Produced by Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
A Tale of Irish Life
IN TWO VOLUMES–VOLUME TWO
THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF SAMUEL LOVER (V. 4)
[Illustration: Tom Organ Loftus’ Coldairian System]
[Illustration: Tom Connor’s Cat]
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS VOLUME TWO
Tom Organ Loftus’ Coldairian System
Tom Connor’s Cat
Andy’s Cooking Extraordinary
Tom Organ Loftus and the Duke
A Crack Shot
The Party at Killarney
_Etched by W. H. W. Bicknell from drawings by Samuel Lover_
The night was pitch dark, and on rounding the adjacent corner no vehicle could be seen; but a peculiar whistle from Dick was answered by the sound of approaching wheels and the rapid footfalls of a horse, mingled with the light rattle of a smart gig. On the vehicle coming up, Dick took his little mare, that was blacker than the night, by the head, the apron of the gig was thrown down, and out jumped a smart servant-boy.
“You have the horse ready, too, Billy?”
“Yis, sir,” said Billy, touching his hat.
“Then follow, and keep up with me, remember.”
“Come to her head, here,” and he patted the little mare’s neck as he spoke with a caressing “whoa,” which was answered by a low neigh of satisfaction, while the impatient pawing of her fore foot showed the animal’s desire to start. “What an impatient little devil she is,” said Dick, as he mounted the gig; “I’ll get in first, Murphy, as I’m going to drive. Now up with you–hook on the apron–that’s it–are you all right?”
“Quite,” said Murphy.
“Then you be into your saddle and after us, Billy,” said Dick; “and now let her go.”
Billy gave the little black mare her head, and away she went, at a slapping pace, the fire from the road answering the rapid strokes of her nimble feet. The servant then mounted a horse which was tied to a neighbouring palisade, and had to gallop for it to come up with his master, who was driving with a swiftness almost fearful, considering the darkness of the night and the narrowness of the road he had to traverse, for he was making the best of his course by cross-ways to an adjacent roadside inn, where some non-resident electors were expected to arrive that night by a coach from Dublin; for the county town had every nook and cranny occupied, and this inn was the nearest point where they could get any accommodation.
Now don’t suppose that they were electors whom Murphy and Dick in their zeal for their party were going over to greet with hearty welcomes and bring up to the poll the next day. By no means. They were the friends of the opposite party, and it was with the design of retarding their movements that this night’s excursion was undertaken. These electors were a batch of plain citizens from Dublin, whom the Scatterbrain interest had induced to leave the peace and quiet of the city to tempt the wilds of the country at that wildest of times–during a contested election; and a night coach was freighted inside and out with the worthy cits, whose aggregate voices would be of immense importance the next day; for the contest was close, the county nearly polled out, and but two days more for the struggle. Now, to intercept these plain unsuspecting men was the object of Murphy, whose well-supplied information had discovered to him this plan of the enemy, which he set about countermining. As they rattled over the rough by-roads, many a laugh did the merry attorney and the untameable Dick the Devil exchange, as the probable success of their scheme was canvassed, and fresh expedients devised to meet the possible impediments which might interrupt them. As they topped a hill Murphy pointed out to his companion a moving light in the plain beneath.
“That’s the coach, Dick–there are the lamps, we’re just in time–spin down the hill, my boy–let me get in as they’re at supper, and ‘faith they’ll want it, after coming off a coach such a night as this, to say nothing of some of them being aldermen in expectancy perhaps, and of course obliged to play trencher-men as often as they can, as a requisite rehearsal for the parts they must hereafter fill.”
In fifteen minutes more Dick pulled up before a small cabin within a quarter of a mile of the inn, and the mounted servant tapped at the door, which was immediately opened, and a peasant, advancing to the gig, returned the civil salutation with which Dick greeted his approach.
“I wanted to be sure you were ready, Barny.”
“Oh, do you think I’d fail you, Misther Dick, your honour?”
“I thought you might be asleep, Barny.”
“Not when you bid me wake, sir; and there’s a nice fire ready for you, and as fine a dhrop o’ _potteen_ as ever tickled your tongue, sir.”
“You’re the lad, Barny!–good fellow–I’ll be back with you by-and-by;” and off whipped Dick again.
After going about a quarter of a mile further, he pulled up, alighted with Murphy from the gig, unharnessed the little black mare, and then overturned the gig into the ditch.
“That’s as natural as life,” said Dick.
“What an escape of my neck I’ve had!” said Murphy.
“Are you much hurt?” said Dick.
“A trifle lame only,” said Murphy, laughing and limping.
“There was a great _boccagh_ [Footnote: Lame beggar.] lost in you, Murphy. Wait; let me rub a handful of mud on your face–there–you have a very upset look, ‘pon my soul,” said Dick, as he flashed the light of his lantern on him for a moment, and laughed at Murphy scooping the mud out of his eye, where Dick had purposely planted it.
“Devil take you,” said Murtough; “that’s too natural.”
“There’s nothing like looking your part,” said Dick.
“Well, I may as well complete my attire,” said Murtough, so he lay down in the road and took a roll in the mud; “that will do,” said he; “and now, Dick, go back to Barny and the mountain dew, while I storm the camp of the Philistines. I think in a couple of hours you may be on the look-out for me; I’ll signal you from the window, so now good bye;” and Murphy, leading the mare, proceeded to the inn, while Dick, with a parting “Luck to you, my boy,” turned back to the cottage of Barny.
The coach had set down six inside and ten out passengers (all voters) about ten minutes before Murphy marched up to the inn door, leading the black mare, and calling “ostler” most lustily. His call being answered for “the beast,” “the man” next demanded attention; and the landlord wondered all the wonders he could cram into a short speech, at seeing Misther Murphy, sure, at such a time; and the sonsy landlady, too, was all lamentations for his illigant coat and his poor eye, sure, all ruined with the mud:–and what was it at all? an upset, was it? oh, wirra! and wasn’t it lucky he wasn’t killed, and they without a spare bed to lay him out dacent if he was–sure, wouldn’t it be horrid for his body to be only on sthraw in the barn, instead of the best feather-bed in the house; and, indeed, he’d be welcome to it, only the gintlemen from town had them all engaged.
“Well, dead or alive, I must stay here to-night, Mrs. Kelly, at all events.”
“And what will you do for a bed?”
“A shake down in the parlour, or a stretch on a sofa, will do; my gig is stuck fast in a ditch–my mare tired–ten miles from home–cold night, and my knee hurt.” Murphy limped as he spoke.
“Oh! your poor knee,” said Mrs. Kelly; “I’ll put a dhrop o’ whisky and brown paper on it, sure–“
“And what gentlemen are these, Mrs. Kelly, who have so filled your house?”
“Gintlemen that came by the coach a while agone, and supping in the parlour now, sure.”
“Would you give my compliments, and ask would they allow me, under the present peculiar circumstances, to join them? and in the meantime, send somebody down the road to take the cushions out of my gig; for there is no use in attempting to get the gig out till morning.”
“Sartinly, Misther Murphy, we’ll send for the cushions; but as for the gentlemen, they are all on the other side.”
“What other side?”
“The Honourable’s voters, sure.”
“Pooh! is that all?” said Murphy,–“I don’t mind that, I’ve no objection on that account; besides, _they_ need not know who _I_ am,” and he gave the landlord a knowing wink, to which the landlord as knowingly returned another.
The message to the gentlemen was delivered, and Murphy was immediately requested to join their party; this was all he wanted, and he played off his powers of diversion on the innocent citizens so successfully, that before supper was half over they thought themselves in luck to have fallen in with such a chance acquaintance. Murphy fired away jokes, repartees, anecdotes, and country gossip, to their delight; and when the eatables were disposed of, he started them on the punch-drinking tack afterwards so cleverly, that he hoped to see three parts of them tipsy before they retired to rest.
“Do you feel your knee better now, sir?” asked one of the party, of Murphy.
“Considerably, thank you; whisky punch, sir, is about the best cure for bruises or dislocations a man can take.”
“I doubt that, sir,” said a little matter-of-fact man, who had now interposed his reasonable doubts for the twentieth time during Murphy’s various extravagant declarations, and the interruption only made Murphy romance the more.
“_You_ speak of your fiery _Dublin_ stuff, sir; but our country whisky is as mild as milk, and far more wholesome; then, sir, our fine air alone would cure half the complaints without a grain of physic.”
“I doubt that, sir!” said the little man.
“I assure you, sir, a friend of my own from town came down here last spring on crutches, and from merely following a light whisky diet and sleeping with his window open, he was able to dance at the race ball in a fortnight; as for this knee of mine, it’s a trifle, though it was a bad upset too.”
“How did it happen, sir? Was it your horse–or your harness–or your gig– or–“
“None o’ them, sir; it was a _Banshee_.”
“A Banshee!” said the little man; “what’s that?”
“A peculiar sort of supernatural creature that is common here, sir. She was squatted down on one side of the road, and my mare shied at her, and being a spirited little thing, she attempted to jump the ditch and missed it in the dark.”
“Jump a ditch, with a gig after her, sir?” said the little man.
“Oh, common enough to do that here, sir; she’d have done it easy in the daylight, but she could not measure her distance in the dark, and bang she went into the ditch: but it’s a trifle, after all. I am generally run over four or five times a year.”
“And you alive to tell it!” said the little man, incredulously.
“It’s hard to kill us here, sir, we are used to accidents.”
“Well, the worst accident I ever heard of,” said one of the citizens, “happened to a friend of mine, who went to visit a friend of his on a Sunday, and all the family happened to be at church; so on driving into the yard there was no one to take his horse, therefore he undertook the office of ostler himself, but being unused to the duty, he most incautiously took off the horse’s bridle before unyoking him from his gig, and the animal, making a furious plunge forward–my friend being before him at the time–the shaft of the gig was driven through his body, and into the coach-house gate behind him, and stuck so fast that the horse could not drag it out after; and in this dreadful situation they remained until the family returned from church, and saw the awful occurrence. A servant was despatched for a doctor, and the shaft was disengaged, and drawn out of the man’s body–just at the pit of the stomach; he was laid on a bed, and every one thought of course he must die at once, but he didn’t; and the doctor came next day, and he wasn’t dead–did what he could for him–and, to make a long story short, sir, the man recovered.”
“Pooh! pooh!” said the diminutive doubter.
“It’s true,” said the narrator.
“I make no doubt of it, sir,” said Murphy; “I know a more extraordinary case of recovery myself.”
“I beg your pardon, sir,” said the cit; “I have not finished my story yet, for the most extraordinary part of the story remains to be told; my friend, sir, was a very sickly man before the accident happened–a _very_ sickly man, and after that accident he became a hale healthy man. What do you think of that, sir?”
“It does not surprise me in the least, sir,” said Murphy; “I can account for it readily.”
“Well, sir, I never heard It accounted for, though I know it to be true; I should like to hear how you account for it?”
“Very simply, sir,” said Murphy; “don’t you perceive the man discovered a _mine_ of health by a _shaft_ being sunk in the _pit_ of his stomach?”
Murphy’s punning solution of the cause of cure was merrily received by the company, whose critical taste was not of that affected nature which despises _jeu de mots_, and _will not_ be satisfied under a _jeu d’esprit_; the little doubting man alone refused to be pleased.
“I doubt the value of a pun always, sir. Dr. Johnson said, sir–“
“I know,” said Murphy; “that the man who would make a pun would pick a pocket; that’s old, sir,–but is dearly remembered by all those who cannot make puns themselves.”
“Exactly,” said one of the party they called Wiggins. “It is the old story of the fox and the grapes. Did you ever hear, sir, the story of the fox and the grapes? The fox one day was–“
“Yes, yes,” said Murphy, who, fond of absurdity as he was, could _not_ stand the fox and the grapes by way of something new.
“They’re sour, said the fox.”
“Yes,” said Murphy, “a capital story.”
“Oh, them fables is so good!” said Wiggins.
“All nonsense!” said the diminutive contradictor.
“Nonsense, nothing but nonsense; the ridiculous stuff of birds and beasts speaking! As if any one could believe such stuff.”
“I do–firmly–for one,” said Murphy.
“You do?” said the little man.
“I do–and do you know why?”
“I cannot indeed conceive,” said the little man, with a bitter grin.
“It is, sir, because I myself know a case that occurred in this very country of a similar nature.”
“Do you want to make me believe you knew a fox that spoke, sir?” said the mannikin, almost rising into anger.
“Many, sir,” said Murphy, “many.”
“Well! after that!” said the little man.
“But the case I immediately allude to is not of a fox, but a cat,” said Murphy.
“A cat? Oh, yes–to be sure–a cat speak, indeed!” said the little gentleman.
“It is a fact, sir,” said Murphy; “and if the company would not object to my relating the story, I will state the particulars.”
The proposal was received with acclamation; and Murphy, in great enjoyment of the little man’s annoyance, cleared his throat, and made all the preparatory demonstrations of a regular _raconteur_; but, before he began, he recommended the gentlemen to mix fresh tumblers all round that they might have nothing to do but listen and drink silently. “For of all things in the world,” said Murtough, “I hate a song or a story to be interrupted by the rattle of spoons.”
They obeyed; and while they are mixing their punch, we will just turn over a fresh page, and devote a new Chapter to the following
MURTOUGH MURPHY’S STORY; BEING YE MARVELLOUS LEGEND OF TOM CONNOR’S CAT
“There was a man in these parts, sir, you must know, called Tom Connor, and he had a cat that was equal to any dozen of rat-traps, and he was proud of the baste, and with rayson; for she was worth her weight in goold to him in saving his sacks of meal from the thievery of the rats and mice; for Tom was an extensive dealer in corn, and influenced the rise and fall of that article in the market, to the extent of a full dozen of sacks at a time, which he either kept or sold, as the spirit of free trade or monopoly came over him. Indeed, at one time, Tom had serious thoughts of applying to the government for a military force to protect his granary when there was a threatened famine in the county.”
“Pooh! pooh! sir,” said the matter-of-fact little man: “as if a dozen sacks could be of the smallest consequence in a whole county–pooh! pooh!”
“Well, sir,” said Murphy, “I can’t help if you don’t believe; but it’s truth what I am telling you, and pray don’t interrupt me, though you may not believe; by the time the story’s done you’ll have heard more wonderful things than _that_,–and besides, remember you’re a stranger in these parts, and have no notion of the extraordinary things, physical, metaphysical, and magical, which constitute the idiosyncrasy of rural destiny.”
The little man did not know the meaning of Murphy’s last sentence–nor Murphy either; but, having stopped the little man’s throat with big words, he proceeded–
“This cat, sir, you must know, was a great pet, and was so up to everything, that Tom swore she was a’most like a Christian, only she couldn’t speak, and had so sensible a look in her eyes, that he was sartin sure the cat knew every word that was said to her. Well, she used to sit by him at breakfast every morning, and the eloquent cock of her tail, as she used to rub against his leg, said, ‘Give me some milk, Tom Connor,’ as plain as print, and the plenitude of her purr afterwards spoke a gratitude beyond language. Well, one morning, Tom was going to the neighbouring town to market, and he had promised the wife to bring home shoes to the childre’ out o’ the price of the corn; and sure enough, before he sat down to breakfast, there was Tom taking the measure of the children’s feet, by cutting notches on a bit of stick; and the wife gave him so many cautions about getting a ‘nate fit’ for ‘Billy’s purty feet,’ that Tom, in his anxiety to nick the closest possible measure, cut off the child’s toe. That disturbed the harmony of the party, and Tom was obliged to breakfast alone, while the mother was endeavouring to cure Billy; in short, trying to make a _heal_ of his _toe_. Well, sir, all the time Tom was taking measure for the shoes, the cat was observing him with that luminous peculiarity of eye for which her tribe is remarkable; and when Tom sat down to breakfast the cat rubbed up against him more vigorously than usual; but Tom, being bewildered between his expected gain in corn and the positive loss of his child’s toe, kept never minding her, until the cat, with a sort of caterwauling growl, gave Tom a dab of her claws, that went clean through his leathers, and a little further. ‘Wow!’ says Tom, with a jump, clapping his hand on the part, and rubbing it, ‘by this and that, you drew the blood out o’ me,’ says Tom; ‘you wicked divil–tish!–go along!’ says he, making a kick at her. With that the cat gave a reproachful look at him, and her eyes glared just like a pair of mail-coach lamps in a fog. With that, sir, the cat, with a mysterious _’mi-ow’_ fixed a most penetrating glance on Tom, and distinctly uttered his name.
“Tom felt every hair on his head as stiff as a pump-handle; and scarcely crediting his ears, he returned a searching look at the cat, who very quietly proceeded in a sort of nasal twang–
“‘Tom Connor,’ says she.
“‘The Lord be good to me!’ says Tom, ‘if it isn’t spakin’ she is!’
“‘Tom Connor,’ says she again.
“‘Yes, ma’am,’ says Tom.
“‘Come here,’ says she; ‘whisper–I want to talk to you, Tom,’ says she, ‘the laste taste in private,’ says she–rising on her hams, and beckoning him with her paw out o’ the door, with a wink and a toss o’ the head aiqual to a milliner.
“Well, as you may suppose, Tom didn’t know whether he was on his head or his heels, but he followed the cat, and off she went and squatted herself under the edge of a little paddock at the back of Tom’s house; and as he came round the corner, she held up her paw again, and laid it on her mouth, as much as to say, ‘Be cautious, Tom.’ Well, divil a word Tom could say at all, with the fright, so up he goes to the cat, and says she–
“‘Tom,’ says she, ‘I have a great respect for you, and there’s something I must tell you, becase you’re losing character with your neighbours,’ says she, ‘by your goin’s on,’ says she, ‘and it’s out o’ the respect that I have for you, that I must tell you,’ says she.
“‘Thank you, ma’am,’ says Tom.
“‘You’re goin’ off to the town,’ says she, ‘to buy shoes for the childre’,’ says she, ‘and never thought o’ gettin’ me a pair.’
“‘You!’ says Tom.”
“‘Yis, me, Tom Connor,’ says she; ‘and the neighbours wondhers that a respectable man like you allows your cat to go about the counthry barefutted,’ says she.”
“‘Is it a cat to ware shoes?’ says Tom.”
“‘Why not?’ says she; ‘doesn’t horses ware shoes?–and I have a prettier foot than a horse, I hope,’ says she, with a toss of her head.”
“‘Faix, she spakes like a woman; so proud of her feet,’ says Tom to himself, astonished, as you may suppose, but pretending never to think it remarkable all the time; and so he went on discoursin’; and says he, ‘It’s thrue for you, ma’am,’ says he, ‘that horses wares shoes–but that stands to rayson, ma’am, you see–seeing the hardship their feet has to go through on the hard roads.'”
“‘And how do you know what hardship my feet has to go through?’ says the cat, mighty sharp.”
“‘But, ma’am,’ says Tom, ‘I don’t well see how you could fasten a shoe on you,’ says he.”
“‘Lave that to me,’ says the cat.”
“‘Did any one ever stick walnut shells on you, pussy?’ says Tom, with a grin.”
“‘Don’t be disrespectful, Tom Connor,’ says the cat, with a frown.”
“‘I ax your pard’n, ma’am,’ says he, ‘but as for the horses you wor spakin’ about wearin’ shoes, you know their shoes is fastened on with nails, and how would your shoes be fastened on?'”
“‘Ah, you stupid thief!’ says she, ‘haven’t I illigant nails o’ my own?’ and with that she gave him a dab of her claw, that made him roar.”
“‘Ow! murdher!’ says he.”
“‘Now, no more of your palaver, Misther Connor,’ says the cat; ‘just be off and get me the shoes.'”
“‘Tare an’ ouns!’ says Tom, ‘what’ll become o’ me if I’m to get shoes for my cats?’ says he, ‘for you increase your family four times a year, and you have six or seven every time,’ says he; ‘and then you must all have two pair a piece–wirra! wirra!–I’ll be ruined in shoe-leather,’ says Tom.
“‘No more o’ your stuff,’ says the cat; ‘don’t be stand in’ here undher the hedge talkin’, or we’ll lose our karacthers–for I’ve remarked your wife is jealous, Tom.’
“‘Pon my sowl, that’s thrue,’ says Tom, with a smirk.
“‘More fool she,’ says the cat, ‘for, ‘pon my conscience, Tom, you’re as ugly as if you wor bespoke.’
“Off ran the cat with these words, leaving Tom in amazement. He said nothing to the family, for fear of fright’ning them, and off he went to the _town_ as he _pretended_–for he saw the cat watching him through a hole in the hedge; but when he came to a turn at the end of the road, the dickings a mind he minded the market, good or bad, but went off to Squire Botherum’s, the magisthrit, to sware examinations agen the cat.”
“Pooh! pooh!–nonsense!!” broke in the little man, who had listened thus far to Murtough with an expression of mingled wonder and contempt, while the rest of the party willingly gave up the reins to nonsense, and enjoyed Murtough’s Legend and their companion’s more absurd common sense.
“Don’t interrupt him, Goggins,” said Mister Wiggins.
“How can you listen to such nonsense?” returned Goggins. “Swear examinations against a cat, indeed! pooh! pooh!”
“My dear sir,” said Murtough, “remember this is a fair story, and that the country all around here is full of enchantment. As I was telling you, Tom went off to swear examinations.”
“Ay, ay!” shouted all but Goggins; “go on with the story.”
“And when Tom was asked to relate the events of the morning, which brought him before Squire Botherum, his brain was so bewildered between his corn, and his cat, and his child’s toe, that he made a very confused account of it.
“‘Begin your story from the beginning,’ said the magistrate to Tom.
“‘Well, your honour,’ says Tom, ‘I was goin’ to market this mornin’, to sell the child’s corn–I beg your pard’n–my own toes, I mane, sir.’
“‘Sell your toes!’ said the Squire.
“‘No, sir, takin’ the cat to market, I mane–‘
“‘Take a cat to market!’ said the Squire. ‘You’re drunk, man.’
“‘No, your honour, only confused a little; for when the toes began to spake to me–the cat, I mane–I was bothered clane–‘
“‘The cat speak to you!’ said the Squire. ‘Phew! worse than before–you’re drunk, Tom.’
“‘No, your honour; it’s on the strength of the cat I come to spake to you–‘
“‘I think it’s on the strength of a pint of whisky, Tom–‘
“‘By the vartue o’ my oath, your honour, it’s nothin’ but the cat.’ And so Tom then told him all about the affair, and the Squire was regularly astonished. Just then the bishop of the diocese and the priest of the parish happened to call in, and heard the story; and the bishop and the priest had a tough argument for two hours on the subject; the former swearing she must be a witch; but the priest denying _that_, and maintaining she was _only_ enchanted; and that part of the argument was afterwards referred to the primate, and subsequently to the conclave at Rome; but the Pope declined interfering about cats, saying he had quite enough to do minding his own bulls.
“‘In the meantime, what are we to do with the cat?’ says Botherum.
“‘Burn her,’ says the bishop, ‘she’s a witch.’
“_Only_ enchanted,’ said the priest–‘and the ecclesiastical court maintains that–‘
“‘Bother the ecclesiastical court!’ said the magistrate; ‘I can only proceed on the statutes;’ and with that he pulled down all the law-books in his library, and hunted the laws from Queen Elizabeth down, and he found that they made laws against everything in Ireland, _except a cat_. The devil a thing escaped them but a cat, which did _not_ come within the meaning of any act of parliament:–_the cats only had escaped_.
“‘There’s the alien act, to be sure,’ said the magistrate, ‘and perhaps she’s a French spy, in disguise.’
“‘She spakes like a French spy, sure enough,’ says Tom; ‘and she was missin’, I remember, all last Spy-Wednesday.’
“‘That’s suspicious,’ says the squire–‘but conviction might be difficult; and I have a fresh idea,’ says Botherum.
“”Faith, it won’t keep fresh long, this hot weather,’ says Tom; ‘so your honour had betther make use of it at wanst.’
“‘Right,’ says Botherum,–‘we’ll make her subject to the game laws; we’ll hunt her,’ says he.
“‘Ow!–elegant!’ says Tom;–‘we’ll have a brave run out of her.’
“‘Meet me at the cross roads,’ says the Squire, ‘in the morning, and I’ll have the hounds ready.’
“‘Well, off Tom went home; and he was racking his brain what excuse he could make to the cat for not bringing the shoes; and at last he hit one off, just as he saw her cantering up to him, half-a-mile before he got home.
“‘Where’s the shoes, Tom?’ says she.
“‘I have not got them to-day, ma’am,’ says he.
“‘Is that the way you keep your promise, Tom?’ says she;–‘I’ll tell you what it is, Tom–I’ll tare the eyes out o’ the childre’ if you don’t get me shoes.’
“‘Whisht! whisht!’ says Tom, frightened out of his life for his children’s eyes. ‘Don’t be in a passion, pussy. The shoemaker said he had not a shoe in his shop, nor a last that would make one to fit you; and he says, I must bring you into the town for him to take your measure.’
“‘And when am I to go?’ says the cat, looking savage.
“‘To-morrow,’ says Tom.
“‘It’s well you said that, Tom,’ said the cat, ‘or the devil an eye I’d leave in your family this night’–and off she hopped.
“Tom thrimbled at the wicked look she gave.
“‘Remember!’ says she, over the hedge, with a bitter caterwaul.
“‘Never fear,’ says Tom. Well, sure enough, the next mornin’ there was the cat at cock-crow, licking herself as nate as a new pin, to go into the town, and out came Tom with a bag undher his arm, and the cat afther him.
“‘Now git into this, and I’ll carry you into the town,’ says Tom, opening the bag.
“‘Sure I can walk with you,’ says the cat.
“‘Oh, that wouldn’t do,’ says Tom; ‘the people in the town is curious and slandherous people, and sure it would rise ugly remarks if I was seen with a cat afther me:–a dog is a man’s companion by nature, but cats does not stand to rayson.’
“Well, the cat, seeing there was no use in argument, got into the bag, and off Tom set to the cross roads with the bag over his shoulder, and he came up, _quite innocent-like_, to the corner, where the Squire, and his huntsman, and the hounds, and a pack o’ people were waitin’. Out came the Squire on a sudden, just as if it was all by accident.
“‘God save you, Tom,’ says he.
“‘God save you kindly, sir,’ says Tom.
“‘What’s that bag you have at your back?’ says the Squire.
“‘Oh, nothin’ at all, sir,’ says Tom–makin’ a face all the time, as much as to say, I have her safe.
“‘Oh, there’s something in that bag, I think,’ says the Squire; ‘and you must let me see it.’
“‘If you bethray me, Tom Connor,’ says the cat in a low voice, ‘by this and that I’ll never spake to you again!’
“‘Pon my honour, sir,’ said Tom, with a wink and a twitch of his thumb towards the bag, ‘I haven’t anything in it.’
“‘I have been missing my praties of late,’ says the Squire; ‘and I’d just like to examine that bag,’ says he.
“‘Is it doubting my charackther you’d be, sir?’ says Tom, pretending to be in a passion.
“‘Tom, your sowl!’ says the voice in the sack, ‘_if you let the cat out of the bag_, I’ll murther you.’
“‘An honest man would make no objection to be sarched,’ said the Squire; ‘and I insist on it,’ says he, laying hold o’ the bag, and Tom purtending to fight all the time; but, my jewel! before two minutes, they shook the cat out o’ the bag, sure enough, and off she went with her tail as big as a sweeping brush, and the Squire, with a thundering view halloo after her, clapt the dogs at her heels, and away they went for the bare life. Never was there seen such running as that day–the cat made for a shaking bog, the loneliest place in the whole country, and there the riders were all thrown out, barrin’ the huntsman, who had a web-footed horse on purpose for soft places; and the priest, whose horse could go anywhere by reason of the priest’s blessing; and, sure enough, the huntsman and his riverence stuck to the hunt like wax; and just as the cat got on the border of the bog, they saw her give a twist as the foremost dog closed with her, for he gave her a nip in the flank. Still she went on, however, and headed them well, towards an old mud cabin in the middle of the bog, and there they saw her jump in at the window, and up came the dogs the next minit, and gathered round the house with the most horrid howling ever was heard. The huntsman alighted, and went into the house to turn the cat out again, when what should he see but an old hag lying in bed in the corner?
“‘Did you see a cat come in here?’ says he.
“‘Oh, no–o–o–o!’ squealed the old hag, in a trembling voice; ‘there’s no cat here,’ says she.
“‘Yelp, yelp, yelp!’ went the dogs outside.
“‘Oh, keep the dogs out o’ this,’ says the old hag–‘oh–o–o–o!’ and the huntsman saw her eyes glare under the blanket, just like a cat’s.
“‘Hillo!’ says the huntsman, pulling down the blanket–and what should he see but the old hag’s flank all in a gore of blood.
“‘Ow, ow! you old divil–is it you? you ould cat!’ says he, opening the door.
“In rushed the dogs–up jumped the old hag, and changing into a cat before their eyes, out she darted through the window again, and made another run for it; but she couldn’t escape, and the dogs gobbled her while you could say ‘Jack Robinson.’ But the most remarkable part of this extraordinary story, gentlemen, is, that the pack was ruined from that day out; for after having eaten the enchanted cat, _the devil a thing they would ever hunt afterwards but mice._”
Murphy’s story was received with acclamation by all but the little man.
“That is all a pack of nonsense,” said he.
“Well, you’re welcome to it, sir,” said Murphy, “and if I had greater nonsense you should have it; but seriously, sir, I again must beg you to remember that the country all around here abounds in enchantment; scarcely a night passes without some fairy frolic; but, however you may doubt the wonderful fact of the cat speaking, I wonder you are not impressed with the points of moral in which the story abounds–“
“Fiddlestick!” said the miniature snarler.
“First, the little touch about the corn monopoly –then maternal vanity chastised by the loss of the child’s toe–then Tom’s familiarity with his cat, showing the danger arising from a man making too free with his female domestics–the historical point about the penal laws–the fatal results of letting the cat out o’ the bag, with the curious final fact in natural history.”
[Footnote: Handy Andy was written when the “vexed question” of the “Corn Laws” was the all-absorbing subject of discussion.]
“It’s all nonsense,” said the little man, “and I am ashamed of myself for being such a fool as to sit–alistening to such stuff instead of going to bed, after the fatigue of my journey and the necessity of rising early to-morrow, to be in good time at the polling.”
“Oh! then you’re going to the election, sir?” said Murphy.
“Yes, sir–there’s some sense in _that_–and _you_, gentlemen, remember we must be _all_ up early–and I recommend you to follow my example.”
The little man rang the bell–the bootjack and slippers were called for, and, after some delay, a very sleepy-looking _gossoon_ entered with a bootjack under his arm, but no slippers.
“Didn’t I say slippers?” said the little man.
“You did, sir.”
“Where are they, sir?”
“The masther says there isn’t any, if you plaze, sir.”
“No slippers! and you call this an inn? Oh!–well, ‘what can’t be cured must be endured’–hold me the bootjack, sir.”
The gossoon obeyed–the little man inserted his heel in the cleft, but, on attempting to pull his foot from the boot, he nearly went heels over head backward. Murphy caught him and put him on his legs again. “Heads up, soldiers,” exclaimed Murtough; “I thought you were drinking too much.”
“Sir, I’m not intoxicated!” said the mannikin, snappishly. “It is the fault of that vile bootjack–what sort of a thing is that you have brought?” added he in a rage to the _gossoon_.
“It’s the bootjack, sir; only one o’ the horns is gone, you see,” and he held up to view a rough piece of board with an angular slit in it, but one of “the horns,” as he called it, had been broken off at the top, leaving the article useless.
“How dare you bring such a thing as _that_?” said the little man, in a great rage.
“Why, sir, you ax’d for a bootjack, sure, and I brought you the best I had–and it’s not my fault it’s bruk, so it is, for it wasn’t me bruk it, but Biddy batin’ the cock.”
“Beating the cock!” repeated the little man in surprise. “Bless me! beat a cock with a bootjack!–what savages!”
“Oh, it’s not the _hen_ cock I mane, sir,” said the gossoon, “but the beer cock–she was batin’ the cock into the barrel, sir, wid the bootjack, sir.”
“That was decidedly wrong,” said Murphy; “a bootjack is better suited to a heel-tap than a full measure.”
“She was tapping the beer, you mean?” said the little man.
“Faix, she wasn’t tapping it at all, sir, but hittin’ it very hard, she was, and that’s the way she bruk it.”
“Barbarians!” exclaimed the little man; “using a bootjack instead of a hammer!”
“Sure the hammer was gone to the priest, sir; bekase he wanted it for the crucifixion.”
“The crucifixion!” exclaimed the little man, horrified; “is it possible they crucify people?”
“Oh no, sir!” said the gossoon, grinning, “it’s the picthure I main, sir– an illigant picthure that is hung up in the chapel, and he wanted a hammer to dhrive the nails–“
“Oh, a _picture_ of the crucifixion,” said the little man.
“Yes, sure, sir–the alther-piece, that was althered for to fit to the place, for it was too big when it came down from Dublin, so they cut off the sides where the sojers was, bekase it stopt out the windows, and wouldn’t lave a bit o’ light for his riverence to read mass; and sure the sojers were no loss out o’ the alther-piece, and was hung up afther in the vesthery, and serve them right, the blackguards. But it was sore agen our will to cut off the ladies at the bottom, that was cryin’ and roarin’; but great good luck, the head o’ the Blessed Virgin was presarved in the corner, and sure it’s beautiful to see the tears runnin’ down her face, just over the hole in the wall for the holy wather–which is remarkable.”
The gossoon was much offended by the laughter that followed his account of the altar-piece, which he had no intention of making irreverential, and suddenly became silent, with a muttered “More shame for yiz;” and as his bootjack was impracticable, he was sent off with orders for the chamber- maid to supply bed candles immediately.
The party soon separated for their various dormitories, the little man leaving sundry charges to call them early in the morning, and to be sure to have hot water ready for shaving, and, without fail, to have their boots polished in time and left at their room doors;–to all which injunctions he severally received the answer of–“Certainly, sir;” and as the bed-room doors were slapped-to, one by one, the last sound of the retiring party was the snappish voice of the indefatigable little man, shouting, ere he shut his door,–“Early–early–don’t forget, Mistress Kelly–_early!_”
A shake-down for Murphy in the parlour was hastily prepared; and after Mrs. Kelly was assured by Murtough that he was quite comfortable, and perfectly content with his accommodation, for which she made scores of apologies, with lamentations it was not better, &c., &c., the whole household retired to rest, and in about a quarter of an hour the inn was in perfect silence.
Then Murtough cautiously opened his door, and after listening for some minutes, and being satisfied he was the only watcher under the roof, he gently opened one of the parlour windows and gave the preconcerted signal which he and Dick had agreed upon. Dick was under the window immediately, and after exchanging a few words with Murtough, the latter withdrew, and taking off his boots, and screening with his hand the light of a candle he carried, he cautiously ascended the stairs, and proceeded stealthily along the corridor of the dormitory, where, from the chambers on each side, a concert of snoring began to be executed, and at all the doors stood the boots and shoes of the inmates awaiting the aid of Day and Martin in the morning. But, oh! innocent calf-skins–destined to a far different fate– not Day and Martin, but Dick the Devil and Company are in wait for you. Murphy collected as many as he could carry under his arms and descended with them to the parlour window, where they were transferred to Dick, who carried them directly to the horse-pond which lay behind the inn, and there committed them to the deep. After a few journeys up and down stairs, Murtough had left the electors without a morsel of sole or upper leather, and was satisfied that a considerable delay, if not a prevention of their appearance at the poll on the morrow, would be the consequence.
“There, Dick,” said Murphy, “is the last of them,” as he handed the little man’s shoes out of the window,–“and now, to save appearances, you must take mine too–for I must be without boots as well as the rest in the morning. What fun I shall have when the uproar begins–don’t you envy me, Dick? There, be off now: but hark ‘e, notwithstanding you take away my boots, you need not throw them into the horse-pond.”
“‘Faith, an’ I will,” said Dick, dragging them out of his hands; “‘t would not be honourable, if I didn’t–I’d give two pair of boots for the fun you’ll have.”
“Nonsense, Dick–Dick, I say–my boots!”
“Honour!” cried Dick, as he vanished round the corner.
“That devil will keep his word,” muttered Murphy, as he closed the window –“I may bid good bye to that pair of boots–bad luck to him!” And yet the merry attorney could not help laughing at Dick making him a sufferer by his own trick.
Dick _did_ keep his word; and after, with particular delight, sinking Murphy’s boots with the rest, he, as it was preconcerted, returned to the cottage of Barny, and with his assistance drew the upset gig from the ditch, and with a second set of harness, provided for the occasion, yoked the servant’s horse to the vehicle and drove home.
Murphy, meanwhile, was bent on more mischief at the inn; and lest the loss of the boots and shoes might not be productive of sufficient impediment to the movements of the enemy, he determined on venturing a step further. The heavy sleeping of the weary and tipsy travellers enabled him to enter their chambers unobserved, and over the garments they had taken off he poured the contents of the water-jug and water-bottle he found in each room, and then laying the empty bottle and a tumbler on a chair beside each sleeper’s bed, he made it appear as if the drunken men had been dry in the night, and, in their endeavours to cool their thirst, had upset the water over their own clothes. The clothes of the little man, in particular, Murphy took especial delight in sousing more profusely than his neighbour’s, and not content with taking his shoes, burnt his stockings, and left the ashes in the dish of the candlestick, with just as much unconsumed as would show what they had been. He then retired to the parlour, and with many an internal chuckle at the thought of the morning’s hubbub, threw off his clothes and flinging himself on the shake-down Mrs. Kelly had provided for him, was soon wrapt in the profoundest slumber, from which he never awoke until the morning uproar of the inn aroused him. He jumped from his lair and rushed to the scene of action, to soar in the storm of his own raising; and to make it more apparent that he had been as great a sufferer as the rest, he only threw a quilt over his shoulders and did not draw on his stockings. In this plight he scaled the stairs and joined the storming party, where the little man was leading the forlorn hope, with his candlestick in one hand and the remnant of his burnt stocking between the finger and thumb of the other.
“Look at that, sir!” he cried, as he held it up to the landlord.
The landlord could only stare.
“Bless me!” cried Murphy, “how drunk you must have been to mistake your stocking for an extinguisher!”
“Drunk, sir–I wasn’t drunk!”
“It looks very like it,” said Murphy, who did not wait for an answer, but bustled off to another party who was wringing out his inexpressibles at the door of his bed-room, and swearing at the gossoon that he _must_ have his boots.
“I never seen them, sir,” said the boy.
“I left them at my door,” said the man.
“So did I leave mine,” said Murphy, “and here I am barefooted–it is most extraordinary.”
“Has the house been robbed?” said the innocent elector.
“Not a one o’ me knows, sir!” said the boy; “but how could it be robbed and the doors all fast this mornin’?”
The landlady now appeared, and fired at the word “robbed!”
“Robbed, sir!” exclaimed Mrs. Kelly; “no, sir–no one was ever robbed in my house–my house is respectable and responsible, sir–a vartuous house– none o’ your rantipole places, sir, I’d have you to know, but decent and well behaved, and the house was as quiet as a lamb all night.”
“Certainly, Mrs. Kelly,” said Murphy–“not a more respectable house in Ireland–I’ll vouch for that.”
“You’re a gentleman, Misther Murphy,” said Mrs. Kelly, who turned down the passage, uttering indignant ejaculations in a sort of snorting manner, while her words of anger were returned by Murphy with expressions of soothing and condolence as he followed her down-stairs.
The storm still continued above, and while there they shouted and swore and complained, Murphy gave _his_ notion of the catastrophe to the landlady below, inferring that the men were drunk and poured the water over their own clothes. To repeat this idea to themselves he re-ascended, but the men were incredulous. The little man he found buttoning on a pair of black gaiters, the only serviceable decency he had at his command, which only rendered his denuded state more ludicrous. To him Murphy asserted his belief that the whole affair was enchantment, and ventured to hope the small individual would have more faith in fairy machinations for the future; to which the little abortion only returned his usual “Pho! pho! nonsense!”
Through all this scene of uproar, as Murphy passed to and fro, whenever he encountered the landlord, that worthy individual threw him a knowing look; and the exclamation of, “Oh, Misther Murphy–by dad!” given in a low chuckling tone, insinuated that the landlord not only smoked but enjoyed the joke.
“You must lend me a pair of boots, Kelly!” said Murtough.
“To be sure, sir–ha! ha! ha!–but you are the quare man, Misther Murphy–“
“Send down the road and get my gig out of the ditch.”
“To be sure, sir. Poor devils! purty hands they got into,” and off went the landlord, with a chuckle.
The messengers sent for the gig returned, declaring there was no gig to be seen anywhere.
Murphy affected great surprise at the intelligence–again went among the bamboozled electors, who were all obliged to go to bed for want of clothes; and his bitter lamentations over the loss of his gig almost reconciled them to their minor troubles.
To the fears they expressed that they should not be able to reach the town in time for polling that day, Murphy told them to set their minds at rest, for they would be in time on the next.
He then borrowed a saddle as well as the pair of boots from the landlord, and the little black mare bore Murphy triumphantly back to the town, after he had securely impounded Scatterbrain’s voters, who were anxiously and hourly expected by their friends. Still they came not. At last, Handy Andy, who happened to be in town with Scatterbrain, was despatched to hurry them, and his orders were not to come back without them.
Handy, on his arrival at the inn, found the electors in bed, and all the fires in the house employed in drying their clothes. The little man, wrapped in a blanket, was superintending the cooking of his own before the kitchen grate; there hung his garments on some cross sticks suspended by a string, after the fashion of a roasting-jack, which the small gentleman turned before a blazing turf fire; and beside this contrivance of his swung a goodly joint of meat, which a bouncing kitchen wench came over to baste now and then.
Andy was answering some questions of the inquisitive little man, when the kitchen maid, handing the basting-ladle to Andy, begged him to do a good turn and just to baste the beef for her, for that her heart was broke with all she had to do, cooking dinner for so many.
Andy, always ready to oblige, consented, and plied the ladle actively between the troublesome queries of the little man; but at last, getting confused with some very crabbed questions put to him, Andy became completely bothered, and lifting a brimming ladle of dripping, poured it over the little man’s coat instead of the beef.
A roar from the proprietor of the clothes followed, and he implanted a kick at such advantage upon Andy, that he upset him into the dripping-pan; and Andy, in his fall, endeavouring to support himself, caught at the suspended articles above him, and the clothes, and the beef, and Andy, all swam in gravy.
[Illustration: Andy’s Cooking extraordinary]
While disaster and hubbub were rife below, the electors up-stairs were holding a council whether it would not be better to send back the “Honourable’s” messenger to the town and request a supply of shoes, which they had no other means of getting. The debate was of an odd sort; they were all in their several beds at the time, and roared at each other through their doors, which were purposely left open that they might enjoy each other’s conversation; number seven replied to number three, and claimed respect to his arguments on the score of seniority; the blue room was completely controverted by the yellow; and the double-bedded room would, of course, have had superior weight in the argument, only that everything it said was lost by the two honourable members speaking together. The French king used to hold a council called a “bed of justice,” in which neither justice nor a bed had anything to do, so that this Irish conference better deserved the title than any council the Bourbon ever assembled. The debate having concluded, and the question being put and carried, the usher of the black counterpane was desired to get out of bed, and, wrapped in the robe of office whence he derived his title, to go down-stairs and call the “Honourable’s” messenger to the “bar of the house,” and there order him a pint of porter, for refreshment after his ride; and forthwith to send him back again to the town for a supply of shoes.
The house was unanimous in voting the supplies. The usher reached the kitchen and found Andy in his shirt sleeves, scraping the dripping from his livery with an old knife, whose hackled edge considerably assisted Andy’s own ingenuity in the tearing of his coat in many places, while the little man made no effort towards the repair of his garment, but held it up before him, and regarded it with a piteous look.
To the usher of the black counterpane’s question, whether Andy was the “Honourable’s messenger,” Andy replied in the affirmative; but to the desire expressed, that he would ride back to the town, Andy returned a decided negative.
“My ordhers is not to go back without you,” said Andy.
“But we have no shoes,” said the usher; “and cannot go until we get some.”
“My ordher is not to go back without you.”
“But if we can’t go?”
“Well, then, I can’t go back, that’s all,” said Andy.
The usher, the landlord, and the landlady all hammered away at Andy for a long time, in vain trying to convince him he ought to return, as he was desired; still Andy stuck to the letter of his orders, and said he often got into trouble for not doing _exactly_ what he was bid, and that he was bid “not to go back without them, and he would not–so he wouldn’t– divil a fut.”
At last, however, Andy was made to understand the propriety of riding back to the town; and was desired to go as fast as his horse could carry him, to gallop every foot of the way; but Andy did no such thing; he had received a good thrashing once for being caught galloping his master’s horse on the road, and he had no intention of running the risk a second time, because “_the stranger_” told him to do so. “What does he know about it?” said Andy to himself; “‘faith, it’s fair and aisy I’ll go, and not disthress the horse to plaze any one.” So he went back his ten miles at a reasonable pace only; and when he appeared without the electors, a storm burst on poor Andy.
“There! I knew how it would be,” said he, “and not my fault at all.”
“Weren’t you told not to return without them?”
“But wait till I tell you how it was, sure;” and then Andy began an account of the condition in which the voters lay at the inn but between the impatience of those who heard, and the confused manner of Andy’s recital, it was some time before matters were explained; and then Andy was desired to ride back to the inn again, to tell the electors shoes should be forwarded after him in a post-chaise, and requesting their utmost exertions in hastening over to the town, for that the election was going against them. Andy returned to the inn; and this time, under orders from head quarters, galloped in good earnest, and brought in his horse smoking hot, and indicating lameness. The day was wearing apace, and it was so late when the electors were enabled to start that the polling-booths were closed before they could leave the town; and in many of these booths the requisite number of electors had not been polled that day to keep them open; so that the next day nearly all those outlying electors, about whom there had been so much trouble and expense, would be of no avail. Thus, Murphy’s trick was quite successful, and the poor pickled electors were driven back to their inn in dudgeon.
Andy, when he went to the stable to saddle his steed, for a return to Neck-or-Nothing Hall, found him dead lame, so that to ride him better than twelve miles home was impossible. Andy was obliged to leave him where he was, and trudge it to the hall; for all the horses in Kelly’s stables were knocked up with their day’s work.
As it was shorter by four miles across the country than by the road, Andy pursued the former course; and as he knew the country well, the shades of evening, which were now closing round, did not deter him in the least. Andy was not very fresh for the journey to be sure, for he had ridden upwards of thirty miles that day, so the merry whistle, which is so constantly heard from the lively Irish pedestrian, did not while away the tedium of his walk. It was night when Andy was breasting up a low ridge of hills, which lay between him and the end of his journey; and when in silence and darkness he topped the ascent, he threw himself on some heather to rest and take breath. His attention was suddenly caught by a small blue flame, which flickered now and then on the face of the hill, not very far from him; and Andy’s fears of fairies and goblins came crowding upon him thick and fast. He wished to rise, but could not; his eye continued to be strained with the fascination of fear in the direction he saw the fire, and sought to pierce the gloom through which, at intervals, the small point of flame flashed brightly and sunk again, making the darkness seem deeper. Andy lay in perfect stillness, and in the silence, which was unbroken even by his own breathing, he thought he heard voices underground. He trembled from head to foot, for he was certain they were the voices of the fairies, whom he firmly believed to inhabit the hills.
“Oh! murdher, what’ll I do?” thought Andy to himself: “sure I heerd often, if once you were within the sound of their voices, you could never get out o’ their power. Oh! if I could only say a _pather_ and _ave_, but I forget my prayers with the fright. Hail, Mary! The king o’ the fairies lives in these hills, I know–and his house is undher me this minit, and I on the roof of it–I’ll never get down again–I’ll never get down again–they’ll make me slater to the fairies; and sure enough I remember me, the hill is all covered with flat stones they call fairy slates. Oh! I am ruined–God be praised!” Here he blessed himself, and laid his head close to the earth. “Guardian angels–I hear their voices singin’ a dhrinking song–Oh! if I had a dhrop o’ water myself, for my mouth is as dhry as a lime-burner’s wig–and I on the top o’ their house –see–there’s the little blaze again–I wondher is their chimbley afire –Oh! murther, I’ll die o’ thirst–Oh! if I had only one dhrop o’ wather –I wish it would rain or hail–Hail, Mary, full o’ grace–whisht! what’s that?” Andy crouched lower than before, as he saw a figure rise from the earth, and attain a height which Andy computed to be something about twenty feet; his heart shrank to the size of a nut-shell, as he beheld the monster expand to his full dimensions; and at the same moment, a second, equally large, emerged from the ground.
Now, as fairies are notoriously little people, Andy changed his opinion of the parties into whose power he had fallen, and saw clearly they were giants, not fairies, of whom he was about to become the victim. He would have ejaculated a prayer for mercy, had not terror rendered him speechless, as the remembrance of all the giants he had ever heard of, from the days of Jack and the Bean-stalk down, came into his head; but though his sense of speaking was gone, that of hearing was painfully acute, and he heard one of the giants say–
“That pot is not big enough.”
“Oh! it howlds as much as we want,” replied the other.
“O Lord,” thought Andy; “they’ve got their pot ready for cooking.”
“What keeps him?” said the first giant.
“Oh! he’s not far off,” said the second.
A clammy shivering came over Andy.
“I’m hungry,” said the first, and he hiccupped as he spoke.
“It’s only a false appetite you have,” said the second, “you’re drunk.”
This was a new light to Andy, for he thought giants were too strong to get drunk. “I could ate a young child, without parsley and butther,” said the drunken giant. Andy gave a faint spasmodic kick.
“And it’s as hot as —- down there,” said the giant.
Andy trembled at the horrid word he heard.
“No wonder,” said the second giant; “for I can see the flame popping out at the top of the chimbley; that’s bad: I hope no one will see it, or it might give them warning. Bad luck to that young divil for making the fire so sthrong.”
What a dreadful hearing this was for Andy: young devils to make their fires; there was no doubt what place they were dwelling in. “Thunder and turf!” said the drunken giant; “I wish I had a slice of–“
Andy did not hear what he wished a slice of, for the night wind swept across the heath at the moment, and carried away the monster’s disgusting words on its pure breath.
“Well, I’d rather have–” said the other giant; and again Andy lost what his atrocious desires were–“than all the other slices in the world. What a lovely round shoulder she has, and the nice round ankle of her–“
The word “ankle” showed at once it was a woman of whom he spoke, and Andy shuddered. “The monsters! to eat a woman.”
“What a fool you are to be in love,” said the drunken giant with several hiccups, showing the increase of his inebriation.
“Is that what the brutes call love,” thought Andy, “to ate a woman?”
“I wish she was bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” said the second giant. Of this speech Andy heard only “bone” and “flesh,” and had great difficulty in maintaining the serenity of his diaphragm.
The conversation of the giants was now more frequently interrupted by the wind which was rising, and only broken sentences reached Andy, whose senses became clearer the longer he remained in a state of safety; at last he heard the name of Squire Egan distinctly pass between the giants.
“So they know Squire Egan,” thought Andy.
The first giant gave a drunken laugh at the mention of Squire Egan’s name, and exclaimed–
“Don’t be afraid of him (_hiccup_); I have him undher my thumb (_hiccup_). I can crush him when I plase.”
“O! my poor owld masther!” mentally ejaculated Andy.
Another break in their conversation occurred, and the next name Andy overheard was “O’Grady.”
“The big bully!” said the second giant.
“They know the whole country,” thought Andy.
“But tell me, what was that you said to him at the election?” said the drunken one.
The word “election” recalled Andy to the business of this earth back again; and it struck upon his hitherto bewildered sensorium that giants could have nothing to do with elections, and he knew he never saw them there; and, as the thought struck him, it seemed as if the giants diminished in size, and did not appear _quite_ so big.
“Sure you know,” said the second.
“Well, I’d like to hear it again,” said the drunken one (_hiccup_).
“The big bully says to me, ‘Have you a lease?’ says he; ‘No,’ says I; ‘but I have an article!’ ‘What article?’ says he; ‘It’s a fine brass blunderbuss,’ says I, ‘and _I’d like to see the man would dispute the title!_'”
The drunken listener chuckled, and the words broke the spell of supernatural terror which had hung over Andy; he knew, by the words of the speaker, it was the bully joker of the election was present, who browbeat O’Grady and out-quibbled the agent about the oath of allegiance; and the voice of the other he soon recognised for that of Larry Hogan. So now his giants were diminished into mortal men–the pot, which had been mentioned to the terror of his soul, was for the making of whisky instead of human broth–and the “hell” he thought his giants inhabited was but a private still. Andy felt as if a mountain had been lifted from his heart when he found it was but mortals he had to deal with; for Andy was not deficient in courage when it was but thews and sinews like his own he had to encounter. He still lay concealed, however, for smugglers might not wish their private haunt to be discovered, and it was possible Andy would be voted one too many in the company should he announce himself; and with such odds as two to one against him he thought he had better be quiet. Besides, his curiosity became excited when he found them speaking of his old master, Egan, and his present one, O’Grady; and as a woman had been alluded to, and odd words caught up here and there, he became anxious to hear more of their conversation.
“So you’re in love,” said Larry, with a hiccup, to our friend of the blunderbuss; “ha! ha! ha! you big fool.”
“Well, you old thief, don’t you like a purty girl yourself?”
“I did, when I was young and foolish.”
“‘Faith, then, you’re young and foolish at that rate yet, for you’re a rogue with the girls, Larry,” said the other, giving him a slap on the back.
“Not I! not I!” said Larry, in a manner expressive of his not being displeased with the charge of gallantry; “he! he! he!–how do you know, eh?” (_Hiccup_.) “Sure, I know myself; but as I wos telling you, if I could only lay howld of–” here his voice became inaudible to Andy, and the rest of the sentence was lost.
Andy’s curiosity was great. “Who could the girl be?”
“And you’d carry her off?” said Larry.
“I would,” said the other; “I’m only afraid o’ Squire Egan.”
At this announcement of the intention of “carrying her off,” coupled with the fear of “Squire Egan,” Andy’s anxiety to hear the name of the person became so intense that he crawled cautiously a little nearer to the speakers.
“I tell you again,” said Larry, “I can settle _him_ aisy (_hiccup_)– he’s undher my thumb (_hiccup_).”
“Be aisy,” said the other, contemptuously, who thought this was a mere drunken delusion of Larry’s.
“I tell you I’m his masther!” said Larry, with a drunken flourish of his arm; and he continued bragging of his power over the Squire in various ejaculations, the exact meaning of which our friend of the blunderbuss could not fathom, but Andy heard enough to show him that the discovery of the post-office affair was what Larry alluded to.
That Larry, a close, cunning, circumventing rascal, should so far betray the source of his power over Egan may seem strange; but be it remembered Larry was drunk, a state of weakness which his caution generally guarded him from falling into, but which being in, his foible was bragging of his influence, and so running the risk of losing it.
The men continued to talk together for some time, and the tenour of the conversation was, that Larry assured his companion he might carry off the girl without fear of Egan, but her name Andy could not discover. His own name he heard more than once, and voluptuous raptures poured forth about lovely lips and hips and ankles from the herculean knight of the blunderbuss, amidst the maudlin admiration and hiccups of Larry, who continued to brag of his power, and profess his readiness to stand by his friend in carrying off the girl.
“Then,” said the Hercules, with an oath, “I’ll soon have you in my arms, my lovely–“
The name was lost again.
Their colloquy was now interrupted by the approach of a man and woman, the former being the person for whose appearance Larry made so many inquiries when he first appeared to Andy as the hungry giant; the other was the sister of the knight of the blunderbuss. Larry having hiccupped his anger against the man for making them wait so long for the bacon, the woman said he should not wait longer without his supper now, for that she would go down and fry the rashers immediately. She then disappeared through the ground, and the men all followed.
Andy drew his breath freely once more, and with caution raised himself gradually from the ground with a careful circumspection, lest any of the subterranean community might be watchers on the hill; and when he was satisfied he was free from observation, he stole away from the spot with stealthy steps for about twenty paces, and there, as well as the darkness would permit, after taking such landmarks as would help him to retrace his way to the still, if requisite, he dashed down the hill at the top of his speed. This pace he did not moderate until he had placed nearly a mile between him and the scene of his adventure; he then paced slowly to regain his breath. His head was in a strange whirl; mischief was threatened against some one of whose name he was ignorant; Squire Egan was declared to be in the power of an old rascal; this grieved Andy most of all, for he felt _he_ was the cause of his old master’s dilemma.
“Oh! to think I should bring him into trouble,” said Andy, “the kind and good masther he was to me ever, and I live to tell it like a blackguard– throth I’d rather be hanged any day than the masther would come to throuble–maybe if I gave myself up and was hanged like a man at once, that would settle it; ‘faith, if I thought it would, I’d do it sooner than Squire Egan should come to throuble!” and poor Andy spoke just what he felt. “Or would it do to kill that blackguard Hogan? _sure they could do no more than hang me afther_, and that would save the masther, and be all one to me, for they often towld me I’d be hanged.  But then there’s my sowl,” said Andy, and he paused at the thought–, “if they hanged me for the letthers, it would be only for a mistake, and sure then I’d have a chance o’ glory; for sure I might go to glory through a mistake; but if I killed a man on purpose, sure it would be slappin’ the gates of Heaven in my own face. Faix, I’ll spake to Father Blake about it.” 
[Footnote: How often has the sanguinary penal code of past years suggested this reflection and provoked the guilt it was meant to awe! Happily, now our laws are milder, and more protective from their mildness.]
[Footnote: In the foregoing passage, Andy stumbles on uttering a quaint pleasantry, for it is partly true as well as droll–the notion of a man gaining Paradise through a mistake. Our intentions too seldom lead us there, but rather tend the other way, for a certain place is said to be paved with “good” ones, and surely “bad” ones would not lead us upwards. Then the phrase of a man “slapping the gates of Heaven in his own face,” is one of those wild poetic figures of speech in which the Irish peasantry often indulge. The phrase “slapping the door” is every-day and common; but when applied to “the gates of Heaven,” and “in a man’s own face,” the common phrase becomes fine. But how often the commonest things become poetry by the fitness of their application, though poetasters and people of small minds think greatness of thought lies in big words.]
The following day was that eventful one which should witness the return of either Edward Egan, Esq., or the Honourable Sackville Scatterbrain as member for the county. There was no doubt in any reasonable man’s mind as to the real majority of Egan, but the numbers were sufficiently close to give the sheriff an opportunity of doing a bit of business to oblige his friends, and therefore he declared the Honourable Sackville Scatterbrain duly elected. Great was the uproar; the people hissed, and hooted, and groaned, for which the Honourable Sackville very good-naturedly returned them his thanks. Murphy snapped his fingers in the sheriff’s face, and told them his honourable friend should not long remain member, for that he must be unseated on petition, and that he would prove the return most corrupt, with which words he again snapped his fingers in the sheriff’s face.
The sheriff threatened to read the riot act if such conduct was repeated.
Egan took off his hat, and thanked him for his _honourable, upright, and impartial_ conduct, whereupon all Egan’s friends took off their hats also, and made profound bows to the functionary, and then laughed most uproariously. Counter laughs were returned from the opposite party, who begged to remind the Eganites of the old saying, “that they might laugh who win.” A cross-fire of sarcasms was kept up amidst the two parties as they were crushing forward out of the courthouse; and at the door, before entering his carriage, Scatterbrain very politely addressed Egan, and trusted that, though they had met as rivals on the hustings, they nevertheless parted friends, and expressing the highest respect for the squire, offered his hand in amity.
Egan, equally good-hearted as his opponent, shook his hand cordially; declaring he attributed to him none of the blame which attached to other persons. “Besides, my dear sir,” said Egan, laughing, “I should be a very ill-natured person to grudge you so small an indulgence as being member of parliament _for a month or so_.”
Scatterbrain returned the laugh, good-humouredly, and replied that, “at all events, he _had_ the seat.”
“Yes, my dear sir,” said Egan, “and make the most of it _while_ you have it. In short, I shall owe you an obligation when I go over to St. Stephen’s, for you will have just _aired my seat_ for me–good bye.”
They parted with smiles, and drove to their respective homes; but as even doubtful possession is preferable to expectation for the time being, it is certain that Neck-or-Nothing Hall rang with more merriment that night on the reality of the present, than Merryvale did on the hope of the future.
Even O’Grady, as he lay with his wounded arm on the sofa, found more healing in the triumph of the hour than from all the medicaments of the foregoing week, and insisted on going down-stairs and joining the party at supper.
“Gusty, dear,” said his wife, “you know the doctor said–“
“Hang the doctor!”
“Your arm, my love.”
“I wish you’d leave off pitying my arm, and have some compassion on my stomach.”
“The doctor said–“
“There are oysters in the house; I’ll do myself more good by the use of an oyster-knife than all the lancets in the College of Surgeons.”
“But your wound, dear?”
“Are they Carlingfords or Poldoodies?”
“So fresh, love.”
“So much the better.”
“Your wound I mean, dear?”
“Only dressed an hour ago?”
“With some mustard, pepper, and vinegar.”
“Indeed, Gusty, if you take my advice–“
“I’d rather have oysters any day.”
O’Grady sat up on the sofa as he spoke and requested his wife to say no more about the matter, but put on his cravat. While she was getting it from his wardrobe, his mind wandered from supper to the pension, which he looked upon as secure now that Scatterbrain was returned; and oyster-banks gave place to the Bank of Ireland, which rose in a pleasing image before O’Grady’s imagination. The wife now returned with the cravat, still dreading the result of eating to her husband, and her mind occupied wholly with the thought of supper, while O’Grady was wrapt in visions of a pension.
“You won’t take it, Gusty, dear,” said his wife with all the insinuation of manner she could command.
“Won’t I, ‘faith?” said O’Grady. “Maybe you think I don’t want it?”
“Indeed, I don’t, dear.”
“Are you mad, woman? Is it taking leave of the few senses you ever had you are?”
“‘T won’t agree with you.”
“Won’t it? just wait till I’m tried.”
“Well, love, how much do you expect to be allowed?”
“Why I can’t expect much just yet–we must begin gently–feel the pulse first; but I should hope, by way of start, that six or seven hundred–“
“Gracious Heaven!” exclaimed his wife, dropping the cravat from her hands. “What the devil is the woman shouting at?” said O’Grady.
“Six or seven hundred!!!” exclaimed Mrs. O’Grady; “my dear, there’s not as much in the house.”
“No, nor has not been for many a long day; I know that as well as you,” said O’Grady; “but I hope we shall get as much for all that.”
“My dear, where could you get them?” asked the wife, timidly, who began to think his head was a little light.
“From the treasury, to be sure.”
“The treasury, my dear?” said the wife, still at fault; “how could you get oysters from the treasury?”
“Oysters!” exclaimed O’Grady, whose turn it was now to wonder, “who talks of oysters?”
“My dear, I thought you said you’d eat six or seven hundred of oysters!”
“Pooh! pooh! woman; it is of the pension I’m talking–six or seven hundred pounds–pounds–cash–per annum; now I suppose you’ll put on my cravat. I think a man may be allowed to eat his supper who expects six hundred a year.”
A great many people besides O’Grady order suppers, and dinners too, on the expectation of less than six hundred a year. Perhaps there is no more active agent for sending people into the Insolvent Court than the aforesaid “_expectation_.”
O’Grady went down-stairs, and was heartily welcomed by Scatterbrain on his re-appearance from his sick-room; but Mrs. O’Grady suggested that, for fear any excess would send him back there for a longer time, a very moderate indulgence at the table should suffice. She begged the honourable member to back her argument, which he did; and O’Grady promised temperance, but begged the immediate appearance of the oysters, for he experienced that eager desire which delicate health so often prompts for some particular food.
Andy was laying the table at the time, and was ordered to expedite matters as much as possible.
“You’re sure the oysters are all good, Andy?”
“Because the last oysters you know–“
“Oh, yis, ma’am–were bad, ma’am–bekase they had their mouths all open. I remember, ma’am; but when I’m towld a thing once, I never forget it again; and you towld me when they opened their mouths once they were no good. So you see, ma’am, I’ll never bring up bad oysthers again, ma’am.”
“Very good, Andy; and you have kept them in a cool place, I hope.”
“Faix, they’re cowld enough where I put them, ma’am.”
“Very well; bring them up at once.”
Off went Andy, and returned with all the haste he could with a large dish heaped up with oysters.
O’Grady rubbed his hands with the impatience of a true lover of the crustaceous delicacy, and Scatterbrain, eager to help him, flourished his oyster-knife; but before he had time to commence operations the olfactory nerves of the company gave evidence that the oysters were rather suspicious; every one began sniffing, and a universal “Oh dear!” ran round the table.
“Don’t you smell it, Furlong?” said Scatterbrain, who was so lost in looking at Augusta’s mustachios that he did not mind anything else.
“Isn’t it horrid?” said O’Grady, with a look of disgust.
Furlong thought he alluded to the mustachio, and replied with an assurance that he “liked it of all things.”
“Like it?” said O’Grady; “you’ve a queer taste. What do _you_ think of it, miss?” added he to Augusta, “it’s just under your nose.” Furlong thought this rather personal, even from a father.
“I’ll try my knife on one,” said Scatterbrain, with a flourish of the oyster-knife, which Furlong thought resembled the preliminary trial of a barber’s razor.
Furlong thought this worse than O’Grady; but he hesitated to reply to his chief, and an _honourable_ into the bargain.
In the meantime, Scatterbrain opened an oyster, which Furlong, in his embarrassment and annoyance, did not perceive.
“Cut off the beard,” said O’Grady, “I don’t like it.”
This nearly made Furlong speak, but, considering O’Grady’s temper and ill-health, he hesitated, till he saw Augusta rubbing her eye, in consequence of a small splinter of the oyster-shell having struck it from Scatterbrain’s mismanagement of his knife; but Furlong thought she was crying, and then he could be silent no longer; he went over to where she sat, and with a very affectionate demonstration in his action, said, “Never mind them, dear Gussy–never mind–don’t cwy–I love her dear little moustachios, I do.” He gave a gentle pat on the back of the neck as he spoke, and it was returned by an uncommonly smart box on the ear from the young lady, and the whole party looked thunderstruck. “Dear Gussy” cried for spite, and stamped her way out of the room, followed by Furlong.
“Let them go,” said O’Grady; “they’ll make it up outside.”
“These oysters are all bad,” said Scatterbrain.
O’Grady began to swear at his disappointment–he had set his heart on oysters. Mrs. O’Grady rang the bell–Andy appeared.
“How dare you bring up such oysters as these?” roared O’Grady.
“The misthris ordhered them, sir.”
“I told you never to bring up bad oysters,” said she.
“Them’s not bad, ma’am,” said Andy,
“Have you a nose?” says O’Grady.
“And can’t you smell them, then?”
“Faix, I smelt them for the last three days, sir.”
“And how could you say they were good, then?” asked his mistress.
“Sure you tould me, ma’am, that if they didn’t open their mouths they were good, and I’ll be on my book oath them oysters never opened their mouths since I had them, for I laid them on a coolflag in the kitchen and put the jack-weight over them.”
Notwithstanding O’Grady’s rage, Scatterbrain could not help roaring with laughter at Andy’s novel contrivance for keeping oysters fresh. Andy was desired to take the “ancient and fish-like smell” out of the room, amidst jeers and abuse; and, as he fumbled his way to the kitchen in the dark, lamenting the hard fate of servants, who can never give satisfaction, though they do everything they are bid, he went head over heels down-stairs, which event was reported to the whole house as soon as it happened, by the enormous clatter of the broken dish, the oysters, and Andy, as they all rolled one over the other to the bottom.
O’Grady, having missed the cool supper he intended, and had longed for, was put into a rage by the disappointment; and as hunger with O’Grady was only to be appeased by broiled bones, accordingly, against all the endeavours of everybody, the bells rang violently through the house, and the ogre-like cry of “broiled bones!” resounded high and low.
The reader is sufficiently well acquainted with O’Grady by this time to know, that of course, when once he had determined to have his broiled bone, nothing on the face of the earth could prevent it but the want of anything to broil, or the immediate want of his teeth; and as his masticators were in order, and something in the house which could carry mustard and pepper, the invalid primed and loaded himself with as much combustible matter as exploded in a fever the next day.
The supper-party, however, in the hope of getting him to bed, separated soon; and as Scatterbrain and Furlong were to start early in the morning for Dublin, the necessity of their retiring to rest was pleaded. The honourable member had not been long in his room when he heard a tap at his door, and his order to “come in” was followed by the appearance of Handy Andy.
“I found somethin’ on the road nigh the town to-day, sir, and I thought it might be yours, maybe,” said Andy, producing a small pocket-book.
The honourable member disavowed the ownership.
“Well, there’s something else I want to speak to your honour about.”
“What is it, Handy?”
“I want your honour to see the account of the money your honour gave me that I spint at the _shebeen_ [Footnote: Low publick house.] upon the ‘lecthors that couldn’t be accommodated at Mrs. Fay’s.”
“Oh! never mind it, Andy; if there’s anything over, keep it yourself.”
“Thank your honour, but I must make the account all the same, if you plaze, for I’m going to Father Blake, to my duty, [Footnote: Confession.] soon, and I must have my conscience as clear as I can, and I wouldn’t like to be keeping money back.”
“But if I give you the money, what matter?”
“I’d rather you’d just look over this little bit of a count, if you plaze,” said Andy, producing a dirty piece of paper, with some nearly inscrutable hieroglyphics upon it. Scatterbrain commenced an examination of this literary phenomenon from sheer curiosity, asking Andy at the same time if _he_ wrote it.
“Yis, sir,” said Andy; “but you see the man couldn’t keep the count of the piper’s dhrink at all, it was so confusin’, and so I was obliged to pay him for that every time the piper dhrunk, and keep it separate, and the ‘lecthors that got their dinner afther the bill was made out I put down myself too, and that’s it you see, sir, both ating and dhrinkin’.”
To Dhrinkin A blind piper everry day wan and in Pens six dais 0 16 6 To atein four Tin Illikthurs And Thare 1 8 8 horses on Chewsdai 0 14 0
Toe til 2 19 4
Lan lord Bil For All Be four 7 17 8-1/2 ———
10 18 12-1/2
“Then I owe you money, instead of your having a balance in hand, Andy,” said the member.
“Oh, no matter, your honour; it’s not for that I showed you the account.”
“It’s very like it, though,” said Scatterbrain, laughing; “here, Andy, here are a couple of pounds for you, take them, Andy–take it and be off; your bill is worth the money,” and Scatterbrain closed the door on the great accountant.
Andy next went to Furlong’s room, to know if the pocket-book belonged to him; it did not, but Furlong, though he disclaimed the ownership, had that small curiosity which prompts little minds to pry into what does not belong to them, and taking the pocket-book into his hands, he opened it, and fumbled over its leaves; in the doing of which a small piece of folded paper fell from one of the pockets unnoticed by the impertinent inquisitor or Andy, to whom he returned the book when he had gratified his senseless curiosity. Andy withdrew, Furlong retired to rest; and as it was in the grey of an autumnal morning he dressed himself, the paper still remained unobserved: so that the housemaid, on setting the room to rights, found it, and fancying Miss Augusta was the proper person to confide Mr. Furlong’s stray papers to, she handed that young lady the manuscript which bore the following copy of verses:–
I CAN NE’ER FORGET THEE
It is the chime, the hour draws near When you and I must sever;
Alas, it must be many a year,
And it _may_ be for ever!
How long till we shall meet again! How short since first I met thee!
How brief the bliss–how long the pain– For I can ne’er forget thee.
You said my heart was cold and stern; You doubted love when strongest:
In future days you’ll live to learn Proud hearts can love the longest.
Oh! sometimes think, when press’d to hear, When flippant tongues beset thee,
That _all_ must love thee, when thou’rt near, But _one_ will ne’er forget thee!
The changeful sand doth only know
The shallow tide and latest;
The rocks have mark’d its highest flow, The deepest and the greatest;
And deeper still the flood-marks grow:– So, since the hour I met thee,
The more the tide of time doth flow, The less can I forget thee!
When Augusta saw the lines, she was charmed. She discovered her Furlong to be a poet! That the lines were his there was no doubt–they were _found in his room,_ and of course they _must_ be his, just as partial critics say certain Irish airs must be English, because they are to be found in Queen Elizabeth’s music-book.
Augusta was so charmed with the lines that she amused herself for a long time in hiding them under the sofa-cushion and making her pet dog find and fetch them. Her pleasure, however, was interrupted by her sister Charlotte remarking, when the lines were shown to her in triumph, that the writing was not Furlong’s, but in a lady’s hand.
Even as beer is suddenly soured by thunder, so the electric influence of Charlotte’s words converted all Augusta had been brewing to acidity; jealousy stung her like a wasp, and she boxed her dog’s ears as he was barking for another run with the verses.
“A _lady’s_ hand?” said Augusta, snatching the paper from her sister; “I declare if it ain’t! the wretch–so he receives lines from ladies.”
“I think I know the hand, too,” said Charlotte.
“You do?” exclaimed Augusta, with flashing eyes.
“Yes, I’m certain it is Fanny Dawson’s writing.”
“So it is,” said Augusta, looking at the paper as if her eyes could have burnt it; “to be sure–he was there before he came here.”
“Only for two days,” said Charlotte, trying to slake the flame she had raised.
“But I’ve heard that girl always makes conquests at first sight,” returned Augusta, half crying; “and what do I see here? some words in pencil.”
The words were so faint as to be scarcely perceptible, but Augusta deciphered them; they were written on the margin, beside a circumflex which embraced the last four lines of the second verse, so that it stood thus:–
[Sidenote: Dearest, I will.]
Oh! sometimes think, when press’d to hear, When flippant tongues beset thee,
That _all_ must love thee when thou’rt near, But _one_ will ne’er forget thee!
“Will you, indeed?” said Augusta, crushing the paper in her hand, and biting it; “but I must not destroy it–I must keep it to prove his treachery to his face.” She threw herself on the sofa as she spoke, and gave vent to an outpour of spiteful tears.
How many chapters have been written about love verses–and how many more might be written!–might, would, could, should, or ought to be written!– I will venture to say, _will_ be written! I have a mind to fulfil my own prophecy and write one myself; but no–my story must go on. However, I _will_ say, that it is quite curious in how many ways the same little bit of paper may influence different people: the poem whose literary merit may be small becomes precious when some valued hand has transcribed the lines; and the verses whose measure and meaning viewed in type might win favour and yield pleasure, shoot poison from their very sweetness, when read in some particular hand and under particular circumstances. It was so with the copy of verses Augusta had just read–they were Fanny Dawson’s manuscript–that was certain–and found in the room of Augusta’s lover; therefore Augusta was wretched. But these same lines had given exquisite pleasure to another person, who was now nearly as miserable as Augusta in having lost them. It is possible the reader guesses that person to be Edward O’Connor, for it was he who had lost the pocket-book in which those (to him) precious lines were contained; and if the little case had held all the bank-notes he ever owned in his life, their loss would have been regarded less than that bit of manuscript, which had often yielded _him_ the most exquisite pleasure, and was now inflicting on Augusta the bitterest anguish. To make this intelligible to the reader, it is necessary to explain under what circumstances the lines were written. At one time, Edward, doubting the likelihood of making his way at home, was about to go to India and push his fortunes there; and at that period, those lines, breathing of farewell–implying the dread of rivals during absence–and imploring remembrance of his eternal love, were written and given to Fanny; and she, with that delicacy of contrivance so peculiarly a woman’s, hit upon the expedient of copying his own verses and sending them to him in her writing, as an indication that the spirit of the lines was her own.
But Edward saw that his father, who was advanced in years, looked upon a separation from his son as an eternal one, and the thought gave so much pain, that Edward gave up the idea of expatriation. Shortly after, however, the misunderstanding with Major Dawson took place, and Fanny and Edward were as much severed as if dwelling in different zones. Under such circumstances, those lines were peculiarly precious, and many a kiss had Edward impressed upon them, though Augusta thought them fitter for the exercise of her teeth than her lips. In fact, Edward did little else than think of Fanny; and it is possible his passion might have degenerated into mere love-sickness, and enfeebled him, had not his desire of proving himself worthy of his mistress spurred him to exertion, in the hope of future distinction. But still the tone of tender lament pervaded all his poems, and the same pocket-book whence the verses which caused so much commotion fell contained the following also, showing how entirely Fanny possessed his heart and occupied his thoughts:–
WHEN THE SUN SINKS TO REST
When the sun sinks to rest,
And the star of the west
Sheds its soft silver light o’er the sea; What sweet thoughts arise,
As the dim twilight dies–
For then I am thinking of thee!
Oh! then crowding fast
Come the joys of the past,
Through the dimness of days long gone by, Like the stars peeping out,
Through the darkness about,
From the soft silent depth of the sky.
And thus, as the night
Grows more lovely and bright
With the clust’ring of planet and star, So this darkness of mine
Wins a radiance divine
From the light that still lingers afar. Then welcome the night,
With its soft holy light!
In its silence my heart is more free The rude world to forget,
Where no pleasure I’ve met
Since the hour that I parted from thee.
But we must leave love verses, and ask pardon for the few remarks which the subject tempted, and pursue our story.
The first prompting of Augusta’s anger, when she had recovered her burst of passion, was to write “_such a letter_” to Furlong–and she spent half a day at the work; but she could not please herself–she tore twenty at least, and determined, at last, not to write at all, but just wait till he returned and overwhelm him with reproaches. But, though she could not compose a letter, she composed herself by the endeavour, which acted as a sort of safety-valve to let off the superabundant steam; and it is wonderful how general is this result of sitting down to write angry letters: people vent themselves of their spleen on the uncomplaining paper, which silently receives words a listener would not. With a pen for our second, desperate satisfaction is obtained with only an effusion of ink, and when once the pent-up bitterness has oozed out in all the