Part 4 out of 10
"domestic circle," and I am assured that it does succeed extremely--
to the newly arrived guest, or uninitiated visitor, the affair is
perplexing, and leads occasionally to awkward results.
It so chanced, from my friend O'Flaherty's habitual position at the foot
of the table, and my post of honour near the head, that on the first day
of my appearing there, the distance between us, not only precluded all
possible intercourse, but any of those gentle hints as to habits and
customs, a new arrival looks for at the hands of his better informed
friend. The only mode of recognition, to prove that we belonged to each
other, being by that excellent and truly English custom of drinking wine
together, Tom seized the first idle moment from his avocation as carver
"Lorrequer, a glass of wine with you."
Having, of course, acceded, he again asked,
"What wine do you drink?" intending thereby, as I afterwards learned, to
send me from his end of the table, what wine I selected. Not conceiving
the object of the inquiry, and having hitherto without hesitation helped
myself from the decanter, which bore some faint resemblance to sherry,
I immediately turned for correct information to the bottle itself, upon
whose slender neck was ticketed the usual slip of paper. My endeavours
to decypher the writing occupied time sufficient again to make O'Flaherty
"Well, Harry, I'm waiting for you. Will you have port?"
"No, I thank you," I replied, having by this revealed the inscription.
"No, I thank you; I'll just stick to my old friend here, Bob M'Grotty;"
for thus I rendered familiarly the name of Rt. M'Grotty on the decanter,
and which I in my ignorance believed to be the boarding-house soubriquet
for bad sherry. That Mr. M'Grotty himself little relished my familiarity
with either his name or property I had a very decisive proof, for turning
round upon his chair, and surveying my person from head to foot with a
look of fiery wrath, he thundered out in very broad Scotch,
"And by my saul, my freend, ye may just as weel finish it noo, for deil a
glass o' his ain wine did Bob M'Grotty, as ye ca' him, swallow this day."
The convulsion of laughter into which my blunder and the Scotchman's
passion threw the whole board, lasted till the cloth was withdrawn, and
the ladies had retired to the drawing-room, the only individual at table
not relishing the mistake being the injured proprietor of the bottle, who
was too proud to accept reparation from my friend's decanter, and would
scarcely condescend to open his lips during the evening; notwithstanding
which display of honest indignation, we contrived to become exceedingly
merry and jocose, most of the party communicating little episodes of
their life, in which, it is true, they frequently figured in situations
that nothing but their native and natural candour would venture to avow.
One story I was considerably amused at; it was told by the counsellor,
Mr. Daly, in illustration of the difficulty of rising at the bar, and
which, as showing his own mode of obviating the delay that young
professional men submit to from hard necessity, as well as in evidence of
his strictly legal turn, I shall certainly recount, one of these days,
for the edification of the junior bar.
On the morning after my visit to the boarding-house, I received a few
hurried lines from Curzon, informing me that no time was to be lost in
joining the regiment--that a grand fancy ball was about to be given by
the officers of the Dwarf frigate, then stationed off Dunmore; who, when
inviting the ___, specially put in a demand for my well-known services,
to make it to go off, and concluding with an extract from the Kilkenny
Moderator, which ran thus--
"An intimation has just reached us, from a quarter on which we can
place the fullest reliance, that the celebrated amateur performer,
Mr. Lorrequer, may shortly be expected amongst us; from the many
accounts we have received of this highly-gifted gentleman's powers,
we anticipate a great treat to the lovers of the drama," &c. &c.
"So you see, my dear Hal," continued Curzon, "thy vocation calls
thee; therefore come, and come quickly--provide thyself with a black
satin costume, slashed with light blue--point lace collar and
ruffles--a Spanish hat looped in front--and, if possible, a long
rapier, with a flap hilt.--Carden is not here; so you may show your
face under any colour with perfect impunity.--Yours from the side
This clever epistle sufficed to show me that the gallant __th had gone
clean theatrical mad; and although from my "last appearance on any
stage," it might be supposed I should feel no peculiar desire to repeat
the experiment, yet the opportunity of joining during Col. Carden's
absence, was too tempting to resist, and I at once made up my mind to
set out, and, without a moment's delay, hurried across the street to
the coach office, to book myself an inside in the mail of that night;
fortunately no difficulty existed in my securing the seat, for the way-
bill was a perfect blank, and I found myself the only person who had,
as yet, announced himself a passenger. On returning to my hotel, I found
O'Flaherty waiting for me; he was greatly distressed on hearing my
determination to leave town--explained how he had been catering for my
amusement for the week to come--that a picnic to the Dargle was arranged
in a committee of the whole house, and a boating party, with a dinner at
the Pigeon-house, was then under consideration; resisting, however, such
extreme temptations, I mentioned the necessity of my at once proceeding
to headquarters, and all other reasons for my precipitancy failing,
concluded with that really knock-down argument, "I have taken my place;"
this, I need scarcely add, finished the matter--at least I have never
known it fail in such cases. Tell your friends that your wife is hourly
expecting to be confined; your favourite child is in the measles--you
best friend waiting your aid in an awkward scrape--your one vote only
wanting to turn the scale in an election. Tell them, I say, each or all
of these, or a hundred more like them, and to any one you so speak, the
answer is--"Pooh, pooh, my dear fellow, never fear--don't fuss yourself
--take it easy--to-morrow will do just as well." If, on the other hand,
however, you reject such flimsy excuses, and simply say, "I'm booked in
the mail," the opposition at once falls to the ground, and your quondam
antagonist, who was ready to quarrel with you, is at once prepared to
assist in packing your portmanteau.
Having soon satisfied my friend Tom that resistance was in vain, I
promised to eat an early dinner with him at Morrisson's, and spent the
better part of the morning in putting down a few notes of my Confessions,
as well as the particulars of Mr. Daly's story, which, I believe, I half
or wholly promised my readers at the conclusion of my last chapter; but
which I must defer to a more suitable opportunity, when mentioning the
next occasion of my meeting him on the southern circuit.
My dispositions were speedily made. I was fortunate in securing the
exact dress my friend's letter alluded to among the stray costumes of
Fishamble-street; and rich in the possession of the only "properties" it
has been my lot to acquire, I despatched my treasure to the coach office,
and hastened to Morrisson's, it being by this time nearly five o'clock.
There, true to time, I found O'Flaherty deep in the perusal of the bill,
along which figured the novel expedients for dining, I had been in the
habit of reading in every Dublin hotel since my boyhood. "Mock turtle,
mutton, gravy, roast beef and potatoes--shoulder of mutton and potatoes!
--ducks and peas, potatoes!! ham and chicken, cutlet steak and
potatoes!!! apple tart and cheese:" with a slight cadenza of a sigh over
the distant glories of Very, or still better the "Freres," we sat down to
a very patriarchal repast, and what may be always had par excellence in
Dublin, a bottle of Sneyd's claret.
Poor Tom's spirits were rather below their usual pitch; and although he
made many efforts to rally and appear gay, he could not accomplish it.
However, we chatted away over old times and old friends, and forgetting
all else but the topics we talked of, the time-piece over the chimney
first apprised me that two whole hours had gone by, and that it was now
seven o'clock, the very hour the coach was to start. I started up at
once, and notwithstanding all Tom's representations of the impossibility
of my being in time, had despatched waiters in different directions for a
jarvey, more than ever determined upon going; so often is it that when
real reasons for our conduct are wanting, any casual or chance opposition
confirms us in an intention which before was but uncertain. Seeing me so
resolved, Tom, at length, gave way, and advised my pursuing the mail,
which must be now gone at least ten minutes, and which, with smart
driving, I should probably overtake before getting free of the city, as
they have usually many delays in so doing. I at once ordered out the
"yellow post-chaise," and before many minutes had elapsed, what, with
imprecation and bribery, I started in pursuit of his Majesty's Cork and
Kilkenny mail coach, then patiently waiting in the court-yard of the Post
"Which way now, your honor?" said a shrill voice from the dark--for such
the night had already become, and threatened with a few heavy drops of
straight rain, the fall of a tremendous shower.
"The Naas road," said I; "and, harkye, my fine fellow, if you overtake
the coach in half an hour, I'll double your fare."
"Be gorra, I'll do my endayvour," said the youth; at the same time
instant dashing in both spurs, we rattled down Nassau-street at a very
respectable pace for harriers. Street after street we passed, and at
last I perceived we had got clear of the city, and were leaving the long
line of lamp-lights behind us. The night was now pitch dark. I could
not see any thing whatever. The quick clattering of the wheels, the
sharp crack of the postillion's whip, or the still sharper tone of his
"gee hup," showed me we were going at a tremendous pace, had I not even
had the experience afforded by the frequent visits my head paid to the
roof of the chaise, so often as we bounded over a stone, or splashed
through a hollow. Dark and gloomy as it was, I constantly let down the
window, and with half my body protruded, endeavores to catch a glimpse of
the "Chase;" but nothing could I see. The rain now fell in actual
torrents; and a more miserable night it is impossible to conceive.
After about an hour so spent, he at last came to a check, so sudden and
unexpected on my part, that I was nearly precipitated, harlequin fashion,
through the front window. Perceiving that we no longer moved, and
suspecting that some part of our tackle had given way, I let down the
sash, and cried out--"Well now, my lad, any thing wrong?" My questions
was, however, unheard; and although, amid the steam arising from the wet
and smoking horses, I could perceive several figures indistinctly moving
about, I could not distinguish what they were doing, nor what they said.
A laugh I certainly did hear, and heartily cursed the unfeeling wretch,
as I supposed him to be, who was enjoying himself at my disappointment.
I again endeavoured to find out what had happened, and called out still
louder than before.
"We are at Ra'coole, your honor," said the boy, approaching the door of
the chaise, "and she's only beat us by hafe a mile."
"Who the devil is she?" said I.
"The mail, your honor, is always a female in Ireland."
"Then why do you stop now? You're not going to feed I suppose?"
"Of course not, your honor, it's little feeding troubles these bastes,
any how, but they tell me the road is so heavy we'll never take the
chaise over the next stage without leaders."
"Without leaders!" said I. "Pooh! my good fellow, no humbugging,
four horses for a light post-chaise and no luggage; come get up, and no
nonsense." At this moment a man approached the window with a lantern in
his hand, and so strongly represented the dreadful state of the roads
from the late rains--the length of the stage--the frequency of accidents
latterly from under-horsing, &c. &c. that I yielded, a reluctant assent,
and ordered out the leaders, comforting myself the while, that
considering the inside fare of the coach, I made such efforts to
overtake, was under a pound, and that time was no object to me, I
certainly was paying somewhat dearly for my character for resolution.
At last we got under way once more, and set off cheered by a tremendous
shout from at least a dozen persons, doubtless denizens of that
interesting locality, amid which I once again heard the laugh that had so
much annoyed me already. The rain was falling, if possible, more heavily
than before, and had evidently set in for the entire night. Throwing
myself back into a corner of the "leathern convenience," I gave myself up
to the full enjoyment of the Rouchefoucauld maxim, that there is always a
pleasure felt in the misfortunes of even our best friends, and certainly
experienced no small comfort in my distress, by contrasting my present
position with that of my two friends in the saddle, as they sweltered on
through mud and mire, rain and storm. On we went, splashing, bumping,
rocking, and jolting, till I began at last to have serious thoughts of
abdicating the seat and betaking myself to the bottom of the chaise, for
safety and protection. Mile after mile succeeded, and as after many a
short and fitful slumber, which my dreams gave an apparent length to,
I woke only to find myself still in pursuit--the time seemed so
enormously protracted that I began to fancy my whole life was to be
passed in the dark, in chase of the Kilkenny mail, as we read in the true
history of the flying Dutchman, who, for his sins of impatience--like
mine--spent centuries vainly endeavouring to double the Cape, or the
Indian mariner in Moore's beautiful ballad, of whom we are told as--
"Many a day to night gave way,
And many a morn succeeded,
Yet still his flight, by day and night,
That restless mariner speeded."
This might have been all very well in the tropics, with a smart craft and
doubtless plenty of sea store--but in a chaise, at night, and on the Naas
road, I humbly suggest I had all the worse of the parallel.
At last the altered sound of the wheels gave notice of our approach
to a town, and after about twenty minutes; rattling over the pavement
we entered what I supposed, correctly, to be Naas. Here I had long since
determined my pursuit should cease. I had done enough, and more than
enough, to vindicate my fame against any charge of irresolution as to
leaving Dublin, and was bethinking me of the various modes of prosecuting
my journey on the morrow, when we drew up suddenly at the door of the
Swan. The arrival of a chaise and four at a small country town inn,
suggests to the various employees therein, any thing rather than the
traveller in pursuit of the mail, and so the moment I arrived, I was
assailed with innumerable proffers of horses, supper, bed, &c. My
anxious query was thrice repeated in vain, "When did the coach pass?"
"The mail," replied the landlord at length. "Is it the down mail?"
Not understanding the technical, I answered, "Of course not the Down--the
Kilkenny and Cork mail."
"From Dublin, sir?"
"Yes, from Dublin."
"Not arrived yet, sir, nor will it for three quarters of an hour; they
never leave Dublin till a quarter past seven; that is, in fact, half
past, and their time here is twenty minutes to eleven."
"Why, you stupid son of a boot-top, we have been posting on all night
like the devil, and all this time the coach has been ten miles behind
"Well, we've cotch them any how," said the urchin, as he disengaged
himself from his wet saddle, and stood upon the ground; "and it is not my
fault that the coach is not before us."
With a satisfactory anathema upon all innkeepers, waiters, hostlers, and
post-boys, with a codicil including coach-proprietors, I followed the
smirking landlord into a well-lighted room, with a blazing fire, when
having ordered supper, I soon regained my equanimity.
My rasher and poached eggs, all Naas could afford me, were speedily
despatched, and as my last glass, from my one pint of sherry, was poured
out, the long expected coach drew up. A minute after the coachman
entered to take his dram, followed by the guard; a more lamentable
spectacle of condensed moisture cannot be conceived; the rain fell from
the entire circumference of his broad-brimmed hat, like the ever-flowing
drop from the edge of an antique fountain; his drab-coat had become a
deep orange hue, while his huge figure loomed still larger, as he stood
amid a nebula of damp, that would have made an atmosphere for the
"Going on to-night, sir?" said he, addressing me; "severe weather, and no
chance of its clearing, but of course you're inside."
"Why, there is very little doubt of that," said I. "Are you nearly full
"Only one, sir; but he seems a real queer chap; made fifty inquiries at
the office if he could not have the whole inside to himself, and when he
heard that one place had been taken--your's, I believe, sir--he seemed
like a scalded bear."
"You don't know his name then?"
"No, sir, he never gave a name at the office, and his only luggage is two
brown paper parcels, without any ticket, and he has them inside; indeed
he never lets them from him even for a second."
Here the guard's horn, announcing all ready, interrupted our colloquy,
and prevented my learning any thing further of my fellow-traveller, whom,
however, I at once set down in my own mind for some confounded old churl
that made himself comfortable every where, without ever thinking of any
one else's convenience.
As I passed from the inn door to the coach, I once more congratulated
myself that I was about to be housed from the terrific storm of wind and
rain that railed about.
"Here's the step, sir," said the guard, "get in, sir, two minutes late
"I beg your pardon, sir," said I, as I half fell over the legs of my
unseen companion. "May I request leave to pass you?" While he made way
for me for this purpose, I perceived that he stooped down towards the
guard, and said something, who from his answer had evidently been
questioned as to who I was. "And how did he get here, if he took his
place in Dublin?" asked the unknown.
"Came half an hour since, sir, in a chaise and four," said the guard, as
he banged the door behind him, and closed the interview.
Whatever might have been the reasons for my fellow-traveller's anxiety
about my name and occupation, I knew not, yet could not help feeling
gratified at thinking that as I had not given my name at the coach
office, I was a great a puzzle to him as he to me.
"A severe night, sir," said I, endeavouring to break ground in
"Mighty severe," briefly and half crustily replied the unknown, with a
richness of brogue, that might have stood for a certificate of baptism
in Cork or its vicinity.
"And a bad road too, sir," said I, remembering my lately accomplished
"That's the reason I always go armed," said the unknown, clinking at the
same moment something like the barrel of a pistol.
Wondering somewhat at his readiness to mistake my meaning, I felt
disposed to drop any further effort to draw him out, and was about to
address myself to sleep, as comfortably as I could.
"I'll jist trouble ye to lean aff that little parcel there, sir," said
he, as he displaced from its position beneath my elbow, one of the paper
packages the guard had already alluded to.
In complying with this rather gruff demand, one of my pocket pistols,
which I carried in my breast pocket, fell out upon his knee, upon which
he immediately started, and asked hurriedly--"and are you armed too?"
"Why, yes," said I, laughingly; "men of my trade seldom go without
something of this kind."
"Be gorra, I was just thinking that same," said the traveller, with a
half sigh to himself.
Why he should or should not have thought so, I never troubled myself to
canvass, and was once more settling myself in my corner, when I was
startled by a very melancholy groan, which seemed to come from the bottom
of my companion's heart.
"Are you ill, sir?" said I, in a voice of some anxiety.
"You might say that," replied he--"if you knew who you were talking to--
although maybe you've heard enough of me, though you never saw me till
"Without having that pleasure even yet," said I, "it would grieve me to
think you should be ill in the coach."
"May be it might," briefly replied the unknown, with a species of meaning
in his words I could not then understand. "Did ye never hear tell of
Barney Doyle?" said he.
"Not to my recollection."
"Then I'm Barney," said he; "that's in all the newspapers in the
metropolis; I'm seventeen weeks in Jervis-street hospital, and four in
the Lunatic, and the devil a better after all; you must be a stranger,
I'm thinking, or you'd know me now."
"Why I do confess, I've only been a few hours in Ireland for the last six
"Ay, that's the reason; I knew you would not be fond of travelling with
me, if you knew who it was."
"Why, really," said I, beginning at the moment to fathom some of the
hints of my companion, "I did not anticipate the pleasure of meeting
"It's pleasure ye call it; then there's no accountin' for tastes,
as Dr. Colles said, when he saw me bite Cusack Rooney's thumb off."
"Bite a man's thumb off!" said I, in a horror.
"Ay," said he with a kind of fiendish animation, "in one chop; I wish
you'd see how I scattered the consultation; begad they didn't wait to
ax for a fee."
Upon my soul, a very pleasant vicinity, though I. "And, may I ask sir,"
said I, in a very mild and soothing tone of voice, "may I ask the reason
for this singular propensity of yours?"
"There it is now, my dear," said he, laying his hand upon my knee
familiarly, "that's just the very thing they can't make out; Colles says,
it's all the ceribellum, ye see, that's inflamed and combusted, and some
of the others think it's the spine; and more, the muscles; but my real
impression is, the devil a bit they know about it at all."
"And have they no name for the malady?" said I.
"Oh sure enough they have a name for it."
"And, may I ask--"
"Why, I think you'd better not, because ye see, maybe I might be
throublesome to ye in the night, though I'll not, if I can help it; and
it might be uncomfortable to you to be here if I was to get one of the
"One of the fits! Why it's not possible, sir," said I, "you would travel
in a public conveyance in the state you mention; your friends surely
would not permit it?"
"Why, if they knew, perhaps," slily responded the interesting invalid,
"if they knew they might not exactly like it, but ye see, I escaped only
last night, and there'll be a fine hub-bub in the morning, when they find
I'm off; though I'm thinking Rooney's barking away by this time."
"Rooney barking, why, what does that mean?"
"They always bark for a day or two after they're bit, if the infection
comes first from the dog."
"You are surely not speaking of hydrophobia," said I, my hair actually
bristling with horror and consternation.
"Ayn't I?" replied he; "may be you've guessed it though."
"And have you the malady on you at present?" said I, trembling for the
"This is the ninth day since I took to biting," said he gravely,
perfectly unconscious as it appeared of the terror such information was
calculated to convey.
"Any with such a propensity, sir, do you think yourself warranted in
travelling in a public coach, exposing others--"
"You'd better not raise your voice, that way," quietly responded he, "if
I'm roused, it 'll be worse for ye, that's all."
"Well but," said I, moderating my zeal, "is it exactly prudent, in your
present delicate state, to undertake a journey?"
"Ah," said he, with a sigh, "I've been longing to see the fox hounds
throw off, near Kilkenny; these three weeks I've been thinking of nothing
else; but I'm not sure how my nerves will stand the cry; I might be
"Upon my soul," thought I, "I shall not select that morning for my debut
in the field."
"I hope, sir, there's no river, or watercourse on this road--any thing
else, I can, I hope, control myself against; but water--running water
particularly--makes me throublesome."
Well knowing what he meant by the latter phrase, I felt the cold
perspiration settling on my forehead, as I remembered that we must be
within about ten or twelve miles of Leighlin-bridge, where we should have
to pass a very wide river. I strictly concealed this fact from him,
however, and gave him to understand that there was not a well, brook, or
rivulet, for forty miles on either side of us. He now sunk into a kind
of moody silence, broken occasionally by a low muttering noise, as if
speaking to himself--what this might portend, I knew not--but thought it
better, under all circumstances, not to disturb him. How comfortable my
present condition was, I need scarcely remark--sitting vis a vis to a
lunatic, with a pair of pistols in his possession--who had already avowed
his consciousness of his tendency to do mischief, and his inability to
master it; all this in the dark, and in the narrow limits of a mail-
coach, where there was scarcely room for defence, and no possibility of
escape--how heartily I wished myself back in the Coffee-room at
Morrisson's, with my poor friend Tom--the infernal chaise, that I cursed
a hundred times, would have been an "exchange," better than into the Life
Guards--ay, even the outside of the coach, if I could only reach it,
would, under present circumstances, be a glorious alternative to my
existing misfortune. What were rain and storm, thunder and lightning,
compared with the chances that awaited me here?--wet through I should
inevitably be, but then I had not yet contracted the horror of moisture
my friend opposite laboured under. "Ha! what is that? is it possible he
can be asleep; is it really a snore?--Heaven grant that little snort be
not what the medical people call a premonitory symptom--if so, he'll be
in upon me now in no time. Ah, there it is again; he must be asleep
surely; now then is my time or never." With these words, muttered to
myself, and a heart throbbing almost audibly at the risk of his
awakening, I slowly let down the window of the coach, and stretching
forth my hand, turned the handle cautiously and slowly; I next disengaged
my legs, and by a long continuous effort of creeping--which I had learned
perfectly once, when practising to go as a boa constrictor to a fancy
ball--I withdrew myself from the seat and reached the step, when I
muttered something very like a thanksgiving to Providence for my rescue.
With little difficulty I now climbed up beside the guard, whose
astonishment at my appearance was indeed considerable--that any man
should prefer the out, to the inside of a coach, in such a night, was
rather remarkable; but that the person so doing should be totally
unprovided with a box-coat, or other similar protection, argued something
so strange, that I doubt not, if he were to decide upon the applicability
of the statute of lunacy to a traveller in the mail, the palm would
certainly have been awarded to me, and not to my late companion. Well,
on we rolled, and heavily as the rain poured down, so relieved did I feel
at my change of position, that I soon fell fast asleep, and never awoke
till the coach was driving up Patrick-street. Whatever solace to my
feelings reaching the outside of the coach might have been attended with
at night, the pleasure I experienced on awaking, was really not
unalloyed. More dead than alive, I sat a mass of wet clothes, like
nothing under heaven except it be that morsel of black and spongy wet
cotton at the bottom of a schoolboy's ink bottle, saturated with rain,
and the black dye of my coat. My hat too had contributed its share of
colouring matter, and several long black streaks coursed down my
"wrinkled front," giving me very much the air of an Indian warrior, who
had got the first priming of his war paint. I certainly must have been
rueful object, were I only to judge from the faces of the waiters as they
gazed on me when the coach drew up at Rice and Walsh's hotel. Cold, wet,
and weary as I was, my curiosity to learn more of my late agreeable
companion was strong as ever within me--perhaps stronger, from the
sacrifices his acquaintance had exacted from me. Before, however,
I had disengaged myself from the pile of trunks and carpet bags I had
surrounded myself with--he had got out of the coach, and all I could
catch a glimpse of was the back of a little short man in a kind of grey
upper coat, and long galligaskins on his legs. He carried his two
bundles under his arm, and stepped nimbly up the steps of the hotel,
without turning his head to either side.
"Don't fancy you shall escape me now, my good friend," I cried out, as I
sprung from the roof to the ground, with one jump, and hurried after the
great unknown into the coffee-room. By the time I reached it he had
approached the fire, on the table near which, having deposited the
mysterious paper parcels, he was now busily engaged in divesting himself
of his great coat; his face was still turned from me, so that I had time
to appear employed in divesting myself of my wet drapery before he
perceived me; at last the coat was unbuttoned, the gaiters followed, and
throwing them carelessly on a chair, he tucked up the skirts of his coat;
and spreading himself comfortably a l'Anglais, before the fire, displayed
to my wondering and stupified gaze, the pleasant features of Doctor
"Why, Doctor--Doctor Finucane," cried I, "is this possible? were you
really the inside in the mail last night."
"Devil a doubt of it, Mr. Lorrequer; and may I make bould to ask,--were
you the outside?"
"Then what, may I beg to know, did you mean by your damned story about
Barney Doyle, and the hydrophobia, and Cusack Rooney's thumb--eh?"
"Oh, by the Lord," said Finucane, "this will be the death of me; and it
was you that I drove outside in all the rain last night! Oh, it will
kill Father Malachi outright with laughing, when I tell him;" and he
burst out into a fit of merriment that nearly induced me to break his
head with the poker.
"Am I to understand, then, Mr. Finucane, that this practical joke of your
was contrived for my benefit, and for the purpose of holding me up to the
ridicule of your confounded acquaintances."
"Nothing of the kind, upon my conscience," said Fin, drying his eyes,
and endeavouring to look sorry and sentimental. "If I had only the least
suspicion in life that it was you, upon my oath I'd not have had the
hydrophobia at all, and, to tell you the truth, you were not the only
one frightened--you alarmed me devilishly too."
"I alarmed you! Why, how can that be?"
"Why, the real affair is this: I was bringing these two packages of notes
down to my cousin Callaghan's bank in Cork--fifteen thousand pounds--
devil a less; and when you came into the coach at Naas, after driving
there with your four horses, I thought it was all up with me. The guard
just whispered in my ear, that he saw you look at the priming of your
pistols before getting in; and faith I said four paters, and a hail Mary,
before you'd count five. Well, when you got seated, the thought came
into my mind that maybe, highwayman as you were, you would not like dying
a natural death, more particularly if you were an Irishman; and so I
trumped up that long story about the hydrophobia, and the gentleman's
thumb, and devil knows what besides; and, while I was telling it, the
cold perspiration was running down my head and face, for every time you
stirred, I said to myself, now he'll do it. Two or three times, do you
know, I was going to offer you ten shillings in the pound, and spare my
life; and once, God forgive me, I thought it would not be a bad plan to
shoot you by 'mistake,' do you perceave?"
"Why, upon my soul, I'm very much obliged to you for your excessively
kind intentions; but really I feel you have done quite enough for me on
the present occasion. But, come now, doctor, I must get to bed, and
before I go, promise me two things--to dine with us to-day at the mess,
and not to mention a syllable of what occurred last night--it tells,
believe me, very badly for both; so, keep the secret, for if these
confounded fellows of ours ever get hold of it, I may sell out,
or quit the army; I'll never hear the end of it!"
"Never fear, my boy; trust me. I'll dine with you, and you're as safe as
a church-mouse for any thing I'll tell them; so, now you'd better change
your clothes, for I'm thinking it rained last night."
Muttering some very dubious blessings upon the learned Fin, I left the
room, infinitely more chagrined and chop-fallen at the discovery I had
made, than at all the misery and exposure the trick had consigned me to;
"however," thought I, "if the doctor keep his word, it all goes well; the
whole affair is between us both solely; but, should it not be so, I may
shoot half the mess before the other half would give up quizzing me."
Revolving such pleasant thought, I betook myself to bed, and what with
mulled port, and a blazing fire, became once more conscious of being a
warm-blooded animal, and feel sound asleep, to dream of doctors, strait
waistcoats, shaved heads, and all the pleasing associations my late
companion's narrative so readily suggested.
MEMS. OF THE NORTH CORK.
At six o'clock I had the pleasure of presenting the worthy Doctor
Finucane to our mess, taking at the same time an opportunity, unobserved
by him, to inform three or four of my brother officers that my friend was
really a character, abounding in native drollery, and richer in good
stories than even the generality of his countrymen.
Nothing could possibly go on better than the early part of the evening.
Fin, true to his promise, never once alluded to what I could plainly
perceive was ever uppermost in his mind, and what with his fund of
humour, quaintness of expression, and quickness at reply, garnished
throughout by his most mellifluous brogue, the true "Bocca Corkana," kept
us from one roar of laughter to another. It was just at the moment in
which his spirits seemed at their highest, that I had the misfortune to
call upon him for a story, which his cousin Father Malachi had alluded to
on the ever-memorable evening at his house, and which I had a great
desire to hear from Fin's own lips. He seemed disposed to escape telling
it, and upon my continuing to press my request, drily remarked,
"You forget, surely, my dear Mr. Lorrequer, the weak condition I'm in;
and these gentlemen here, they don't know what a severe illness I've been
labouring under lately, or they would not pass the decanter so freely
down this quarter."
I had barely time to throw a mingled look of entreaty and menace across
the table, when half-a-dozen others, rightly judging from the Doctor's
tone and serio-comic expression, that his malady had many more symptoms
of fun than suffering about it, called out together--
"Oh, Doctor, by all means, tell us the nature of your late attack--pray
"With Mr. Lorrequer's permission I'm your slave, gentlemen," said Fin,
finishing off his glass.
"Oh, as for me," I cried, "Dr. Finucane has my full permission to detail
whatever he pleases to think a fit subject for your amusement."
"Come then, Doctor, Harry has no objection you see; so out with it, and
we are all prepared to sympathise with your woes and misfortunes,
whatever they be."
"Well, I am sure, I never could think of mentioning it without his leave;
but now that he sees no objection--Eh, do you though? if so, then, don't
be winking and making faces at me; but say the word, and devil a syllable
of it I'll tell to man or mortal."
The latter part of this delectable speech was addressed to me across the
table, in a species of stage whisper, in reply to some telegraphic
signals I had been throwing him, to induce him to turn the conversation
into any other channel.
"Then, that's enough," continued he sotto voce--"I see you'd rather I'd
not tell it."
"Tell it and be d____d," said I, wearied by the incorrigible pertinacity
with which the villain assailed me. My most unexpected energy threw the
whole table into a roar, at the conclusion of which Fin began his
narrative of the mail-coach adventure.
I need not tell my reader, who has followed me throughout in these my
Confessions, that such a story lost nothing of its absurdity, when
entrusted to the Doctor's powers of narration; he dwelt with a poet's
feeling upon the description of his own sufferings, and my sincere
condolence and commiseration; he touched with the utmost delicacy upon
the distant hints by which he broke the news to me; but when he came to
describe my open and undisguised terror, and my secret and precipitate
retreat to the roof of the coach, there was not a man at table that was
not convulsed with laughter---and, shall I acknowledge it, even I myself
was unable to withstand the effect, and joined in the general chorus
"Well," said the remorseless wretch, as he finished his story, "if ye
haven't the hard hearts to laugh at such a melancholy subject. Maybe,
however, you're not so cruel after all--here's a toast for you, 'a speedy
recovery to Cusack Rooney.'" This was drank amid renewed peals, with all
the honors; and I had abundant time before the uproar was over, to wish
every man of them hanged. It was to no purpose that I endeavoured to
turn the tables, by describing Fin's terror at my supposed resemblance to
a highwayman---his story had the precedence, and I met nothing during my
recital but sly allusions to mad dogs, muzzles, and doctors; and
contemptible puns were let off on every side at my expense.
"It's little shame I take to myself for the mistake, any how," said Fin,
"for putting the darkness of the night out of question, I'm not so sure I
would not have ugly suspicions of you by daylight."
"And besides, Doctor," added I, "it would not be your first blunder in
"True for you, Mr. Lorrequer," said he, good-humouredly; "and now that I
have told them your story, I don't care if they hear mine, though maybe
some of ye have heard it already--it's pretty well known in the North
We all gave our disclaimers on this point, and having ordered in a fresh
cooper of port, disposed ourselves in our most easy attitudes, while the
Doctor proceeded as follows:--
"It was in the hard winter of the year __99, that we were quartered in
Maynooth, as many said, for our sins--for a more stupid place, the Lord
be merciful to it, never were men condemned to. The people at the
college were much better off than us--they had whatever was to be got in
the country, and never were disturbed by mounting guard, or night
patrols. Many of the professors were good fellows, that liked grog fully
as well as Greek, and understood short whist, and five and ten quite as
intimately as they knew the Vulgate, or the confessions of St. Augustine
--they made no ostentacious display of their pious zeal, but whenever
they were not fasting, or praying, or something of that kind, they were
always pleasant and agreeable; and to do them justice, never refused,
by any chance, an invitation to dinner--no matter at what inconvenience.
Well, even this little solace in our affliction we soon lost, by an
unfortunate mistake of that Orange rogue of the world, Major Jones,
that gave a wrong pass one night--Mr. Lorrequer knows the story, (here he
alluded to an adventure detailed in an early chapter of my Confessions)--
and from that day forward we never saw the pleasant faces of the Abbe
D'Array, or the Professor of the Humanities, at the mess. Well, the only
thing I could do, was just to take an opportunity to drop in at the
College in the evening, where we had a quiet rubber of whist, and a
little social and intellectual conversation, with maybe an oyster and a
glass of punch, just to season the thing, before we separated; all done
discreetly and quietly--no shouting nor even singing, for the 'superior'
had a prejudice about profane songs. Well, one of those nights it was,
about the first week in February, I was detained by stress of weather
from 11 o'clock, when we usually bade good-night, to past twelve, and
then to one o'clock, waiting for a dry moment to get home to the
barracks--a good mile and a half off. Every time old Father Mahony went
to look at the weather, he came back saying, 'It's worse it's getting;
such a night of rain, glory be to God, never was seen.' So there was no
good in going out to be drenched to the skin, and I sat quietly waiting,
taking, between times, a little punch, just not to seem impatient, nor
distress their rev'rances. At last it struck two, and I thought--'well,
the decanter is empty now, and I think, if I mean to walk, I've taken
enough for the present;' so, wishing them all manner of happiness, and
pleasant dreams, I stumbled by way down stairs, and set out on my
journey. I was always in the habit of taking a short cut on my way home,
across the 'gurt na brocha,' the priest's meadows, as they call them, it
saved nearly half a mile, although, on the present occasion, it exposed
one wofully to the rain, for there was nothing to shelter against the
entire way, not even a tree. Well, out I set in a half trot, for I staid
so late I was pressed for time; besides, I felt it easier to run than
walk; I'm sure I can't tell why; maybe the drop of drink I took got
into my head. Well, I was just jogging on across the common; the rain
beating hard in my face, and my clothes pasted to me with the wet;
notwithstanding, I was singing to myself a verse of an old song, to
lighten the road, when I heard suddenly a noise near me, like a man
sneezing. I stopped and listened,--in fact, it was impossible to see
your hand, the night was so dark--but I could hear nothing; the thought
then came over me, maybe it's something 'not good,' for there were very
ugly stories going about what the priests used to do formerly in these
meadows; and bones were often found in different parts of them. Just as
I was thinking this, another voice came nearer than the last; it might be
only a sneeze, after all; but in real earnest it was mighty like a groan.
'The Lord be about us,' I said to myself, 'what's this?--have ye the
pass?' I cried out, 'have ye the pass? or what brings ye walking here,
in nomine patri?' for I was so confused whether it was a 'sperit' or not,
I was going to address him in Latin--there's nothing equal to the dead
languages to lay a ghost, every body knows. Faith the moment I said
these words he gave another groan, deeper and more melancholy like than
before. 'If it's uneasy ye are,' says I, 'for any neglect of your
friends,' for I thought he might be in purgatory longer than he thought
convenient, 'tell me what you wish, and go home peaceably out of the
rain, for this weather can do no good to living or dead; go home,' said
I, 'and, if it's masses ye'd like, I'll give you a day's pay myself,
rather than you should fret yourself this way.' The words were not well
out of my mouth, when he came so near me that the sigh he gave went right
through both my ears; 'the Lord be merciful to me,' said I, trembling.
'Amen,' says he, 'whether you're joking or not.' The moment he said that
my mind was relieved, for I knew it was not a sperit, and I began to
laugh heartily at my mistake; 'and who are ye at all?' said I, 'that's
roving about, at this hour of the night, ye can't be Father Luke, for I
left him asleep on the carpet before I quitted the college, and faith, my
friend, if you hadn't the taste for divarsion ye would not be out now?'
He coughed then so hard that I could not make out well what he said, but
just perceived that he had lost his way on the common, and was a little
disguised in liquor. 'It's a good man's case,' said I, 'to take a little
too much, though it's what I don't ever do myself; so, take a hold of my
hand, and I'll see you safe.' I stretched out my hand, and got him, not
by the arm, as I hoped, but by the hair of the head, for he was all
dripping with wet, and had lost his hat. 'Well, you'll not be better of
this night's excursion,' thought I, 'if ye are liable to the rheumatism;
and, now, whereabouts do you live, my friend, for I'll see you safe,
before I leave you?' What he said then I never could clearly make out,
for the wind and rain were both beating so hard against my face that I
could not hear a word; however, I was able just to perceive that he was
very much disguised in drink, and spoke rather thick. 'Well, never
mind,' said I, 'it's not a time of day for much conversation; so, come
along, and I'll see you safe in the guard-house, if you can't remember
your own place of abode in the meanwhile.' It was just at the moment I
said this that I first discovered he was not a gentleman. Well, now,
you'd never guess how I did it; and, faith I always thought it a very
cute thing of me, and both of us in the dark."
"Well, I really confess it must have been a very difficult thing, under
the circumstances; pray how did you contrive?" said the major.
"Just guess how."
"By the tone of his voice perhaps, and his accent," said Curzon.
"Devil a bit, for he spoke remarkably well, considering how far gone he
was in liquor."
"Well, probably by the touch of his hand; no bad test."
"No; you're wrong again, for it was by the hair I had a hold of him for
fear of falling, for he was always stooping down. Well, you'd never
guess it; it was just by the touch of his foot."
"His foot! Why how did that give you any information?"
"There it is now; that's just what only an Irishman would ever have made
any thing out of; for while he was stumbling about, he happened to tread
upon my toes, and never, since I was born, did I feel any thing like the
weight of him. 'Well,' said I, 'the loss of your hat may give you a
cold, my friend; but upon my conscience you are in no danger of wet feet
with such a pair of strong brogues as you have on you.' Well, he laughed
at that till I thought he'd split his sides, and, in good truth, I could
not help joining in the fun, although my foot was smarting like mad, and
so we jogged along through the rain, enjoying the joke just as if we were
sitting by a good fire, with a jorum of punch between us. I am sure I
can't tell you how often we fell that night, but my clothes the next
morning were absolutely covered with mud, and my hat crushed in two; for
he was so confoundedly drunk it was impossible to keep him up, and he
always kept boring along with his head down, so that my heart was almost
broke in keeping him upon his legs. I'm sure I never had a more
fatiguing march in the whole Peninsula, than that blessed mile and a
half; but every misfortune has an end at last, and it was four o'clock,
striking by the college clock, as we reached the barracks. After
knocking a couple of times, and giving the countersign, the sentry opened
the small wicket, and my heart actually leaped with joy that I had done
with my friend; so, I just called out the sergeant of the guard, and
said, 'will you put that poor fellow on the guard-bed till morning, for I
found him on the common, and he could neither find his way home nor tell
me where he lived.' 'And where is he?' said the sergeant. 'He's outside
the gate there,' said I, 'wet to the skin, and shaking as if he had the
ague.' 'And is this him?' said the sergeant as we went outside. 'It
is,' said I, 'maybe you know him?' 'Maybe I've a guess,' said he,
bursting into a fit of laughing, that I thought he'd choke with. 'Well,
sergeant,' said I, 'I always took you for a humane man; but, if that's
the way you treat a fellow-creature in distress.' 'A fellow-creature,'
said he, laughing louder than before. 'Ay, a fellow-creature,' said I--
for the sergeant was an orangeman--'and if he differs from you in matters
of religion, sure he's your fellow-creature still.' 'Troth, Doctor, I
think there's another trifling difference betune us,' said he. 'Damn
your politics,' said I; 'never let them interfere with true humanity.'
Wasn't I right, Major? 'Take good care of him, and there's a half-a-
crown for ye.' So saying these words, I steered along by the barrack
wall, and, after a little groping about, got up stairs to my quarters,
when, thanks to a naturally good constitution, and regular habits of
life, I soon fell fast asleep."
When the Doctor had said thus much, he pushed his chair slightly from the
table, and, taking off his wine, looked about him with the composure of a
man who has brought his tale to a termination.
"Well, but Doctor," said the Major, "you are surely not done. You have
not yet told us who your interesting friend turned out to be."
"That's the very thing, then, I'm not able to do."
"But, of course," said another, "your story does not end there."
"And where the devil would you have it end?" replied he. "Didn't I bring
my hero home, and go asleep afterwards myself, and then, with virtue
rewarded, how could I finish it better?"
"Oh, of course; but still you have not accounted for a principal
character in the narrative," said I.
"Exactly so," said Curzon. "We were all expecting some splendid
catastrophe in the morning; that your companion turned out to be the Duke
of Leinster, at least--or perhaps a rebel general, with an immense price
upon his head."
"Neither the one nor the other," said Fin, drily.
"And do you mean to say there never was any clue to the discovery of
"The entire affair is wrapt in mystery to this hour," said he. "There
was a joke about it, to be sure, among the officers; but the North Cork
never wanted something to laugh at."
"And what was the joke?" said several voices together.
"Just a complaint from old Mickey Oulahan, the postmaster, to the
Colonel, in the morning, that some of the officers took away his blind
mare off the common, and that the letters were late in consequence."
"And so, Doctor," called out seven or eight, "your friend turned out to
"Upon my conscience they said so, and that rascal, the serjeant, would
take his oath of it; but my own impression I'll never disclose to the
hour of my death."
Our seance at the mess that night was a late one, for after we had
discussed some coopers of claret, there was a very general public feeling
in favour of a broiled bone and some devilled kidneys, followed by a very
ample bowl of bishop, over which simple condiments we talked "green room"
till near the break of day.
From having been so long away from the corps I had much to learn of their
doings and intentions to do, and heard with much pleasure that they
possessed an exceedingly handsome theatre, well stocked with scenery,
dresses, and decorations; that they were at the pinnacle of public
estimation, from what they had already accomplished, and calculated on
the result of my appearance to crown them with honour. I had indeed very
little choice left me in the matter; for not only had they booked me for
a particular part, but bills were already in circulation, and sundry
little three-cornered notes enveloping them, were sent to the elite of
the surrounding country, setting forth that "on Friday evening the
committee of the garrison theatricals, intending to perform a dress
rehearsal of the 'Family Party,' request the pleasure of Mr. ____ and
Mrs. ____'s company on the occasion. Mr. Lorrequer will undertake the
part of Captain Beauguarde. Supper at twelve. An answer will oblige."
The sight of one of these pleasant little epistles, of which the
foregoing is a true copy--was presented to me as a great favour that
evening, it having been agreed upon that I was to know nothing of their
high and mighty resolves till the following morning. It was to little
purpose that I assured them all, collectively and individually, that of
Captain Beauguarde I absolutely knew nothing--had never read the piece--
nor even seen it performed. I felt, too, that my last appearance in
character in a "Family Party," was any thing but successful; and I
trembled lest, in the discussion of the subject, some confounded allusion
to my adventure at Cheltenham might come out. Happily they seemed all
ignorant of this; and fearing to bring conversation in any way to the
matter of my late travels, I fell in with their humour, and agreed that
if it were possible, in the limited time allowed me to manage it--I had
but four days--I should undertake the character. My concurrence failed
to give the full satisfaction I expected, and they so habitually did what
they pleased with me, that, like all men so disposed, I never got the
credit for concession which a man more niggardly of his services may
"To be sure you will do it, Harry," said the Major, "why not? I could
learn the thing myself in a couple of hours, as for that."
Now, be it known that the aforesaid Major was so incorrigibly slow of
study, and dull of comprehension, that he had been successively degraded
at our theatrical board from the delivering of a stage message to the
office of check-taker.
"He's so devilish good in the love scene," said the junior ensign, with
the white eyebrows. "I say, Curzon, you'll be confoundedly jealous
though, for he is to play with Fanny."
"I rather think not," said Curzon, who was a little tipsy.
"Oh, yes," said Frazer, "Hepton is right. Lorrequer has Fanny for his
'Frou;' and, upon my soul, I should feel tempted to take the part myself
upon the same terms; though I verily believe I should forget I was
acting, and make fierce love to her on the stage."
"And who may la charmante Fanny be?" said I, with something of the air of
the "Dey of Algiers" in my tone.
"Let Curzon tell him," said several voices together, "he is the only ma
to do justice to such perfection."
"Quiz away, my merry men," said Cruzon, "all I know is, that you are a
confoundedly envious set of fellows; and if so lovely a girl had thrown
her eyes on one amongst you__"
"Hip! hip! hurrah!" said old Fitzgerald, "Curzon is a gone man. He'll be
off to the palace for a license some fine morning, or I know nothing of
"Well, Bat," said I, "if matters are really as you all say, why does not
Curzon take the part you destine for me?"
"We dare not trust him," said the Major, "Lord bless you, when the call-
boy would sing out for Captain Beaugarde in the second act, we'd find
that he had Levanted with our best slashed trowsers, and a bird of
paradise feather in his cap."
"Well," thought I, "this is better at least than I anticipated, for if
nothing else offers, I shall have rare fun teasing my friend Charley"--
for it was evident that he had been caught by the lady in question.
"And so you'll stay with us; give me your hand--you are a real trump."
These words, which proceeded from a voice at the lower end of the table,
were addressed to my friend Finucane.
"I'll stay with ye, upon my conscience," said Fin; "ye have a most
seductive way about ye; and a very superior taste in milk punch."
"But, Doctor," said I, "you must not be a drone in the hive; what will ye
do for us? You should be a capital Sir Lucius O'Trigger, if we could get
up the Rivals."
"My forte is the drum--the big drum; put me among what the Greeks call
the 'Mousikoi,' and I'll astonish ye."
It was at once agreed that Fin should follow the bent of his genius; and
after some other arrangements for the rest of the party, we separated for
the night, having previously toasted the "Fanny," to which Curzon
attempted to reply, but sank, overpowered by punch and feelings, and
looked unutterable things, without the power to frame a sentence.
During the time which intervened between the dinner and the night
appointed for our rehearsal, I had more business upon my hands than a
Chancellor of the Exchequer the week of the budget being produced. The
whole management of every department fell, as usual, to my share, and
all those who, previously to my arrival, had contributed their quota of
labour, did nothing whatever now but lounge about the stage, or sit half
the day in the orchestra, listening to some confounded story of
Finucane's, who contrived to have an everlasting mob of actors, scene-
painters, fiddlers, and call-boys always about him, who, from their
uproarious mirth, and repeated shouts of merriment, nearly drove me
distracted, as I stood almost alone and unassisted in the whole
management. Of la belle Fanny, all I learned was, that she was a
professional actress of very considerable talent, and extremely pretty;
that Curzon had fallen desperately in love with her the only night she
had appeared on the boards there, and that to avoid his absurd
persecution of her, she had determined not to come into town until the
morning of the rehearsal, she being at that time on a visit to the house
of a country gentleman in the neighbourhood. Here was a new difficulty I
had to contend with--to go through my part alone was out of the question
to making it effective; and I felt so worried and harassed that I often
fairly resolved on taking the wings of the mail, and flying away to the
uttermost parts of the south of Ireland, till all was tranquil again.
By degrees, however, I got matters into better train, and by getting our
rehearsal early before Fin appeared, as he usually slept somewhat later
after his night at mess, I managed to have things in something like
order; he and his confounded drum, which, whenever he was not story-
telling, he was sure to be practising on, being, in fact the greatest
difficulties opposed to my managerial functions. One property he
possessed, so totally at variance with all habits of order, that it
completely baffled me. So numerous were his narratives, that no occasion
could possibly arise, no chance expression be let fall on the stage, but
Fin had something he deemed, apropos, and which, sans facon, he at once
related for the benefit of all whom it might concern; that was usually
the entire corps dramatique, who eagerly turned from stage directions and
groupings, to laugh at his ridiculous jests. I shall give an instance of
this habit of interruption, and let the unhappy wight who has filled such
an office as mine pity my woes.
I was standing one morning on the stage drilling my "corps" as usual.
One most refractory spirit, to whom but a few words were entrusted, and
who bungled even those, I was endeavouring to train into something like
"Come now, Elsmore, try it again--just so. Yes, come forward in this
manner--take her hand tenderly--press it to your lips; retreat towards
the flat, and then bowing deferentially--thus, say 'Good night, good
night'--that's very simple, eh? Well, now that's all you have to do, and
that brings you over here--so you make your exit at once."
"Exactly so, Mr. Elsmore, always contrive to be near the door under such
circumstances. That was the way with my poor friend, Curran. Poor
Philpot, when he dined with the Guild of Merchant Tailors, they gave him
a gold box with their arms upon it--a goose proper, with needles saltier
wise, or something of that kind; and they made him free of their 'ancient
and loyal corporation,' and gave him a very grand dinner. Well, Curran
was mighty pleasant and agreeable, and kept them laughing all night, till
the moment he rose to go away, and then he told them that he never spent
so happy an evening, and all that. 'But, gentlemen,' said he, 'business
has its calls, and I must tear myself away; so wishing you now'--there
were just eighteen of them--'wishing you now every happiness and
prosperity, permit me to take my leave'--and here he stole near the door-
-'to take my leave, and bid you both good night.'" With a running fire
of such stories, it may be supposed how difficult was my task in getting
any thing done upon the stage.
Well, at last the long-expected Friday arrived, and I rose in the morning
with all that peculiar tourbillon of spirits that a man feels when he is
half pleased and whole frightened with the labour before him. I had
scarcely accomplished dressing when a servant tapped at my door, and
begged to know if I could spare a few moments to speak to Miss Ersler,
who was in the drawing-room. I replied, of course, in the affirmative,
and, rightly conjecturing that my fair friend must be the lovely Fanny
already alluded to, followed the servant down stairs.
"Mr. Lorrequer," said the servant, and closing the door behind me, left
me in sole possession of the lady.
"Will you do me the favour to sit here, Mr. Lorrequer," said one of the
sweetest voices in the world, as she made room for me on the sofa beside
her. "I am particularly short-sighted; so pray sit near me, as I really
cannot talk to any one I don't see."
I blundered out some platitude of a compliment to her eyes--the fullest
and most lovely blue that ever man gazed into--at which she smiled as if
pleased, and continued, "Now, Mr. Lorrequer, I have really been longing
for your coming; for your friends of the 4_th are doubtless very dashing,
spirited young gentlemen, perfectly versed in war's alarms; but pardon me
if I say that a more wretched company of strolling wretches never graced
a barn. Now, come, don't be angry, but let me proceed. Like all amateur
people, they have the happy knack in distributing the characters--to put
every man in his most unsuitable position--and then that poor dear thing
Curzon--I hope he's not a friend of yours--by some dire fatality always
plays the lover's parts, ha! ha! ha! True, I assure you, so that if you
had not been announced as coming this week, I should have left them and
gone off to Bath."
Here she rose and adjusted her brown ringlets at the glass, giving me
ample time to admire one of the most perfect figures I ever beheld. She
was most becomingly dressed, and betrayed a foot and ancle which for
symmetry and "chaussure," might have challenged the Rue Rivoli itself to
My first thought was poor Curzon; my second, happy and trice fortunate
Harry Lorrequer. There was no time, however, for indulgence in such very
pardonable gratulation; so I at once proceeded "pour faire l'aimable," to
profess my utter inability to do justice to her undoubted talents, but
slyly added, "that in the love making part of the matter she should never
be able to discover that I was not in earnest." We chatted then gaily for
upwards of an hour, until the arrival of her friend's carriage was
announced, when, tendering me most graciously her hand, she smiled
benignly and saying "au revoir, donc," drove off.
As I stood upon the steps of the hotel, viewing her "out of the visible
horizon," I was joined by Curzon, who evidently, from his self-satisfied
air, and jaunty gait, little knew how he stood in the fair Fanny's
"Very pretty, very pretty, indeed, deeper and deeper still," cried he,
alluding to my most courteous salutation as the carriage rounded the
corner, and it lovely occupant kissed her hand once more. "I say Harry,
my friend, you don't think that was meant for you, I should hope?"
"What! the kiss of the hand? Yes, faith, but I do."
"Well, certainly that is good! why, man, she just saw me coming up that
instant. She and I--we understand each other--never mind, don't be
cross--no fault of yours, you know."
"Ah, so she is taken with you," said I. "Eh, Charley?"
"Why, I believe that. I may confess to you the real state of matters.
She was devilishly struck with me the first time we rehearsed together.
We soon got up a little flirtation; but the other night when I played
Mirabel to her, it finished the affair. She was quite nervous, and could
scarcely go through with her part. I saw it, and upon my soul I am sorry
for it; she's a prodigiously fine girl--such lips and such teeth! Egad
I was delighted when you came; for, you see, I was in a manner obliged
to take one line of character, and I saw pretty plainly where it must
end; and you know with you it's quite different, she'll laugh and chat,
and all that sort of thing, but she'll not be carried away by her
feelings; you understand me?"
"Oh, perfectly; it's quite different, as you observed."
If I had not been supported internally during this short dialogue by the
recently expressed opinion of the dear Fanny herself upon my friend
Curzon's merits, I think I should have been tempted to take the liberty
of wringing his neck off. However, the affair was much better as it
stood, as I had only to wait a little with proper patience, and I had no
fears but that my friend Charley would become the hero of a very pretty
episode for the mess.
"So I suppose you must feel considerably bored by this kind of thing," I
said, endeavouring to draw him out.
"Why, I do," replied he, "and I do not. The girl is very pretty. The
place is dull in the morning; and altogether it helps to fill up time."
"Well," said I, "you are always fortunate, Curzon. You have ever your
share of what floating luck the world affords."
"It is not exactly all luck, my dear friend; for, as I shall explain to
"Not now," replied I, "for I have not yet breakfasted." So saying I
turned into the coffee-room, leaving the worthy adjutant to revel in his
fancied conquest, and pity such unfortunates as myself.
After an early dinner at the club-house, I hastened down to the theatre,
where numerous preparations for the night were going forward. The green-
room was devoted to the office of a supper-room, to which the audience
had been invited. The dressing-rooms were many of them filled with the
viands destined for the entertainment. Where, among the wooden fowls and
"impracticable" flagons, were to be seen very imposing pasties and flasks
of champaigne, littered together in most admirable disorder. The
confusion naturally incidental to all private theatricals, was ten-fold
increased by the circumstances of our projected supper. Cooks and scene-
shifters, fiddlers and waiters, were most inextricably mingled; and as in
all similar cases, the least important functionaries took the greatest
airs upon them, and appropriated without hesitation whatever came to
their hands--thus the cook would not have scrupled to light a fire with
the violoncello of the orchestra; and I actually caught one of the "gens
de cuisine" making a "soufflet" in a brass helmet I had once worn when
astonishing the world as Coriolanus.
Six o'clock struck. In another short hour and we begin, thought I, with
a sinking heart, as I looked upon the littered stage crowded with hosts
of fellows that had nothing to do there. Figaro himself never wished for
ubiquity more than I did, as I hastened from place to place, entreating,
cursing, begging, scolding, execrating, and imploring by turns. To mend
the matter, the devils in the orchestra had begun to tune their
instruments, and I had to bawl like a boatswain of a man-of-war, to be
heard by the person beside me.
As seven o'clock struck, I peeped through the small aperture in the
curtain, and saw, to my satisfaction, mingled, I confess, with fear, that
the house was nearly filled--the lower tier of boxes entirely so. There
were a great many ladies handsomely dressed, chatting gaily with their
chaperons, and I recognised some of my acquaintances on every side; in
fact, there was scarcely a family of rank in the county that had not at
least some member of it present. As the orchestra struck up the overture
to Don Giovanni, I retired from my place to inspect the arrangements
Before the performance of the "Family Party," we were to have a little
one-act piece called "a day in Madrid," written by myself--the principal
characters being expressly composed for "Miss Ersler and Mr. Lorrequer."
The story of this trifle, it is not necessary to allude to; indeed, if it
were, I should scarcely have patience to do so, so connected is my
recollection of it with the distressing incident which followed.
In the first scene of the piece, the curtain rising displays la belle
Fanny sitting at her embroidery in the midst of a beautiful garden,
surrounded with statues, fountains, &c. At the back is seen a pavillion
in the ancient Moorish style of architecture, over which hang the
branches of some large and shady trees--she comes forward, expressing her
impatience at the delay of her lover, whose absence she tortures herself
to account for by a hundred different suppositions, and after a very
sufficient expose of her feelings, and some little explanatory details of
her private history, conveying a very clear intimation of her own
amiability, and her guardian's cruelty, she proceeds, after the fashion
of other young ladies similarly situated, to give utterance to her
feelings by a song; after, therefore, a suitable prelude from the
orchestra, for which, considering the impassioned state of her mind, she
waits patiently, she comes forward and begins a melody--
"Oh why is he far from the heart that adores him?"
in which, for two verses, she proceeds with sundry sol feggio's, to
account for the circumstances, and show her disbelief of the explanation
in a very satisfactory manner,--meanwhile, for I must not expose my
reader to an anxiety on my account, similar to what the dear Fanny here
laboured under, I was making the necessary preparations for flying to her
presence, and clasping her to my heart--that is to say, I had already
gummed on a pair of mustachios, had corked and arched a ferocious pair of
eyebrows, which, with my rouged cheeks, gave me a look half Whiskerando,
half Grimaldi; these operations were performed, from the stress of
circumstances, sufficiently near the object of my affections, to afford
me the pleasing satisfaction of hearing from her own sweet lips, her
solicitude about me--in a word, all the dressing-rooms but two were
filled with hampers of provisions, glass, china, and crockery, and from
absolute necessity, I had no other spot where I could attire myself
unseen, except in the identical pavillion already alluded to--here,
however, I was quite secure, and had abundant time also, for I was not to
appear till scene the second, when I was to come forward in full Spanish
costume, "every inch a Hidalgo." Meantime, Fanny had been singing--
"Oh why is he far," &c. &c.
At the conclusion of the last verse, just as she repeats the words "why,
why, why," in a very distracted and melting cadence, a voice behind
startles her--she turns and beholds her guardian--so at least run the
course of events in the real drama--that it should follow thus now
however, "Dus aliter visum"--for just as she came to the very moving
apostrophe alluded to, and called out, "why comes he not?"--a gruff voice
from behind answered in a strong Cork brogue--"ah! would ye have him come
in a state of nature?" at the instant a loud whistle rang through the
house, and the pavillion scene slowly drew up, discovering me, Harry
Lorrequer, seated on a small stool before a cracked looking-glass, my
only habiliments, as I am an honest man, being a pair of long white silk
stockings, and a very richly embroidered shirt with point lace collar.
The shouts of laughter are yet in my ears, the loud roar of
inextinguishable mirth, which after the first brief pause of astonishment
gave way, shook the entire building--my recollection may well have been
confused at such a moment of unutterable shame and misery; yet, I clearly
remember seeing Fanny, the sweet Fanny herself, fall into an arm-chair
nearly suffocated with convulsions of laughter. I cannot go on; what I
did I know not. I suppose my exit was additionally ludicrous, for a new
eclat de rire followed me out. I rushed out of the theatre, and wrapping
only my cloak round me, ran without stopping to the barracks. But I must
cease; these are woes too sacred for even confessions like mine, so let
me close the curtain of my room and my chapter together, and say, adieu
for a season.
[Note: There are two Chapter XVIs. In the table of contents, this one
has an asterisk but no explanation.]
It might have been about six weeks after the events detailed in my last
chapter had occurred, that Curzon broke suddenly into my room one morning
before I had risen, and throwing a precautionary glance around, as if to
assure himself that we were alone, seized my hand with a most unusual
earnestness, and, steadfastly looking at me, said--
"Harry Lorrequer, will you stand by me?"
So sudden and unexpected was his appearance at the moment, that I really
felt but half awake, and kept puzzling myself for an explanation of the
scene, rather than thinking of a reply to his question; perceiving which,
and auguring but badly from my silence, he continued--
"Am I then, really deceived in what I believed to be an old and tried
"Why, what the devil's the matter?" I cried out. "If you are in a
scrape, why of course you know I'm your man; but, still, it's only fair
to let one know something of the matter in the meanwhile."
"In a scrape!" said he, with a long-drawn sigh, intended to beat the
whole Minerva press in its romantic cadence.
"Well, but get on a bit," said I, rather impatiently; "who is the fellow
you've got the row with? Not one of ours, I trust?"
"Ah, my dear Hal," said he, in the same melting tone as before--"How your
imagination does run upon rows, and broils, and duelling rencontres,"
(he, the speaker, be it known to the reader, was the fire-eater of the
regiment,) "as if life had nothing better to offer than the excitement of
a challenge, or the mock heroism of a meeting."
As he made a dead pause here, after which he showed no disposition to
continue, I merely added--
"Well, at this rate of proceeding we shall get at the matter in hand, on
our way out to Corfu, for I hear we are the next regiment for the
The observation seemed to have some effect in rousing him from his
lethargy, and he added--
"If you only knew the nature of the attachment, and how completely all my
future hopes are concerned upon the issue--"
"Ho!" said I, "so it's a money affair, is it? and is it old Watson has
issued the writ? I'll bet a hundred."
"Well, upon my soul, Lorrequer," said he, jumping from his chair, and
speaking with more energy than he had before evinced, "you are, without
exception, the most worldly-minded, cold-blooded fellow I ever met. What
have I said that could have led you to suppose I had either a duel or a
law-suit upon my hands this morning? Learn, once and for all, man, that
I am in love--desperately and over head and ears in love."
"Et puis," said I coolly.
"And intend to marry immediately."
"Oh, very well," said I; "the fighting and debt will come later, that's
all. But to return--now for the lady."
"Come, you must make a guess."
"Why, then, I really must confess my utter inability; for your attentions
have been so generally and impartially distributed since our arrival
here, that it may be any fair one, from your venerable partner at whist
last evening, to Mrs. Henderson, the pastry-cook inclusive, for whose
macaroni and cherry-brandy your feelings have been as warm as they are
"Come, no more quizzing, Hal. You surely must have remarked that lovely
girl I waltzed with at Power's ball on Tuesday last."
"Lovely girl! Why, in all seriousness, you don't mean the small woman
with the tow wig?"
"No, I do not mean any such thing--but a beautiful creature, with the
brightest locks in Christendom--the very light-brown waving ringlets,
Dominicheno loved to paint, and a foot--did you see her foot?"
"No; that was rather difficult, for she kept continually bobbing up and
down, like a boy's cork-float in a fish-pond."
"Stop there. I shall not permit this any longer--I came not here to
"But, Curzon, my boy, you're not angry?"
"Yes, sir, I am angry."
"Why, surely, you have not been serious all this time?"
"And why not, pray?"
"Oh! I don't exactly know--that is, faith I scarcely thought you were in
earnest, for if I did, of course I should honestly have confessed to you
that the lady in question struck me as one of the handsomest persons I
"You think so really, Hal?"
"Certainly I do, and the opinion is not mine alone; she is, in fact
"Come, Harry, excuse my bad temper. I ought to have known you better--
give me your hand, old boy, and wish me joy, for with you aiding and
abetting she is mine to-morrow morning."
I wrung his hand heartily--congratulating myself, meanwhile, how happily
I had got out of my scrape; as I now, for the first time, perceived that
Curzon was bona fide in earnest.
"So, you will stand by me, Hal," said he.
"Of course. Only show me how, and I'm perfectly at your service. Any
thing from riding postillion on the leaders to officiating as brides-
maid, and I am your man. And if you are in want of such a functionary,
I shall stand in 'loco parentis' to the lady, and give her away with as
much 'onction' and tenderness as tho' I had as many marriageable
daughters as king Priam himself. It is with me in marriage as in
duelling--I'll be any thing rather than a principal; and I have long
since disapproved of either method as a means of 'obtaining
"Ah, Harry, I shall not be discouraged by your sneers. You've been
rather unlucky, I'm aware; but now to return: Your office, on this
occasion, is an exceedingly simple one, and yet that which I could only
confide to one as much my friend as yourself. You must carry my dearest
"Carry her off! Where?--when?--how?"
"All that I have already arranged, as you shall hear."
"Yes. But first of all please to explain why, if going to run away with
the lady, you don't accompany her yourself."
"Ah! I knew you would say that, I could have laid a wager you'd ask that
question, for it is just that very explanation will show all the native
delicacy and feminine propriety of my darling Loo; and first, I must tell
you, that old Sir Alfred Jonson, her father, has some confounded
prejudice against the army, and never would consent to her marriage with
a red-coat--so that, his consent being out of the question, our only
resource is an elopement. Louisa consents to this, but only upon one
condition--and this she insists upon so firmly--I had almost said
obstinately--that, notwithstanding all my arguments and representations,
and even entreaties against it, she remains inflexible; so that I have at
length yielded, and she is to have her own way."
"Well, and what is the condition she lays such stress upon?"
"Simply this--that we are never to travel a mile together until I obtain
my right to do so, by making her my wife. She has got some trumpery
notions in her head that any slight transgression over the bounds of
delicacy made by women before marriage is ever after remembered by the
husband to their disadvantage, and she is, therefore, resolved not to
sacrifice her principle even at such a crisis as the present."
"All very proper, I have no doubt; but still, pray explain what I confess
appears somewhat strange to me at present. How does so very delicately-
minded a person reconcile herself to travelling with a perfect stranger
under such circumstances?"
"That I can explain perfectly to you. You must know that when my darling
Loo consented to take this step, which I induced her to do with the
greatest difficulty, she made the proviso I have just mentioned; I at
once showed her that I had no maiden aunt or married sister to confide
her to at such a moment, and what was to be done? She immediately
replied, 'Have you no elderly brother officer, whose years and discretion
will put the transaction in such a light as to silence the slanderous
tongues of the world, for with such a man I am quite ready and willing to
trust myself.' You see I was hard pushed there. What could I do?--whom
could I select? Old Hayes, the paymaster, is always tipsy; Jones is
five-and-forty--but egad! I'm not so sure I'd have found my betrothed at
the end of the stage. You were my only hope; I knew I could rely upon
you. You would carry on the whole affair with tact and discretion; and
as to age, your stage experience would enable you, with a little
assistance from costume, to pass muster; besides that, I have always
represented you as the very Methuselah of the corps; and in the grey dawn
of an autumnal morning--with maiden bashfulness assisting--the scrutiny
is not likely to be a close one. So, now, your consent is alone wanting
to complete the arrangements which, before this time to-morrow, shall
have made me the happiest of mortals."
Having expressed, in fitting terms, my full sense of obligation for the
delicate flattery with which he pictured me as "Old Lorrequer" to the
Lady, I begged a more detailed account of his plan, which I shall shorten
for my reader's sake, by the following brief expose.
A post-chaise and four was to be in waiting at five o'clock in the
morning to convey me to Sir Alfred Jonson's residence, about twelve miles
distant. There I was to be met by a lady at the gate-lodge, who was
subsequently to accompany me to a small village on the Nore, where an old
college friend of Curzon's happened to reside, as parson, and by whom the
treaty was to be concluded.
This was all simple and clear enough--the only condition necessary to
insure success being punctuality, particularly on the lady's part. As to
mine I readily promised my best aid and warmest efforts in my friend's
"There is only one thing more," said Curzon. "Louisa's younger brother
is a devilish hot-headed, wild sort of a fellow; and it would be as well,
just for precaution sake, to have your pistols along with you, if, by any
chance, he should make out what was going forward--not but that you know
if any thing serious was to take place, I should be the person to take
all that upon my hands."
"Oh! of course--I understand," said I. Meanwhile I could not help
running over in my mind the pleasant possibilities such an adventure
presented, heartily wishing that Curzon had been content to marry by bans
or any other of the legitimate modes in use, without risking his friend's
bones. The other pros and cons of the matter, with full and accurate
directions as to the road to be taken on obtaining possession of the
lady, being all arranged, we parted, I to settle my costume and
appearance for my first performance in an old man's part, and Curzon to
obtain a short leave for a few days from the commanding officer of the
When we again met, which was at the mess-table, it was not without
evidence on either side of that peculiar consciousness which persons feel
who have, or think they have, some secret in common, which the world wots
not of. Curzon's unusually quick and excited manner would at once have
struck any close observer as indicating the eve of some important step,
no less than continual allusions to whatever was going on, by sly and
equivocal jokes and ambiguous jests. Happily, however, on the present
occasion, the party were otherwise occupied than watching him--being most
profoundly and learnedly engaged in discussing medicine and matters
medical with all the acute and accurate knowledge which characterises
such discussions among the non-medical public.
The present conversation originated from some mention our senior surgeon
Fitzgerald had just made of a consultation which he was invited to attend
on the next morning, at the distance of twenty miles, and which
necessitated him to start at a most uncomfortably early hour. While he
continued to deplore the hard fate of such men as himself, so eagerly
sought after by the world, that their own hours were eternally broken in
upon by external claims, the juniors were not sparing of their mirth on
the occasion, at the expense of the worthy doctor, who, in plain truth,
had never been disturbed by a request like the present within any one's
memory. Some asserted that the whole thing was a puff, got up by Fitz.
himself, who was only going to have a day's partridge-shooting; others
hinting that it was a blind to escape the vigilance of Mrs. Fitzgerald--
a well-known virago in the regiment--while Fitz. enjoyed himself; and a
third party, pretending to sympathise with the doctor, suggested that a
hundred pounds would be the least he could possibly be offered for such
services as his on so grave an occasion.
"No, no, only fifty," said Fitz. gravely.
"Fifty! Why, you tremendous old humbug, you don't mean to say you'll
make fifty pounds before we are out of our beds in the morning?" cried
"I'll take your bet on it," said the doctor, who had, in this instance,
reason to suppose his fee would be a large one.
During this discussion, the claret had been pushed round rather freely;
and fully bent, as I was, upon the adventure before me, I had taken my
share of it as a preparation. I thought of the amazing prize I was about
to be instrumental in securing for my friend--for the lady had really
thirty thousand pounds--and I could not conceal my triumph at such a
prospect of success in comparison with the meaner object of ambition.
They all seemed to envy poor Fitzgerald. I struggled with my secret for
some time--but my pride and the claret together got the better of me, and
I called out, "Fifty pounds on it, then, that before ten to-morrow
morning, I'll make a better hit of it than you--and the mess shall decide
between us afterwards as to the winner."
"And if you will," said I, seeing some reluctance on Fitz.'s part to take
the wager, and getting emboldened in consequence, "let the judgment be
pronounced over a couple of dozen of champaigne, paid by the loser."
This was a coup d'etat on my part, for I knew at once there were so many
parties to benefit by the bet, terminate which way it might, there could
be no possibility of evading it. My ruse succeeded, and poor Fitzgerald,
fairly badgered into a wager, the terms of which he could not in the
least comprehend, was obliged to sign the conditions inserted in the
adjutant's note-book--his greatest hope in so doing being in the quantity
of wine he had seen me drink during the evening. As for myself, the bet
was no sooner made than I began to think upon the very little chance I
had of winning it; for even supposing my success perfect in the
department allotted to me, it might with great reason be doubted what
peculiar benefit I myself derived as a counterbalance to the fee of the
doctor. For this, my only trust lay in the justice of a decision which I
conjectured would lean more towards the goodness of a practical joke than
the equity of the transaction. The party at mess soon after separated,
and I wished my friend good night for the last time before meeting him as
I arranged every thing in order for my start. My pistol-case I placed
conspicuously before me, to avoid being forgotten in the haste of
departure; and, having ordered my servant to sit up all night in the
guard-room until he heard the carriage at the barrack-gate, threw myself
on my bed, but not to sleep. The adventure I was about to engage in
suggested to my mind a thousand associations, into which many of the
scenes I have already narrated entered. I thought how frequently I had
myself been on the verge of that state which Curzon was about to try, and
how it always happened that when nearest to success, failure had
intervened. From my very school-boy days my love adventures had the same
unfortunate abruptness in their issue; and there seemed to be something
very like a fatality in the invariable unsuccess of my efforts at
marriage. I feared, too, that my friend Curzon had placed himself in
very unfortunate hands--if augury were to be relied upon. Something will
surely happen, thought I, from my confounded ill luck, and all will be
blown up. Wearied at last with thinking I fell into a sound sleep for
about three-quarters of an hour, at the end of which I was awoke by my
servant informing me that a chaise and four were drawn up at the end of
the barrack lane.
"Why, surely, they are too early, Stubber? It's only four o'clock."
"Yes, sir; but they say that the road for eight miles is very bad, and
they must go it almost at a walk."
That is certainly pleasant, thought I, but I'm in for it now, so can't
In a few minutes I was up and dressed, and so perfectly transformed by
the addition of a brown scratch-wig and large green spectacles, and a
deep-flapped waistcoat, that my servant, on re-entering my room, could
not recognise me. I followed him now across the barrack-yard, as, with
my pistol-case under one arm and a lantern in his hand, he proceeded to
As I passed beneath the adjutant's window, I saw a light--the sash was
quickly thrown open, and Curzon appeared.
"Is that you, Harry?"
"Yes--when do you start?"
"In about two hours. I've only eight miles to go--you have upwards of
twelve, and no time to lose. God bless you, my boy--we'll meet soon."
"Here's the carriage, sir; this way."
"Well, my lads, you know the road I suppose?"
"Every inch of it, your honour's glory; we're always coming it for
doctors and 'pothecaries; they're never a week without them."
I was soon seated, the door clapped to, and the words "all right" given,
and away we went.
Little as I had slept during the night, my mind was too much occupied
with the adventure I was engaged in, to permit any thoughts of sleep now,
so that I had abundant opportunity afforded me of pondering over all the
bearings of the case, with much more of deliberation and caution than I
had yet bestowed upon it. One thing was certain, whether success did or
did not attend our undertaking, the risk was mine and mine only; and if
by any accident the affair should be already known to the family, I stood
a very fair chance of being shot by one of the sons, or stoned to death
by the tenantry; while my excellent friend Curzon should be eating his
breakfast with his reverend friend, and only interrupting himself in his
fourth muffin, to wonder "what could keep them;" and besides for minor
miseries will, like the little devils in Don Giovanni, thrust up their
heads among their better-grown brethren, my fifty-pound bet looked rather
blue; for even under the most favourable light considered, however Curzon
might be esteemed a gainer, it might be well doubted how far I had
succeeded better than the doctor, when producing his fee in evidence.
Well, well, I'm in for it now; but it certainly is strange, all these
very awkward circumstances never struck me so forcibly before; and after
all, it was not quite fair of Curzon to put any man forward in such a
transaction; the more so, as such a representation might be made of it at
the Horse-Guards as to stop a man's promotion, or seriously affect his
prospects for life, and I at last began to convince myself that many a
man so placed, would carry the lady off himself, and leave the adjutant
to settle the affair with the family. For two mortal hours did I conjure
up every possible disagreeable contingency that might arise. My being
mulcted of my fifty and laughed at by the mess seemed inevitable, even
were I fortunate enough to escape a duel with the fire-eating brother.
Meanwhile a thick misty rain continued to fall, adding so much to the
darkness of the early hour, that I could see nothing of the country about
me, and knew nothing of where I was.
Troubles are like laudanum, a small dose only excites, a strong one sets
you to sleep--not a very comfortable sleep mayhap--but still it is sleep,
and often very sound sleep; so it now happened with me. I had pondered
over, weighed, and considered all the pros, cons, turnings, and windings
of this awkward predicament, till I had fairly convinced myself that I
was on the high road to a confounded scrape; and then, having established
that fact to my entire satisfaction, I fell comfortably back in the
chaise, and sunk into a most profound slumber.
If to any of my readers I may appear here to have taken a very despondent
view of this whole affair, let him only call to mind my invariable ill
luck in such matters, and how always it had been my lot to see myself on
the fair road to success, only up to that point at which it is certain,
besides--but why explain? These are my confessions. I may not alter
what are matters of fact, and my reader must only take me with all the
imperfections of wrong motives and headlong impulses upon my head, or
abandon me at once.
Meanwhile the chaise rolled along, and the road being better and the pace
faster, my sleep became more easy; thus, about an hour and a half after I
had fallen asleep, passed rapidly over, when the sharp turning of an
angle distended me from my leaning position, and I awoke. I started up
and rubbed my eyes; several seconds elapsed before I could think where I
was or whither going. Consciousness at last came, and I perceived that
we were driving up a thickly planted avenue. Why, confound it, they
can't have mistaken it, thought I, or are we really going up to the
house, instead of waiting at the lodge? I at once lowered the sash, and
stretching out my head, cried out, "Do you know what ye are about, lads;
is this all right?" but unfortunately, amid the rattling of the gravel
and the clatter of the horses, my words were unheard; and thinking I was
addressing a request to go faster, the villains cracked their whips, and
breaking into a full gallop, before five minutes flew over, they drew up
with a jerk at the foot of a long portico to a large and spacious cut-
stone mansion. When I rallied from the sudden check, which had nearly
thrown me through the window, I gave myself up for lost: here I was vis a
vis to the very hall-door of the man whose daughter I was about to elope
with, whether so placed by the awkwardness and blundering of the wretches
who drove me, or delivered up by their treachery, it mattered not, my
fate seemed certain; before I had time to determine upon any line of
acting in this confounded dilemma, the door was jerked open by a servant
in a sombre livery; who, protruding his head and shoulders into the
chaise, looked at me steadily for a moment, and said, "Ah! then, doctor
darlin', but ye're welcome." With the speed with which sometimes the bar
of an air long since heard, or the passing glance of an old familiar fact
can call up the memory of our very earliest childhood, bright and vivid
before us, so that one single phrase explained the entire mystery of my
present position, and I saw in one rapid glance that I had got into the
chaise intended for Dr. Fitzgerald, and was absolutely at that moment
before the hall-door of the patient. My first impulse was an honest one,
to avow the mistake and retrace my steps, taking my chance to settle with
Curzon, whose matrimonial scheme I foresaw was doomed to the untimely
fate of all those I had ever been concerned in. My next thought, how
seldom is the adage true which says "that second thoughts are best," was
upon my luckless wager; for, even supposing that Fitzgerald should follow
me in the other chaise, yet as I had the start of him, if I could only
pass muster for half an hour, I might secure the fee, and evacuate the
territory; besides that there was a great chance of Fitz's having gone on
my errand, while I was journeying on his, in which case I should be safe
from interruption. Meanwhile, heaven only could tell, what his
interference in poor Curzon's business might not involve. These serious
reflections took about ten seconds to pass through my mind, as the grave-
looking old servant proceeded to encumber himself with my cloak and my
pistol-case, remarking as he lifted the latter, "And may the Lord grant
ye won't want the instruments this time, doctor, for they say he is
better this morning;" heartily wishing amen to the benevolent prayer of
the honest domestic, for more reasons than one, I descended leisurely, as
I conjectured a doctor ought to do, from the chaise, and with a solemn
pace and grave demeanour followed him into the house.
In the small parlour to which I was ushered, sat two gentlemen somewhat
advanced in years, who I rightly supposed were my medical confreres. One
of these was a tall, pale, ascetic-looking man, with grey hairs, and
retreating forehead, slow in speech, and lugubrious in demeanour. The
other, his antithesis, was a short, rosy-cheeked, apoplectic-looking
subject, with a laugh like a suffocating wheeze, and a paunch like an
alderman; his quick, restless eye, and full nether lip denoting more of
the bon vivant than the abstemious disciple of Aesculapius. A moment's
glance satisfied me, that if I had only these to deal with, I was safe,
for I saw that they were of that stamp of country practitioner, half-
physician, half-apothecary, who rarely come in contact with the higher
orders of their art, and then only to be dictated to, obey, and grumble.
"Doctor, may I beg to intrude myself, Mr. Phipps, on your notice? Dr.
Phipps or Mr. It's all one; but I have only a license in pharmacy, though
they call me doctor."
"Surgeon Riley, sir; a very respectable practitioner," said he, waving
his hand towards his rubicund confrere.
I at once expressed the great happiness it afforded me to meet such
highly informed and justly celebrated gentlemen; and fearing every moment
the arrival of the real Simon Pure should cover me with shame and
disgrace, begged they would afford me as soon as possible, some history
of the case we were concerned for. They accordingly proceeded to expound
in a species of duet, some curious particulars of an old gentleman who
had the evil fortune to have them for his doctors, and who laboured under
some swelling of the neck, which they differed as to the treatment of,
and in consequence of which, the aid of a third party (myself, God bless
the mark!) was requested.
As I could by no means divest myself of the fear of Fitz.'s arrival, I
pleaded the multiplicity of my professional engagements as a reason for
at once seeing the patient; upon which I was conducted up stairs by my
two brethren, and introduced to a half-lighted chamber. In a large easy
chair sat a florid-looking old man, with a face in which pain and
habitual ill-temper had combined to absorb every expression.
"This is the doctor of the regiment, sir, that you desired to see," said
my tall coadjutor.
"Oh! then very well; good morning, sir. I suppose you will find out
something new the matter, for them two there have been doing so every
day this two months."
"I trust, sir," I replied stiffly, "that with the assistance of my
learned friends, much may be done for you. Ha! hem! So this is the
malady. Turn your head a little to that side;" here an awful groan
escaped the sick man, for I, it appears, had made considerable impression
upon rather a delicate part, not unintentionally I must confess; for as I
remembered Hoyle's maxim at whist, "when in doubt play a trump," so I
thought it might be true in physic, when posed by a difficulty to do a
bold thing also. "Does that hurt you, sir?" said I in a soothing and
affectionate tone of voice. "Like the devil," growled the patient. "And
here?" said I. "Oh! oh! I can't bear it any longer." "Oh! I perceive,"
said I, "the thing is just as I expected." Here I raised my eyebrows,
and looked indescribably wise at my confreres.
"No aneurism, doctor," said the tall one.
"Maybe," said the short man, "maybe it's a stay-at-home-with-us tumour
after all;" so at least he appeared to pronounce a confounded technical,
which I afterwards learned was "steatomatous;" conceiving that my rosy
friend was disposed to jeer at me, I gave him a terrific frown, and
resumed, "this must not be touched."
"So you won't operate upon it," said the patient.
"I would not take a thousand pounds and do so," I replied. "Now if you
please gentlemen," said I, making a step towards the door, as if to
withdraw for consultation; upon which they accompanied me down stairs to
the breakfast-room. As it was the only time in my life I had performed
in this character, I had some doubts as to the propriety of indulging a
very hearty breakfast appetite, not knowing if it were unprofessional to
eat; but from this doubt my learned friends speedily relieved me, by the
entire devotion which they bestowed for about twenty minutes upon ham,
rolls, eggs, and cutlets, barely interrupting these important occupations
by sly allusions to the old gentleman's malady, and his chance of
"Well, doctor," said the pale one, as at length he rested from his
labours, "what are we to do?"
"Ay," said the other," there's the question."
"Go on," said I, "go on as before; I can't advise you better." Now, this
was a deep stroke of mine; for up to the present moment I do not know
what treatment they were practising; but it looked a shrewd thing to
guess it, and it certainly was civil to approve of it.
"So you think that will be best."
"I am certain--I know nothing better," I answered.
"Well, I'm sure, sir, we have every reason to be gratified for the very
candid manner you have treated us. Sir, I'm your most obedient servant,"
said the fat one.
"Gentlemen, both your good healths and professional success also:" here
I swallowed a petit verre of brandy; thinking all the while there were
worse things than the practice of physic.
"I hope you are not going," said one, as my chaise drew up at the door.
"Business calls me," said I, "and I can't help it."
"Could not you manage to see our friend here again, in a day or two?"
said the rosy one.
"I fear it will be impossible," replied I; "besides I have a notion he
may not desire it."
"I have been commissioned to hand you this," said the tall doctor, with a
half sigh, as he put a check into my hand.
I bowed slightly, and stuffed the crumpled paper with a half careless air
into my waistcoat pocket, and wishing them both every species of
happiness and success, shook hands four times with each, and drove off;
never believing myself safe 'till I saw the gate-lodge behind me, and
felt myself flying on the road to Kilkenny at about twelve miles Irish an
It was past two o'clock when I reached the town. On entering the
barrack-yard, I perceived a large group of officers chatting together,
and every moment breaking into immoderate fits of laughter. I went over,
and immediately learned the source of their mirth, which was this: No
sooner had it been known that Fitzgerald was about to go to a distance,
on a professional call, than a couple of young officers laid their heads
together, and wrote an anonymous note to Mrs. Fitz. who was the very
dragon of jealousy, informing her, that her husband had feigned the whole
history of the patient and consultation as an excuse for absenting
himself on an excursion of gallantry; and that if she wished to satisfy
herself of the truth of the statement, she had only to follow him in the
morning, and detect his entire scheme; the object of these amiable
friends being to give poor Mrs. Fitz. a twenty miles' jaunt, and confront
her with her injured husband at the end of it.
Having a mind actively alive to suspicions of this nature, the worthy
woman made all her arrangements for a start, and scarcely was the chaise
and four, with her husband, out of the town, than was she on the track of
it, with a heart bursting with jealousy, and vowing vengeance to the
knife, against all concerned in this scheme to wrong her.
So far the plan of her persecutors had perfectly succeeded; they saw her
depart, on a trip of, as they supposed, twenty miles, and their whole
notions of the practical joke were limited to the eclaircissement that
must ensue at the end. Little, however, were they aware how much more
nearly the suspected crime, was the position of the poor doctor to turn
out; for, as by one blunder I had taken his chaise, so he, without any
inquiry whatever, had got into the one intended for me; and never awoke
from a most refreshing slumber, till shaken by the shoulder by the
postillion, who whispered in his ear--"here we are sir; this is the
"But why stop at the gate? Drive up the avenue, my boy."
"His honor told me, sir, not for the world to go farther than the lodge;
nor to make as much noise as a mouse."
"Ah! very true. He may be very irritable, poor man! Well stop here, and
I'll get out."
Just as the doctor had reached the ground, a very smart-looking soubrette
tripped up, and said to him--
"Beg pardon, sir; but you are the gentleman from the barrack, sir?"
"Yes, my dear," said Fitz., with a knowing look at the pretty face of the
damsel, "what can I do for you?"
"Why sir, my mistress is here in the shrubbery; but she is so nervous,
and so frightened, I don't know how she'll go through it."
"Ah! she's frightened, poor thing; is she? Oh! she must keep up her
spirits, while there's life there's hope."
"I say, my darling, she must not give way. I'll speak to her a little.
Is not he rather advanced in life?"
"Oh, Lord! no sir. Only two-and-thirty, my mistress tells me?"
"Two-and-thirty! Why I thought he was above sixty."
"Above sixty! Law! sir. You have a bright fancy. This is the
gentleman, ma'am. Now sir, I'll just slip aside for a moment, and let
you talk to her."
"I am grieved, ma'am, that I have not the happiness to make your
acquaintance under happier circumstances."
"I must confess, sir--though I am ashamed"--
"Never be ashamed, ma'am. Your grief, although, I trust causeless, does
you infinite honor."
"Upon my soul she is rather pretty," said the doctor to himself here.
"Well, sir! as I have the most perfect confidence in you, from all I have
heard of you, I trust you will not think me abrupt in saying that any
longer delay here is dangerous."
"Dangerous! Is he in so critical a state as that then?"
"Critical a state, sir! Why what do you mean?"