sword up there? Did you hear that noise? That was thunder:
there it comes. Look at that!"
As she spoke, a darkness like night overspread the landscape; the waves of
the river became greatly agitated, and the rain, descending in torrents,
beat with tremendous force against the windows; clap after clap of thunder
followed; the lightning flashed fearfully through the gloom; and the wind,
growing every moment stronger, drove the rain with redoubled violence
against the glass. For a while we amused ourselves with watching the
effects of the storm without: the poor laborers flying from their work; the
dripping figures seeking shelter beneath the trees; the barques; the very
loaded carts themselves,--all interested Miss Baby, whose eye roved from
the shore to the Shannon, recognizing with a practised eye every house upon
its banks, and every barque that rocked and pitched beneath the gale.
"Well, this is pleasant to look out at," said she, at length, and after the
storm had lasted for above an hour, without evincing any show of abatement;
"but what's to become of _me?_"
Now that was the very question I had been asking myself for the last twenty
minutes without ever being able to find the answer.
"Eh, Charley, what's to become of me?"
"Oh, never fear; one thing's quite certain, you cannot leave this in such
weather. The river is certainly impassable by this time at the ford, and to
go by the road is out of the question; it is fully twelve miles. I have it,
Baby; you, as I've said before, can't leave this, but I can. Now, I'll go
over to Gurt-na-Morra, and return in the morning to bring you back; it will
be fine by that time."
"Well, I like your notion. You'll leave me all alone here to drink tea, I
suppose, with your friend Mrs. Magra. A pleasant evening I'd have of it;
not a bit--"
"Well, Baby, don't be cross; I only meant this arrangement really for your
sake. I needn't tell you how very much I'd prefer doing the honors of my
poor house in person."
"Oh, I see what you mean,--more propers. Well, well, I've a great deal to
learn; but look, I think its growing lighter."
"No, far from it; it's only that gray mass along the horizon that always
bodes continual rain."
As the prospect without had little cheering to look upon, we sat down
beside the fire and chatted away, forgetting very soon in a hundred mutual
recollections and inquiries, the rain and the wind, the thunder and the
hurricane. Now and then, as some louder crash would resound above our
heads, for a moment we would turn to the window, and comment upon the
dreadful weather; but the next, we had forgotten all about it, and were
deep in our confabulations.
As for my fair cousin, who at first was full of contrivances to pass
the time,--such as the piano, a game at backgammon, chicken hazard,
battledoor,--she at last became mightily interested in some of my
soldiering adventures, and it was six o'clock ere we again thought that
some final measure must be adopted for restoring Baby to her friends, or at
least, guarding against the consequences her simple and guileless nature
might have involved her in.
Mike was called into the conference, and at his suggestion, it was decided
that we should have out the phaeton, and that I should myself drive
Miss Blake home; a plan which offered no other difficulties than this
one,--namely, that of above thirty horses in my stables, I had not a single
pair which had ever been harnessed.
This, so far from proving the obstacle I deemed it, seemed, on the
contrary, to overwhelm Baby with delight.
"Let's have them. Come, Charley, this will be rare fun; we couldn't have a
team of four, could we?"
"Six, if you like it, my dear coz--only who's to hold them? They're young
thorough-breds,--most of them never backed; some not bitted. In fact, I
know nothing of my stable. I say, Mike, is there anything fit to take out?"
"Yes, sir; there's Miss Wildespin, she's in training, to be sure; but we
can't help that; and the brown colt they call, 'Billy the Bolter,'--they're
the likeliest we have; without your honor would take the two chestnuts we
took up last week; they're raal devils to go; and if the tackle will hold
them, they'll bring you to Mr. Blake's door in forty minutes."
"I vote for the chestnuts," said Baby, slapping her boot with her
"I move an amendment in favor of Miss Wildespin," said I, doubtfully.
"He'll never do for Galway," sang Baby, laying her whip on my shoulder with
no tender hand; "yet you used to cross the country in good style when you
were here before."
"And might do so again, Baby."
"Ah, no; that vile dragoon seat, with your long stirrup, and your heel
dropped, and your elbow this way, and your head that! How could you ever
screw your horse up to his fence, lifting him along as you came up through
the heavy ground, and with a stroke of your hand sending him pop over, with
his hind-legs well under him?" Here she burst into a fit of laughter at my
look of amazement, as with voice, gesture, and look she actually dramatized
the scene she described.
By the time that I had costumed my fair friend in my dragoon cloak and a
foraging cap, with a gold band around it, which was the extent of muffling
my establishment could muster, a distant noise without apprised us that the
phaeton was approaching. Certainly, the mode in which that equipage came
up to the door might have inspired sentiments of fear in any heart less
steeled against danger than my fair cousin's. The two blood chestnuts (for
it was those Mike harnessed, having a groom's dislike to take a racer out
of training) were surrounded by about twenty people: some at their heads;
some patting them on the flanks; some spoking the wheels; and a few, the
more cautious of the party, standing at a respectable distance and offering
advice. The mode of progression was simply a spring, a plunge, a rear,
a lounge, and a kick; and considering it was the first time they ever
performed together, nothing could be more uniform than their display.
Sometimes the pole would be seen to point straight upward, like a lightning
conductor, while the infuriated animals appeared sparring with their
fore-legs at an imaginary enemy. Sometimes, like the pictures in a
school-book on mythology, they would seem in the act of diving, while
with their hind-legs they dashed the splash-board into fragments behind
them,--their eyes flashing fire, their nostrils distended, their flanks
heaving, and every limb trembling with passion and excitement.
"That's what I call a rare turn-out," said Baby, who enjoyed the proceeding
"Yes; but remember," said I, "we're not to have all these running footmen
the whole way."
"I like that near-sider with the white fetlock."
"You're right, Miss," said Mike, who entered at the moment, and felt quite
gratified at the criticism,--"you're right, Miss; it's himself can do it."
"Come, Baby, are you ready?"
"All right, sir," said she, touching her cap knowingly with her forefinger.
"Will the tackle hold, Mike?" said I.
"We'll take this with us, at any rate," pointing, as he spoke, to a
considerable coil of rope, a hammer, and a basket of nails, he carried on
his arm. "It's the break harness we have, and it ought to be strong enough;
but sure if the thunder comes on again, they'd smash a chain cable."
"Now, Charley," cried Baby, "keep their heads straight; for when they go
that way, they mean going."
"Well, Baby, let's start; but pray remember one thing,--if I'm not as
agreeable on the journey as I ought to be, if I don't say as many pretty
things to my pretty coz, it's because these confounded beasts will give me
as much as I can do."
"Oh, yes, look after the cattle, and take another time for squeezing my
hand. I say, Charley, you'd like to smoke, now, wouldn't you? If so, don't
"A thousand thanks for thinking of it; but I'll not commit such a trespass
on good breeding."
When we reached the door, the prospect looked dark and dismal enough. The
rain had almost ceased, but masses of black clouds were hurrying across
the sky, and the low rumbling noise of a gathering storm crept along the
ground. Our panting equipage, with its two mounted grooms behind,--for to
provide against all accident, Mike ordered two such to follow us,--stood
in waiting. Miss Blake's horse, held by the smallest imaginable bit of
boyhood, bringing up the rear.
"Look at Paddy Byrne's face," said Baby, directing my attention to the
little individual in question.
Now, small as the aforesaid face was, it contrived, within its limits, to
exhibit an expression of unqualified fear. I had no time, however, to give
a second look, when I jumped into the phaeton and seized the reins. Mike
sprang up behind at a look from me, and without speaking a word, the
stablemen and helpers flew right and left. The chestnuts, seeing all free
before them, made one tremendous plunge, carrying the fore-carriage clear
off the ground, and straining every nut, bolt, screw, and strap about us
with the effort.
"They're off now," cried Mickey.
"Yes, they are off now," said Baby. "Keep them going."
Nothing could be easier to follow than this advice; and in fact so little
merit had I in obeying it, that I never spoke a word. Down the avenue we
went, at the speed of lightning, the stones and the water from the late
rain flying and splashing about us. In one series of plunges, agreeably
diversified by a strong bang upon the splash-board, we reached the gate.
Before I had time to utter a prayer for our safety, we were through and
fairly upon the high road.
"Musha, but the master's mad!" cried the old dame of the gate-lodge; "he
wasn't out of this gate for a year and a half, and look now--"
The rest was lost in the clear ringing laugh of Baby, who clapped her hands
in ecstasy and delight.
"What a spanking pair they are! I suppose you wouldn't let me get my hand
on them?" said she, making a gesture as if to take the reins.
"Heaven forbid, my dear!" said I; "they've nearly pulled my wrists off
Our road, like many in the west of Ireland, lay through a level tract of
bog; deep ditches, half filled with water, on either side of us, but,
fortunately, neither hill nor valley for several miles.
"There's the mail," said Baby, pointing to a dark speck at a long distance
Ere many minutes elapsed, our stretching gallop, for such had our pace
sobered into, brought us up with it, and as we flew by, at top speed, Baby
jumped to her feet, and turning a waggish look at our beaten rivals, burst
out into a fit of triumphant laughter.
Mike was correct as to time; in some few seconds less than forty minutes we
turned into the avenue of Gurt-na-Morra. Tearing along like the very moment
of their starting, the hot and fiery animals galloped up the approach, and
at length came to a stop in a deep ploughed field, into which, fortunately
for us, Mr. Blake, animated less by the picturesque than the profitable,
had converted his green lawn. This check, however, was less owing to my
agency than to that of my servants; for dismounting in haste, they flew to
the horses' heads, and with ready tact, and before I had helped my cousin
to the ground, succeeded in unharnessing them from the carriage, and led
them, blown and panting, covered with foam, and splashed with mud, into the
space before the door.
By this time we were joined by the whole Blake family, who poured forth in
astonishment at our strange and sudden appearance. Explanation on my part
was unnecessary, for Baby, with a volubility quite her own, gave the whole
recital in less than three minutes. From the moment of her advent to her
departure, they had it all; and while she mingled her ridicule at my
surprise, her praise of my luncheon, her jests at my prudence, the whole
family joined heartily in her mirth, while they welcomed, with most
unequivocal warmth, my first visit to Gurt-na-Morra.
I confess it was with no slight gratification I remarked that Baby's visit
was as much a matter of surprise to them as to me. Believing her to have
gone to visit at Portumna Castle, they felt no uneasiness at her absence;
so that, in her descent upon me, she was really only guided by her own
wilful fancy, and that total absence of all consciousness of wrong which
makes a truly innocent girl the hardiest of all God's creatures. I was
reassured by this feeling, and satisfied that, whatever the intentions of
the elder members of the Blake family, Baby was, at least, no participator
in their plots or sharer in their intrigues.
When I found myself the next morning at home, I could not help ruminating
over the strange adventures of the preceding day, and felt a kind of
self-reproach at the frigid manner in which I had hitherto treated all the
Blake advances, contrasting so ill for me with the unaffected warmth and
kind good-nature of their reception. Never alluding, even by accident, to
my late estrangement; never, by a chance speech, indicating that they
felt any soreness for the past,--they talked away about the gossip of
the country: its feuds, its dinners, its assizes, its balls, its
garrisons,--all the varied subjects of country life were gayly and
laughingly discussed; and when, as I entered my own silent and deserted
home, and contrasted its look of melancholy and gloom with the gay and
merry scene I so lately parted from, when my echoing steps reverberated
along the flagged hall,--I thought of the happy family picture I left
behind me, and could not help avowing to myself that the goods of fortune
I possessed were but ill dispensed, when, in the midst of every means and
appliance for comfort and happiness, I lived a solitary man, companionless
I arose from breakfast a hundred times,--now walking impatiently towards
the window, now strolling into the drawing-room. Around, on every side, lay
scattered the prints and drawings, as Baby had thrown them carelessly
upon the floor; her handkerchief was also there. I took it up; I know not
why,--some lurking leaven of old romance perhaps suggested it,--but I hoped
it might prove of delicate texture, and bespeaking that lady-like coquetry
which so pleasantly associates with the sex in our minds. Alas, no! Nothing
could be more palpably the opposite: torn, and with a knot--some hint to
memory--upon one corner, it was no aid to my careering fancy. And yet--and
yet, what a handsome girl she is; how finely, how delicately formed that
Greek outline of forehead and brow; how transparently soft that downy pink
upon her cheek! With what varied expression those eyes can beam!--ay, that
they can: but, confound it, there's this fault, their very archness, their
sly malice, will be interpreted by the ill-judging world to any but the
real motive. "How like a flirt!" will one say. "How impertinent! How
ill-bred!" The conventional stare of cold, patched, and painted beauty,
upon whose unblushing cheek no stray tinge of modesty has wandered, will be
tolerated, even admired; while the artless beamings of the soul upon the
face of rural loveliness will be condemned without appeal.
Such a girl may a man marry who destines his days to the wild west; but woe
unto him!--woe unto him, should he migrate among the more civilized and
less charitable _coteries_ of our neighbors!
"Ah, here are the papers, and I was forgetting. Let me see--'Bayonne'--ay,
'march of the troops--Sixth Corps.' What can that be without? I say, Mike,
who is cantering along the avenue?"
"It's me, sir. I'm training the brown filly for Miss Mary, as your honor
bid me last night."
"Ah, very true. Does she go quietly?"
"Like a lamb, sir; barrin' she does give a kick now and then at the sheet,
when it bangs against her legs."
"Am I to go over with the books now, sir?" said a wild-looking shockhead
appearing within the door.
"Yes, take them over, with my compliments; and say I hope Miss Mary Blake
has caught no cold."
"You were speaking about a habit and hat, sir?" said Mrs. Magra, curtsying
as she entered.
"Yes, Mrs. Magra; I want your advice. Oh, tell Barnes I really cannot be
bored about those eternal turnips every day of my life. And, Mike, I wish
you'd make them look over the four-horse harness. I want to try those
grays; they tell me they'll run well together. Well, Freney, more
complaints, I hope? Nothing but trespasses! I don't care, so you'd not
worry me, if they eat up every blade of clover in the grounds; I'm sick
of being bored this way. Did you say that we'd eight couple of good
dogs?--quite enough to begin with. Tell Jones to ride into Banagher and
look after that box; Buckmaster sent it from London two months ago, and it
has been lying there ever since. And, Mrs. Magra, pray let the windows be
opened, and the house well aired; that drawing-room would be all the better
for new papering."
These few and broken directions may serve to show my readers--what
certainly they failed to convince myself of--that a new chapter of my life
had opened before me; and that, in proportion to the length of time
my feelings had found neither vent nor outlet, they now rushed madly,
tempestuously into their new channels, suffering no impediment to arrest,
no obstacle to oppose their current.
Nothing can be conceived more opposite to my late, than my present habits
now became. The house, the grounds, the gardens, all seemed to participate
in the new influence which beamed upon myself; the stir and bustle of
active life was everywhere perceptible; and amidst numerous preparations
for the moors and the hunting-field, for pleasure parties upon the river,
and fishing excursions up the mountains, my days were spent. The Blakes,
without even for a moment pressing their attentions upon me, permitted me
to go and come among them unquestioned and unasked. When, nearly every
morning, I appeared in the breakfast-room, I felt exactly like a member of
the family; the hundred little discrepancies of thought and habit which
struck me forcibly at first, looked daily less apparent; the careless
inattentions of my fair cousins as to dress, their free-and-easy boisterous
manner, their very accents, which fell so harshly on my ear, gradually made
less and less impression, until at last, when a raw English Ensign, just
arrived in the neighborhood, remarked to me in confidence, "What devilish
fine girls they were, if they were not so confoundedly Irish!" I could not
help wondering what the fellow meant, and attributed the observation more
to his ignorance than to its truth.
Papa and Mamma Blake, like prudent generals, so long as they saw the forces
of the enemy daily wasting before them; so long as they could with impunity
carry on the war at his expense,--resolved to risk nothing by a pitched
battle. Unlike the Dalrymples, they could leave all to time.
Oh, tell me not of dark eyes swimming in their own ethereal essence;
tell me not of pouting lips, of glossy ringlets, of taper fingers, and
well-rounded insteps; speak not to me of soft voices, whose seductive
sounds ring sweetly in our hearts; preach not of those thousand womanly
graces so dear to every man, and doubly to him who lives apart from all
their influences and their fascinations; neither dwell upon congenial
temperament, similarity of taste, of disposition, and of thought; these are
not the great risks a man runs in life. Of all the temptations, strong as
these may be, there is one greater than them all, and that is, propinquity!
Show me the man who has ever stood this test; show me the man, deserving
the name of such, who has become daily and hourly exposed to the breaching
artillery of flashing eyes, of soft voices, of winning smiles, and kind
speeches, and who hasn't felt, and that too soon too, a breach within
the rampart of his heart. He may, it is true,--nay, he will, in many
cases,--make a bold and vigorous defence; sometimes will he re-intrench
himself within the stockades of his prudence; but, alas! it is only to
defer the moment when he must lay down his arms. He may, like a wise man
who sees his fate inevitable, make a virtue of necessity, and surrender at
discretion; or, like a crafty foe, seeing his doom before him, under the
cover of the night he may make a sortie from the garrison, and run for his
life. Ignominious as such a course must be, it is often the only one left.
But to come back. Love, like the small-pox, is most dangerous when you take
it in the natural way. Those made matches, which Heaven is supposed to
have a hand in, when placing an unmarried gentleman's property in the
neighborhood of an unmarried lady's, which destine two people for each
other in life, because their well-judging friends have agreed, "They'll do
very well; they were made for each other,"--these are the mild cases of the
malady. This process of friendly vaccination takes out the poison of the
disease, substituting a more harmless and less exciting affection; but the
really dangerous instances are those from contact, that same propinquity,
that confounded tendency every man yields to, to fall into a railroad of
habit; that is the risk, that is the danger. What a bore it is to find that
the absence of one person, with whom you're in no wise in love, will spoil
your morning's canter, or your rowing party upon the river! How much put
out are you, when she, to whom you always gave your arm in to dinner,
does not make her appearance in the drawing-room; and your tea, too, some
careless one, indifferent to your taste, puts a lump of sugar too little,
or cream too much, while she--But no matter; habit has done for you what
no direct influence of beauty could do, and a slave to your own selfish
indulgences, and the cultivation of that ease you prize so highly, you fall
over head and ears in love.
Now, you are not, my good reader, by any means to suppose that this was my
case. No, no; I was too much what the world terms the "old soldier" for
that. To continue my illustration: like the fortress that has been often
besieged, the sentry upon the walls keeps more vigilant watch; his ear
detects the far-off clank of the dread artillery; he marks each parallel;
he notes down every breaching battery; and if he be captured, at least it
is in fair fight.
Such were some of my reflections as I rode slowly home one evening from
Gurt-na-Morra. Many a time, latterly, had I contrasted my own lonely and
deserted hearth with the smiling looks, the happy faces, and the merry
voices I had left behind me; and many a time did I ask myself, "Am I never
to partake of a happiness like this?" How many a man is seduced into
matrimony from this very feeling! How many a man whose hours have passed
fleetingly at the pleasant tea-table, or by the warm hearth of some old
country-house, going forth into the cold and cheerless night, reaches his
far-off home only to find it dark and gloomy, joyless and companionless?
How often has the hard-visaged look of his old butler, as, with sleepy eyes
and yawning face, he hands a bed-room candle, suggested thoughts of married
happiness? Of the perils of propinquity I have already spoken; the risks of
contrast are also great. Have you never, in strolling through some fragrant
and rich conservatory, fixed your eye upon a fair and lovely flower, whose
blossoming beauty seems to give all the lustre and all the incense of
the scene around? And how have you thought it would adorn and grace the
precincts of your home, diffusing fragrance on every side. Alas, the
experiment is not always successful. Much of the charm and many of the
fascinations which delight you are the result of association of time and of
place. The lovely voice, whose tones have spoken to your heart, may, like
some instrument, be delightful in the harmony of the orchestra, but, after
all, prove a very middling performer in a duet.
I say not this to deter men from matrimony, but to warn them from a
miscalculation which may mar their happiness. Flirtation is a very fine
thing, but it's only a state of transition after all. The tadpole existence
of the lover would be great fun, if one was never to become a frog under
the hands of the parson. I say all this dispassionately and advisedly. Like
the poet of my country, for many years of my life,--
"My only books were woman's looks,"
and certainly I subscribe to a circulating library.
All this long digression may perhaps bring the reader to where it brought
me,--the very palpable conviction, that, though not in love with my cousin
Baby, I could not tell when I might eventually become so.
The most pleasing part about retrospect is the memory of our bygone hopes.
The past, however happy, however blissful, few would wish to live over
again; but who is there that does not long for, does not pine after the
day-dream which gilded the future, which looked ever forward to the time to
come as to a realization of all that was dear to us, lightening our present
cares, soothing our passing sorrows by that one thought?
Life is marked out in periods in which, like stages in a journey, we rest
and repose ourselves, casting a look, now back upon the road we have been
travelling, now throwing a keener glance towards the path left us. It is at
such spots as these remembrance comes full upon us, and that we feel how
little our intentions have swayed our career or influenced our actions;
the aspirations, the resolves of youth, are either looked upon as puerile
follies, or a most distant day settled on for their realization. The
principles we fondly looked to, like our guide-stars, are dimly visible,
not seen; the friends we cherished are changed and gone; the scenes
themselves seem no longer the sunshine and the shade we loved; and, in
fact, we are living in a new world, where our own altered condition gives
the type to all around us; the only link that binds us to the past being
that same memory that like a sad curfew tolls the twilight of our fairest
dreams and most cherished wishes.
That these glimpses of the bygone season of our youth should be but fitful
and passing--tinging, not coloring the landscape of our life--we should be
engaged in all the active bustle and turmoil of the world, surrounded by
objects of hope, love, and ambition, stemming the strong tide in whose
fountain is fortune.
He, however, who lives apart, a dreary and a passionless existence, will
find that in the past, more than in the future, his thoughts have found
their resting-place; memory usurps the place of hope, and he travels
through life like one walking onward; his eyes still turning towards some
loved forsaken spot, teeming with all the associations of his happiest
hours, and preserving, even in distance, the outline that he loved.
Distance in time, as in space, smooths down all the inequalities of
surface; and as the cragged and rugged mountain, darkened by cliff and
precipice, shows to the far-off traveller but some blue and misty mass,
so the long-lost-sight-of hours lose all the cares and griefs that tinged
them, and to our mental eye, are but objects of uniform loveliness and
beauty; and if we do not think of
"The smiles, the tears,
Of boyhood's years,"
it is because, like April showers, they but checker the spring of our
For myself, baffled in hope at a period when most men but begin to feel it,
I thought myself much older than I really was; the disappointments of the
world, like the storms of the ocean, impart a false sense of experience to
the young heart, as he sails forth upon his voyage; and it is an easy error
to mistake trials for time.
The goods of fortune by which I was surrounded, took nothing from the
bitterness of my retrospect; on the contrary, I could not help feeling that
every luxury of my life was bought by my surrender of that career which had
elated me in my own esteem, and which, setting a high and noble ambition
before me, taught me to be a man.
To be happy, one must not only fulfil the duties and exactions of his
station, but the station itself must answer to his views and aspirations
in life. Now, mine did not sustain this condition: all that my life had
of promise was connected with the memory of her who never could share my
fortunes; of her for whom I had earned praise and honor; becoming ambitious
as the road to her affection, only to learn after, that my hopes were but a
dream, and my paradise a wilderness.
While thus the inglorious current of my life ran on, I was not indifferent
to the mighty events the great continent of Europe was witnessing. The
successes of the Peninsular campaign; the triumphant entry of the
British into France; the downfall of Napoleon; the restoration of the
Bourbons,--followed each other with the rapidity of the most common-place
occurrences; and in the few short years in which I had sprung from boyhood
to man's estate, the whole condition of the world was altered. Kings
deposed; great armies disbanded; rightful sovereigns restored to their
dominions; banished and exiled men returned to their country, invested with
rank and riches; and peace, in the fullest tide of its blessings, poured
down upon the earth devastated and blood-stained.
Years passed on; and between the careless abandonment to the mere amusement
of the hour, and the darker meditation upon the past, time slipped away.
From my old friends and brother officers I heard but rarely. Power, who at
first wrote frequently, grew gradually less and less communicative. Webber,
who had gone to Paris at the peace, had written but one letter; while, from
the rest, a few straggling lines were all I received. In truth be it told,
my own negligence and inability to reply cost me this apparent neglect.
It was a fine evening in May, when, rigging up a sprit-sail, I jumped into
my yawl, and dropped easily down the river. The light wind gently curled
the crested water, the trees waved gently and shook their branches in the
breeze, and my little barque, bending slightly beneath, rustled on her
foamy track with that joyous bounding motion so inspiriting to one's
heart. The clouds were flying swiftly past, tinging with their shadows the
mountains beneath; the Munster shore, glowing with a rich sunlight, showed
every sheep-cot and every hedge-row clearly out, while the deep shadow of
tall Scariff darkened the silent river where Holy Island, with its ruined
churches and melancholy tower, was reflected in the still water.
It was a thoroughly Irish landscape: the changeful sky; the fast-flitting
shadows; the brilliant sunlight; the plenteous fields; the broad and
swelling stream; the dark mountain, from whose brown crest a wreath of thin
blue smoke was rising,--were all there smiling yet sadly, like her own
sons, across whose lowering brow some fitful flash of fancy ever playing
dallies like sunbeams on a darkening stream, nor marks the depth that lies
I sat musing over the strange harmony of Nature with the temperament of
man, every phase of his passionate existence seeming to have its type in
things inanimate, when a loud cheer from the land aroused me, and the
words, "Charley! Cousin Charley!" came wafted over the water to where
I lay. For some time I could but distinguish the faint outline of some
figures on the shore; but as I came nearer, I recognized my fair cousin
Baby, who, with a younger brother of some eight or nine years old, was
taking an evening walk.
"Do you know, Charley," said she, "the boys have gone over to the castle to
look for you; we want you particularly this evening."
"Indeed, Cousin Baby! Well, I fear you must make my excuses."
"Then, once for all, I will not. I know this is one of your sulky moods,
and I tell you frankly I'll not put up with them any more."
"No, no, Baby, not so; out of spirits if you will, but not out of temper."
"The distinction is much too fine for me, if there be any. But there now,
do be a good fellow; come up with us--come up with me!"
As she said this she placed her arm within mine. I thought, too,--perhaps
it was but a thought,--she pressed me gently. I know she blushed and turned
away her head to hide it.
"I don't pretend to be proof to your entreaty, Cousin Baby," said I, with
half-affected gallantry, putting her fingers to my lips.
"There, how can you be so foolish; look at William yonder; I am sure he
must have seen you!" But William, God bless him! was bird's-nesting or
butterfly-hunting or daisy-picking or something of that kind.
O ye young brothers, who, sufficiently old to be deemed companions and
_chaperons_, but yet young enough to be regarded as having neither eyes nor
ears, what mischief have ye to answer for; what a long reckoning of tender
speeches, of soft looks, of pressed hands, lies at your door! What an
incentive to flirtation is the wily imp who turns ever and anon from his
careless gambols to throw his laughter-loving eyes upon you, calling up the
mantling blush to both your cheeks! He seems to chronicle the hours of your
dalliance, making your secrets known unto each other. We have gone through
our share of flirtation in this life: match-making mothers, prying aunts,
choleric uncles, benevolent and open-hearted fathers, we understand to the
life, and care no more for such man-traps than a Melton man, well mounted
on his strong-boned thorough-bred, does for a four-barred ox-fence that
lies before him. Like him, we take them flying; never relaxing the slapping
stride of our loose gallop, we go straight ahead, never turning aside,
except for a laugh at those who flounder in the swamps we sneer at. But we
confess honestly, we fear the little, brother, the small urchin who, with
nankeen trousers and three rows of buttons, performs the part of Cupid. He
strikes real terror into our heart; he it is who, with a cunning wink or
sly smile, seems to confirm the soft nonsense we are weaving; by some
slight gesture he seems to check off the long reckoning of our attentions,
bringing us every moment nearer to the time when the score must be settled
and the debt paid. He it is who, by a memory delightfully oblivious of
his task and his table-book, is tenacious to the life of what you said
to Fanny; how you put your head under Lucy's bonnet; he can imitate to
perfection the way you kneeled upon the grass; and the wretch has learned
to smack his lips like a _gourmand_, that he, may convey another stage of
Oh, for infant schools for everything under the age of ten! Oh, for
factories for the children of the rich! The age of prying curiosity is from
four-and-a-half to nine, and Fonché himself might get a lesson in _police_
from an urchin in his alphabet.
I contrived soon, however, to forget the presence of even the little
brother. The night was falling; Baby appeared getting fatigued with her
walk, for she leaned somewhat more heavily upon my arm, and I--I cannot
tell wherefore--fell into that train of thinking aloud, which somehow, upon
a summer's eve, with a fair girl beside one, is the very nearest thing to
"There, Charley, don't now--ah, don't! Do let go my hand; they are coming
down the avenue."
I had scarcely time to obey the injunction, when Mr. Blake called out:--