Part 7 out of 12
down-stairs, and won't that put her to bed fast enough?'
"'Well, that's what I call a faithful good servant that earns her
wages,' says I; 'so now I'll just take another glass, Mrs O'Rourke, and
thank you too. Sure you're the woman that knows everything, and a mighty
pretty woman into the bargain.'
"'Let me alone now, Father M'Grath, and don't be pinching me that way,
"'It was only a big flea that I perceived hopping on your gown, my
darling, devil anything else.'
"'Many thanks to you, father, for that same; but the next time you'd
kill my fleas, just wait until they're in a _more dacent_ situation.'
"'Fleas are fleas, Mrs O'Rourke, and we must catch 'em when we can, and
how we can, and as we can, so no offence. A good night's rest to you,
Mrs O'Rourke--when do you mean to confess?'
"'I've an idea that I've too many fleas about me to confess to you just
now, Father M'Grath, and that's the truth on it. So a pleasant walk back
"So you'll perceive, my son, that having got all the information from
Mrs O'Rourke, it's back I went to Ballyhinch, till I heard it whispered
that there were doings down at the old house at Ballycleuch. Off I set,
and went to the house itself, as priests always ought to be welcomed at
births, and marriages, and deaths, being, as you know, of great use on
such occasions--when who should open the door but Father O'Toole, the
biggest rapparee of a priest in the whole of Ireland. Didn't he steal a
horse, and only save his neck by benefit of clergy? and did he ever give
absolution to a young woman without making her sin over again? 'What may
be your pleasure here, Father M'Grath?' says he, holding the door with
"'Only just to call and hear what's going on.'
"'For the matter of that,' says he, 'I'll just tell you that we're all
going on very well; but ar'n't you ashamed of yourself, Father M'Grath,
to come here to interfere with my flock, knowing that I confess the
"'That's as may be,' says I; 'but I only wanted to know what the lady
had brought into the world.'
"'It's a _child_' says he.
"'Indeed!' says I; 'many thanks for the information; and pray what is it
that Mary Sullivan has brought into the world?'
"'That's a _child_ too,' says he; 'and now that you know all about it,
good evening to you, Father M'Grath.' And the ugly brute slammed the
door right in my face.
"'Who stole a horse?' cries I; but he didn't hear me--more's the pity.
"So you'll perceive, my dear boy, that I have found out something, at
all events, but not so much as I intended; for I'll prove to Father
O'Toole that he's no match for Father M'Grath. But what I find out must
be reserved for another letter, seeing that it's not possible to tell it
to you in this same. Praties look well, but somehow or another,
_clothes_ don't grow upon trees in ould Ireland; and one of your
half-quarterly bills, or a little prize-money, if it found its way here,
would add not a little to the respectability of the family appearance.
Even my cassock is becoming too _holy_ for a parish priest; not that I
care about it so much, only Father O'Toole, the baste! had on a bran new
one--not that I believe that he ever came honestly by it, as I have by
mine--but, get it how you may, a new gown always looks better than an
old one, that's certain. So no more at present from your loving friend
"Now, you'll observe, Peter," said O'Brien, after I had read the letter,
"that, as I supposed, your uncle meant mischief when he went over to
Ireland. Whether the children are both boys or both girls, or your
uncle's is a boy, and the other is a girl, there is no knowing at
present. If an exchange was required, it's made, that's certain; but I
will write again to Father M'Grath, and insist upon his finding out the
truth, if possible. Have you any letter from your father?"
"None, I am sorry to say. I wish I had, for he would not have failed to
speak on the subject."
"Well, never mind, it's no use dreaming over the matter; we must do our
best when we get to England ourselves, and in the meantime trust to
Father M'Grath. I'll go and write to him while my mind's full of it."
O'Brien wrote his letter, and the subject was not started again.
Captain Kearney's illness--He makes his will, and devises sundry
chateaux en Espagne for the benefit of those concerned--The legacy duty
in this instance not ruinous--He signs, seals, and dies.
The captain, as was his custom, went on shore, and took up his quarters
at a friend's house; that is to say, the house of an acquaintance, or
any polite gentleman who would ask him to take a dinner and a bed. This
was quite sufficient for Captain Kearney, who would fill his
portmanteau, and take up his quarters, without thinking of leaving them
until the ship sailed, or some more advantageous invitation was given.
This conduct in England would have very much trespassed on our ideas of
hospitality; but in our foreign settlements and colonies, where the
society is confined and novelty is desirable, a person who could amuse
like Captain Kearney was generally welcome, let him stay as long as he
pleased. All sailors agree in asserting that Halifax is one of the most
delightful ports in which a ship can anchor. Everybody is hospitable,
cheerful, and willing to amuse and be amused. It is, therefore, a very
bad place to send a ship to if you wish her to refit in a hurry; unless,
indeed, the admiral is there to watch over your daily progress, and a
sharp commissioner to expedite your motions in the dockyard. The admiral
was there when we arrived, and we should not have lain there long, had
not the health of Captain Kearney, by the time that we were ready for
sea, been so seriously affected, that the doctor was of opinion that he
could not sail. Another frigate was sent to our intended
cruising-ground, and we lay idle in port. But we consoled ourselves: if
we did not make prize-money, at all events, we were very happy, and the
major part of the officers very much in love.
We had remained in Halifax harbour about three weeks, when a very great
change for the worse took place in Captain Kearney's disease. Disease,
indeed, it could hardly be called. He had been long suffering from the
insidious attacks of a hot climate, and though repeatedly advised to
invalid, he never would consent. His constitution appeared now to be
breaking up. In a few days he was so ill, that, at the request of the
naval surgeons, he consented to be removed to the hospital, where he
could command more comforts than in any private house. He had not been
at the hospital more than two days, when he sent for me, and stated his
wish that I should remain with him. "You know, Peter, that you are a
cousin of mine, and one likes to have one's relations near one when we
are sick, so bring your traps on shore. The doctor has promised me a
nice little room for yourself, and you shall come and sit with me all
day." I certainly had no objection to remain with him, because I
considered it my duty so to do, and I must say that there was no
occasion for me to make any effort to entertain him, as he always
entertained me; but I could not help seriously reflecting, and feeling
much shocked, at a man, lying in so dangerous a state--for the doctors
had pronounced his recovery to be impossible--still continuing a system
of falsehood during the whole day, without intermission. But it really
appeared in him to be innate; and, as Swinburne said, "if he told truth,
it was entirely by mistake."
"Peter," said he, one day, "there's a great draught. Shut the door, and
put on some more coals."
"The fire does not draw well, sir," replied I, "without the door is
"It's astonishing how little people understand the nature of these
things. When I built my house, called Walcot Abbey, there was not a
chimney would draw; I sent for the architect and abused him, but he
could not manage it: I was obliged to do it myself."
"Did you manage it, sir?"
"Manage it--I think I did. The first time I lighted the fire, I opened
the door, and the draught was so great, that my little boy, William, who
was standing in the current of air, would have gone right up the
chimney, if I had not caught him by the petticoats; as it was, his frock
was on fire."
"Why sir, it must have been as bad as a hurricane!"
"No, no, not quite so bad--but it showed what a little knowledge of
philosophical arrangement could effect. We have no hurricanes in
England, Peter; but I have seen a very pretty whirlwind when I was at
"Yes; it cut four square haystacks quite round, and I lost twenty tons
of hay; it twisted the iron lamp-post at the entrance just as a porpoise
twists a harpoon, and took up a sow and her litter of pigs, that were
about a hundred yards from the back of the house, and landed them safe
over the house to the front, with the exception of the old sow putting
her shoulder out."
"Yes, but what was strange, there were a great many rats in the hayrick,
and up they went with the hay. Now, Peter, by the laws of gravitation,
they naturally come down before the hay, and I was walking with my
greyhound, or rather terrier, and after one coming down close to her,
which she killed, it was quite ridiculous to witness her looking up in
the air, and watching for the others."
"A greyhound did you say, sir, or a terrier?"
"Both, Peter; the fact is, she had been a greyhound, but breaking her
foreleg against a stump, when coursing, I had the other three amputated
as well, and then she made a capital terrier. She was a great favourite
"Well," observed I, "I have read something like that in Baron
"Mr Simple," said the captain, turning on his elbow and looking me
severely in the face, "what do you mean to imply?"
"Oh, nothing, sir, but I have read a story of that kind."
"Most probably; the great art of invention is to found it upon facts.
There are some people who out of a mole-hill will make a mountain; and
facts and fiction become so blended nowadays, that even truth becomes a
matter of doubt."
"Very true, sir," replied I; and as he did not speak for some minutes, I
ventured to bring my Bible to his bedside, as if I was reading it to
"What are you reading, Peter?" said he.
"Only a chapter in the Bible, sir," said I. "Would you like that I
should read aloud?"
"Yes, I'm very fond of the Bible--it's the book of _truth_. Peter, read
me about Jacob, and his weathering Esau with a mess of pottage, and
obtaining his father's blessing." I could not help thinking it singular
that he should select a portion in which, for divine reasons, a lie was
crowned with success and reward.
When I had finished it, he asked me to read something more; I turned
over to the Acts of the Apostles, and commenced the chapter in which
Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead. When I had finished, he observed
very seriously, "That is a very good lesson for young people, Peter, and
points out that you never should swerve from the truth. Recollect, as
your motto, Peter, to 'tell truth and shame the devil.'"
After this observation I laid down the book, as it appeared to me that
he was quite unaware of his propensity; and without a sense of your
fault, how can repentance and amendment be expected? He became more
feeble and exhausted every day, and, at last, was so weak that he could
scarcely raise himself in his bed. One afternoon he said, "Peter, I
shall make my will, not that I am going to kick the bucket just yet; but
still it is every man's duty to set his house in order, and it will
amuse me; so fetch pen and paper, and come and sit down by me."
I did as he requested.
"Write, Peter, that I, Anthony George William Charles Huskisson Kearney
(my father's name was Anthony, Peter; I was christened George, after the
present Regent, William and Charles after Mr Pitt and Mr Fox, who were
my sponsors; Huskisson is the name of my great uncle, whose property
devolves to me; he's eighty-three now, so he can't last long)--have you
written down that?"
"Being in sound mind, do hereby make my last will and testament,
revoking all former wills."
"I bequeath to my dearly beloved wife, Augusta Charlotte Kearney (she
was named after the Queen and Princess Augusta, who held her at the
baptismal font), all my household furniture, books, pictures, plate, and
houses, for her own free use and will, and to dispose of at her pleasure
upon her demise. Is that down?"
"Also, the interest of all my money in the three percents, reduced, and
in the long annuities, and the balance in my agent's hands, for her
natural life. At her death to be divided into equal portions between my
two children, William Mohamed Potemkin Kearney, and Caroline Anastasia
Kearney. Is that down?"
"Well, then, Peter, now for my real property. My estate in Kent (let me
see, what is the name of it?)--Walcot Abbey, my three farms in the Vale
of Aylesbury, and the marsh lands in Norfolk, I bequeath to my two
children aforenamed, the proceeds of the same to be laid up, deducting
all necessary expenses for their education, for their sole use and
benefit. Is that down?"
"Not yet, sir--'use and benefit.' Now it is, sir."
"Until they come to the age of twenty-one years; or in case of my
daughter, until she marries with the consent of my executors, then to be
equally and fairly valued and divided between them. You observe, Peter,
I never make any difference between girls and boys--a good father will
leave one child as much as another. Now, I'll take my breath a little."
I was really astonished. It was well known that Captain Kearney had
nothing but his pay, and that it was the hopes of prize-money to support
his family, which had induced him to stay out so long in the West
Indies. It was laughable; yet I could not laugh: there was a melancholy
feeling at such a specimen of insanity, which prevented me.
"Now, Peter, we'll go on," said Captain Kearney, after a pause of a few
minutes. "I have a few legacies to bequeath. First, to all my servants
L50 each, and two suits of mourning; to my nephew, Thomas Kearney, of
Kearney Hall, Yorkshire, I bequeath the sword presented me by the Grand
Sultan. I promised it to him, and although we have quarrelled, and not
spoken for years, I always keep my word. The plate presented me by the
merchants and underwriters of Lloyd's, I leave to my worthy friend, the
Duke of Newcastle. Is that down?"
"Well; my snuff-box, presented me by Prince Potemkin, I bequeath to
Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin; and, also, I release him from the mortgage
which I hold over his property of the Madeline Islands, in North
America. By-the-bye, say, and further, I bequeath to him the bag of
snuff presented to me by the Dey of Algiers; he may as well have the
snuff as he has the snuff-box. Is that down?"
"Well then, now, Peter, I must leave you something."
"Oh, never mind me," replied I.
"No, no, Peter, I must not forget my cousin. Let me see; you shall have
my fighting sword. A real good one, I can tell you. I once fought a duel
with it at Palermo, and ran a Sicilian prince so clean through the body,
and it held so tight, that we were obliged to send for a pair of
post-horses to pull it out again. Put that down as a legacy for my
cousin, Peter Simple. I believe that is all. Now for my executors; and I
request my particular friends, the Earl of Londonderry, the Marquis of
Chandos, and Mr John Lubbock, banker, to be my executors, and leave each
of them the sum of one thousand pounds for their trouble, and in token
of regard. That will do, Peter. Now, as I have left so much real
property, it is necessary that there should be three witnesses; so call
in two more, and let me sign in your presence."
This order was obeyed, and this strange will duly attested, for I hardly
need say, that even the presents he had pretended to receive were
purchased by himself at different times; but such was the force of his
ruling passion even to the last. Mr Phillott and O'Brien used to come
and see him, as did occasionally some of the other officers, and he was
always cheerful and merry, and seemed to be quite indifferent about his
situation, although fully aware of it. His stories, if anything, became
more marvellous, as no one ventured to express a doubt as to their
I had remained in the hospital about a week, when Captain Kearney was
evidently dying: the doctor came, felt his pulse, and gave it as his
opinion that he could not outlive the day. This was on a Friday, and
there certainly was every symptom of dissolution. He was so exhausted
that he could scarcely articulate; his feet were cold, and his eyes
appeared glazed, and turned upwards. The doctor remained an hour, felt
his pulse again, shook his head, and said to me, in a low voice, "He is
quite gone." As soon as the doctor quitted the room, Captain Kearney
opened his eyes, and beckoned me to him. "He's a confounded fool,
Peter," said he: "he thinks I am slipping my wind now--but I know
better; going I am, 'tis true--but I shan't die till next Thursday."
Strange to say, from that moment he rallied; and although it was
reported that he was dead, and the admiral had signed the acting order
for his successor, the next morning, to the astonishment of everybody,
Captain Kearney was still alive. He continued in this state, between
life and death, until the Thursday next, the day on which he asserted
that he would die--and, on that morning, he was evidently sinking fast.
Towards noon, his breathing became much oppressed and irregular, and he
was evidently dying; the rattle in his throat commenced; and I watched
at his bedside, waiting for his last gasp, when he again opened his
eyes, and beckoning me, with an effort, to put my head close to him to
hear what he had to say, he contrived, in a sort of gurgling whisper,
and with much difficulty, to utter--"Peter, I'm going now--not that the
rattle--in my throat--is a sign of death: for I once knew a man--to
_live_ with--_the rattle in his throat_--for _six weeks_." He fell back
and expired, having, perhaps, at his last gasp, told the greatest lie of
his whole life.
Thus died this most extraordinary character, who, in most other points,
commanded respect: he was a kind man and a good officer; but from the
idiosyncrasy of his disposition, whether from habit or from nature,
could not speak the truth. I say from _nature_, because I have witnessed
the vice of stealing equally strong, and never to be eradicated. It was
in a young messmate of good family, and who was supplied with money to
almost any extent: he was one of the most generous, open-hearted lads
that I ever knew; he would offer his purse, or the contents of his
chest, to any of his messmates, and, at the same time, would steal
everything that he could lay his hands upon. I have known him watch for
hours, to steal what could be of no use to him, as, for instance, an
_odd_ shoe, and that much too small for his foot. What he stole he would
give away the very next day; but to check it was impossible. It was so
well known, that if anything was missed, we used first to apply to his
chest to see if it was there, and usually found the article in question.
He appeared to be wholly insensible to shame upon this subject, though
in every other he showed no want of feeling or of honour; and, strange
to say, he never covered his theft with a lie. After vain attempts to
cure him of this propensity, he was dismissed the service as
Captain Kearney was buried in the churchyard with the usual military
honours. In his desk we found directions, in his own hand, relative to
his funeral, and the engraving on his tombstone. In these, he stated his
aged to be thirty-one years. If this was correct, Captain Kearney, from
the time that he had been in the service of his country, must have
entered the navy just _four months before_ he was born. It was
unfortunate that he commenced the inscription with "Here lies Captain
Kearney," &c. &c. His tombstone had not been set up twenty-four hours
before somebody, who knew his character, put a dash under one word, as
emphatic as it was true of the living man, "Here _lies_ Captain."
Captain Horton--Gloomy news from home--Get over head and ears in the
water, and find myself afterwards growing one way, and my clothes
another--Though neither as rich as a Jew, nor as large as a camel, I
pass through my examination, which my brother candidates think passing
The day after Captain Kearney's decease, his acting successor made his
appearance on board. The character of Captain Horton was well known to
us from the complaints made by the officers belonging to his ship, of
his apathy and indolence; indeed, he went by the _soubriquet_ of "the
Sloth." It certainly was very annoying to his officers to witness so
many opportunities of prize-money and distinction thrown away through
the indolence of his disposition. Captain Horton was a young man of
family who had advanced rapidly in the service from interest, and from
occasionally distinguishing himself. In the several cutting-out
expeditions, on which he had not volunteered but had been ordered, he
had shown, not only courage, but a remarkable degree of coolness in
danger and difficulty, which had gained him much approbation: but it was
said that this coolness arose from his very fault--an unaccountable
laziness. He would walk away, as it were, from the enemy's fire, when
others would hasten, merely because he was so apathetic that he would
not exert himself to run. In one cutting-out expedition in which he
distinguished himself, it is said that having to board a very high
vessel, and that in a shower of grape and musketry, when the boat dashed
alongside, and the men were springing up, he looked up at the height of
the vessel's sides, and exclaimed, with a look of despair, "My God! must
we really climb up that vessel's decks?" When he had gained the deck,
and became excited, he then proved how little fear had to do with the
remark, the captain of the ship falling by his hand, as he fought in
advance on his own men. But this peculiarity, which in a junior officer
was of little consequence, and a subject of mirth, in a captain became
of a very serious nature. The admiral was aware how often he had
neglected to annoy or capture the enemy when he might have done it; and,
by such neglect, Captain Horton infringed one of the articles of war,
the punishment awarded to which infringement is _death_. His
appointment, therefore, to the _Sanglier_ was as annoying to us as his
quitting his former ship was agreeable to those on board of her.
As it happened, it proved of little consequence: the admiral had
instructions from home to advance Captain Horton to the first vacancy,
which of course he was obliged to comply with; but not wishing to keep
on the station an officer who would not exert himself, he resolved to
send her to England with despatches and retain the other frigate which
had been ordered home, and which we had been sent up to replace. We
therefore heard it announced with feelings of joy, mingled with regret,
that we were immediately to proceed to England. For my part, I was glad
of it. I had now served my time as midshipman, to within five months,
and I thought that I had a better chance of being made in England than
abroad. I was also very anxious to go home, for family reasons, which I
have already explained. In a fortnight we sailed with several vessels,
and directions to take charge of a large convoy from Quebec, which was
to meet us off the island of St John's. In a few days we joined our
convoy, and with a fair wind bore up for England. The weather soon
became very bad, and we were scudding before a heavy gale, under bare
poles. Our captain seldom quitted the cabin, but remained there on a
sofa, stretched at his length, reading a novel, or dozing, as he found
I recollect a circumstance which occurred, which will prove the apathy
of his disposition, and how unfit he was to command so fine a frigate.
We had been scudding three days, when the weather became much worse.
O'Brien, who had the middle watch, went down to report that "it blew
"Very well," said the captain; "let me know if it blows harder."
In about an hour more the gale increased, and O'Brien went down again.
"It blows much harder, Captain Horton."
"Very well," answered Captain Horton, turning in his cot; "you may call
me again when it _blows harder_."
At about six bells the gale was at its height, and the wind roared in
its fury. Down went O'Brien again. "It blows tremendous hard now,
"Well, well, if the weather becomes worse--"
"It can't be worse," interrupted O'Brien; "it's impossible to blow
"Indeed! Well, then," replied the captain, "let me know when _it
In the morning watch a similar circumstance took place. Mr Phillott went
down, and said that several of the convoy were out of sight astern.
"Shall we heave-to, Captain Horton?"
"Oh, no," replied he, "she will be so uneasy. Let me know if you lose
sight of any more."
In another hour the first lieutenant reported that "there were very few
to be seen."
"Very well, Mr Phillott," replied the captain, turning round to sleep;
"let me know if you lose any more."
Some time elapsed, and the first lieutenant reported "that they were all
out of sight."
"Very well, then," said the captain; "call me when you see them again."
This was not very likely to take place, as we were going twelve knots an
hour, and running away from them as fast as we could; so the captain
remained undisturbed until he thought proper to get up to breakfast.
Indeed, we never saw any more of our convoy, but taking the gale with
us, in fifteen days anchored in Plymouth Sound. The orders came down for
the frigate to be paid off, all standing, and recommissioned. I received
letters from my father, in which he congratulated me at my name being
mentioned in Captain Kearney's despatches, and requested me to come home
as soon as I could. The admiral allowed my name to be put down on the
books of the guard-ship, that I might not lose my time, and then gave me
two months' leave of absence. I bade farewell to my shipmates, shook
hands with O'Brien, who proposed to go over to Ireland previous to his
applying for another ship, and, with my pay in my pocket, set off in the
Plymouth mail, and in three days was once more in the arms of my
affectionate mother, and warmly greeted by my father and the remainder
of my family.
Once more with my family, I must acquaint the reader with what had
occurred since my departure. My eldest sister, Lucy, had married an
officer in the army, a Captain Fielding, and his regiment having been
ordered out to India, had accompanied her husband, and letters had been
received, just before my return announcing their safe arrival at Ceylon.
My second sister, Mary, had also been engaged to be married, and from
her infancy was of extremely delicate health. She was very handsome, and
much admired. Her intended husband was a baronet of good family; but
unfortunately, she caught a cold at the assize ball and went off in a
decline. She died about two months before my arrival, and the family
were in deep mourning. My third sister, Ellen, was still unmarried; she
also was a very beautiful girl, and now seventeen. My mother's
constitution was much shaken by the loss of my sister Mary, and the
separation from her eldest child. As for my father, even the loss of his
daughter appeared to be wholly forgotten in the unwelcome intelligence
which he had received, that my uncle's wife had been safely delivered of
a _son_, which threw him out of the anticipated titles and estates of my
grandfather. It was indeed a house of mourning. My mother's grief I
respected, and tried all I could to console her; that of my father was
so evidently worldly, and so at variance with his clerical profession,
that I must acknowledge I felt more of anger at it than sorrow. He had
become morose and sullen, harsh to those around him, and not so kind to
my mother as her state of mind and health made it his duty to be, even
if inclination were wanted. He seldom passed any portion of the day with
her, and in the evening she went to bed very early, so that there was
little communication between them. My sister was a great consolation to
her, and so I hope was I; she often said so as she embraced me, and the
tears rolled down her cheeks, and I could not help surmising that those
tears were doubled from the coolness and indifference, if not
unkindness, with which my father behaved to her. As for my sister, she
was an angel; and as I witnessed her considerate attentions to my
mother, and the total forgetfulness of self which she displayed (so
different from my father, who was all self), I often thought what a
treasure she would prove to any man who was fortunate enough to win her
love. Such was the state of my family when I returned to it.
I had been at home about a week, when one evening, after dinner, I
submitted to my father the propriety of trying to obtain my promotion.
"I can do nothing for you, Peter; I have no interest whatever," replied
"I do not think that much is required, sir," replied I; "my time will be
served on the 20th of next month. If I pass, which I trust I shall be
able to do, my name having been mentioned in the public despatches will
render it a point of no very great difficulty to obtain my commission at
the request of my grandfather."
"Yes, your grandfather might succeed, I have no doubt; but I think you
have little chance now in that quarter. My brother has a son, and we are
thrown out. You are not aware, Peter, how selfish people are, and how
little they will exert themselves for their relations. Your grandfather
has never invited me since the announcement of my brother's increase to
his family. Indeed, I have never been near him, for I know that it is of
"I must think otherwise of Lord Privilege, my dear father, until your
opinion is confirmed by his own conduct. That I am not so much an object
of interest, I grant; but still he was very kind, and appeared to be
partial to me."
"Well, well, you can try all you can, but you'll soon see of what stuff
this world is made; I am sure I hope it will be so, for what is to
become of you children if I die, I do not know;--I have saved little or
nothing. And now all my prospects are blasted by this--" and my father
dashed his fist upon the table in a manner by no means clerical, and
with a look very unworthy of an apostle.
I am sorry that I must thus speak of my father, but I must not disguise
the truth. Still, I must say, there was much in extenuation of his
conduct. He had always a dislike to the profession of the church: his
ambition, as a young man, had been to enter the army, for which service
he was much better qualified; but, as it has been the custom for
centuries to entail all the property of the aristocracy upon the eldest
son, and leave the other brothers to be supported by the state, or
rather by the people, who are taxed for their provision, my father was
not permitted to follow the bent of his own inclination. An elder
brother had already selected the army as his profession, and it was
therefore decided that my father should enter the church; and thus it is
that we have had, and still have, so many people in that profession, who
are not only totally unfit for, but who actually disgrace, their
calling. The law of primogeniture is beset with evils and injustice; yet
without it, the aristocracy of a country must sink into insignificance.
It appears to me, that as long as the people of a country are content to
support the younger sons of the nobility, it is well that the
aristocracy should be held up as a third estate, and a link between the
sovereign and the people; but that if the people are either too poor, or
are unwilling to be so taxed, they have a right to refuse taxation for
such purposes, and to demand that the law of primogeniture should be
I remained at home until my time was complete, and then set off for
Plymouth to undergo my examination. The passing-day had been fixed by
the admiral for the Friday, and, as I arrived on Wednesday, I amused
myself during the day, walking about the dockyard, and trying all I
could to obtain further information in my profession. On the Thursday, a
party of soldiers from the depot were embarking at the landing-place in
men-of-war boats, and, as I understood, were about to proceed to India.
I witnessed the embarkation, and waited till they shoved off, and then
walked to the anchor wharf to ascertain the weights of the respective
anchors of the different classes of vessels in the King's service.
I had not been there long, when I was attracted by the squabbling
created by a soldier, who, it appeared, had quitted the ranks to run up
to the tap in the dockyard to obtain liquor. He was very drunk, and was
followed by a young woman with a child in her arms, who was endeavouring
to pacify him.
"Now be quiet, Patrick, jewel," said she, clinging to him; "sure it's
enough that you've left the ranks, and will come to disgrace when you
get on board. Now be quiet, Patrick, and let us ask for a boat, and then
perhaps the officer will think it was all a mistake, and let you off
aisy; and sure I'll speak to Mr O'Rourke, and he's a kind man."
"Out wid you, you cratur, it is Mr O'Rourke you'd be having a
conversation wid, and he be chucking you under that chin of yours. Out
wid you, Mary, and lave me to find my way on board. Is it a boat I want,
when I can swim like St Patrick, wid my head under my arm, if it wasn't
on my shoulders? At all events, I can wid my nappersack and musket to
The young woman cried, and tried to restrain him, but he broke from her,
and running down to the wharf, dashed off into the water. The young
woman ran to the edge of the wharf, perceived him sinking, and shrieking
with despair, threw up her arms in her agony. The child fell, struck on
the edge of the piles, turned over, and before I could catch hold of it,
sank into the sea. "The child! the child!" burst forth in another wild
scream, and the poor creature lay at my feet in violent fits. I looked
over, the child had disappeared; but the soldier was still struggling
with his head above water. He sank and rose again--a boat was pulling
towards him, but he was quite exhausted. He threw back his arms as if in
despair, and was about disappearing under a wave, when, no longer able
to restrain myself, I leaped off the high wharf, and swam to his
assistance, just in time to lay hold of him as he was sinking for the
last time. I had not been in the water a quarter of a minute before the
boat came up to us, and dragged us on board. The soldier was exhausted
and speechless. I, of course, was only very wet. The boat rowed to the
landing-place at my request, and we were both put on shore. The knapsack
which was fixed on the soldier's back, and his regimentals, indicated
that he belonged to the regiment just embarked; and I stated my opinion
that, as soon as he was a little recovered, he had better be taken on
board. As the boat which picked us up was one of the men-of-war boats,
the officer who had been embarking the troops, and had been sent on
shore again to know if there were any yet left behind, consented. In a
few minutes the soldier recovered, and was able to sit up and speak, and
I only waited to ascertain the state of the poor young woman whom I had
left on the wharf. In a few minutes she was led to us by the warder, and
the scene between her and her husband was most affecting. When she had
become a little composed, she turned round to me, where I stood dripping
wet, and, intermingled with lamentation for the child, showering down
emphatic blessings on my head, inquired my name. "Give it to me!" she
cried; "give it to me on paper, in writing, that I may wear it next my
heart, read and kiss it every day of my life, and never forget to pray
for you, and to bless you!"
"I'll tell it you. My name--"
"Nay, write it down for me--write it down. Sure you'll not refuse me.
All the saints bless you, dear young man, for saving a poor woman from
The officer commanding the boat handed me a pencil and a card; I wrote
my name and gave it to the poor woman; she took my hand as I gave it,
kissed the card repeatedly, and put it into her bosom. The officer,
impatient to shove off, ordered her husband into the boat--she followed,
clinging to him, wet as he was--the boat shoved off, and I hastened up
to the inn to dry my clothes. I could not help observing, at the time,
how the fear of a greater evil will absorb all consideration for a
minor. Satisfied that her husband had not perished, she had hardly once
appeared to remember that she had lost her child.
I had only brought one suit of clothes with me: they were in very good
condition when I arrived, but salt water plays the devil with a uniform.
I laid in bed until they were dry; but when I put them on again, not
being before too large for me, for I grew very fast, they were now
shrunk and shrivelled up, so as to be much too small. My wrists appeared
below the sleeves of my coat--my trousers had shrunk half way up to my
knees--the buttons were all tarnished, and altogether I certainly did
not wear the appearance of a gentlemanly, smart midshipman. I would have
ordered another suit, but the examination was to take place at ten
o'clock the next morning, and there was no time. I was therefore obliged
to appear as I was, on the quarter-deck of the line-of-battle ship, on
board of which the passing was to take place. Many others were there to
undergo the same ordeal, all strangers to me, and as I perceived by
their nods and winks to each other, as they walked up and down in their
smart clothes, not at all inclined to make my acquaintance.
There were many before me on the list, and our hearts beat every time
that a name was called, and the owner of it walked aft into the cabin.
Some returned with jocund faces, and our hopes mounted with the
anticipation of similar good fortune; others came out melancholy and
crest-fallen, and then the expression of their countenances was
communicated to our own, and we quailed with fear and apprehension. I
have no hesitation in asserting, that although "passing" may be a proof
of being qualified, "not passing" is certainly no proof to the contrary.
I have known many of the cleverest young men turned back (while others
of inferior abilities have succeeded), merely from the feeling of awe
occasioned by the peculiarity of the situation: and it is not to be
wondered at, when it is considered that all the labour and exertion of
six years are at stake at this appalling moment. At last my name was
called, and almost breathless from anxiety, I entered the cabin, where I
found myself in presence of the three captains who were to decide
whether I were fit to hold a commission in His Majesty's service. My
logs and certificates were examined and approved; my time calculated and
allowed to be correct. The questions in navigation which were put to me
were very few, for the best of all possible reasons, that most captains
in His Majesty's service know little or nothing of navigation. During
their servitude as midshipmen, they learn it by _rote_, without being
aware of the principles upon which the calculations they use are
founded. As lieutenants, their services as to navigation are seldom
required, and they rapidly forget all about it. As captains, their whole
remnant of mathematical knowledge consists in being able to set down the
ship's position on the chart. As for navigating the ship, the master is
answerable; and the captains not being responsible themselves, they
trust entirely to his reckoning. Of course there are exceptions, but
what I state is the fact; and if an order from the Admiralty was given,
that all captains should pass again, although they might acquit
themselves very well in seamanship, nineteen out of twenty would be
turned back when they were questioned in navigation. It is from the
knowledge of this fact that I think the service is injured by the
present system, and the captain should be held _wholly _responsible for
the navigation of his ship. It has been long known that the officers of
every other maritime state are more scientific than our own, which is
easily explained, from the responsibility not being invested in our
captains. The origin of masters in our service is singular. When England
first became a maritime power, ships for the King's service were found
by the Cinque Ports and other parties--the fighting part of the crew was
composed of soldiers sent on board. All the vessels at that time had a
crew of sailors, with a master to navigate the vessel. During our bloody
naval engagements with the Dutch, the same system was acted upon. I
think it was the Earl of Sandwich, of whom it is stated, that his ship
being in a sinking state, he took a boat to hoist his flag on board of
another vessel in the fleet, but a shot cutting the boat in two, and the
_weight of his armour_ bearing him down, the Earl of Sandwich perished.
But to proceed.
As soon as I had answered several questions satisfactorily, I was
desired to stand up. The captain who had interrogated me on navigation,
was very grave in his demeanour towards me, but at the same time not
uncivil. During his examination, he was not interfered with by the other
two, who only undertook the examination in "seamanship." The captain,
who now desired me to stand up, spoke in a very harsh tone, and quite
frightened me. I stood up pale and trembling, for I augured no good from
this commencement. Several questions in seamanship were put to me, which
I have no doubt I answered in a very lame way, for I cannot even now
recollect what I said.
"I thought so," observed the captain; "I judged as much from your
appearance. An officer who is so careless of his dress, as not even to
put on a decent coat when he appears at his examination, generally turns
out an idle fellow, and no seaman. One would think you had served all
your time in a cutter, or a ten-gun brig, instead of dashing frigates.
Come, sir, I'll give you one more chance."
I was so hurt at what the captain said, that I could not control my
feelings. I replied, with a quivering lip, "that I had had no time to
order another uniform,"--and I burst into tears.
"Indeed, Burrows, you are rather too harsh," said the third captain;
"the lad is frightened. Let him sit down and compose himself for a
little while. Sit down, Mr Simple, and we will try you again directly."
I sat down, checking my grief and trying to recall my scattered senses.
The captains, in the meantime, turning over the logs to pass away the
time; the one who had questioned me in navigation reading the Plymouth
newspaper, which had a few minutes before been brought on board and sent
into the cabin. "Heh! what's this? I say Burrows--Keats, look here," and
he pointed to a paragraph. "Mr Simple, may I ask whether it was you who
saved the soldier who leaped off the wharf yesterday?"
"Yes, sir," replied I; "and that's the reason why my uniforms are so
shabby. I spoilt them then, and had no time to order others. I did not
like to say why they were spoilt." I saw a change in the countenances of
all the three, and it gave me courage. Indeed, now that my feelings had
found vent, I was no longer under any apprehension.
"Come, Mr Simple, stand up again," said the captain, kindly, "that is,
if you feel sufficiently composed; if not, we will wait a little longer.
Don't be afraid, we _wish_ to pass you."
I was not afraid, and stood up immediately. I answered every question
satisfactorily; and finding that I did so, they put more difficult ones.
"Very good, very good indeed, Mr Simple; now let me ask you one more;
it's seldom done in the service, and perhaps you may not be able to
answer it. Do you know how to _club-haul_ a ship?"
"Yes, sir," replied I, having, as the reader may recollect, witnessed
the manoeuvre when serving under poor Captain Savage, and I immediately
stated how it was to be done.
"That is sufficient, Mr Simple. I wish to ask you no more questions. I
thought at first you were a careless officer and no seaman: I now find
that you are a good seaman and a gallant young man. Do you wish to ask
any more questions?" continued he, turning to the two others.
They replied in the negative; my passing certificate was signed, and the
captains did me the honour to shake hands with me, and wish me speedy
promotion. Thus ended happily this severe trial to my poor nerves; and,
as I came out of the cabin, no one could have imagined that I had been
in such distress within, when they beheld the joy that irradiated my
Is a chapter of plots--Catholic casuistry in a new cassock--Plotting
promotes promotion--A peasant's love and a peer's peevishness--Prospects
As soon as I arrived at the hotel, I sent for a Plymouth paper, and cut
out the paragraph which had been of such importance to me in my
emergency, and the next morning returned home to receive the
congratulations of my family. I found a letter from O'Brien, which had
arrived the day before. It was as follows:--
"MY DEAR PETER,--Some people, they say, are lucky to 'have a father
born before them,' because they are helped on in the world--upon
which principle, mine was born _after_ me, that's certain; however,
that can't be helped. I found all my family well and hearty; but they
all shook a cloth in the wind with respect to toggery. As for Father
M'Grath's cassock, he didn't complain of it without reason. It was the
ghost of a garment; but, however, with the blessing of God, my last
quarterly bill, and the help of a tailor, we have had a regular refit,
and the ancient family of the O'Briens of Ballyhinch are now rigged
from stem to starn. My two sisters are both to be spliced to young
squireens in the neighbourhood; it appears that they only wanted for a
dacent town gown to go to the church in. They will be turned off next
Friday, and I only wish, Peter, you were here to dance at the
weddings. Never mind, I'll dance for you and for myself too. In the
meantime, I'll just tell you what Father M'Grath and I have been
doing, all about and consarning that thief of an uncle of yours.
"It's very little or nothing at all that Father M'Grath did before I
came back, seeing as how Father O'Toole had a new cassock, and Father
M'Grath's was so shabby that he couldn't face him under such a
disadvantage; but still Father M'Grath spied about him, and had
several hints from here and from there, all of which, when I came to
add them up, amounted to just nothing at all.
"But since I came home, we have been busy. Father M'Grath went down to
Ballycleuch, as bold as a lion in his new clothing, swearing that he'd
lead Father O'Toole by the nose for slamming the door in his face, and
so he would have done, if he could have found him; but as he wasn't to
be found, Father M'Grath came back again just as wise, and quite as
brave, as he went out.
"So, Peter, I just took a walk that way myself, and, as I surrounded
the old house where your uncle had taken up his quarters, who should I
meet but the little girl, Ella Flanagan, who was in his service; and I
said to myself, 'There's two ways of obtaining things in this world,
one is for love, and the other is for money.' The O'Briens are better
off in the first article than in the last, as most of their countrymen
are, so I've been spending it very freely in your service, Peter.
"'Sure,' says I, 'you are the little girl that my eyes were ever
looking upon when last I was in this way.'
"'And who are you?' says she.
"'Lieutenant O'Brien, of his Majesty's service, just come home for a
minute to look out for a wife,' says I; 'and it's one about your make,
and shape, and discretion that would please my fancy.'
"And then I praised her eyes, and her nose, and her forehead, and so
downwards, until I came to the soles of her feet; and asked her leave
to see her again, and when she would meet me in the wood and tell me
her mind. At first, she thought (sure enough) that I couldn't be in
earnest, but I swore by all the saints that she was the prettiest girl
in the parts--and so she is altogether--and then she listened to my
blarney. The devil a word did I say about your uncle, or your aunt, or
Father M'Grath, that she might not suspect for I've an idea that
they're all in the story. I only talked about my love for her pretty
self, and that blinded her, as it will all women, 'cute as they may
"And now, Peter, it's three weeks last Sunday, that I've been
bespeaking this poor girl for your sake, and my conscience tells me
that it's not right to make the poor crature fond of me, seeing as how
that I don't care a fig for her in the way of a wife, and in any other
way it would be the ruin of the poor thing. I have spoken to Father
M'Grath on the subject, who says, 'that we may do evil that good may
come, and that, if she has been a party to the deceit, it's nothing
but proper that she should be punished in this world, and that will,
perhaps, save her in the next;' still I don't like it, Peter, and it's
only for you among the living that I'd do such a thing; for the poor
creature now hangs upon me so fondly, and talks about the wedding-day;
and tells me long stories about the connections which have taken place
between the O'Flanagans and the O'Briens, times bygone, when they were
all in their glory. Yesterday, as we sat in the wood, with her arm
round my waist, 'Ella, dear,' says I, 'who are these people that you
stay with?' And then she told me all she knew about their history, and
how Mary Sullivan was a nurse to the baby.
"'And what is the baby?' says I.
"'A boy, sure,' says she.
"'And Sullivan's baby?'
"'That's a girl.'
"'And is Mary Sullivan there now?'
"'No' says she; 'it's yestreen she left with her husband and baby, to
join the regiment that's going out to Ingy.'
"'Yesterday she left?' says I, starting up.
"'Yes,' replies she, 'and what do you care about them?'
"'It's very much I care,' replied I, 'for a little bird has whispered
a secret to me.'
"'And what may that be?' says she.
"'Only that the childer were changed, and you know it as well as I
do.' But she swore that she knew nothing about it, and that she was
not there when either of the children was born, and I believe that she
told the truth. 'Well,' says I, 'who tended the lady?'
"'My own mother,' says Ella. 'And if it was so, who can know but she?'
"Then,' says I, 'Ella, jewel, I've made a vow that I'll never marry
till I find out the truth of this matter; so the sooner you get it out
of your mother the better.' Then she cried very much, and I was almost
ready to cry too, to see how the poor thing was vexed at the idea of
not being married. After a while, she swabbed up her cheeks, and
kissing me, wished me good-by, swearing by all the saints that the
truth should come out, somehow or another.
"It's this morning that I saw her again, as agreed upon yesterday, and
red her eyes were with weeping, poor thing; and she clung to me, and
begged me to forgive her, and not to leave her; and then she told me
that her mother was startled when she put the question to her, and
chewed it, and cursed her when she insisted upon the truth; and how
she had fallen on her knees, and begged her mother not to stand in the
way of her happiness, as she would die if she did (I leave you to
guess if my heart didn't smite me when she said that, Peter, but the
mischief was done), and how her mother had talked about her oath and
Father O'Toole, and said that she would speak to him.
"Now, Peter, I'm sure that the childer have been changed, and that the
nurse has been sent to the Indies to be out of the way. They say they
were to go to Plymouth. The husband's name is, of course, O'Sullivan;
so I'd recommend you to take a coach and see what you can do in that
quarter; in the meantime I'll try all I can for the truth in this, and
will write again as soon as I can find out anything more. All I want
to do is to get Father M'Grath to go to the old devil of a mother, and
I'll answer for it, he'll frighten her into swearing anything. God
bless you, Peter, and give my love to all the family.
This letter of O'Brien was the subject of much meditation. The advice to
go to Plymouth was too late, the troops having sailed some time; and I
had no doubt but that Mary Sullivan and her husband were among those who
had embarked at the time that I was at that port to pass my examination.
Show the letter to my father I would not, as it would only have put him
in a fever, and his interference would, in all probability, have done
more harm than good. I therefore waited quietly for more intelligence,
and resolved to apply to my grandfather to obtain my promotion.
A few days afterwards I set off for Eagle Park, and arrived about eleven
o'clock in the morning. I sent in my name, and was admitted into the
library, where I found Lord Privilege in his easy chair as usual.
"Well, child," said he, remaining on his chair, and not offering even
_one_ finger to me, "what do you want, that you come here without an
"Only, my lord, to inquire after your health, and to thank you for your
kindness to me in procuring me and Mr O'Brien the appointment to a fine
"Yes," replied his lordship, "I recollect--I think I did so, at your
request, and I think I heard some one say that you have behaved well,
and had been mentioned in the despatches."
"Yes, my lord," replied I, "and I have since passed my examination for
"Well, child, I'm glad to hear it. Remember me to your father and
family." And his lordship cast his eyes down upon the book which he had
My father's observations appeared to be well grounded, but I would not
leave the room until I had made some further attempt.
"Has your lordship heard from my uncle?"
"Yes," replied he, "I had a letter from him yesterday. The child is
quite well. I expect them all here in a fortnight or three weeks, to
live with me altogether. I am old--getting very old, and I shall have
much to arrange with your uncle before I die."
"If I might request a favour of your lordship, it would be to beg that
you would interest yourself a little in obtaining my promotion. A letter
from your lordship to the First Lord--only a few lines--"
"Well, child, I see no objection--only--I am very old, too old to write
now." And his lordship again commenced reading.
I must do Lord Privilege the justice to state that he evidently was fast
verging to a state of second childhood. He was much bowed down since I
had last seen him, and appeared infirm in body as well as mind.
I waited at least a quarter of an hour before his lordship looked up.
"What, not gone yet, child? I thought you had gone home."
"Your lordship was kind enough to say that you had no objection to write
a few lines to the First Lord in my behalf. I trust your lordship will
not refuse me."
"Well," replied he, peevishly, "so I did--but I am too old, too old to
write--I cannot see--I can hardly hold a pen."
"Will your lordship allow me the honour of writing the letter for your
"Well, child--yes--I've no objection. Write as follows--no--write
anything you please--and I'll sign it. I wish your uncle William were
This was more than I did. I had a great mind to show him O'Brien's
letter, but I thought it would be cruel to raise doubts, and harass the
mind of a person so close to the brink of the grave. The truth would
never be ascertained during his life, I thought, and why, therefore,
should I give him pain? At all events, although I had the letter in my
pocket, I resolved not to make use of it except as a _dernier_ resort.
I went to another table, and sat down to write the letter. As his
lordship had said that I might write what I pleased, it occurred to me
that I might assist O'Brien, and I felt sure that his lordship would not
take the trouble to read the letter. I therefore wrote as follows, while
Lord Privilege continued to read his book:--
"MY LORD,--You will confer a very great favour upon me, if you will
hasten the commission which, I have no doubt, is in preparation for my
nephew, Mr Simple, who has passed his examination, and has been
mentioned in the public despatches, and also that you will not lose
sight of Lieutenant O'Brien, who has so distinguished himself by his
gallantry in the various cutting-out expeditions in the West Indies.
Trusting that your lordship will not fail to comply with my earnest
request, I have the honour to be, your lordship's very obedient humble
I brought this letter, with a pen full of ink, and the noise of my
approach induced his lordship to look up. He stared at first, as having
forgotten the whole circumstance--then said--"Oh yes! I recollect, so I
did--give me the pen." With a trembling hand he signed his name, and
gave me back the letter without reading it, as I expected.
"There, child, don't tease me any more. Good-bye; remember me to your
I wished his lordship a good morning, and went away well satisfied with
the result of my expedition. On my arrival I showed the letter to my
father, who was much surprised at my success, and he assured me that my
grandfather's interest was so great with the administration, that I
might consider my promotion as certain. That no accident might happen, I
immediately set off for London, and delivered the letter at the door of
the First Lord with my own hands, leaving my address with the porter.
O'Brien and myself take a step each, _pari passu_--A family reunion
productive of anything but unity--My uncle not always the best friend.
A few days afterwards I left my card with my address with the First
Lord, and the next day received a letter from his secretary, which, to
my delight, informed me that my commission had been made out some days
before. I hardly need say that I hastened to take it up, and when paying
my fee to the clerk, I ventured, at a hazard, to inquire whether he knew
the address of Lieutenant O'Brien.
"No," replied he, "I wish to find it out, for he has this day been
promoted to the rank of Commander."
I almost leaped with joy when I heard this good news. I gave O'Brien's
address to the clerk, hastened away with my invaluable piece of
parchment in my hand, and set off immediately for my father's house.
But I was met with sorrow. My mother had been taken severely ill, and I
found the house in commotion--doctors, and apothecaries, and nurses,
running to and fro, my father in a state of excitement, and my dear
sister in tears. Spasm succeeded spasm; and although every remedy was
applied, the next evening she breathed her last. I will not attempt to
describe the grief of my father, who appeared to feel remorse at his
late unkind treatment of her, my sister, and myself. These scenes must
be imagined by those who have suffered under similar bereavements. I
exerted myself to console my poor sister, who appeared to cling to me as
to her only support, and, after the funeral was over, we recovered our
tranquillity, although the mourning was still deeper in our hearts than
in our outward dress. I had written to O'Brien to announce the mournful
intelligence, and, like a true friend, he immediately made his
appearance to console me.
O'Brien had received the letter from the Admiralty, acquainting him with
his promotion; and, two days after he arrived, went to take up his
commission. I told him frankly by what means he had obtained it, and he
again concluded his thanks by a reference to the mistake of the former
supposition, that of my being "the fool of the family."
"By the powers, it would be well for any man if he had a few of such
foolish friends about him," continued he; "but I won't blarney you,
Peter; you know what my opinion always has been, so we'll say no more
When he came back, we had a long consultation as to the best method of
proceeding to obtain employment, for O'Brien was anxious to be again
afloat, and so was I. I regretted parting with my sister, but my father
was so morose and ill-tempered, that I had no pleasure at home, except
in her company. Indeed, my sister was of opinion, that it would be
better if I were away, as my father's misanthropy, now unchecked by my
mother, appeared to have increased, and he seemed to view me with
positive dislike. It was, therefore, agreed unanimously between my
sister, and me, and O'Brien, who was always of our councils, that it
would be advisable that I should be again afloat.
"I can manage him much better when alone, Peter; I shall have nothing to
occupy me, and take me away from him, as your presence does now; and,
painful as it is to part with you, my duty to my father, and my wish for
your advancement, induce me to request that you will, if possible, find
some means of obtaining employment."
"Spoken like a hero, as ye are, Miss Ellen, notwithstanding your pretty
face and soft eyes," said O'Brien. "And now, Peter, for the means to
bring it about. If I can get a ship, there is no fear for you, as I
shall choose you for my lieutenant; but how is that to be managed? Do
you think that you can come over the old gentleman at Eagle Park?"
"At all events, I'll try," replied I; "I can but be floored, O'Brien."
Accordingly, the next day I set off for my grandfather's, and was put
down at the lodge, at the usual hour, about eleven o'clock. I walked up
the avenue, and knocked at the door: when it was opened, I perceived a
hesitation among the servants, and a constrained air, which I did not
like. I inquired after Lord Privilege--the answer was, that he was
pretty well, but did not see _any_ body.
"Is my uncle here?" said I.
"Yes, sir," replied the servant, with a significant look, "and all his
family are here too."
"Are you sure that I cannot see my _grandfather_" said I, laying a
stress upon the word.
"I will tell him that you are here, sir," replied the man, "but even
that is against orders."
I had never seen my uncle since I was a child, and could not even
recollect him--my cousins, or my aunt, I had never met with. In a minute
an answer was brought, requesting that I would walk into the library.
When I was ushered in, I found myself in the presence of Lord Privilege,
who sat in his usual place, and a tall gentleman, whom I knew at once to
be my uncle, from his likeness to my father.
"Here is the young gentleman, my lord," said my uncle, looking at me
"Heh! what--oh? I recollect. Well, child, so you've been behaving very
ill--sorry to hear it. Good-bye."
"Behaving ill, my lord!" replied I. "I am not aware of having so done."
"Reports are certainly very much against you, nephew," observed my
uncle, drily. "Some one has told your grandfather what has much
displeased him. I know nothing about it myself."
"Then some rascal has slandered me, sir," replied I.
My uncle started at the word rascal; and then recovering himself,
replied, "Well, nephew, what is it that you require of Lord Privilege,
for I presume this visit is not without a cause?"
"Sir," replied I, "my visit to Lord Privilege was, first to thank him
for having procured me my commission as lieutenant, and to request the
favour that he would obtain me active employment, which a line from him
will effect immediately."
"I was not aware, nephew, that you had been made lieutenant; but I agree
with you, that the more you are at sea the better. His lordship shall
sign the letter. Sit down."
"Shall I write it, sir?" said I to my uncle: "I know what to say."
"Yes; and bring it to me when it is written."
I felt convinced that the only reason which induced my uncle to obtain
me employment was the idea that I should be better out of the way, and
that there was more risk at sea than on shore. I took a sheet of paper,
and wrote as follows:--
"My LORD,--May I request that your lordship will be pleased to
appoint the bearer of this to a ship, as soon as convenient, as I wish
him to be actively employed.
"I am, my lord, &c, &c."
"Why not mention your name?"
"It is of no consequence," replied I, "as it will be delivered in
person, and that will insure my speedy appointment."
The letter was placed before his lordship for signature. It was with
some difficulty that he was made to understand that he was to sign it.
The old gentleman appeared much more imbecile than when I last saw him.
I thanked him, folded up the letter, and put it in my pocket. At last he
looked at me, and a sudden flash of recollection appeared to come across
"Well child so you escaped from the French prison--heh! and how's your
friend--what is his name, heh?"
"O'Brien, my lord."
"O'Brien!" cried my uncle, "he is _your_ friend; then, sir, I presume it
is to you that I am indebted for all the inquiries and reports which are
so industriously circulated in Ireland--the tampering with my servants--
and other impertinences?"
I did not choose to deny the truth, although I was a little fluttered by
the sudden manner in which it came to light. I replied, "I never tamper
with any people's servants, sir."
"No," said he, "but you employ others so to do. I discovered the whole
of your proceedings after the scoundrel left for England."
"If you apply the word scoundrel _to_ Captain O'Brien, sir, in his name
I contradict it."
"As you please, sir," replied my uncle, in a passion; "but you will
oblige me by quitting this house immediately, and expect nothing more,
either from the present or the future Lord Privilege, except that
retaliation which your infamous conduct has deserved."
I felt much irritated, and replied very sharply, "From the present Lord
Privilege I certainly expect nothing more, neither do I from his
successor; but after your death, uncle, I expect that the person who
succeeds to the title will do all he can for your humble servant. I wish
you a good morning, uncle."
My uncle's eyes flashed fire as I finished my speech, which indeed was a
very bold, and a very foolish one too, as it afterwards proved. I
hastened out of the room, not only from the fear of being turned out of
the house before all the servants, but also from the dread that my
letter to the First Lord might be taken from me by force; but I shall
never forget the scowl of vengeance which crossed my uncle's brows, as I
turned round and looked at him as I shut the door. I found my way out
without the assistance of the servants, and hastened home as fast as I
"O'Brien," said I, on my return, "there is no time to be lost; the
sooner you hasten to town with this letter of introduction, the better
it will be, for depend upon it my uncle will do me all the harm that he
can." I then repeated to him all that had passed, and it was agreed that
O'Brien should take the letter, which, having reference to the bearer,
would do as well for him as for me; and, if O'Brien obtained an
appointment, I was sure not only of being one of his lieutenants, but
also of sailing with a dear friend. The next morning O'Brien set off for
London, and fortunately saw the First Lord the day after his arrival,
which was a levee day. The First Lord received the letter from O'Brien,
and requested him to sit down. He then read it, inquired after his
lordship, asked whether his health was good, &c.
O'Brien replied, "that with the blessing of God, his lordship might live
many years: that he had never heard him complain of ill health." All
which was not false, if not true. I could not help observing to O'Brien,
when he returned home and told me what had passed, "that I thought,
considering what he had expressed with respect to white lies and black
lies, that he had not latterly adhered to his own creed."
"That's very true, Peter; and I've thought of it myself, but it is my
creed nevertheless. We all know what's right, but we don't always follow
it. The fact is, I begin to think that it is absolutely necessary to
fight the world with its own weapons. I spoke to Father M'Grath on the
subject, and he replied--'That if anyone, by doing wrong, necessitated
another to do wrong to circumvent him, that the first party was
answerable, not only for his own sin, but also for the sin committed in
"But, O'Brien, I do not fix my faith so implicitly upon Father M'Grath;
and I do not much admire many of his directions."
"No more do I, Peter, when I think upon them; but how am I to puzzle my
head upon these points? All I know is, that when you are divided between
your inclination and your duty, it's mighty convenient to have a priest
like Father M'Grath to decide for you, and to look after your soul into
It occurred to me that I myself, when finding fault with O'Brien, had,
in the instance of both the letters from Lord Privilege, been also
guilty of deceit. I was therefore blaming him for the same fault
committed by myself; and I am afraid that I was too ready in consoling
myself with Father M'Grath's maxim, "that one might do evil that good
might come." But to return to O'Brien's interview.
After some little conversation, the First Lord said, "Captain O'Brien, I
am always very ready to oblige Lord Privilege, and the more so as his
recommendation is of an officer of your merit. In a day or two, if you
call at the Admiralty, you will hear further." O'Brien wrote to us
immediately, and we waited with impatience for his next letter: but,
instead of the letter, he made his appearance on the third day, and
first hugged me in his arms, he then came to my sister, embraced her,
and skipped and danced about the room.
"What is the matter, O'Brien?" said I, while Ellen retreated in
O'Brien pulled a parchment out of his pocket. "Here, Peter, my dear
Peter; now for honour and glory. An eighteen-gun brig, Peter. The
_Rattlesnake_--Captain O'Brien--West India station. By the holy father!
my heart's bursting with joy!" and down he sank into an easy chair.
"A'n't I almost beside myself?" inquired he, after a short pause.
"Ellen thinks so, I dare say," replied I, looking at my sister, who
stood in the corner of the room, thinking O'Brien was really out of his
senses, and still red with confusion.
O'Brien, who then called to mind what a slip of decorum he had been
guilty of, immediately rose, and resuming his usual unsophisticated
politeness, as he walked up to my sister, took her hand, and said,
"Excuse me, my dear Miss Ellen; I must apologize for my rudeness; but my
delight was so great, and my gratitude to your brother so intense, that
I am afraid that in my warmth I allowed the expression of my feelings to
extend to one so dear to him, and so like him in person and in mind.
Will you only consider that you received the overflowings of a grateful
heart towards your brother, and for his sake pardon my indiscretion?"
Ellen smiled, and held out her hand to O'Brien, who led her to the sofa,
where we all three sat down: and he then commenced a more intelligible
narrative of what had passed. He had called on the day appointed, and
sent up his card. The First Lord could not see him, but referred him to
the private secretary, who presented him with his commission to the
_Rattlesnake_, eighteen-gun brig. The secretary smiled most graciously,
and told O'Brien in confidence that he would proceed to the West India
station as soon as his vessel was manned and ready for sea. He inquired
of O'Brien whom he wished as his first lieutenant. O'Brien replied that
he wished for me; but as, in all probability, I should not be of
sufficient standing to be first lieutenant, that the Admiralty might
appoint any other to the duty, provided I joined the ship. The secretary
made a minute of O'Brien's wish, and requested him, if he had a vacancy
to spare as midshipman, to allow him to send one on board; to which
O'Brien willingly acceded, shook hands with him, and O'Brien quitted the
Admiralty to hasten down to us with the pleasing intelligence.
"And now," said O'Brien, "I have made up my mind how to proceed. I shall
first run down to Plymouth and hoist my pennant; then I shall ask for a
fortnight's leave, and go to Ireland to see how they get on, and what
Father M'Grath may be about. So, Peter, let's pass this evening as
happily as we can; for though you and I shall soon meet again, yet it
may be years, or perhaps never, that we three shall sit down on the same
sofa as we do now."
Ellen, who was still nervous, from the late death of my mother, looked
down, and I perceived the tears start in her eyes at the remark of
O'Brien, that perhaps we should never meet again. And I did pass a happy
evening. I had a dear sister on one side of me, and a sincere friend on
the other. How few situations more enviable!
O'Brien left us early the next morning; and at breakfast-time a letter
was handed to my father. It was from my uncle, coldly communicating to
him that Lord Privilege had died the night before, very suddenly, and
informing him that the burial would take place on that day week, and
that the will would be opened immediately after the funeral. My father
handed the letter over to me without saying a word, and sipped his tea
with his tea-spoon. I cannot say that I felt very much on the occasion;
but I did feel, because he had been kind to me at one time: as for my
father's feelings, I could not--or rather I should say, I did not wish
to analyze them. As soon as he had finished his cup of tea, he left the
breakfast-table, and went into his study. I then communicated the
intelligence to my sister Ellen.
"My God!" said she, after a pause, putting her hand up to her eyes;
"what a strange unnatural state of society must we have arrived at, when
my father can thus receive the intelligence of a parent's death! Is it
"It is, my dearest girl," replied I; "but every feeling has been
sacrificed to worldly considerations and an empty name. The younger sons
have been neglected, if not deserted. Virtue, talent, everything set at
naught--intrinsic value despised--and the only claim to consideration
admitted, that of being the heir entail. When all the ties of nature are
cast loose by the parents, can you be surprised if the children are no
longer bound by them? Most truly do you observe, that it is a detestable
state of society."
"I did not say detestable, brother; I said strange and unnatural."
"Had you said what I said, Ellen, you would not have been wrong. I would
not for the title and wealth which it brings, be the heartless,
isolated, I may say neglected being that my grandfather was; were it
offered now, I would not barter for it Ellen's love."
Ellen threw herself in my arms; we then walked into the garden, where we
had a long conversation relative to our future wishes, hopes, and
Pompous obsequies--The reading of the will, not exactly after Wilkie--I
am left a legacy--What becomes of it--My father, very warm, writes a
sermon to cool himself--I join O'Brien's brig, and fall in with
On that day week I accompanied my father to Eagle Park, to assist at the
burial of Lord Privilege. We were ushered into the room where the body
had laid in state for three days. The black hangings, the lofty plumes,
the rich ornaments on the coffin, and the number of wax candles with
which the room was lighted, produced a solemn and grand effect. I could
not help, as I leaned against the balustrade before the coffin and
thought of its contents, calling to mind when my poor grandfather's
feelings seemed, as it were, inclined to thaw in my favour, when he
called me "his child," and, in all probability, had not my uncle had a
son, would have died in my arms, fond and attached to me for my own
sake, independently of worldly considerations. I felt that had I known
him longer, I could have loved him, and that he would have loved me; and
I thought to myself, how little all these empty honours, after his
decease, could compensate for the loss of those reciprocal feelings,
which would have so added to his happiness during his existence. But he
had lived for pomp and vanity; and pomp and vanity attended him to his
grave. I thought of my sister Ellen, and of O'Brien, and walked away
with the conviction that Peter Simple might have been an object of envy
to the late Right Honourable Lord Viscount Privilege, Baron Corston,
Lord Lieutenant of the county, and one of His Majesty's Most Honourable
When the funeral, which was very tedious and very splendid, was over, we
all returned in the carriages to Eagle Park, when my uncle, who had of
course assumed the title, and who had attended as chief mourner, was in
waiting to receive us. We were shown into the library, and in the chair
so lately and constantly occupied by my grandfather, sat the new lord.
Near to him were the lawyers, with parchments lying before them. As we
severally entered, he waved his hand to unoccupied chairs, intimating to
us to sit down; but no words were exchanged, except an occasional
whisper between him and the lawyers. When all the branches of the family
were present, down to the fourth and fifth cousins, the lawyer on the
right of my uncle put on his spectacles, and unrolling the parchment
commenced reading the will. I paid attention to it at first; but the
legal technicalities puzzled me, and I was soon thinking of other
matters, until after half an hour's reading, I was startled at the sound
of my own name. It was a bequest by codicil to me, of the sum of ten
thousand pounds. My father who sat by me, gave me a slight push, to
attract my attention; and I perceived that his face was not quite so
mournful as before. I was rejoicing at this unexpected intelligence. I
called to mind what my father had said to me when we were returning from
Eagle Park, "that my grandfather's attentions to me were as good as ten
thousand pounds in his will," and was reflecting how strange it was that
he had hit upon the exact sum. I also thought of what my father had said
of his own affairs, and his not having saved anything for his children,
and congratulated myself that I should now be able to support my dear
sister Ellen, in case of any accident happening to my father, when I was
roused by another mention of my name. It was a codicil dated about a
week back, in which my grandfather, not pleased at my conduct, revoked
the former codicil, and left me nothing. I knew where the blow came
from, and I looked my uncle in the face; a gleam of malignant pleasure
was in his eyes, which had been fixed on me, waiting to receive my
glance. I returned it with a smile expressive of scorn and contempt, and
then looked at my father, who appeared to be in a state of misery. His
head had fallen upon his breast, and his hands were clasped. Although I
was shocked at the blow, for I knew how much the money was required, I
felt too proud to show it; indeed, I felt that I would not for worlds
have exchanged situations with my uncle, much less feelings; for when
those who remain meet to ascertain the disposition made, by one who is
summoned away to the tribunal of his Maker, of those worldly and
perishable things which he must leave behind him, feelings of rancour
and ill-will might, for the time, be permitted to subside, and the
memory of a "departed brother" be productive of charity and good-will.
After a little reflection, I felt that I could forgive my uncle.
Not so my father; the codicil which deprived me of my inheritance, was
the last of the will, and the lawyer rolled up the parchment and took
off his spectacles. Everybody rose; my father seized his hat, and
telling me in a harsh voice to follow him, tore off the crape weepers,
and then threw them on the floor as he walked away. I also took off
mine, and laid them on the table, and followed him. My father called his
carriage, waited in the hall till it was driven up, and jumped into it.
I followed him; he drew up the blind, and desired them to drive home.
"Not a sixpence! By the God of heaven, not a sixpence! My name not even
mentioned, except for a paltry mourning ring! And yours--pray sir, what
have you been about, after having such a sum left you, to forfeit your
grandfather's good opinion? Heh! sir--tell me directly," continued he,
turning round to me in a rage.
"Nothing, my dear father, that I'm aware of. My uncle is evidently my
"And why should he be particularly your enemy? Peter, there must be some
reason for his having induced your grandfather to alter his bequest in
your favour. I insist upon it, sir, that you tell me immediately."
"My dear father, when you are more calm, I will talk this matter over
with you. I hope I shall not be considered wanting in respect, when I
say, that as a clergyman of the church of England--"
"D--n the church of England, and those that put me into it!" replied my
father, maddened with rage.
I was shocked, and held my tongue. My father appeared also to be
confused at his hasty expressions. He sank back in his carriage, and
preserved a gloomy silence until we arrived at our own door. As soon as
we entered, my father hastened to his own room, and I went up to my
sister Ellen, who was in her bed room. I revealed to her all that had
passed, and advised with her on the propriety of my communicating to my
father the reasons which had occasioned my uncle's extreme aversion
towards me. After much argument, she agreed with me, that the disclosure
had now become necessary.
After the dinner-cloth had been removed, I then communicated to my
father the circumstances which had come to our knowledge relative to my
uncle's establishment in Ireland. He heard me very attentively, took out
tablets, and made notes.
"Well, Peter," said he, after a few minutes' silence, when I had
finished, "I see clearly through this whole business. I have no doubt
but that a child has been substituted to defraud you and me of our just
inheritance of the title and estates; but I will now set to work and try
if I cannot find out the secret; and, with the help of Captain O'Brien
and Father M'Grath, I think it is not at all impossible."
"O'Brien will do all that he can, sir," replied I; "and I expect soon to
hear from him. He must have now been a week in Ireland."
"I shall go there myself," replied my father; "and there are no means
that I will not resort to, to discover this infamous plot. No,"
exclaimed he, striking his fist on the table, so as to shiver two of the
wine-glasses into fragments--"no means but I will resort to."
"That is," replied I, "my dear father, no means which may be
legitimately employed by one of your profession."
"I tell you, no means that can be used by _man_ to recover his defrauded
rights! Tell me not of legitimate means, when I am to lose a title and
property by a spurious and illegitimate substitution! By the God of
heaven, I will meet them with fraud for fraud, with false swearing for
false swearing, and with blood for blood, if it should be necessary! My
brother has dissolved all ties, and I will have my right, even if I
demand it with a pistol at his ear."
"For Heaven's sake, my dear father, do not be so violent--recollect your
"I do," replied he, bitterly; "and how I was forced into it against my
will. I recollect my father's words, the solemn coolness with which he
told me, 'I had my choice of the church, or--to starve.'--But I have my
sermon to prepare for to-morrow, and I can sit here no longer. Tell
Ellen to send me in some tea."
I did not think my father was in a very fit state of mind to write a
sermon, but I held my tongue. My sister joined me, and we saw no more of
him till breakfast the next day. Before we met, I received a letter from
"MY DEAR PETER,--I ran down to Plymouth, hoisted my pennant, drew my
jollies from the dockyard, and set my first lieutenant to work getting
in the ballast and water-tanks. I then set off for Ireland, and was
very well received as Captain O'Brien by my family, who were all
"Now that my two sisters are so well married off, my father and mother
are very comfortable, but rather lonely; for I believe I told you long
before, that it had pleased Heaven to take all the rest of my brothers
and sisters, except the two now married, and one who bore up for a
nunnery, dedicating her service to God, after she was scarred with the
small-pox, and no man would look at her. Ever since the family have
been grown up, my father and mother have been lamenting and sorrowing
that none of them would go off; and now that they're all gone off one
way or another, they cry all day because they are left all alone with
no one to keep company with them, except Father M'Grath and the pigs.
We never are to be contented in this world, that's sartain; and now
that they are comfortable in every respect, they find that they are
very uncomfortable, and having obtained all their wishes, they wish
everything back again; but as old Maddocks used to say, 'A good growl
is better than a bad dinner' with some people; and the greatest
pleasure that they now have is to grumble; and if that makes them
happy, they must be happy all day long--for the devil a bit do they
leave off from morning till night.
"The first thing that I did was to send for Father M'Grath, who had
been more away from home than usual--I presume, not finding things
quite so comfortable as they used to be. He told me that he had met
with Father O'Toole, and had a bit of a dialogue with him, which had
ended in a bit of a row, and that he had cudgelled Father O'Toole
well, and tore his gown off his back, and then tore it into shivers,--
that Father O'Toole had referred the case to the bishop, and that was
how the matter stood just then. 'But,' says he, 'the spalpeen has left
this part of the country, and, what is more, has taken Ella and her
mother with him; and what is still worse, no one could find out where
they were gone; but it was believed that they had all been sent over
the water.' So you see, Peter, that this is a bad job in one point,
which is, that we have no chance of getting the truth out of the old
woman; for now that we have war with France, who is to follow them? On
the other hand, it is good news; for it prevents me from decoying that
poor young girl, and making her believe what will never come to pass;
and I am not a little glad on that score, for Father M'Grath was told
by those who were about her, that she did nothing but weep and moan
for two days before she went away, scolded as she was by her mother,
and threatened by that blackguard O'Toole. It appears to me, that all
our hopes now are in finding out the soldier, and his wife the
wet-nurse, who were sent to India--no doubt with the hope that the
climate and the fevers may carry them off. That uncle of yours is a
great blackguard, every bit of him. I shall leave here in three days,
and you must join me at Plymouth. Make my compliments to your father,
and my regards to your sister, whom may all the saints preserve! God
bless her, for ever and ever. Amen.
I put this letter into my father's hands when he came out of his room.
"This is a deep-laid plot," said he, "and I think we must immediately do
as O'Brien states--look after the nurse who was sent to India. Do you
know the regiment to which her husband belongs?"
"Yes, sir," replied I; "it is the 33rd, and she sailed for India about
three months back."
"The name, you say, I think, is O'Sullivan," said he, pulling out his
tablets. "Well, I will write immediately to Captain Fielding, and beg
him to make the minutest inquiries. I will also write to your sister
Lucy, for women are much keener than men in affairs of this sort. If the
regiment is ordered to Ceylon, all the better: if not, he must obtain
furlough to prosecute his inquiries. When that is done, I will go myself
to Ireland, and try if we cannot trace the other parties."
My father then left the room, and I retired with Ellen to make
preparations for joining my ship at Plymouth. A letter announcing my
appointment had come down, and I had written to request my commission to
be forwarded to the clerk of the cheque at Plymouth, that I might save a
useless journey to London. On the following day I parted with my father
and my dear sister, and, without any adventure, arrived at Plymouth
Dock, where I met with O'Brien. The same day I reported myself to the
admiral, and joined my brig, which was lying alongside the hulk with her
topmasts pointed through. Returning from the brig, as I was walking up
Fore-street, I observed a fine stout sailor, whose back was turned to
me, reading the handbill which had been posted up everywhere announcing
that the _Rattlesnake_, Captain O'Brien (about to proceed to the West
India station, where _doubloons_ were so plentiful that dollars were
only used for ballast), was in want of a _few_ stout hands. It might
have been said, of a great many: for we had not entered six men, and
were doing all the work with the marines and riggers of the dockyard;
but it is not the custom to show your poverty in this world either with
regard to men or money. I stopped, and overheard him say, "Ay, as for
the doubloons, that cock won't fight. I've served long enough in the
West Indies not to be humbugged; but I wonder whether Captain O'Brien
was the second lieutenant of the _Sanglier_. If so, I shouldn't mind
trying a cruise with him." I thought that I recollected the voice, and
touching him on the shoulder, he turned round, and it proved to be
Swinburne. "What, Swinburne!" said I, shaking him by the hand, for I was
delighted to see him, "is it you?"
"Why, Mr Simple! Well, then, I expect that I'm right, and that Mr
O'Brien is made, and commands this craft. When you meet the pilot-fish,
the shark arn't far off, you know."
"You're very right, Swinburne," said I, "in all except calling Captain
O'Brien a shark. He's no shark."
"No, that he arn't, except in one way; that is, that I expect he'll soon
show his teeth to the Frenchmen. But I beg your pardon, sir;" and
Swinburne took off his hat.
"Oh! I understand; you did not perceive before that I had shipped the
swab. Yes, I'm lieutenant of the _Rattlesnake_, Swinburne, and hope
you'll join us."
"There's my hand upon it, Mr Simple," said he, smacking his great fist
into mine so as to make it tingle. "I'm content if I know that the
captain's a good officer; but when there's two, I think myself lucky.
I'll just take a boat, and put my name on the books, and then I'll be on
shore again to spend the rest of my money, and try if I can't pick up a
few hands as volunteers, for I know where they all be stowed away. I was
looking at the craft this morning, and rather took a fancy to her. She
has a d--d pretty run; but I hope Captain O'Brien will take off her
fiddle-head, and get one carved: I never knew a vessel do much with a
"I rather think that Captain O'Brien has already applied to the
Commissioner on the subject," replied I; "at all events, it won't be
very difficult to make the alteration ourselves."
"To be sure not," replied Swinburne; "a coil of four-inch will make the
body of the snake; I can carve out the head; and as for a _rattle_, I be
blessed if I don't rob one of those beggars of watchmen this very night.
So good-bye, Mr Simple, till we meet again."
Swinburne kept his word; he joined the ship that afternoon, and the next
day came off with six good hands, who had been induced from his
representations to join the brig. "Tell Captain O'Brien," said he to me,
"not to be in too great a hurry to man his ship. I know where there are
plenty to be had; but I'll try fair means first." This he did, and every
day, almost, he brought off a man, and all he did bring off were good
able seamen. Others volunteered, and we were now more than half-manned,
and ready for sea. The admiral then gave us permission to send
pressgangs on shore.
"Mr Simple," said Swinburne, "I've tried all I can to persuade a lot of
fine chaps to enter, but they won't. Now I'm resolved that my brig shall
be well manned; and if they don't know what's good for them, I do, and
I'm sure that they will thank me for it afterwards; so I'm determined to
take every mother's son of them."
The same night we mustered all Swinburne's men and went on shore to a
crimp's house which they knew, surrounded it with our marines in blue
jackets, and took out of it twenty-three fine able seamen, which nearly
filled up our complement. The remainder we obtained by a draft from the
admiral's ship; and I do not believe that there was a vessel that left
Plymouth harbour and anchored in the Sound, better manned than the
_Rattlesnake_. So much for good character, which is never lost upon
seamen O'Brien was universally liked by those who had sailed with him,
and Swinburne, who knew him well persuaded many, and forced the others,
to enter with him, whether they liked it or not. This they in the event
did, and, with the exception of those drafted from the flag-ship, we had
no desertions. Indeed, none deserted whom we would have wished to
retain, and their vacancies were soon filled up with better men.
We sail for the West Indies--A volunteer for the ship refused and set on
shore again, for reasons which the chapter will satisfactorily explain
to the reader.
We were very glad when the master-attendant came on board to take us
into the Sound; and still more glad to perceive that the brig, which had
just been launched before O'Brien was appointed to her, appeared to sail
very fast as she ran out. So it proved after we went to sea; she sailed
wonderfully well, beating every vessel that she met, and overhauling in
a very short time everything that we chased; turning to windward like
magic, and tacking in a moment. Three days after we anchored in the
Sound the ship's company were paid, and our sailing orders came down to
proceed with despatches, by next evening's post, to the island of
Jamaica. We started with a fair wind, and were soon clear of the
channel. Our whole time was now occupied in training our new ship's
company at the guns, and learning them _to pull together;_ and by the
time that we had run down the trades, we were in a very fair state of
discipline. The first lieutenant was rather an odd character; his
brother was a sporting man of large property, and he had contracted,
from his example, a great partiality for such pursuits. He knew the
winning horses of the Derby and the Oaks for twenty years back, was an
adept at all athletic exercises, a capital shot, and had his pointer on
board. In other respects, he was a great dandy in his person, always
wore gloves, even on service, very gentlemanlike and handsome, and not a
very bad sailor; that is, he knew enough to carry on his duty very
creditably, and evidently, now that he was the first lieutenant, and
obliged to work, learnt more of his duty every day. I never met a more
pleasant messmate or a more honourable young man. A brig is only allowed
two lieutenants. The master was a rough, kind-hearted, intelligent young
man, always in good humour. The surgeon and purser completed our mess;
they were men of no character at all, except, perhaps, that the surgeon
was too much of a courtier, and the purser too much of a skin-flint; but
pursers are, generally speaking, more sinned against than sinning.
But I have been led away, while talking of the brig and the officers,
and had almost forgotten to narrate a circumstance which occurred two
days before we sailed. I was with O'Brien in the cabin, when Mr
Osbaldistone, the first lieutenant, came in, and reported that a boy had
come on board to volunteer for the ship.
"What sort of a lad is he?" said O'Brien.
"A very nice lad--very slight, sir," replied the first lieutenant. "We
have two vacancies."
"Well, see what you make of him; and if you think he will do, you may
put him on the books."
"I have tried him, sir. He says that he has been a short time at sea. I
made him mount the main-rigging, but he did not much like it."
"Well, do as you please, Osbaldistone," replied O'Brien; and the first
lieutenant quitted the cabin.
In about a quarter of an hour he returned. "If you please, sir," said
he, laughing, "I sent the boy down to the surgeon to be examined, and he
refused to strip. The surgeon says that he thinks she is a woman. I have
had her up on the quarter-deck, and she refuses to answer any questions,
and requires to speak with you."
"With me!" said O'Brien, with surprise. "Oh! one of the men's wives, I
suppose, trying to steal a march upon us. Well, send her down here,
Osbaldistone, and I'll prove to her the moral impossibility of her
sailing in his Majesty's brig _Rattlesnake_."
In a few minutes the first lieutenant sent her down to the cabin door,
and I was about to retire as she entered; but O'Brien stopped me. "Stay,
Peter: my reputation will be at stake if I'm left all alone," said he,
The sentry opened the door, and whether boy or girl, a more interesting
face I never beheld; the hair was cut close, and I could not tell
whether the surgeon's suspicions were correct.
"You wish to speak--holy St Patrick!" cried O'Brien, looking earnestly
at her features; and O'Brien covered his face and bent over the table,
exclaiming, "My God, my God!"
In the meantime the colour of the young person fled from her
countenance, and then rushed into it again, alternately leaving it pale
and suffused with blushes. I perceived a trembling over the frame, the
knees shook and knocked together, and had I not hastened, she--for a
female it was--would have fallen on the deck. I perceived that she had
fainted; I therefore laid her down on the deck, and hastened to obtain
some water. O'Brien ran up and went to her.
"My poor, poor girl!" said he, sorrowfully. "Oh! Peter, this is all your
"All my fault! how could she have come here?"
"By all the saints who pray for us--dearly as I prize them, I would give
up my ship and my commission, that this could be undone."
As O'Brien hung over her, the tears from his eyes fell upon her face,
while I bathed it with the water I had brought from the dressing-room. I
knew who it must be, although I had never seen her. It was the girl to
whom O'Brien had professed love, to worm out the secret of the exchange
of my uncle's child; and as I beheld the scene I could not help saying
to myself, "Who now will assert that evil may be done that good may
come?" The poor girl showed symptoms of recovering, and O'Brien waved
his hand to me, saying, "Leave us, Peter, and see that no one comes in."
I remained nearly an hour at the cabin-door, by the sentry, and
prevented many from entering, when O'Brien opened the door, and
requested me to order his gig to be manned and then to come in. The poor
girl had evidently been weeping bitterly, and O'Brien was much affected.
"All is arranged, Peter; you must go on shore with her, and not leave
her till you see her safe off by the night coach. Do me that favour,
Peter--you ought indeed," continued he, in a low voice, "for you have
been partly the occasion of this."
I shook O'Brien's hand and made no answer--the boat was reported ready,
and the girl followed me with a firm step. I pulled on shore, saw her
safe in the coach without asking her any question, and then returned on
"Come on board, sir," said I, entering the cabin with my hat in my hand,
and reporting myself according to the regulations of the service.
"Thank you," replied O'Brien: "shut the door, Peter. Tell me, how did
she behave? What did she say?"
"She never spoke, and I never asked her a question. She seemed to be
willing to do as you had arranged."
"Sit down, Peter. I never felt more unhappy, or more disgusted with
myself in all my life. I feel as if I never could be happy again. A
sailor's life mixes him up with the worst part of the female sex, and we
do not know the real value of the better. I little thought when I was
talking nonsense to that poor girl, that I was breaking one of the
kindest hearts in the world, and sacrificing the happiness of one who
would lay down her existence for me, Peter. Since you have been gone,
it's twenty times that I've looked in the glass just to see whether I
don't look like a villain. But, by the blood of St Patrick! I thought
woman's _love_ was just like our own, and that a three months' cruise
would set all to rights again."
"I thought she had gone over to France."
"So did I; but now she has told me all about it. Father M'Dermot and
her mother brought her down to the coast near here to embark in a
smuggling boat for Dieppe. When the boat pulled in-shore in the night to
take them in, the mother and the rascally priest got in, but she felt as
if it was leaving the whole world to leave the country I was in, and she
held back. The officers came down, one or two pistols were fired, and
the boat shoved off without her, and she, with their luggage, was left
on the beach. She went back to the next town with the officers, where
she told the truth of the story, and they let her go. In Father
M'Dermot's luggage she found letters, which she read, and found out that
she and her mother were to have been placed in a convent at Dieppe; and,
as the convent was named in the letters,--which she says are very
important, but I have not had courage to read them yet,--she went to
the people from whose house they had embarked, requesting them to
forward the luggage and a letter to her mother--sending everything but
the letters, which she reserved for me. She has since received a letter
from her mother, telling her that she is safe and well in the convent,
and begging her to come over to her as soon as possible. The mother took
the vows a week after she arrived there, so we know where to find her,
"And where is the poor girl going to stay now, O'Brien?"
"That's all the worst part of it. It appears that she hoped not to be
found out till after we had sailed, and then to have, as she said, poor
thing! to have laid at my feet and watched over me in the storms; but I
pointed out to her that it was not permitted, and that I would not be
allowed to marry her. O Peter! this is a very sad business," continued
O'Brien, passing his hand across his eyes.
"Well, but, O'Brien, what is to become of the poor girl?"
"She is going home to be with my father and mother, hoping one day that
I shall come back and marry her. I have written to Father M'Grath, to
see what he can do."
"Have you then not undeceived her?"
"Father M'Grath must do that, I could not. It would have been the death
of her. It would have stabbed her to the heart, and it's not for me to
give that blow. I'd sooner have died--sooner have married her, than have
done it, Peter. Perhaps when I'm far away she'll bear it better. Father
M'Grath will manage it."
"O'Brien, I don't like that Father M'Grath."
"Well, Peter, you may be right; I don't exactly like all he says myself;
but what is a man to do?--either he is a Catholic, and believes as a
Catholic, or he is not one. Will I abandon my religion, now that it is
persecuted? Never, Peter: I hope not, without I find a much better, at
all events. Still I do not like to feel that this advice of my confessor
is at variance with my own conscience. Father M'Grath is a worldly man;
but that only proves that he is wrong, not that our religion is--and I
don't mind speaking to you on this subject. No one knows that I'm a
Catholic except yourself: and at the Admiralty they never asked me to
take that oath which I never would have taken, although Father M'Grath
says I may take any oath I please with what he calls heretics, and he
will grant me absolution. Peter, my dear fellow, say no more about it."
I did not; but I may as well end the history of poor Ella Flanagan at
once, as she will not appear again. About three months afterwards, we
received a letter from Father M'Grath, stating that the girl had arrived
safe, and had been a great comfort to O'Brien's father and mother, who
wished her to remain with them altogether; that Father M'Grath, had told
her that when a man took his commission as captain it was all the same
as going into a monastery as a monk, for he never could marry. The poor
girl believed him, and thinking that O'Brien was lost to her for ever,
with the advice of Father M'Grath, had entered as a nun in one of the
religious houses in Ireland, that, as she said, she might pray for him
night and day.
Many years afterwards, we heard of her--she was well, and not unhappy;
but O'Brien never forgot his behaviour to this poor girl. It was a
source of continual regret; and I believe, until the last day of his
existence, his heart smote him for his inconsiderate conduct towards
her. But I must leave this distressing topic, and return to the
_Rattlesnake_, which had now arrived at the West Indies, and joined the
Admiral at Jamaica.
[Footnote 1: The worthy priest formerly called Father O'Toole.--ED.]
Description of the Coast of Martinique--Popped at for peeping--No
heroism in making oneself a target--Board a miniature Noah's Ark, under
Yankee colours--Capture a French slaver--Parrot soup in lieu of mock