The Confessions of Harry Lorrequer — Complete by Charles James Lever - HTML preview
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Poor Major Jones, however, had no such solace, and the canker-worm eat daily deeper and deeper into his pining heart. During the three or four weeks of their intimacy with his regiment, his martyrdom was awful. His figure wasted, and his colour became a deeper tinge of orange, and all around averred that there would soon be a "move up" in the corps, for the major had evidently "got his notice to quit" this world, and its pomps and vanities. He felt "that he was dying," to use Haines Bayley's beautiful and apposite words, and meditated an exchange, but that, from circumstances, was out of the question. At last, subdued by grief, and probably his spirit having chafed itself smooth by such constant attrition, he became, to all seeming, calmer; but it was only the calm of a broken and weary heart. Such was Major Jones at the time, when, "suadente diabolo," it seemed meet to Fathers Mooney and D'Array to make him the butt of their raillery. At first, he could not believe it; the thing was incredible--impossible; but when he looked around the table, when he heard the roars of laughter, long, loud, and vociferous; when he heard his name bandied from one to the other across the table, with some vile jest tacked to it "like a tin kettle to a dog's tail," he awoke to the full measure of his misery--the cup was full. Fate had done her worst, and he might have exclaimed with Lear, "spit, fire-spout, rain," there was nothing in store for him of further misfortune.
A drum-head court-martial--a hint "to sell out"--ay, a sentence of "dismissed the service," had been mortal calamities, and, like a man, he would have borne them; but that he, Major John Jones, D.G.S. C.P.B., &c. &c, who had drank the "pious, glorious, and immortal," sitting astride of "the great gun of Athlone," should come to this! Alas, and alas! He retired that night to his chamber a "sadder if not a wiser man;" he dreamed that the "statue" had given place to the unshapely figure of Leo X., and that "Lundy now stood where Walker stood before." He humped from his bed in a moment of enthusiasm, he vowed his revenge, and he kept his vow.
That day the major was "acting field officer." The various patroles, sentries, picquets, and out-posts, were all under his especial control; and it was remarked that he took peculiar pains in selecting the men for night duty, which, in the prevailing quietness and peace of that time, seemed scarcely warrantable.
Evening drew near, and Major Jones, summoned by the "oft-heard beat," wended his way to the mess. The officers were dropping in, and true as "the needle to the pole," came Father Mooney and the Abbe. They were welcomed with the usual warmth, and strange to say, by none more than the major himself, whose hilarity knew no bounds.
How the evening passed, I shall not stop to relate: suffice it to say, that a more brilliant feast of wit and jollification, not even the North Cork ever enjoyed. Father Luke's drollest stories, his very quaintest humour shone forth, and the Abbe sang a new "Chanson a Boire," that Beranger might hav envied.
"What are you about, my dear Father D'Array?" said the Colonel; "you are surely not rising yet; here's a fresh cooper of port just come in; sit down, I entreat."
"I say it with grief, my dear colonel, we must away; the half-hour has just chimed, and we must be within 'the gates' before twelve. The truth is, the superior has been making himself very troublesome about our 'carnal amusements' as he calls our innocent mirth, and we must therefore be upon our guard."
"Well, if it must be so, we shall not risk losing your society altogether, for an hour or so now; so, one bumper to our next meeting
--to-morrow, mind, and now, M. D'Abbe, au revoir."
The worthy fathers finished their glasses, and taking a most affectionate leave of their kind entertainers, sallied forth under the guidance of Major Jones, who insisted upon accompanying them part of the way, as, "from information he had received, the sentries were doubled in some places, and the usual precautions against surprise all taken." Much as this polite attention surprised the objects of it, his brother officers wondered still more, and no sooner did they perceive the major and his companions issue forth, than they set out in a body to watch where this most novel and unexpected complaisance would terminate. When the priests reached the door of the barrack-yard, they again turned to utter their thanks to the major, and entreat him once more, "not to come a step farther. There now, major, we know the path well, so just give us the pass, and don't stay out in the night air."
"Ah oui, Monsieur Jones," said the Abbe, "retournez, je vous prie. We are, I must say, chez nous. Ces braves gens, les North Cork know us by this time."The major smiled, while he still pressed his services to see them past the picquets, but they were resolved and would not be denied. "With the word for the night, we want nothing more," said Father Luke.
"Well, then," said the major, in the gravest tone, and he was naturally grave, "you shall have your way, but remember to call out loud, for the first sentry is a little deaf, and a very passionate, ill--tempered fellow to boot.""Never fear," said Father Mooney, laughing; "I'll go bail he'll hear me."
"Well--the word for the night is--'Bloody end to the Pope,'--don't forget, now, 'Bloody end to the Pope,'" and with these words he banged the door between him and the unfortunate priests; and, as bolt was fastened after bolt, they heard him laughing to himself like a fiend over his vengeance.
"And big bad luck to ye, Major Jones, for the same, every day ye see a paving stone," was the faint sub-audible ejaculation of Father Luke, when he was recovered enough to speak."Sacristi! Que nous sommes attrappes," said the Abbe, scarcely able to avoid laughing at the situation in which they were placed.
"Well, there's the quarter chiming now; we've no time to lose--Major Jones! Major, darling! Don't now, ah, don't! sure ye know we'll be ruined entirely--there now, just change it, like a dacent fellow--the devil's luck to him, he's gone. Well, we can't stay here in the rain all night, and be expelled in the morning afterwards--so come along."
They jogged on for a few minutes in silence, till they came to that part of the "Duke's" demesne wall, where the first sentry was stationed. By this time the officers, headed by the major, had quietly slipped out of the gate, and were following their steps at a convenient distance.
The fathers had stopped to consult together, what they should do in this trying emergency--when their whisper being overheard, the sentinel called out gruffly, in the genuine dialect of his country, "who goes that?"
"Father Luke Mooney, and the Abbe D'Array," said the former, in his most bland and insinuating tone of voice, a quality he most eminently possessed."Stand and give the countersign." "We are coming from the mess, and going home to the college," said Father Mooney, evading the question, and gradually advancing as he spoke. "Stand, or I'll shot ye," said the North Corkian. Father Luke halted, while a muttered "Blessed Virgin" announced his state of fear and trepidation. "D'Array, I say, what are we to do." "The countersign," said the sentry, whose figure they could perceive in the dim distance of about thirty yards.
"Sure ye'll let us pass, my good lad, and ye'll have a friend in Father Luke the longest day ye live, and ye might have a worse in time of need; ye understand."
Whether he did understand or not, he certainly did not heed, for his only reply was the short click of his gun-lock, that bespeaks a preparation to fire.
"There's no help now," said Father Luke; "I see he's a haythen; and bad luck to the major, I say again;" and this in the fulness of his heart he uttered aloud.
"That's not the countersign," said the inexorable sentry, striking the butt end of the musket on the ground with a crash that smote terror into the hearts of the priests.
Mumble--mumble--"to the Pope," said Father Luke, pronouncing the last words distinctly, after the approved practice of a Dublin watchman, on being awoke from his dreams of row and riot by the last toll of the Post-office, and not knowing whether it has struck "twelve" or "three," sings out the word "o'clock," in a long sonorous drawl, that wakes every sleeping citizen, and yet tells nothing how "time speeds on his flight.""Louder," said the sentry, in a voice of impatience. _____ "to the Pope." "I don't hear the first part."
"Oh then," said the priest, with a sigh that might have melted the heart of anything but a sentry, "Bloody end to the Pope; and may the saints in heaven forgive me for saying it."
"Again," called out the soldier; "and no muttering."
"Pass bloody end to the Pope, and good night," said the sentry, resuming his rounds, while a loud and uproarious peal of laughter behind, told the unlucky priests they were overheard by others, and that the story would be over the whole town in the morning.
Whether it was that the penance for their heresy took long in accomplishing, or that they never could summon courage sufficient to face their persecutor, certain it is, the North Cork saw them no more, nor were they ever observed to pass the precincts of the college, while that regiment occupied Maynooth.
Major Jones himself, and his confederates, could not have more heartily relished this story, than did the party to whom the doctor heartily related it. Much, if not all the amusement it afforded, however, resulted from his inimitable mode of telling, and the power of mimicry, with which he conveyed the dialogue with the sentry: and this, alas, must be lost to my readers, at least to that portion of them not fortunate enough to possess Doctor Finucane's acquaintance.
"Fin! Fin! your long story has nearly famished me," said the padre, as the laugh subsided; "and there you sit now with the jug at your elbow this half-hour; I never thought you would forget our old friend Martin Hanegan's aunt.""Here's to her health," said Fin; "and your reverence will get us the chant."
"Agreed," said Father Malachi, finishing a bumper, and after giving a few preparatory hems, he sang the following "singularly wild and beautiful poem," as some one calls Christabel:--
"Here's a health to Martin Hanegan's aunt, And I'll tell ye the reason why!
She eats bekase she is hungry,
And drinks bekase she is dry.
"And if ever a man,
Stopped the course of a can,
Martin Hanegan's aunt would cry--
'Arrah, fill up your glass,
And let the jug pass;
How d'ye know but what your neighbour's dhry?" "Come, my lord and gentlemen, da capo, if ye please--Fill up your glass," and the chanson was chorussed with a strength and vigour that would have astonished the Philharmonic.
The mirth and fun now grew "fast and furious;" and Father Malachi, rising with the occasion, flung his reckless drollery and fun on every side, sparing none, from his cousin to the coadjutor. It was not that peculiar period in the evening's enjoyment, when an expert and practical chairman gives up all interference or management, and leaves every thing to take its course; this then was the happy moment selected by Father Malachi to propose the little "contrhibution." He brought a plate from a side table, and placing it before him, addressed the company in a very brief but sensible speech, detailing the object of the institution he was advocating, and concluding with the following words:--"and now ye'll just give whatever ye like, according to your means in life, and what ye can spare."
The admonition, like the "morale" of an income tax, having the immediate effect of pitting each man against his neighbour, and suggesting to their already excited spirits all the ardour of gambling, without, however, a prospect of gain. The plate was first handed to me in honour of my "rank," and having deposited upon it a handful of small silver, the priest ran his finger through the coin, and called out:--
"Five pounds! at least; not a farthing less, as I am a sinner. Look, then,--see now; they tell ye, the gentlemen don't care for the like of ye! but see for yourselves. May I trouble y'r lordship to pass the plate to Mr. Mahony--he's impatient, I see."
Mr. Mahony, about whom I perceived very little of the impatience alluded to, was a grim-looking old Christian, in a rabbit-skin waistcoat, with long flaps, who fumbled in the recesses of his breeches pocket for five minutes, and then drew forth three shillings, which he laid upon the plate, with what I fancied very much resembled a sigh.
"Six and sixpence, is it? or five shillings?--all the same, Mr. Mahony, and I'll not forget the thrifle you were speaking about this morning any way;" and here he leaned over as interceding with me for him, but in reality to whisper into my ear, "the greatest miser from this to Castlebar.""Who's that put down the half guinea in goold?" (And this time he spoke truth.) "Who's that, I say?" "Tim Kennedy, your reverence," said Tim, stroking his hair down with one hand, and looking proud and modest at the same moment.
"Tim, ye're a credit to us any day, and I always said so. It's a gauger he'd like to be, my lord," said he, turning to me, in a kind of stage whisper. I nodded and muttered something, when he thanked me most profoundly as if his suit had prospered.
"Mickey Oulahan--the lord's looking at ye, Mickey." This was said piannisime across the table, and had the effect of increasing Mr. Oulahan's donation from five shillings to seven--the last two being pitched in very much in the style o a gambler making his final coup, and crying "va banque." "The Oulahans were always dacent people--dacent people, my lord."
"Be gorra, the Oulahans was niver dacenter nor the Molowneys, any how," said a tall athletic young fellow, as he threw down three crown pieces, with an energy that made every coin leap from the plate.
"They'll do now," said Father Brennan; "I'll leave them to themselves;" and truly the eagerness to get the plate and put down the subscription, fully equalled the rapacious anxiety I have witnessed in an old maid at loo, to get possession of a thirty-shilling pool, be the same more or less, which lingered on its way to her, in the hands of many a fair competitor.
"Mr. M'Neesh"--Curzon had hitherto escaped all notice--"Mr. M'Neesh, to your good health," cried Father Brennan. "It's many a secret they'll be getting out o'ye down there about the Scotch husbandry."
Whatever poor Curzon knew of "drills," certainly did not extend to them when occupied by turnips. This allusion of the priest's being caught up by the party at the foot of the table, they commenced a series of inquiries into different Scotch plans of tillage--his brief and unsatisfactory answers to which, they felt sure, were given in order to evade imparting information. By degrees, as they continued to press him with questions, his replies grew more short, and a general feeling of dislike on both sides was not very long in following.
The father saw this, and determining with his usual tact to repress it, called on the adjutant for a song. Now, whether he had but one in the world, or whether he took this mode of retaliating for the annoyances he had suffered, I know not; but true it is, he finished his tumbler at a draught, and with a voice of no very peculiar sweetness, though abundantly loud, began "The Boyne Water."
He had just reached the word "battle," in the second line upon which he was bestowing what he meant to be a shake, when, as if the word suggested it, it seemed the signal for a general engagement. Decanters, glasses, jugs, candlesticks,--aye, and the money-dish, flew right and left--all originally intended, it is ture, for the head of the luckless adjutant, but as they now and then missed their aim, and came in contact with the "wrong man," invariably provoked retaliation, and in a very few minutes the battle became general.
What may have been the doctor's political sentiments on this occasion, I cannot even guess; but he seemed bent upon performing the part of a "convivial Lord Stanley," and maintaining a dignified neutrality. With this apparent object, he mounted upon the table, to raise himself, I suppose, above the din and commotion of party clamour, and brandishing a jug of scalding water, bestowed it with perfect impartiality on the combatants on either side. This Whig plan of conciliation, however well intended, seemed not to prosper with either party; and many were the missiles directed at the ill-starred doctor. Meanwhile Father Malachi, whether following the pacific instinct of his order, in seeking an asylum in troublesome times, or equally moved by old habit to gather coin in low places, (much of the money having fallen,) was industriously endeavouring to insert himself beneath the table; in this, with one vigorous push, he at last succeeded, but in so doing lifted it from its legs, and thus destroying poor "Fin's" gravity, precipitated him, jug and all, into the thickest part of the fray, where he met with that kind reception such a benefactor ever receives at the hands of a grateful public. I meanwhile hurried to rescue poor Curzon, who, having fallen to the ground, was getting a cast of his features taken in pewter, for such seemed the operation a stout farmer was performing on the adjutant's face with a quart. With considerable difficulty, notwithstanding my supposed "lordship," I succeeded in freeing him from his present position; and he concluding, probably, that enough had been done for one "sitting," most willingly permitted me to lead him from the room. I was soon joined by the doctor, who assisted me in getting my poor friend to bed; which being done, he most eagerly entreated me to join the company. This, however, I firmly but mildly declined, very much to his surprise; for as he remarked--"They'll all be like lambs now, for they don't believe there's a whole bone in his body."
Expressing my deep sense of the Christian-like forbearance of the party, I pleaded fatigue, and bidding him good night, adjourned to my bed-room; and here, although the arrangements fell somewhat short of the luxurious ones appertaining to my late apartment at Callonby, they were most grateful at the moment; and having "addressed myself to slumber," fell fast asleep, and only awoke late on the following morning to wonder where I was: from any doubts as to which I was speedily relieved by the entrance of the priest's bare-footed "colleen," to deposit on my table a bottle of soda water, and announce breakfast, with his reverence's compliments.
Having made a hasty toilet, I proceeded to the parlour, which, however late events might have impressed upon my memory, I could scarcely recognise. Instead of the long oak table and the wassail bowl, there stood near the fire a small round table, covered with a snow--white cloth, upon which shone in unrivalled brightness a very handsome tea equipage--the hissing kettle on one hob was vis a vis'd by a gridiron with three newly taken trout, frying under the reverential care of Father Malachi himself--a heap of eggs ranged like shot in an ordnance yard, stood in the middled of the table, while a formidable pile of buttered toast browned before the grate--the morning papers were airing upon the hearth--every thing bespoke that attention to comfort and enjoyment one likes to discover in the house where chance may have domesticated him for a day or two."Good morning, Mr. Lorrequer. I trust you have rested well," said Father Malachi as I entered. "Never better; but where are our friends?"
"I have been visiting and comforting them in their affliction, and I may with truth assert it is not often my fortune to have three as sickly looking guests. That was a most unlucky affair last night, and I must apologise.""Don't say a word, I entreat; I saw how it all occurred, and am quite sure if it had not been for poor Curzon's ill-timed melody--" "You are quite right," said the father interrupting me. "Your friend's taste for music--bad luck to it--was the 'teterrima causa belli.'" "And the subscription," said I; "how did it succeed?"
"Oh, the money went in the commotion; and although I have got some seven pounds odd shillings of it, the war was a most expensive one to me. I caught old Mahony very busy under the table during the fray; but let us say no more about it now--draw over your chair. Tea or coffee? there's the rum if you like it 'chasse.'"
I immediately obeyed the injunction, and commenced a vigorous assault upon the trout, caught, as he informed me, "within twenty perches of the house."
"Your poor friend's nose is scarcely regimental," said he, "this morning; and as for Fin, he was never remarkable for beauty, so, though they might cut and hack, they could scarcely disfigure him, as Juvenal says--isn't it Juvenal?"'Vacuus viator cantabit ante Latronem;' "or in the vernacular: "'The empty traveller may whistle Before the robber and his pistil' (pistol)." "There's the Chili vinegar--another morsel of the trout?" "I thank you; what excellent coffee, Father Malachi!" "A secret I learned at St. Omer's some thirty years since. Any letters,
Bridget?"--to a damsel that entered with a pacquet in her hand. "A gossoon from Kilrush, y'r reverence, with a bit of a note for the gentleman there."
"For me!--ah, true enough. Harry Lorrequer, Esq. Kilrush--try Carrigaholt." So ran the superscription--the first part being in a lady's handwriting; the latter very like the "rustic paling" of the worthy Mrs. Healy's style. The seal was a large one, bearing a coronet at top, and the motto in old Norman--French, told me it came from Callonby.
With what a trembling hand and beating heart I broke it open, and yet feared to read it--so much of my destiny might be in that simple page. For once in my life my sanguine spirit failed me; my mind could take in but one casualty, that Lady Jane had divulged to her family the nature of my attentions, and that in the letter before me lay a cold mandate of dismissal from her presence for ever.
At last I summoned courage to read it; but having scrupled to present to my readers the Reverend Father Brennan at the tail of a chapter, let me not be less punctilious in the introduction of her ladyship's billet.CHAPTER VII. THE LADY'S LETTER--PETER AND HIS ACQUAINTANCES--TOO LATE. Her ladyship's letter ran thus-- "Callonby, Tuesday morning.
"My dear Mr. Lorrequer,--My lord has deputed me to convey to you our adieus, and at the same time to express our very great regret that we should not have seen you before out departure from Ireland. A sudden call of the House, and some unexpected ministerial changes, require Lord Callonby's immediate presence in town; and probably before this reaches you we shall be on the road. Lord Kilkee, who left us yesterday, was much distressed at not having seen you--he desired me to say you shall hear from him from Leamington. Although writing amid all the haste and bustle of departure, I must not forget the principal part of my commission, nor lady-like defer it to a postscript: my lord entreats that you will, if possible, pass a month or two with us in London this season; make any use of his name you think fit at the Horse-Guards, where he has some influence. Knowing as I do, with what kindness you ever accede to the wishes of your friends, I need not say how much gratification this will afford us all; but, sans response, we expect you. Believe me to remain, yours very sincerely,
Words cannot convey any idea of the torrent of contending emotions under which I perused this letter. The suddenness of the departure, without an opportunity of even a moment's leave-taking, completely unmanned me. What would I not have given to be able to see her once more, even for an instant--to say "a good bye"--to watch the feeling with which she parted from me, and augur from it either favourably to my heart's dearest hope, or darkest despair. As I continued to read on, the kindly tone of the remainder reassured me, and when I came to the invitation to London, which plainly argued a wish on their part to perpetuate the intimacy, I was obliged to read it again and again, before I could convince myself of its reality. There it was, however, most distinctly and legibly impressed in her ladyship's fairest calligraphy; and certainly great as was its consequence to me at the time, it by no means formed the principal part of the communication. The two lines of postscript contained more, far more food for hopes and fears than did all the rest of the epistle.
Lady Jane was ill then, slightly however--a mere cold; true, but she was feverish. I could not help asking myself what share had I causing that flushed cheek and anxious eye, and pictured to myself, perhaps with more vividness than reality, a thousand little traits of manner, all proofs strong as holy writ to my sanguine mind, that my affection was returned, and that I loved not in vain. Again and again I read over the entire letter; never truly did a nisi prius lawyer con over a new act of parliament with more searching ingenuity, to detect its hidden meaning, than did I to unravel through its plain phraseology the secret intention of the writer towards me.
There is an old and not less true adage, that what we wish we readily believe; and so with me--I found myself an easy convert to my own hopes and desires, and actually ended by persuading myself--no very hard task
--that my Lord Callonby had not only witnessed but approved of my attachment to his beautiful daughter, and for reasons probably known to him, but concealed from me, opined that I was a suitable "parti," and gave all due encouragement to my suit. The hint about using his lordship's influence at the Horse guards I resolved to benefit by; not, however, in obtaining leave of absence, which I hoped to accomplish more easily, but with his good sanction in pushing my promotion, when I claimed him as my right honorable father-in-law--a point, on the propriety of which, I had now fully satisfied myself. What visions of rising greatness burst upon my mind, as I thought on the prospect that opened before me; but here let me do myself the justice to record, that amid all my pleasure and exultation, my proudest thought, was in the anticipation of possessing one in every way so much my superior--the very consciousness of which imparted a thrill of fear to my heart, that such good fortune was too much even to hope for.
How long I might have luxuriated in such Chateaux en Espagne, heaven knows; thick and thronging fancies came abundantly to my mind, and it was with something of the feeling of the porter in the Arabian Nights, as he surveyed the fragments of his broken ware, hurled down in a moment of glorious dreaminess, that I turned to look at the squat and unaristocratic figure of Father Malachi, as he sat reading his newspaper before the fire. How came I in such company; methinks the Dean of Windsor, or the Bishop of Durham had been a much more seemly associate for one destined as I was for the flood-tide of the world's favour.
My eye at this instant rested upon the date of the letter, which was that of the preceding morning, and immediately a thought struck me that, as the day was a louring and gloomy one, perhaps they might have deferred their journey, and I at once determined to hasten to Callonby, and, if possible, see them before their departure.
"Father Brennan," said I, at length, "I have just received a letter which compels me to reach Kilrush as soon as possible. Is there any public conveyance in the village?"
"You don't talk of leaving us, surely," said the priest, "and a haunch of mutton for dinner, and Fin says he'll be down, and your friend, too, and we'll have poor Beamish in on a sofa."
"I am sorry to say my business will not admit of delay, but, if possible, I shall return to thank you for all you kindness, in a day or two
"Oh, then," said Father Brennan, "if it must be so, why you can have 'Pether,' my own pad, and a better you never laid leg over; only give him his own time, and let him keep the 'canter,' and he'll never draw up from morning till night; and now I'll just go and have him in readiness for you."
After professing my warm acknowledgments to the good father for his kindness, I hastened to take a hurried farewell of Curzon before going. I found him sitting up in bed taking his breakfast; a large strip of black plaster, extending from the corner of one eye across the nose, and terminating near the mouth, denoted the locale of a goodly wound, while the blue, purple and yellow patches into which his face was partitioned out, left you in doubt whether he now resembled the knave of clubs or a new map of the Ordnance survey; one hand was wrapped up in a bandage, and altogether a more rueful and woe-begone looking figure I have rarely looked upon; and most certainly I am of opinion that the "glorious, pious and immortal memory" would have brought pleasanter recollections to Daniel O'Connell himself, than it would on that morning to the adjutant of his majesty's 4_th.
"Ah, Harry," said he, as I entered, "what Pandemonium is this we've got into? did you ever witness such a business as last night's?"
"I don't know now whether I knew it or not; but certainly at the moment I should have preferred anything to the confounded cross-examination I was under, and was glad to end it by any coup d'etat. One wretch was persecuting me about green crops, and another about the feeding of bullocks; about either of which I knew as much as a bear does of a ballet.""Well, truly, you caused a diversion at some expense to your countenance, for I never beheld anything--"
"Stop there," said he, "you surely have not seen the doctor--he beats me hollow--they have scarcely left so much hair on his head as would do for an Indian's scalp lock; and, of a verity, his aspect is awful this morning; he has just been here, and by-the-bye has told me all about your affair with Beamish. It appears that somewhere you met him at dinner, and gave a very flourishing account of a relative of his who you informed him was not only selected for some very dashing service, but actually the personal friend of Picton; and, after the family having blazed the matter all over Cork, and given a great entertainment in honor of their kinsman, it turns out that, on the glorious 19th, he ran away to Brussels faster than even the French to Charleroi; for which act, however, there was no aspersion ever cast upon his courage, that quality being defended at the expense of his honesty; in a word, he was the paymaster of the company, and had what Theodore Hook calls an 'affection of his chest,' that required change of air. Looking only to the running away part of the matter, I unluckily expressed some regret that he did not belong to the North Cork, and I remarked the doctor did not seem to relish the allusion, and as I only now remember, it was his regiment, I suppose I'm in for more mischief."
I had no time to enjoy Curzon's dilemma, and had barely informed him of my intended departure, when a voice from without the room proclaimed that "Pether" was ready, and having commissioned the adjutant to say the "proper" to Mr. Beamish and the doctor, hurried away, and after a hearty shake of the hand from Father Brennan, and a faithful promise to return soon, I mounted and set off.
Peter's pace was of all others the one least likely to disturb the lucubrations of a castle-builder like myself; without any admonition from whip or spur he maintained a steady and constant canter, which, I am free to confess, was more agreeable to sit, than it was graceful to behold; for his head being much lower than his tail, he every moment appeared in the attitude of a diver about to plunge into the water, and more than once I had misgivings that I would consult my safety better if I sat with my face to the tail; however, what will not habit accomplish? before I had gone a mile or two, I was so lost in my own reveries and reflections, that I knew nothing of my mode of progression, and had only thoughts and feelings for the destiny that awaited me; sometimes I would fancy myself seated in the House of Commons, (on the ministerial benches, of course,) while some leading oppositionist was pronouncing a glowing panegyric upon the eloquent and statesmanlike speech of the gallant colonel--myself; then I thought I was making arrangements for setting out for my new appointment, and Sancho Panza never coveted the government of an island more than I did, though only a West Indian one; and, lastly, I saw myself the chosen diplomate on a difficult mission, and was actually engaged in the easy and agreeable occupation of outmaneuvering Talleyrand and Pozzo di Borgo, when Peter suddenly drew up at the door of a small cabin, and convinced me that I was still a mortal man, and a lieutenant in his Majesty's 4_th. Before I had time afforded me even to guess at the reason of this sudden halt, an old man emerged from the cabin, which I saw now was a road-side ale-house, and presented Peter with a bucket of meal and water, a species of "viaticum" that he evidently was accustomed to, at this place, whether bestrode by a priest or an ambassador. Before me lay a long straggling street of cabins, irregularly thrown, as if riddled over the ground; this I was informed was Kilkee; while my good steed, therefore, was enjoying his potation, I dismounted, to stretch my legs and look about me, and scarcely had I done so when I found half the population of the village assembled round Peter, whose claims to notoriety, I now learned, depended neither upon his owner's fame, nor even my temporary possession of him. Peter, in fact, had been a racer, once--when, the wandering Jew might perhaps have told, had he ever visited Clare--for not the oldest inhabitant knew the date of his triumphs on the turf; though they were undisputed traditions, and never did any man appear bold enough to call them in question: whether it was from his patriarchal character, or that he was the only race-horse ever known in his county I cannot say, but, of a truth, the Grand Lama could scarcely be a greater object of reverence in Thibet, than was Peter in Kilkee."Musha, Peter, but it's well y'r looking," cried one. "Ah, thin, maybe ye an't fat on the ribs," cried another. "An' cockin' his tail like a coult," said a third.
I am very certain, if I might venture to judge from the faces about, that, had the favourite for the St. Leger, passed through Kilkee at that moment, comparisons very little to his favor had been drawn from the assemblage around me. With some difficulty I was permitted to reach my much admired steed, and with a cheer, which was sustained and caught up by every denizen of the village as I passed through, I rode on my way, not a little amused at my equivocal popularity.
Being desirous to lose no time, I diverged from the straight road which leads to Kilrush, and took a cross bridle-path to Callonby; this, I afterwards discovered was a detour of a mile or two, and it was already sun-set when I reached the entrance to the park. I entered the avenue, and now my impatience became extreme, for although Peter continued to move at the same uniform pace, I could not persuade myself that he was not foundering at every step, and was quite sure we were scarcely advancing; at last I reached the wooden bridge, and ascended the steep slope, the spot where I had first met her, on whom my every thought now rested. I turned the angle of the clump of beech trees from whence the first view of the house is caught--I perceived to my inexpressible delight that gleams of light shone from many of the windows, and could trace their passing from one to the other. I now drew rein, and with a heart relieved from a load of anxiety, pulled up my good steed, and began to think of the position in which a few brief seconds would place me. I reached the small flower-garden, sacred by a thousand endearing recollections. Oh! of how very little account are the many words of passing kindness, and moments of light-hearted pleasure, when spoken or felt, compared to the memory of them when hallowed by time or distance.
"The place, the hour, the sunshine and the shade," all reminded me of the happy past, and all brought vividly before me every portion of that dream of happiness in which I was so utterly--so completely steeped--every thought of the hopelessness of my passion was lost in the intensity of it, and I did not, in the ardour of my loving, stop to think of its possible success.
It was strange enough that the extreme impatience, the hurried anxiety, I had felt and suffered from, while riding up the avenue, had now fled entirely, and in its place I felt nothing but a diffident distrust of myself, and a vague sense of awkwardness about intruding thus unexpectedly upon the family, while engaged in all the cares and preparations for a speedy departure. The hall-door lay as usual wide open, the hall itself was strewn and littered with trunks, imperials, and packing-cases, and the hundred et ceteras of travelling baggage. I hesitated a moment whether I should not ring, but at last resolved to enter unannounced, and, presuming upon my intimacy, see what effect my sudden appearance would have on Lady Jane, whose feelings towards me would be thus most unequivocally tested. I passed along the wide corridor, entered the music-room--it was still--I walked then to the door of the drawing-room--I paused--I drew a full breath--my hand trembled slightly as I turned the lock--I entered--the room was empty, but the blazing fire upon the hearth, the large arm-chairs drawn around, the scattered books upon the small tables, all told that it had been inhabited a very short time before. Ah! thought I, looking at my watch, they are at dinner, and I began at once to devise a hundred different plans to account for my late absence and present visit. I knew that a few minutes would probably bring them into the drawing-room, and I felt flurried and heated as the time drew near. At last I heard voices without--I started from the examination of a pencil drawing but partly finished, but the artist of which I could not be deceived in--I listened
--the sounds drew near--I could not distinguish who were the speakers
--the door-lock turned, and I rose to make my well-conned, but half-forgotten speech; and oh, confounded disappointment, Mrs. Herbert, the house-keeper, entered. She started, not expecting to see me, and immediately said,
"Oh, dear me, that is so very unfortunate. Why, sir, my lord sent off a servant this morning to Kilrush, in Lord Kilkee's tilbury, to request you would meet them all in Ennis this evening, where they had intended to stop for to-night; and they waited here till near four o'clock to-day, but when the servant came back with the intelligence that you were from home, and not expected to return soon, they were obliged to set out, and are not going to make any delay now, till they reach London. The last direction, however, my lord gave, was to forward her ladyship's letter to you as soon as possible."
What I thought, said, or felt, might be a good subject of confession to Father Malachi, for I fear it may be recorded among my sins, as I doubt not that the agony I suffered vented itself in no measured form of speech or conduct; but I have nothing to confess here on the subject, being so totally overwhelmed as not to know what I did or said. My first gleam of reason elicited itself by asking,"Is there, then, no chance of their stopping in Ennis to-night?" As I put the question my mind reverted to Peter and his eternal canter.
"Oh, dear, no, sir; the horses are ordered to take them, since Tuesday; and they only thought of staying in Ennis, if you came time enough to meet them--and they will be so sorry.""Do you think so, Mrs. Herbert? do you, indeed, think so?" said I, in a most insinuating tone. "I am perfectly sure of it, sir." "Oh, Mrs. Herbert, you are too kind to think so; but perhaps--that is --may be, Mrs. Herbert, she said something--" "Who, sir?" "Lady Callonby, I mean; did her ladyship leave any message for me about her plants? or did she remember--" Mrs. Herbert kept looking at me all the time, with her great wide grey eyes, while I kept stammering and blushing like a school-boy. "No, sir; her ladyship said nothing, sir; but Lady Jane--" "Yes; well, what of Lady Jane, my dear Mrs. Herbert?" "Oh, sir! but you look pale; would not you like to have a little wine and water--or perhaps--" "No, thank you, nothing whatever; I am just a little fatigued--but you were mentioning--"
"Yes, sir; I was saying that Lady Jane was mighty particular about a small plant; she ordered it to be left in her dressing-room, though Collins told her to have some of the handsome ones of the green-house, she would have nothing but this; and if you were only to hear half the directions she gave about keeping it watered, and taking off dead leaves, you'd think her heart was set on it."
Mrs. Herbert would have had no cause to prescribe for my paleness had she only looked at me this time; fortunately, however, she was engaged, housekeeper-like, in bustling among books, papers, &c. which she had come in for the purpose of arranging and packing up. She being left behind to bring up the rear, and the heavy baggage.
Very few moments' consideration were sufficient to show me that pursuit was hopeless; whatever might have been Peter's performance in the reign of "Queen Anne," he had now become like the goose so pathetically described by my friend Lover, rather "stiff in his limbs," and the odds were fearfully against his overtaking four horses, starting fresh every ten miles, not to mention their being some hours in advance already. Having declined all Mrs. Herbert's many kind offers, anent food and rest, I took a last lingering look at the beautiful pictures, which still held its place in the room lately mine, and hurried from a place so full of recollections; and, notwithstanding the many reasons I had for self-gratulation, every object around and about, filled me with sorrow and regret for hours that had passed--never, never to return.
It was very late when I reached my old quarters at Kilrush; Mrs. Healy fortunately was in bed asleep--fortunately I say, for had she selected that occasion to vent her indignation for my long absence, I greatly fear that, in my then temper I should have exhibited but little of that Job-like endurance for which I was once esteemed; I entered my little mean-looking parlour, with its three chairs and lame table, and, as I flung myself upon the wretched substitute for a sofa, and thought upon the varied events which a few weeks had brought about; it required the aid of her ladyship's letter, which I opened before me, to assure me I was not dreaming.
The entire of that night I could not sleep; my destiny seemed upon its balance; and, whether the scale inclined to this side or that, good or evil fortune seemed to betide me. How many were my plans and resolutions, and how often abandoned; again to be pondered over, and once more given up. The grey dawn of the morning was already breaking, and found me still doubting and uncertain. At last the die was thrown; I determined at once to apply for leave to my commanding officer, (which he could, if he pleased, give me, without any application to the Horse Guards,) set out for Elton, tell Sir Guy my whole adventure, and endeavour, by a more moving love story than ever graced even the Minerva Press, to induce him to make some settlement on me, and use his influence with Lord Callonby in my behalf; this done, set out for London, and then
--and then--what then?--then for the Morning Post--"Cadeau de noces"
--"happy couple"--"Lord Callonby's seat in Hampshire," &c. &c.
"And now for it," said I, after writing a hurried note to Curzon, requesting him to take command of my party at Kilrush, till he heard from me, and sending my kindest remembrance to my three friends; I despatched the epistle by my servant on Peter, while I hastened to acquire a place in the mail for Ennis, on the box seat of which let my kind reader suppose me seated, as wrapping my box-coat around me, I lit my cigar and turned my eyes towards Limerick.CHAPTER VIII. CONGRATULATIONS--SICK LEAVE--HOW TO PASS THE BOARD.
I had scarcely seated myself to breakfast at Swinburn's hotel in Limerick, when the waiter presented me with a letter. As my first glance at the address showed it to be in Colonel Carden's handwriting, I felt not a little alarmed for the consequences of the rash step I had taken in leaving my detachment; and, while quickly thronging fancies of arrest and courtmartial flitted before me, I summoned resolution at last to break the seal, and read as follows:--
"My dear Lorrequer," ("dear Lorrequer!" dear me, thought I; cool certainly, from one I have ever regarded as an open enemy)--"My dear Lorrequer, I have just accidentally heard of your arrival here, and hasten to inform you, that, as it may not be impossible your reasons for so abruptly leaving your detachment are known to me, I shall not visit your breach of discipline very heavily. My old and worthy friend, Lord Callonby, who passed through here yesterday, has so warmly interested himself in your behalf, that I feel disposed to do all in my power to serve you; independently of my desire to do so on your own account. Come over here, then, as soon as possible, and let us talk over your plans together.
However mysterious and difficult to unravel, have been some of the circumstances narrated in these "Confessions," I do not scruple to avow that the preceding letter was to me by far the most inexplicable piece of fortune I had hitherto met with. That Lord Callonby should have converted one whom I believed an implacable foe, into a most obliging friend, was intelligible enough, seeing that his lordship had through life been the patron of the colonel; but why he had so done, and what communications he could possibly have made with regard to me, that Colonel Carden should speak of "my plans" and proffer assistance in them was a perfect riddle; and the only solution, one so ridiculously flattering that I dared not think of it. I read and re-read the note; misplaced the stops; canvassed every expression; did all to detect a meaning different from the obvious one, fearful of a self-deception where so much was at stake. Yet there it stood forth, a plain straightforward proffer of services, for some object evidently known to the writer; and my only conclusion, from all, was this, that "my Lord Callonby was the gem of his order, and had a most remarkable talent for selecting a son-in-law."
I fell into a deep reverie upon my past life, and the prospects which I now felt were opening before me. Nothing seemed extravagant to hopes so well founded--to expectations so brilliant--and, in my mind's eye, I beheld myself at one moment leading my young and beautiful bride through the crowded salons of Devonshire House; and, at the next, I was contemplating the excellence and perfection of my stud arrangements at Melton, for I resolved not to give up hunting. While in this pleasurable exercise of my fancy, I was removing from before me some of the breakfast equipage, or, as I then believed it, breaking the trees into better groups upon my lawn, I was once more brought to the world and its dull reality, by the following passage which my eye fell upon in the newspaper before me--"We understand that the 4_th are daily expecting the route for Cork, from whence they are to sail, early in the ensuing month for Halifax, to relieve the 99th." While it did not take a moment's consideration to show me that though the regiment there mentioned was the one I belonged to, I could have no possible interest in the announcement; it never coming into my calculation that I should submit to such expatriation; yet it gave me a salutary warning that there was no time to be lost in making my application for leave, which, once obtained, I should have ample time to manage an exchange into another corps. The wonderful revolution a few days had effected in all my tastes and desires, did not escape me at this moment. But a week or two before and I should have regarded an order for foreign service as anything rather than unpleasant--now the thought was insupportable. Then there would have been some charm to me in the very novelty of the locale, and the indulgence of that vagrant spirit I have ever possessed; for, like Justice Woodcock, "I certainly should have been a vagabond if Providence had not made me a justice of the peace"--now, I could not even contemplate the thing as possible; and would have actually refused the command of a regiment, if the condition of its acceptance were to sail for the colonies.
Besides, I tried--and how ingenious is self-deception--I tried to find arguments in support of my determination totally different from the reasons which governed me. I affected to fear climate, and to dread the effect of the tropics upon my health. It may do very well, thought I, for men totally destitute of better prospects; with neither talent, influence or powerful connexion, to roast their cheeks at Sierra Leone, or suck a sugar-cane at St. Lucia. But that you, Harry Lorrequer, should waste your sweetness upon planters' daughters--that have only to be known, to have the world at your feet! The thing is absurd, and not to be thought of! Yes, said I half aloud--we read in the army list, that Major A. is appointed to the 50th, and Capt. B. to the 12th; but how much more near the truth would it be, to say--"That His Majesty, in consideration of the distinguished services of the one, has been graciously pleased to appoint him to--a case of blue and collapsed cholera, in India; and also, for the bravery and gallant conduct of the other, in his late affair with the 'How-dow-dallah Indians,' has promoted him to the--yellow fever now devastating and desolating Jamaica." How far my zeal for the service might have carried me on this point, I know not; for I was speedily aroused from my musings by the loud tramp of feet upon the stairs, and the sound of many well-known voices of my brother officers, who were coming to visit me."So, Harry, my boy," said the fat major as he entered; "is it true we are not to have the pleasure of your company to Jamaica this time?" "He prefers a pale face, it seems, to a black one; and certainly, with thirty thousand in the same scale, the taste is excusable."
"But, Lorrequer," said a third, "we heard that you had canvassed the county on the Callonby interest. Why, man, where do you mean to pull up?"
"As for me," lisped a large-eyed, white-haired ensign of three months' standing, "I think it devilish hard, old Carden didn't send ME down there, too, for I hear there are two girls in the family. Eh, Lorrequer?"
Having with all that peculiar bashfulness such occasions are sure to elicit, disclaimed the happiness my friends so clearly ascribed to me, I yet pretty plainly let it be understood that the more brilliant they supposed my present prospects to be, the more near were they to estimate them justly. One thing certainly gratified me throughout. All seemed rejoiced at my good fortune, and even the old Scotch paymaster made no more caustic remark than that he "wad na wonder if the chiel's black whiskers wad get him made governor of Stirling Castle before he'd dee."
Should any of my most patient listeners to these my humble confessions, wonder either here, or elsewhere, upon what very slight foundations I built these my "Chateaux en Espagne," I have only one answer--"that from my boyhood I have had a taste for florid architecture, and would rather put up with any inconvenience of ground, than not build at all."
As it was growing late I hurriedly bade adieu to my friends, and hastened to Colonel Carden's quarters, where I found him waiting for me, in company with my old friend, Fitzgerald, our regimental surgeon. Our first greetings over, the colonel drew me aside into a window, and said that, from certain expressions Lord Callonby had made use of--certain hints he had dropped--he was perfectly aware of the delicate position in which I stood with respect to his lordship's family. "In fact, my dear Lorrequer," he continued, "without wishing in the least to obtrude myself upon your confidence, I must yet be permitted to say, you are the luckiest fellow in Europe, and I most sincerely congratulate you on the prospect before you.""But, my dear Colonel, I assure you--"
"Well, well, there--not a word more; don't blush now. I know there is always a kind of secrecy thought necessary on these occasions, for the sake of other parties; so let us pass to your plans. From what I have collected, you have not yet proposed formally. But, of course you desire a leave. You'll not quit the army, I trust; no necessity for that; such influence as yours can always appoint you to an unattached commission.""Once more let me protest, sir, that though for certain reasons most desirous to obtain a leave of absence, I have not the most remote--" "That's right, quite right; I am sincerely gratified to hear you say so, and so will be Lord Callonby; for he likes the service."
And thus was my last effort at a disclaimer cut short by the loquacious little colonel, who regarded my unfinished sentence as a concurrence with his own opinion.
"Allah il Allah," thought I, "it is my Lord Callonby's own plot; and his friend Colonel Cardon aids and abets him."
"Now, Lorrequer," resumed the colonel, "let us proceed. You have, of course, heard that we are ordered abroad; mere newspaper report for the present; nevertheless, it is extremely difficult--almost impossible, without a sick certificate, to obtain a leave sufficiently long for your purpose."And here he smirked, and I blushed, selon les regles.. "A sick certificate," said I in some surprise.
"The only thing for you," said Fitzgerald, taking a long pinch of snuff; "and I grieve to say you have a most villainous look of good health about you.""I must acknowledge I have seldom felt better."
"So much the worse--so much the worse," said Fitzgerald despondingly. "Is there no family complaint; no respectable heir-loom of infirmity, you can lay claim to from your kindred?"
"None, that I know of, unless a very active performance on the several occasions of breakfast, dinner, and supper, with a tendency towards port, and an inclination to sleep ten in every twenty-four hours, be a sign of sickness; these symptoms I have known many of the family suffer for years, without the slightest alleviation, though, strange as it may appear, they occasionally had medical advice."
Fitz. took no notice of my sneer at the faculty, but proceeded to strike my chest several times, with his finger tips. "Try a short cough now," said he. "Ah, that will never do!""Do you ever flush. Before dinner I mean?" "Occasionally, when I meet with a luncheon."
"I'm fairly puzzled," said poor Fitz. throwing himself into a chair; "gout is a very good thing; but, then, you see you are only a sub., and it is clearly against the articles of war, to have it before being a field officer at least. Apoplexy is the best I can do for you; and, to say the truth, any one who witnesses your performance at mess, may put faith in the likelihood of it."Do you think you could get up a fit for the medical board," said Fitz., gravely. "Why, if absolutely indispensable," said I, "and with good instruction --something this way. Eh, is it not?" "Nothing of the kind: you are quite wrong." "Is there not always a little laughing and crying," said I.
"Oh, no, no; take the cue from the paymaster any evening after mess, and you'll make no mistake--very florid about the cheeks; rather a lazy look in one eye, the other closed up entirely; snore a little from time to time, and don't be too much disposed to talk.""And you think I may pass muster in this way."
"Indeed you may, if old Camie, the inspector, happen to be (what he is not often) in a good humour. But I confess I'd rather you were really ill, for we've passed a great number of counterfeits latterly, and we may be all pulled up ere long.""Not the less grateful for your kindness," said I; "but still, I'd rather matters stood as they do."
Having, at length, obtained a very formidable statement of my 'case' from the Doctor, and a strong letter from the Colonel, deploring the temporary loss of so promising a young officer, I committed myself and my portmanteau to the inside of his Majesty's mail, and started for Dublin with as light a heart and high spirits, as were consistent with so much delicacy of health, and the directions of my Doctor.CHAPTER IX. THE ROAD--TRAVELLING ACQUAINTANCES--A PACKET ADVENTURE.
I shall not stop now to narrate the particulars of my visit to the worthies of the medical board; the rather, as some of my "confessions to come" have reference to Dublin, and many of those that dwell therein. I shall therefore content myself here with stating, that without any difficulty I obtained a six months' leave, and having received much advice and more sympathy from many members of that body, took a respectful leave of them, and adjourned to Bilton's where I had ordered dinner, and (as I was advised to live low) a bottle of Sneyd's claret. My hours in Dublin were numbered; at eight o'clock on the evening of my arrival I hastened to the Pidgeon House pier, to take my berth in the packet for Liverpool; and here, gentle reader, let me implore you if you have bowels of compassion, to commiserate the condition of a sorry mortal like myself. In the days of which I now speak, steam packets were not
--men knew not then, of the pleasure of going to a comfortable bed in Kingstown harbour, and waking on the morning after in the Clarence dock at Liverpool, with only the addition of a little sharper appetite for breakfast, before they set out on an excursion of forty miles per hour through the air.
In the time I have now to commemorate, the intercourse between the two countries was maintained by two sailing vessels of small tonnage, and still scantier accommodation. Of the one now in question I well recollect the name--she was called the "Alert," and certainly a more unfortunate misnomer could scarcely be conceived. Well, there was no choice; so I took my place upon the crowded deck of the little craft, and in a drizzling shower of chilly rain, and amid more noise, confusion, and bustle, than would prelude the launch of a line-of-battle ship, we "sidled," goose-fashion, from the shore, and began our voyage towards England.
It is not my intention, in the present stage of "my Confessions," to delay on the road towards an event which influenced so powerfully, and so permanently, my after life; yet I cannot refrain from chronicling a slight incident which occurred on board the packet, and which, I have no doubt, may be remembered by some of those who throw their eyes on these pages.
One of my fellow-passengers was a gentleman holding a high official appointment in the viceregal court, either comptroller of the household, master of the horse, or something else equally magnificent; however, whatever the nature of the situation, one thing is certain--one possessed of more courtly manners, and more polished address, cannot be conceived, to which he added all the attractions of a very handsome person and a most prepossessing countenance. The only thing the most scrupulous critic could possibly detect as faulty in his whole air and bearing, was a certain ultra refinement and fastidiousness, which in a man of acknowledged family and connections was somewhat unaccountable, and certainly unnecessary. The fastidiousness I speak of, extended to everything round and about him; he never eat of the wrong dish, nor spoke to the wrong man in his life, and that very consciousness gave him a kind of horror of chance acquaintances, which made him shrink within himself from persons in every respect his equals. Those who knew Sir Stewart Moore, will know I do not exaggerate in either my praise or censure, and to those who have not had that pleasure, I have only to say, theirs was the loss, and they must take my word for the facts.
The very antithesis to the person just mentioned, was another passenger then on board. She, for even in sex they were different--she was a short, squat, red-faced, vulgar-looking woman, of about fifty, possessed of a most garrulous tendency, and talking indiscriminately with every one about her, careless what reception her addresses met with, and quite indifferent to the many rebuffs she momentarily encountered. To me by what impulse driven Heaven knows this amorphous piece of womanhood seemed
determined to attach herself. Whether in the smoky and almost impenetrable recesses of the cabin, or braving the cold and penetrating rain upon deck, it mattered not, she was ever at my side, and not only martyring me by the insufferable annoyance of her vulgar loquacity, but actually, from the appearance of acquaintanceship such constant association gave rise to, frightening any one else from conversing with me, and rendering me, ere many hours, a perfect Paria among the passengers. By not one were we--for, alas, we had become Siamese--so thoroughly dreaded as by the refined baronet I have mentioned; he appeared to shrink from our very approach, and avoided us as though we had the plagues of Egypt about us. I saw this--I felt it deeply, and as deeply and resolutely I vowed to be revenged, and the time was not long distant in affording me the opportunity.
The interesting Mrs. Mulrooney, for such was my fair companion called, was on the present occasion making her debut on what she was pleased to call the "says;" she was proceeding to the Liverpool market as proprietor and supercargo over some legion of swine that occupied the hold of the vessel, and whose mellifluous tones were occasionally heard in all parts of the ship. Having informed me on these, together with some circumstances of her birth and parentage, she proceeded to narrate some of the cautions given by her friends as to her safety when making such a long voyage, and also to detail some of the antiseptics to that dread scourge, sea-sickness, in the fear and terror of which she had come on board, and seemed every hour to be increasing in alarm about.
"Do you think then sir, that pork is no good agin the sickness? Mickey, that's my husband, sir, says it's the only thing in life for it, av it's toasted.""Not the least use, I assure you." "Nor sperits and wather?" "Worse and worse, ma'am." "Oh, thin, maybe oaten mail tay would do? it's a beautiful thing for the stomick, any how." "Rank poison on the present occasion, believe me." "Oh, then, blessed Mary, what am I to do--what is to become of me?"
"Go down at once to your berth, ma'am; lie still and without speaking till we come in sight of land; or," and here a bright thought seized me, "if you really feel very ill, call for that man there, with the fur collar on his coat; he can give you the only thing I ever knew of any efficacy; he's the steward, ma'am, Stewart Moore; but you must be on your guard too as you are a stranger, for he's a conceited fellow, and has saved a trifle, and sets up for a half gentleman; so don't be surprised at his manner; though, after all, you may find him very different; some people, I've heard, think him extremely civil."
"And he has a cure, ye say?"
"Stewart Moore, ma'am. Moore is the name, but people always call him Stewart Moore; just say that in a loud clear voice, and you'll soon have him."
With the most profuse protestations of gratitude and promises of pork "a discretion," if I ever sojourned at Ballinasloe, my fair friend proceeded to follow my advice, and descended to the cabin.
Some hours after, I also betook myself to my rest, from which, however, towards midnight I was awoke by the heavy working and pitching of the little vessel, as she laboured in a rough sea. As I looked forth from my narrow crib, a more woe-begone picture can scarcely be imagined than that before me. Here and there through the gloomy cabin lay the victims of the fell malady, in every stage of suffering, and in every attitude of misery. Their cries and lamentings mingled with the creaking of the bulk-heads and the jarring twang of the dirty lamp, whose irregular swing told plainly how oscillatory was our present motion. I turned from the unpleasant sight, and was about again to address myself to slumber with what success I might, when I started at the sound of a voice in the very berth next to me--whose tones, once heard, there was no forgetting. The words ran as nearly as I can recollect thus:--
"Oh, then, bad luck to ye for pigs, that ever brought me into the like of this. Oh, Lord, there it is again." And here a slight interruption to eloquence took place, during which I was enabled to reflect upon the author of the complaint, who, I need not say, was Mrs. Mulrooney.
"I think a little tay would settle my stomach, if I only could get it; but what's the use of talking in this horrid place? They never mind me no more than if I was a pig. Steward, steward--oh, then, it's wishing you well I am for a steward. Steward, I say;" and this she really did say, with an energy of voice and manner that startled more than one sleeper. "Oh, you're coming at last, steward."
"Ma'am," said a little dapper and dirty personage, in a blue jacket, with a greasy napkin negligently thrown over one arm "ex officio," "Ma'am, did you call?"
"Call, is it call? No; but I'm roaring for you this half hour. Come here. Have you any of the cordial dhrops agin the sickness?--you know what I mean."
This injunction, given in a diminuendo cadence, was quickly obeyed, and all was silence for a moment or two. Once more was I dropping asleep, when the same voice as before burst out with--"Am I to die here like a haythen, and nobody to come near me? Steward, steward, steward Moore, I say,"
"Who calls me?" said a deep sonorous voice from the opposite side of the cabin, while at the same instant a tall green silk nightcap, surmounting a very aristocratic-looking forehead, appeared between the curtains of the opposite berth."Steward Moore," said the lady again, with her eyes straining in the direction of the door by which she expected him to enter. "This is most strange," muttered the baronet, half aloud. "Why, madam, you are calling me!" "And if I am," said Mrs. Mulrooney, "and if ye heerd me, have ye no manners to answer your name, eh? Are ye steward Moore?" "Upon my soul ma'am I thought so last night, when I came on board; but you really have contrived to make me doubt my own identity." "And is it there ye're lying on the broad of yer back, and me as sick as a dog fornent ye?"
"I concede ma'am the fact; the position is a most irksome one on every account."
"Then why don't ye come over to me?" and this Mrs. Mulrooney said with a voice of something like tenderness--wishing at all hazards to conciliate so important a functionary.
"I'm what?" said Mrs. Mulrooney, her blood rushing to her face and temples as she spoke--for the same reason as her fair townswoman is reported to have borne with stoical fortitude every harsh epithet of the language, until it occurred to her opponent to tell her that "the divil a bit better she was nor a pronoun;" so Mrs. Mulrooney, taking "omne ignotum pro horribili," became perfectly beside herself at the unlucky phrase. "I'm what? repate it av ye dare, and I'll tear yer eyes out? Ye dirty bla--guard, to be lying there at yer ease under the blankets, grinning at me. What's your thrade--answer me that--av it isn't to wait on the ladies, eh?""Oh, the woman must be mad," said Sir Stewart.
"The devil a taste mad, my dear--I'm only sick. Now just come over to me, like a decent creature, and give me the dhrop of comfort ye have. Come, avick.""Go over to you?" "Ay, and why not? or if it's so lazy ye are, why then I'll thry and cross over to your side."
These words being accompanied by a certain indication of change of residence on the part of Mrs. Mulrooney, Sir Stewart perceived there was no time to lose, and springing from his berth, he rushed half-dressed through the cabin, and up the companion-ladder, just as Mrs. Mulrooney had protruded a pair of enormous legs from her couch, and hung for a moment pendulous before she dropped upon the floor, and followed him to the deck. A tremendous shout of laughter from the sailors and deck passengers prevented my hearing the dialogue which ensued; nor do I yet know how Mrs. Mulrooney learned her mistake. Certain it is, she no more appeared among the passengers in the cabin, and Sir Stewart's manner the following morning at breakfast amply satisfied me that I had had my revenge.CHAPTER X. UPSET--MIND--AND BODY.
No sooner in Liverpool, than I hastened to take my place in the earliest conveyance for London. At that time the Umpire Coach was the perfection of fast travelling; and seated behind the box, enveloped in a sufficiency of broad-cloth, I turned my face towards town with as much anxiety and as ardent expectations as most of those about me. All went on in the regular monotonous routine of such matters until we reached Northampton, passing down the steep street of which town, the near wheel-horse stumbled and fell; the coach, after a tremendous roll to one side, toppled over on the other, and with a tremendous crash, and sudden shock, sent all the outsides, myself among the number, flying through the air like sea-gulls. As for me, after describing a very respectable parabola, my angle of incidence landed me in a bonnet-maker's shop, having passed through a large plate-glass window, and destroyed more leghorns and dunstables than a year's pay would recompense. I have but light recollection of the details of that occasion, until I found myself lying in a very spacious bed at the George Inn, having been bled in both arms, and discovering by the multitude of bandages in which I was enveloped, that at least some of my bones were broken by the fall. That such fate had befallen my collar-bone and three of my ribs I soon learned; and was horror-struck at hearing from the surgeon who attended me, that four or five weeks would be the very earliest period I could bear removal with safety. Here then at once was a large deduction from my six months' leave, not to think of the misery that awaited me for such a time, confined to my bed in an inn, without books, friends, or acquaintances. However even this could be remedied by patience, and summoning up all I could command, I "bided my time," but not before I had completed a term of two months' imprisonment, and had become, from actual starvation, something very like a living transparency.
No sooner, however, did I feel myself once more on the road, than my spirits rose, and I felt myself as full of high hope and buoyant expectancy as ever. It was late at night when I arrived in London. I drove to a quiet hotel in the west-end; and the following morning proceeded to Portman-square, bursting with impatience to see my friends the Callonbys, and recount all my adventures--for as I was too ill to write from Northampton, and did not wish to entrust to a stranger the office of communicating with them, I judged that they must be exceedingly uneasy on my account, and pictured to myself the thousand emotions my appearance so indicative of illness would give rise to; and could scarcely avoid running in my impatience to be once more among them. How Lady Jane would meet me, I thought of over again and again; whether the same cautious reserve awaited me, or whether her family's approval would have wrought a change in her reception of me, I burned to ascertain. As my thoughts ran on in this way, I found myself at the door; but was much alarmed to perceive that the closed window-shutters and dismantled look of the house proclaimed them from home. I rung the bell, and soon learned from a servant, whose face I had not seen before, that the family had gone to Paris about a month before, with the intention of spending the winter there. I need not say how grievously this piece of
intelligence disappointed me, and for a minute or two I could not collect my thoughts. At last the servant said:
"If you have any thing very particular, sir, that my Lord's lawyer can do, I can give you his address."
"No, thank you--nothing;" at the same time I muttered to myself, "I'll have some occupation for him though ere long. The family were all quite well, didn't you say?""Yes sir, perfectly well. My Lord had only a slight cold," "Ah--yes--and there address is 'Meurice;' very well." So saying I turned from the door, and with slower steps than I had come, returned to my hotel.
My immediate resolve was to set out for Paris; my second was to visit my uncle, Sir Guy Lorrequer, first, and having explained to him the nature of my position, and the advantageous prospects before me, endeavour to induce him to make some settlement on Lady Jane, in the event of my obtaining her family's consent to our marriage. This, from his liking great people much, and laying great stress upon the advantages of connexion, I looked upon as a matter of no great difficulty; so that, although my hopes of happiness were delayed in their fulfilment, I believed they were only about to be the more securely realized. The same day I set out for Elton, and by ten o'clock at night reached my uncle's house. I found the old gentleman looking just as I had left him three years before, complaining a little of gout in the left foot--praising his old specific, port-wine--abusing his servants for robbing him--and drinking the Duke of Wellington's health every night after supper; which meal I had much pleasure in surprising him at on my arrival--not having eaten since my departure from London.
"Well, Harry," said my uncle, when the servants had left the room, and we drew over the spider table to the fire to discuss our wine with comfort, "what good wind has blown you down to me, my boy? for it's odd enough, five minutes before I heard the wheels on the gravel I was just wishing some good fellow would join me at the grouse--and you see I have had my wish! The old story, I suppose, 'out of cash.' Would not come down here for nothing--eh? Come, lad, tell truth; is it not so?"
"Why, not exactly, sir; but I really had rather at present talk about you, than about my own matters, which we can chat over tomorrow. How do you get on, sir, with the Scotch steward?"
"He's a rogue, sir--a cheat--a scoundrel; but it is the same with them all; and your cousin, Harry--your cousin, that I have reared from his infancy to be my heir, (pleasant topic for me!) he cares no more for me than the rest of them, and would never come near me, if it were not that, like yourself, he was hard run for money, and wanted to wheedle me out of a hundred or two."
"But you forget, sir--I told you I have not come with such an object."
"What has he not done? No sooner did he join that popinjay set of fellows, the __th hussars, than he turned out, what he calls a four-in-hand drag, which dragged nine hundred pounds out of my pocket
--then he has got a yacht at Cowes--a grouse mountain in Scotland--and has actually given Tattersall an unlimited order to purchase the Wreckinton pack of harriers, which he intends to keep for the use of the corps. In a word, there is not an amusement of that villanous regiment, not a flask of champagne drank at their mess, I don't bear my share in the cost of; all through the kind offices of your worthy cousin, Guy Lorrequer."
This was an exceedingly pleasant expose for me, to hear of my cousin indulged in every excess of foolish extravagance by his rich uncle, while I, the son of an elder brother who unfortunately called me by his own name, Harry, remained the sub. in a marching regiment, with not three hundred pounds a year above my pay, and whom any extravagance, if such had been proved against me would have deprived of even that small allowance. My uncle however did not notice the chagrin with which I heard his narrative, but continued to detail various instances of wild and reckless expense the future possessor of his ample property had already launched into.Anxious to say something without well-knowing what, I hinted that probably my good cousin would reform some of these days, and marry.
"Marry," said my uncle; "yes, that, I believe, is the best thing we can do with him; and I hope now the matter is in good train--so the latest accounts say, at least."
"Ah, indeed," said I, endeavouring to take an interest where I really felt none--for my cousin and I had never been very intimate friends, and the differences in our fortunes had not, at least to my thinking, been compensated by any advances which he, under the circumstances, might have made to me."Why, Harry, did you not hear of it?" said my uncle. "No--not a word, sir." "Very strange, indeed--a great match, Harry--a very great match, indeed." "Some rich banker's daughter," thought I. "What will he say when he hears of my fortune?" "A very fine young woman, too, I understand--quite the belle of London --and a splendid property left by an aunt."
I was bursting to tell him of my affair, and that he had another nephew, to whom if common justice were rendered, his fortune was as certainly made for life.
"Guy's business happened this way," continued my uncle, who was quite engrossed by the thought of his favourite's success. "The father of the young lady met him in Ireland, or Scotland, or some such place, where he was with his regiment--was greatly struck with his manner and address
--found him out to be my nephew--asked him to his house--and, in fact, almost threw this lovely girl at his head before they were two months acquainted."
"I'm coming to that--I'm coming to that. Guy came down here, but did not tell me one word of his having ever met the family, but begged me to give him an introduction to them, as they were in Paris, where he was going on a short leave; and the first thing I heard of the matter was a letter from the papa, demanding from me if Guy was to be my heir, and asking 'how far his attentions in his family, met with my approval.'""Then how did you know sir that they were previously known to each other?" "The family lawyer told me, who heard it all talked over." "And why, then, did Guy get the letter of introduction from you, when he was already acquainted with them?"
"I am sure I cannot tell, except that you know he always does every thing unlike every one else, and to be sure the letter seems to have excited some amusement. I must show you his answer to my first note to know how all was going on; for I felt very anxious about matters, when I heard from some person who had met them, that Guy was everlastingly in the house, and that Lord Callonby could not live without him.""Lord who, sir?" said I in a voice that made the old man upset his glass, and spring from his chair in horror. "What the devil is the matter with the boy. What makes you so pale?" "Whose name did you say at that moment, sir," said I with a slowness of speech that cost me agony. "Lord Callonby, my old schoolfellow and fag at Eton." "And the lady's name, sir?" said I, in scarcely an audible whisper. "I'm sure I forget her name; but here's the letter from Guy, and I think he mentions her name in the postscript." I snatched rudely the half-opened letter from the old man, as he was vainly endeavouring to detect the place he wanted, and read as follows:
"My adored Jane is all your fondest wishes for my happiness could picture, and longs to see her dear uncle, as she already calls you on every occasion." I read no more--my eyes swam--the paper, the candles, every thing before me, was misty and confused; and although I heard my uncle's voice still going on, I knew nothing of what he said.
For some time my mind could not take in the full extent of the base treachery I had met with, and I sat speechless and stupified. By degrees my faculties became clearer, and with one glance I read the whole business, from my first meeting with them at Kilrush to the present moment. I saw that in their attentions to me, they thought they were winning the heir of Elton, the future proprietor of fifteen thousand per annum. From this tangled web of heartless intrigue I turned my thoughts to Lady Jane herself. How had she betrayed me! for certainly she had not only received, but encouraged my addresses--and so soon, too.--To think that at the very moment when my own precipitate haste to see her had involved me in a nearly fatal accident, she was actually receiving the attentions of another! Oh, it was too, too bad.
But enough--even now I can scarcely dwell upon the memory of that moment, when the hopes and dreams of many a long day and night were destined to be thus rudely blighted. I seized the first opportunity of bidding my uncle good night; and having promised him to reveal all my plans on the morrow, hurried to my room.
My plans! alas, I had none--that one fatal paragraph had scattered them to the winds; and I threw myself upon my bed, wretched and almost heart-broken.
I have once before in these "Confessions" claimed to myself the privilege, not inconsistent with a full disclosure of the memorabilia of my life, to pass slightly over those passages, the burden of which was unhappy, and whose memory is painful. I must now, therefore, claim the "benefit of this act," and beg of the reader to let me pass from this sad portion of my history, and for the full expression of my mingled rage, contempt, disappointment, and sorrow, let me beg of him to receive instead, what a learned pope once gave as his apology for not reading a rather polysyllabic word in a Latin letter--"As for this," said he, looking at the phrase in question, "soit qui'l dit," so say I. And now
It was a cold raw evening in February as I sat in the coffee-room of the Old Plough in Cheltenham, "Lucullus c. Lucullo"--no companion save my half-finished decanter of port. I had drawn my chair to the corner of the ample fire-place, and in a half dreamy state was reviewing the incidents of my early life, and like most men who, however young, have still to lament talents misapplied, opportunities neglected, profitless labour, and disastrous idleness. The dreary aspect of the large and ill-lighted room--the close-curtained boxes--the unsocial look of every thing and body about suited the habit of my soul, and I was on the verge of becoming excessively sentimental--the unbroken silence, where several people were present, had also its effect upon me, and I felt oppressed and dejected. So sat I for an hour; the clock over the mantel ticked sharply on--the old man in the brown surtout had turned in his chair, and now snored louder--the gentleman who read the Times had got the Chronicle, and I thought I saw him nodding over the advertisements. The father who, with a raw son of about nineteen, had dined at six, sat still and motionless opposite his offspring, and only breaking the silence around by the grating of the decanter as he posted it across the table. The only thing denoting active existence was a little, shrivelled man, who, with spectacles on his forehead, and hotel slippers on his feet, rapidly walked up and down, occasionally stopping at his table to sip a little weak-looking negus, which was his moderate potation for two hours. I have been particular in chronicling these few and apparently trivial circumstances, for by what mere trifles are our greatest and most important movements induced--had the near wheeler of the Umpire been only safe on his fore legs, and while I write this I might--but let me continue. The gloom and melancholy which beset me, momentarily increased. But three months before, and my prospects presented every thing that was fairest and brightest--now all the future was dark and dismal. Then my best friends could scarcely avoid envy at my fortune
--now my reverses might almost excite compassion even in an enemy. It was singular enough, and I should not like to acknowledge it, were not these Confessions in their very nature intended to disclose the very penetralia of my heart; but singular it certainly was--and so I have always felt it since, when reflecting on it--that although much and warmly attached to Lady Jane Callonby, and feeling most acutely what I must call her abandonment of me, yet, the most constantly recurring idea of my mind on the subject was, what will the mess say--what will they think at head-quarters?--the raillery, the jesting, the half-concealed allusion, the tone of assumed compassion, which all awaited me, as each of my comrades took up his line of behaving towards me, was, after all, the most difficult thing to be borne, and I absolutely dreaded to join my regiment, more thoroughly than did ever schoolboy to return to his labour on the expiration of his holidays. I had framed to myself all manner of ways of avoiding this dread event; sometimes I meditated an exchange into an African corps--sometimes to leave the army altogether. However, I turned the affair over in my mind--innumerable difficulties presented themselves, and I was at last reduced to that stand-still point, in which, after continual vacillation, one only waits for the slightest impulse of persuasion from another, to adopt any, no matter what suggestion. In this enviable frame of mind I sat sipping my wine, and watching the clock for that hour at which, with a safe conscience, I might retire to my bed, when the waiter roused me by demanding if my name was Mr. Lorrequer, for that a gentleman having seen my card in the bar, had been making inquiry for the owner of it all through the hotel.
At this moment, a tall, dashing-looking, half-swaggering fellow, in a very sufficient envelope of box-coats, entered the coffee-room, and unwinding a shawl from his throat, showed me the honest and manly countenance of my friend Jack Waller, of the __th dragoons, with whom I had served in the Peninsula.
Five minutes sufficed for Jack to tell me that he was come down on a bold speculation at this unseasonable time for Cheltenham; that he was quite sure his fortune was about to be made in a few weeks at farthest, and what seemed nearly as engrossing a topic--that he was perfectly famished, and desired a hot supper, "de suite."Jack having despatched this agreeable meal with a traveller's appetite, proceeded to unfold his plans to me as follows:
There resided somewhere near Cheltenham, in what direction he did not absolutely know, an old East India colonel, who had returned from a long career of successful staff-duties and government contracts, with the moderate fortune of two hundred thousand. He possessed, in addition, a son and a daughter; the former, being a rake and a gambler, he had long since consigned to his own devices, and to the latter he had avowed his intention of leaving all his wealth. That she was beautiful as an angel
--highly accomplished--gifted--agreeable--and all that, Jack, who had never seen her, was firmly convinced; that she was also bent resolutely on marrying him, or any other gentleman whose claims were principally the want of money, he was quite ready to swear to; and, in fact, so assured did he feel that "the whole affair was feasible," (I use his own expression,) that he had managed a two months' leave, and was come down express to see, make love to, and carry her off at once.
"Well, that certainly is cool; and how do you propose making his acquaintance. Do you intend to make him a 'particeps criminis' in the elopement of his own daughter, for a consideration to be hereafter paid out of his own money?"
"Now, Harry, you've touched upon the point in which, you must confess, my genius always stood unrivalled--acknowledge, if you are not dead to gratitude--acknowledge how often should you have gone supperless to bed in our bivouacs in the Peninsula, had it not been for the ingenuity of your humble servant--avow, that if mutton was to be had, and beef to be purloined, within a circuit of twenty miles round, our mess certainly kept no fast days. I need not remind you of the cold morning on the retreat from Burgos, when the inexorable Lake brought five men to the halberds for stealing turkeys, that at the same moment, I was engaged in devising an ox-tail soup, from a heifer brought to our tent in jack-boots the evening before, to escape detection by her foot tracks.""True, Jack, I never questioned your Spartan talent; but this affair, time considered, does appear rather difficult."
"And if it were not, should I have ever engaged in it? No, no, Harry. I put all proper value upon the pretty girl, with her two hundred thousand pounds pin-money. But I honestly own to you, the intrigue, the scheme, has as great charm for me as any part of the transaction.""Well, Jack, now for the plan, then!"
"The plan! oh, the plan. Why, I have several; but since I have seen you, and talked the matter over with you, I have begun to think of a new mode of opening the trenches.""Why, I don't see how I can possibly have admitted a single new ray of light upon the affair."
"There are you quite wrong. Just hear me out without interruption, and I'll explain. I'll first discover the locale of this worthy colonel
--'Hydrabad Cottage' he calls it; good, eh?--then I shall proceed to make a tour of the immediate vicinity, and either be taken dangerously ill in his grounds, within ten yards of the hall-door, or be thrown from my gig at the gate of his avenue, and fracture my skull; I don't much care which. Well, then, as I learn that the old gentleman is the most kind, hospitable fellow in the world, he'll admit me at once; his daughter will tend my sick couch--nurse--read to me; glorious fun, Harry. I'll make fierce love to her; and now, the only point to be decided is whether, having partaken of the colonel's hospitality so freely, I ought to carry her off, or marry her with papa's consent. You see there is much to be said for either line of proceeding." "I certainly agree with you there; but since you seem to see your way so clearly up to that point, why, I should advise you leaving that an 'open question,' as the ministers say, when they are hard pressed for an opinion."
"Come, no nonsense, Harry, you'll have a glorious time of it--shall choose as becoming a livery as you like--and you'll have the whole female world below stairs dying for you; and all I ask for such an opportunity vouchsafed to you is to puff me, your master, in every possible shape and form, and represent me as the finest and most liberal fellow in the world, rolling in wealth, and only striving to get rid of it."
The unparalleled effrontery of Master Jack, in assigning to me such an office, absolutely left me unable to reply to him; while he continued to expatiate upon the great field for exertion thus open to us both. At last it occurred to me to benefit by an anecdote of a something similar arrangement, of capturing, not a young lady, but a fortified town, by retorting Jack's proposition."Come," said I, "I agree, with one only difference--I'll be the master and you the man on this occasion."
To my utter confusion, and without a second's consideration, Waller grasped my hand, and cried, "done." Of course I laughed heartily at the utter absurdity of the whole scheme, and rallied my friend on his prospects of Botany Bay for such an exploit; never contemplating in the most remote degree the commission of such extravagance.
Upon this Jack, to use the expressive French phrase, "pris la parole," touching with a master-like delicacy on my late defeat among the Callonbys, (which up to this instant I believed him in ignorance of;) he expatiated upon the prospect of my repairing that misfortune, and obtaining a fortune considerably larger; he cautiously abstained from mentioning the personal charms of the young lady, supposing, from my lachrymose look, that my heart had not yet recovered the shock of Lady Jane's perfidy, and rather preferred to dwell upon the escape such a marriage could open to me from the mockery of the mess-table, the jesting of my brother officers, and the life-long raillery of the service, wherever the story reached.
The fatal facility of my disposition, so often and so frankly chronicled in these Confessions--the openness to be led whither any one might take the trouble to conduct me--the easy indifference to assume any character which might be pressed upon me, by chance, accident, or design, assisted by my share of three flasks of champagne, induced me first to listen
--then to attend to--soon after to suggest--and finally, absolutely to concur in and agree to a proposal, which, at any other moment, I must have regarded as downright insanity. As the clock struck two, I had just affixed my name to an agreement, for Jack Waller had so much of method in his madness, that, fearful of my retracting in the morning, he had committed the whole to writing, which, as a specimen of Jack's legal talents I copy from the original document now in my posession.
"The Plough, Cheltenham, Tuesday night or morning, two o'clock--be the same more or less. I, Harry Lorrequer, sub. in his Majesty's __th regiment of foot, on the one part; and I, John Waller, commonly called Jack Waller, of the __th light dragoons on the other; hereby promise and agree, each for himself, and not one for the other, to the following conditions, which are hereafter subjoined, to wit, the aforesaid Jack Waller is to serve, obey, and humbly follow the aforementioned Harry Lorrequer, for the space of one month of four weeks; conducting himself in all respects, modes, ways, manners, as his, the aforesaid Lorrequer's own man, skip, valet, or saucepan
--duly praising, puffing, and lauding the aforesaid Lorrequer, and in every way facilitating his success to the hand and fortune of--"
"--at the end of which period, if successful in his suit, the aforesaid Harry Lorrequer is to render to the aforesaid Waller the sum of ten thousand pounds three and a half per cent. with a faithful discharge in writing for his services, as may be. If, on the other hand, and which heaven forbid, the aforesaid Lorrequer fail in obtaining the hand of _____, that he will evacuate the territory within twelve hours, and repairing to a convenient spot selected by the aforesaid Waller, then and there duly invest himself with a livery chosen by the aforesaid Waller--""You know, each man uses his choice in this particular," said Jack.
"--and for the space of four calendar weeks, be unto the aforesaid Waller, as his skip, or valet, receiving, in the event of success, the like compensation, as aforesaid, each promising strictly to maintain the terms of this agreement, and binding, by a solemn pledge, to divest himself of every right appertaining to his former condition, for the space of time there mentioned."
We signed and sealed it formally, and finished another flask to its perfect ratification. This done, and after a hearty shake hands, we parted and retired for the night.
The first thing I saw on waking the following morning was Jack Waller standing beside my bed, evidently in excellent spirits with himself and all the world.
"Harry, my boy, I have done it gloriously," said he. "I only remembered on parting with you last night, that one of the most marked features in our old colonel's character is a certain vague idea, he has somewhere picked up, that he has been at some very remote period of his history a most distinguished officer. This notion, it appears, haunts his mind, and he absolutely believes he has been in every engagement from the seven years war, down to the Battle of Waterloo. You cannot mention a siege he did not lay down the first parallel for, nor a storming party where he did not lead the forlorn hope; and there is not a regiment in the service, from those that formed the fighting brigade of Picton, down to the London trainbands, with which, to use his own phrase, he has not fought and bled. This mania of heroism is droll enough, when one considers that the sphere of his action was necessarily so limited; but yet we have every reason to be thankful for the peculiarity, as you'll say, when I inform you that this morning I despatched a hasty messenger to his villa, with a most polite note, setting forth that a Mr.
Lorrequer--ay, Harry, all above board--there is nothing like it--'as Mr. Lorrequer, of the __th, was collecting for publication, such materials as might serve to commemorate the distinguished achievements of British officers, who have, at any time, been in command--he most respectfully requests an interview with Colonel Kamworth, whose distinguished services, on many gallant occasions, have called forth the unqualified approval of his majesty's government. Mr. Lorrequer's stay is necessarily limited to a few days, as he proceeds from this to visit Lord Anglesey; and, therefore, would humbly suggest as early a meeting as may suit Colonel K.'s convenience.' What think you now? Is this a master-stroke or not?"
I now, for the first time, perceived that Waller was arrayed in a very decorous suit of dark grey, with cord shorts and boots, and looked a very knowing style of servant for the side of a tilbury.
"You like it, don't you? Well, I should have preferred something a little more showy myself; but as you chose this last night, I, of course, gave way, and after all, I believe you're right, it certainly is neat."
"Did I choose it last night? I have not the slightest recollection of it."
"Yes, you were most particular about the length of the waistcoat, and the height of the cockade, and you see I have followed your orders tolerably close; and now, adieu to sweet equality for the season, and I am your most obedient servant for four weeks--see that you make the most of it."
While we were talking, the waiter entered with a note addressed to me, which I rightly conjectured could only come from Colonel Kamworth. It ran thus--
"Colonel Kamworth feels highly flattered by the polite attention of Mr. Lorrequer, and will esteem it a particular favour if Mr. L. can afford him the few days his stay in this part of the country will permit, by spending them at Hydrabad Cottage. Any information as to Colonel Kamworth's services in the four quarters of the globe, he need not say, is entirely at Mr. L.'s disposal."Colonel K. dines at six precisely." When Waller had read the note through, he tossed his hat up in the air, and, with something little sort of an Indian whoop, shouted out-- "The game is won already. Harry, my man, give me the check for the ten thousand: she is your own this minute."
Without participating entirely in Waller's exceeding delight, I could not help feeling a growing interest in the part I was advertised to perform, and began my rehearsal with more spirit than I thought I should have been able to command.
That same evening, at the same hour as that in which on the preceding I sat lone and comfortless by the coffee-room fire, I was seated opposite a very pompous, respectable-looking old man, with a large, stiff queue of white hair, who pressed me repeatedly to fill my glass and pass the decanter. The room was a small library, with handsomely fitted shelves; there were but four chairs, but each would have made at least three of any modern one; the curtains of deep crimson cloth effectually secured the room from draught; and the cheerful wood fire blazing on the hearth, which was the only light in the apartment, gave a most inviting look of comfort and snugness to every thing. This, thought I, is all excellent; and however the adventure ends, this is certainly pleasant, and I never tasted better Madeira."And so, Mr. Lorrequer, you heard of my affair at Cantantrabad, when I took the Rajah prisoner?" "Yes," said I; "the governor-general mentioned the gallant business the very last time I dined at Government-House."
"Ah, did he? kind of him though. Well, sir, I received two millions of rupees on the morning after, and a promise of ten more if I would permit him to escape--but no--I refused flatly.""Is it possible; and what did you do with the two millions?--sent them, of course--." "No, that I didn't; the wretches know nothing of the use of money. No, no; I have them this moment in good government security.
"I believe I never mentioned to you the storming of Java. Fill yourself another glass, and I'll describe it all to you, for it will be of
infinite consequence that a true narrative of this meets the public eye
--they really are quire ignorant of it. Here now is Fort Cornelius, and there is the moat, the sugar-basin is the citadel, and the tongs is the first trench, the decanter will represent the tall tower towards the south-west angle, and here, the wine glass--this is me. Well, it was a little after ten at night that I got the order from the general in command to march upon this plate of figs, which was an open space before Fort Cornelius, and to take up my position in front of the fort, and with four pieces of field artillery--these walnuts here--to be ready to open my fire at a moment's warning upon the sou-west tower; but, my dear sir, you have moved the tower; I thought you were drinking Madeira. As I said before, to open my fire upon the sou-west tower, or if necessary protect the sugar tongs, which I explained to you was the trench. Just at the same time the besieged were making preparations for a sortie to occupy this dish of almonds and raisins--the high ground to the left of my position--put another log on the fire, if you please, sir, for I cannot see myself--I thought I was up near the figs, and I find myself down near the half moon."
"It is past nine," said a servant entering the room; "shall I take the carriage for Miss Kamworth, sir?" This being the first time the name of the young lady was mentioned since my arrival, I felt somewhat anxious to hear more of her, in which laudable desire I was not however to be gratified, for the colonel, feeling considerably annoyed by the interruption, dismissed the servant by saying--
"What do you mean, sirrah, by coming in at this moment; don't you see I am preparing for the attack on the half moon? Mr. Lorrequer, I beg your pardon for one moment, this fellow has completely put me out; and besides, I perceive, you have eaten the flying artillery, and in fact, my dear sir, I shall be obliged to lay down the position again."
With this praiseworthy interest the colonel proceeded to arrange the "materiel" of our dessert in battle array, when the door was suddenly thrown open, and a very handsome girl, in a most becoming demi toilette, sprung into the room, and either not noticing, or not caring, that a stranger was present, threw herself into the old gentleman's arms, with a degree of empressement, exceedingly vexatious for any third and unoccupied party to witness.
"Mary, my dear," said the colonel, completely forgetting Java and Fort Cornelius at once, "you don't perceive I have a gentleman to introduce to you, Mr. Lorrequer, my daughter, Miss Kamworth," here the young lady courtesied somewhat stiffly, and I bowed reverently; and we all resumed places. I now found out that Miss Kamworth had been spending the preceding four or five days at a friend's in the neighbourhood; and had preferred coming home somewhat unexpectedly, to waiting for her own carriage.
My confessions, if recorded verbatim, from the notes of that four weeks' sojourn, would only increase the already too prolix and uninteresting details of this chapter in my life; I need only say, that without falling in love with Mary Kamworth, I felt prodigiously disposed thereto; she was extremely pretty; had a foot and ancle to swear by, the most silvery toned voice I almost ever heard, and a certain witchery and archness of manner that by its very tantalizing uncertainty continually provoked attention, and by suggesting a difficulty in the road to success, imparted a more than common zest in the pursuit. She was little, a very little blue, rather a dabbler in the "ologies," than a real disciple. Yet she made collections of minerals, and brown beetles, and cryptogamias, and various other homeopathic doses of the creation, infinitessimally small in their subdivision; in none of which I felt any interest, save in the excuse they gave for accompanying her in her pony-phaeton. This was, however, a rare pleasure, for every morning for at least three or four hours I was obliged to sit opposite the colonel, engaged in the compilation of that narrative of his "res gestae," which was to eclipse the career of Napoleon and leave Wellington's laurels but a very faded lustre in comparison. In this agreeable occupation did I pass the greater part of my day, listening to the insufferable prolixity of the most prolix of colonels, and at times, notwithstanding the propinquity of relationship which awaited us, almost regretting that he was not blown up in any of the numerous explosions his memoir abounded with. I may here mention, that while my literary labour was thus progressing, the young lady continued her avocations as before--not indeed with me for her companion--but Waller; for Colonel Kamworth, "having remarked the steadiness and propriety of my man, felt no scruple in sending him out to drive Miss Kamworth," particularly as I gave him a most excellent character for every virtue under heaven.
I must hasten on.--The last evening of my four weeks was drawing to a close. Colonel Kamworth had pressed me to prolong my visit, and I only waited for Waller's return from Cheltenham, whither I had sent him for my letters, to make arrangements with him to absolve me from my ridiculous bond, and accept the invitation. We were sitting round the library fire, the colonel, as usual, narrating his early deeds and hair-breadth 'scapes. Mary, embroidering an indescribable something, which every evening made its appearance but seemed never to advance, was rather in better spirits than usual, at the same time her manner was nervous and uncertain; and I could perceive by her frequent absence of mind, that her thoughts were not as much occupied by the siege of Java as her worthy father believed them. Without laying any stress upon the circumstance, I must yet avow that Waller's not having returned from Cheltenham gave me some uneasiness, and I more than once had recourse to the bell to demand if "my servant had come back yet?" At each of these times I well remember the peculiar expression of Mary's look, the half embarrassment, half drollery, with which she listened to the question, and heard the answer in the negative. Supper at length made its appearance; and I asked the servant who waited, "if my man had brought me any letters," varying my inquiry to conceal my anxiety; and again, I heard he had not returned. Resolving now to propose in all form for Miss Kamworth the next morning, and by referring the colonel to my uncle Sir Guy, smooth, as far as I could, all difficulties, I wished them good night and retired; not, however, before the colonel had warned me that they were to have an excursion to some place in the neighbourhood the next day; and begging that I might be in the breakfast-room at nine, as they were to assemble there from all parts, and start early on the expedition. I was in a sound sleep the following morning, when a gentle tap at the door awoke me; at the same time I recognised the voice of the colonel's servant, saying, "Mr. Lorrequer, breakfast is waiting, sir."
I sprung up at once, and replying, "Very well, I shall come down," proceeded to dress in all haste, but to my horror, I could not discern a vestige of my clothes; nothing remained of the habiliments I possessed only the day before--even my portmanteau had disappeared. After a most diligent search, I discovered on a chair in a corner of the room, a small bundle tied up in a handkerchief, on opening which I perceived a new suit of livery of the most gaudy and showy description and lace; of which colour was also the coat, which had a standing collar and huge cuffs, deeply ornamented with worked button holes and large buttons. As I turned the things over, without even a guess of what they could mean, for I was scarcely well awake, I perceived a small slip of paper fastened to the coat sleeve, upon which, in Waller's hand-writing, the following few words were written:
"The livery I hope will fit you, as I am rather particular about how you'll look; get quietly down to the stable-yard and drive the tilbury into Cheltenham, where wait for further orders from your kind master,"John Waller."
The horrible villany of this wild scamp actually paralysed me. That I should put on such ridiculous trumpery was out of the question; yet what was to be done? I rung the bell violently; "Where are my clothes, Thomas?""Don't know, sir; I was out all the morning, sir, and never seed them."
"There, Thomas, be smart now and send them up, will you?" Thomas disappeared, and speedily returned to say, "that my clothes could not be found any where; no one knew any thing of them, and begged me to come down, as Miss Kamworth desired him to say that they were still waiting, and she begged Mr. Lorrequer would not make an elaborate toilette, as they were going on a country excursion." An elaborate toilette! I wish to heaven she saw my costume; no, I'll never do it. "Thomas, you must tell the ladies and the colonel, too, that I feel very ill; I am not able to leave my bed; I am subject to attacks--very violent attacks in my head, and must always be left quiet and alone--perfectly alone--mind me, Thomas--for a day at least." Thomas departed; and as I lay distracted in my bed, I heard, from the breakfast room, the loud laughter of many persons evidently enjoying some excellent joke; could it be me they were laughing at; the thought was horrible.
"Colonel Kamworth wishes to know if you'd like the doctor, sir," said Thomas, evidently suppressing a most inveterate fit of laughing, as he again appeared at the door."No, certainly not," said I, in a voice of thunder; "what the devil are you grinning at?" "You may as well come, my man; you're found out; they all know it now," said the fellow with an odious grin.
I jumped out of the bed, and hurled the boot-jack at him with all my strength; but had only the satisfaction to hear him go down stairs chuckling at his escape; and as he reached the parlour, the increase of mirth and the loudness of the laughter told me that he was not the only one who was merry at my expense. Any thing was preferable to this; down stairs I resolved to go at once--but how; a blanket I thought would not be a bad thing, and particularly as I had said I was ill; I could at least get as far as Colonel Kamworth's dressing-room, and explain to him the whole affair; but then if I was detected en route, which I was almost sure to be, with so many people parading about the house. No; that would never do, there was but one alternative, and dreadful, shocking as it was, I could not avoid it, and with a heavy heart, and as much indignation at Waller for what I could not but consider a most scurvy trick, I donned the yellow inexpressibles; next came the vest, and last the coat, with its broad flaps and lace excrescenses, fifty times more absurd and merry-andrew than any stage servant who makes off with his table and two chairs amid the hisses and gibes of an upper gallery.
If my costume leaned towards the ridiculous, I resolved that my air and bearing should be more than usually austere and haughty; and with something of the stride of John Kemble in Coriolanus, I was leaving my bed-room, when I accidentally caught a view of myself in the glass; and so mortified, so shocked was I, that I sank into a chair, and almost abandoned my resolution to go on; the very gesture I had assumed for vindication only increased the ridicule of my appearance; and the strange quaintness of the costume totally obliterated every trace of any characteristic of the wearer, so infernally cunning was its contrivance. I don't think that the most saturnine martyr of gout and dyspepsia could survey me without laughing. With a bold effort, I flung open my door, hurried down the stairs, and reached the hall. The first person I met was a kind of pantry boy, a beast only lately emancipated from the plough, and destined after a dozen years' training as a servant, again to be turned back to his old employ for incapacity; he grinned horribly for a minute, as I passed, and then in a half whisper said--
"Maester, I advise ye run for it; they're a waiting for ye with the constables in the justice's room!" I gave him a look of contemptuous superiority at which he grinned the more, and passed on.
Without stopping to consider where I was going, I opened the door of the breakfast-parlour, and found myself in one plunge among a room full of people. My first impulse was to retreat again; but so shocked was I, at the very first thing that met my sight, that I was perfectly powerless to do any thing. Among a considerable number of people who stood in small groups round the breakfast-table, I discerned Jack Waller, habited in a very accurate black frock and dark trowsers, supporting upon his arm
--shall I confess--no less a person than Mary Kamworth, who leaned on him with the familiarity of an old acquaintance, and chatted gaily with him. The buzz of conversation which filled the apartment when I entered, ceased for a second of deep silence; and then followed a peal of laughter so long and so vociferous, that in my momentary anger I prayed some one might burst a blood-vessel, and frighten the rest. I put on a look of indescribable indignation, and cast a glance of what I intended should be most withering scorn on the assembly; but alas! my infernal harlequin costume ruined the effect; and confound me, if they did not laugh the louder. I turned from one to the other with the air of a man who marks out victims for his future wrath; but with no better success; at last, amid the continued mirth of the party, I made my way towards where Waller stood absolutely suffocated with laughter, and scarcely able to stand without support.
"Waller," said I, in a voice half tremulous with rage and shame together; "Waller, if this rascally trick be yours, rest assured no former term of intimacy between us shall--"
Before I could conclude the sentence, a bustle at the door of the room, called every attention in that direction; I turned and beheld Colonel Kamworth, followed by a strong posse comitatus of constables, tipstaffs, &c., armed to the teeth, and evidently prepared for vigorous battle. Before I was able to point out my woes to my kind host, he burst out with--
"So you scoundrel, you impostor, you damned young villain, pretending to be a gentleman, you get admission into a man's house and dine at his table, when your proper place had been behind his chair.--How far he might have gone, heaven can tell, if that excellent young gentleman, his master, had not traced him here this morning--but you'll pay dearly for it, you young rascal, that you shall."
"Colonel Kamworth," said I, drawing myself proudly up, (and I confess exciting new bursts of laughter,) "Colonel Kamworth, for the expressions you have just applied to me, a heavy reckoning awaits you; not, however, before another individual now present shall atone for the insult he has dared to pass upon me." Colonel Kamworth's passion at this declaration knew no bounds; he cursed and swore absolutely like a madman, and vowed that transportation for life would be a mild sentence for such iniquity.
Waller at length wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes, interposed between the colonel and his victim, and begged that I might be forgiven; "for indeed my dear sir," said he, "the poor fellow is of rather respectable parentage, and such is his taste for good society that he'd run any risk to be among his betters, although, as in the present case the exposure brings a rather heavy retribution, however, let me deal with him. Come, Henry," said he, with an air of insufferable superiority, "take my tilbury into town, and wait for me at the George, I shall endeavour to make your peace with my excellent friend, Colonel Kamworth; and the best mode you can contribute to that object, is to let us have no more of your society."
I cannot attempt to picture my rage at these words; however, escape from this diabolical predicament was my only present object; and I rushed from the room, and springing into the tilbury at the door, drove down the avenue at the rate of fifteen miles per hour, amid the united cheers, groans, and yells of the whole servants' hall, who seemed to enjoy my "detection," even more than their betters. Meditating vengeance, sharp, short, and decisive on Waller, the colonel, and every one else in the infernal conspiracy against me, for I utterly forgot every vestige of our agreement in the surprise by which I was taken, I reached Cheltenham. Unfortunately I had no friend there to whose management I could commit the bearing of a message, and was obliged as soon as I could procure suitable costume, to hasten up to Coventry where the __th dragoons were then quartered. I lost no time in selecting an adviser, and taking the necessary steps to bring Master Waller to a reckoning; and on the third morning we again reached Cheltenham, I thirsting for vengeance, and bursting still with anger; not so, my friend, however, who never could discuss the affair with common gravity, and even ventured every now and then on a sly allusion to my yellow shorts. As we passed the last toll-bar, a travelling carriage came whirling by with four horses at a tremendous pace; and as the morning was frosty, and the sun scarcely risen, the whole team were smoking and steaming so as to be half invisible. We both remarked on the precipitancy of the party; for as our own pace was considerable, the two vehicles passed like lightning. We had scarcely dressed, and ordered breakfast, when a more than usual bustle in the yard called us to the window; the waiter who came in at the same instant told us that four horses were ordered out to pursue a young lady who had eloped that morning with an officer.
"Ah, our friend in the green travelling chariot, I'll be bound," said my companion; but as neither of us knew that part of the country, and I was too engrossed by my own thoughts, I never inquired further. As the chaise in chase drove round to the door, I looked to see what the pursuer was like; and as he issued from the inn, recognised my "ci devant host," Colonel Kamworth. I need not say my vengeance was sated at once; he had lost his daughter, and Waller was on the road to be married. Apologies and explanations came in due time, for all my injuuries and sufferings; and I confess, the part which pleased me most was, that I saw no more of Jack for a considerable period after; he started for the continent, where he has lived ever since on a small allowance, granted by his father-in-law, and never paying me the stipulated sum, as I had clearly broken the compact.
So much for my second attempt at matrimony; one would suppose that such experience should be deemed sufficient to show that my talent did not lie in that way. And here I must rest for the present, with the additional confession, that so strong was the memory of that vile adventure, that I refused a lucrative appointment under Lord Anglesey's government, when I discovered that his livery included "yellow plush breeches;" to have such "souvenirs" flitting around and about me, at dinner and elsewhere, would have left me without a pleasure in existence.CHAPTER XII. DUBLIN--TOM O'FLAHERTY--A REMINISCENCE OF THE PENINSULA.
Dear, dirty Dublin--"Io te salute"--how many excellent things might be said of thee, if, unfortunately, it did not happen that the theme is an old one, and has been much better sung than it can ever now be said. With thus much of apology for no more lengthened panegyric, let me beg of my reader, if he be conversant with that most moving melody--the Groves of Blarney--to hum the following lines, which I heard shortly after my landing, and which well express my own feelings for the "loved spot."
Oh! Dublin, sure, there is no doubtin', Beats every city upon the say.
'Tis there you'll see O'Connell spouting, And Lady Morgan making "tay."
For 'tis the capital of the greatest nation With finest peasantry on a fruitful sod,
Fighting like devils for conciliation, And hating each other for the love of God.
Once more, then, I found myself in the "most car-drivingest city," en route to join on the expiration of my leave. Since my departure, my regiment had been ordered to Kilkenny, that sweet city, so famed in song for its "fire without smoke;" but which, were its character in any way to be derived from its past or present representative, might certainly, with more propriety, reverse the epithet, and read "smoke without fire." My last communication from head-quarters was full of nothing but gay doings
--balls, dinners, dejeunes, and more than all, private theatricals, seemed to occupy the entire attention of every man of the gallant __th. I was earnestly entreated to come, without waiting for the end of my leave--that several of my old "parts were kept open for me;" and that, in fact, the "boys of Kilkenny" were on tip-toe in expectation of my arrival, as though his Majesty's mail were to convey a Kean or a Kemble. I shuddered a little as I read this, and recollected "my last appearance on any stage," little anticipating, at the moment, that my next was to be nearly as productive of the ludicrous, as time and my confessions will show. One circumstance, however, gave me considerable pleasure. It was this:--I took it for granted that, in the varied and agreeable
occupations which so pleasurable a career opened, my adventures in love would escape notice, and that I should avoid the merciless raillery my two failures, in six months, might reasonably be supposed to call forth. I therefore wrote a hurried note to Curzon, setting forth the great interest all their proceedings had for me, and assuring him that my stay in town should be as short as possible, for that I longed once more to "strut the monarch of the boards," and concluded with a sly paragraph, artfully intended to act as a "paratonnere" to the gibes and jests which I dreaded, by endeavouring to make light of my matrimonial speculations. The postscript ran somewhat thus--"Glorious fun have I had since we met; but were it not that my good angel stood by me, I should write these hurried lines with a wife at my elbow; but luck, that never yet deserted, is still faithful to your old friend, H. Lorrequer."
My reader may suppose--for he is sufficiently behind the scenes with me
--with what feelings I penned these words; yet any thing was better than the attack I looked forward to: and I should rather have changed into the Cape Rifle Corps, or any other army of martyrs, than meet my mess with all the ridicule my late proceedings exposed me to. Having disburthened my conscience of this dread, I finished my breakfast, and set out on a stroll through the town.
I believe it is Coleridge who somewhere says, that to transmit the first bright and early impressions of our youth, fresh and uninjured to a remote period of life, constitutes one of the loftiest prerogatives of genius. If this be true, and I am not disposed to dispute it--what a gifted people must be the worthy inhabitants of Dublin; for I scruple not to affirm, that of all cities of which we have any record in history, sacred or profane, there is not one so little likely to disturb the tranquil current of such reminiscences. "As it was of old, so is it now," enjoying a delightful permanency in all its habits and customs, which no changes elsewhere disturb or affect; and in this respect I defy O'Connell and all the tail to refuse it the epithet of "Conservative." Had the excellent Rip Van Winkle, instead of seeking his repose upon the cold and barren acclivities of the Kaatskills--as we are veritably informed by Irving--but betaken himself to a comfortable bed at Morrison's or the Bilton, not only would he have enjoyed a more agreeable siesta, but, what the event showed of more consequence, the pleasing satisfaction of not being disconcerted by novelty on his awakening. It is possible that the waiter who brought him the water to shave, for Rip's beard, we are told, had grown uncommonly long--might exhibit a little of that wear and tear to which humanity is liable from time; but had he questioned him as to the ruling topics--the proper amusements of the day
--he would have heard, as he might have done twenty years before, that there was a meeting to convert Jews at the Rotunda; another to rob parsons at the Corn Exchange; that the Viceroy was dining with the Corporation, and congratulating them on the prosperity of Ireland, while the inhabitants were regaled with a procession of the "broad ribbon weavers," who had not weaved, heaven knows when! This, with an occasional letter from Mr. O'Connell, and now and then a duel in the "Phaynix," constituted the current pastimes of the city. Such, at least, were they in my day; and though far from the dear locale, an odd flitting glance at the newspapers induces me to believe that matters are not much changed since.
I rambled through the streets for some hours, revolving such thoughts as pressed upon me involuntarily by all I saw. The same little grey homunculus that filled my "prince's mixture" years before, stood behind the counter at Lundy Foot's, weighing out rappee and high toast, just as I last saw him. The fat college porter, that I used to mistake in my school-boy days for the Provost, God forgive me! was there as fat and as ruddy as heretofore, and wore his Roman costume of helmet and plush breeches, with an air as classic. The old state trumpeter at the castle, another object of my youthful veneration, poor "old God save the King" as we used to call him, walked the streets as of old; his cheeks indeed, a little more lanky and tendinous; but then there had been many viceregal changes, and the "one sole melody his heart delighted in," had been more frequently called in requisition, as he marched in solemn state with the other antique gentlemen in tabards. As I walked along, each moment some old and early association being suggested by the objects around, I felt my arm suddenly seized. I turned hastily round, and beheld a very old companion in many a hard-fought field and merry bivouack. Tom O'Flaherty of the 8th. Poor Tom was sadly changed since we last met, which was at a ball in Madrid. He was then one of the best-looking fellows of his "style" I ever met,--tall and athletic, with the easy bearing of a man of the world, and a certain jauntiness that I have never seen but in Irishmen who have mixed much in society.
There was also a certain peculiar devil-may-care recklessness about the self-satisfied swagger of his gait, and the free and easy glance of his sharp black eye, united with a temper that nothing could ruffle, and a courage nothing could daunt. With such qualities as these, he had been the prime favourite of his mess, to which he never came without some droll story to relate, or some choice expedient for future amusement. Such had Tom once been; now he was much altered, and though the quiet twinkle of his dark eye showed that the spirit of fun within was not "dead, but only sleeping,"--to myself, who knew something of his history, it seemed almost cruel to awaken him to any thing which might bring him back to the memory of by-gone days. A momentary glance showed me that he was no longer what he had been, and that the unfortunate change in his condition, the loss of all his earliest and oldest associates, and his blighted prospects, had nearly broken a heart that never deserted a friend, nor quailed before an enemy. Poor O'Flaherty was no more the delight of the circle he once adorned; the wit that "set the table in a roar" was all but departed. He had been dismissed the service!!--The story is a brief one:--
In the retreat from Burgos, the __ Light Dragoons, after a most fatiguing day's march, halted at the wretched village of Cabenas. It had been deserted by the inhabitants the day before, who, on leaving, had set it on fire; and the blackened walls and fallen roof-trees were nearly all that now remained to show where the little hamlet had once stood.
Amid a down-pour of rain, that had fallen for several hours, drenched to the skin, cold, weary, and nearly starving, the gallant 8th reached this melancholy spot at nightfall, with little better prospect of protection from the storm than the barren heath through which their road led might afford them. Among the many who muttered curses, not loud but deep, on the wretched termination to their day's suffering, there was one who kept up his usual good spirits, and not only seemed himself nearly regardless of the privations and miseries about him, but actually succeeded in making the others who rode alongside as perfectly forgetful of their annoyances and troubles as was possible under such circumstances. Good stories, joking allusions to the more discontented ones of the party, ridiculous plans for the night's encampment, followed each other so rapidly, that the weariness of the way was forgotten; and while some were cursing their hard fate, that ever betrayed them into such misfortunes, the little group round O'Flaherty were almost convulsed with laughter at the wit and drollery of one, over whom if the circumstances had any influence, they seemed only to heighten his passion for amusement. In the early part of the morning he had captured a turkey, which hung gracefully from his holster on one side, while a small goat-skin of Valencia wine balanced it on the other. These good things were destined to form a feast that evening, to which he had invited four others; that being, according to his most liberal calculation, the greatest number to whom he could afford a reasonable supply of wine.
When the halt was made, it took some time to arrange the dispositions for the night; and it was nearly midnight before all the regiment had got their billets and were housed, even with such scanty accommodation as the place afforded. Tom's guests had not yet arrived, and he himself was busily engaged in roasting the turkey before a large fire, on which stood a capacious vessel of spiced wine, when the party appeared. A very cursory "reconnaissance" through the house, one of the only ones untouched in the village, showed that from the late rain it would be impossible to think of sleeping in the lower story, which already showed signs of being flooded; they therefore proceeded in a body up stairs, and what was their delight to find a most comfortable room, neatly furnished with chairs, and a table; but, above all, a large old-fashioned bed, an object of such luxury as only an old campaigner can duly appreciate. The curtains were closely tucked in all round, and, in their fleeting and hurried glance, they felt no inclination to disturb them, and rather proceeded to draw up the table before the hearth, to which they speedily removed the fire from below; and, ere many minutes, with that activity which a bivouack life invariably teaches, their supper smoked before them, and five happier fellows did not sit down that night within a large circuit around. Tom was unusually great; stories of drollery unlocked before, poured from him unceasingly, and what with his high spirits to excite them, and the reaction inevitable after a hard day's severe march, the party soon lost the little reason that usually sufficed to guide them, and became as pleasantly tipsy as can well be conceived. However, all good things must have an end, and so had the wine-skin. Tom had placed it affectionately under his arm like a bag-pipe and failed, with even a most energetic squeeze, to extract a drop; there was no nothing for it but to go to rest, and indeed it seemed the most prudent thing for the party.
The bed became accordingly a subject of grave deliberation; for as it could only hold two, and the party were five, there seemed some difficulty in submitting their chances to lot, which all agreed was the fairest way. While this was under discussion, one of the party had approached the contested prize, and, taking up the curtains, proceeded to jump in--when, what was his astonishment to discover that it was already occupied. The exclamation of surprise he gave forth soon brought the others to his side; and to their horror, drunk as they were, they found that the body before them was that of a dead man, arrayed in all the ghastly pomp of a corpse. A little nearer inspection showed that he had been a priest, probably the Padre of the village; on his head he had a small velvet skull cap, embroidered with a cross, and his body was swathed in a vestment, such as priests usually wear at the mass; in his hand he held a large wax taper, which appeared to have burned only half down, and probably been extinguished by the current of air on opening the door. After the first brief shock which this sudden apparition had caused, the party recovered as much of their senses as the wine had left them, and proceeded to discuss what was to be done under the circumstances; for not one of them ever contemplated giving up a bed to a dead priest, while five living men slept on the ground. After much altercation, O'Flaherty, who had hitherto listened without speaking, interrupted the contending parties, saying, "stop, lads, I have it.""Come," said one of them, "let us hear Tom's proposal." "Oh," said he, with difficulty steadying himself while he spoke, "we'll put him to bed with old Ridgeway, the quarter-master!"
The roar of loud laughter that followed Tom's device was renewed again and again, till not a man could speak from absolute fatigue. There was not a dissentient voice. Old Ridgeway was hated in the corps, and a better way of disposing of the priest and paying off the quarter-master could not be thought of.
Very little time sufficed for their preparations; and if they had been brought up under the Duke of Portland himself, they could not have exhibited a greater taste for a "black job." The door of the room was quickly taken from its hinges, and the priest placed upon it at full length; a moment more sufficed to lift the door upon their shoulders, and, preceded by Tom, who lit a candle in honour of being, as he said, "chief mourner," they took their way through the camp towards Ridgeway's quarters. When they reached the hut where their victim lay, Tom ordered a halt, and proceeded stealthily into the house to reconnoitre. The old quarter-master he found stretched on his sheep-skin before a large fire, the remnants of an ample supper strewed about him, and two empty bottles standing on the hearth--his deep snoring showed that all was safe, and that no fears of his awaking need disturb them. His shako and sword lay near him, but his sabertasche was under his head. Tom carefully withdrew the two former; and hastening to his friends without, proceeded to decorate the priest with them; expressing, at the same time, considerable regret that he feared it might wake Ridgeway, if he were to put the velvet skull-cap on him for a night-cap.
Noiselessly and steadily they now entered, and proceeded to put down their burden, which, after a moment's discussion, they agreed to place between the quarter-master and the fire, of which, hitherto, he had reaped ample benefit. This done, they stealthily retreated, and hurried back to their quarters, unable to speak with laughter at the success of their plot, and their anticipation of Ridgeway's rage on awakening in the morning.
It was in the dim twilight of a hazy morning, that the bugler of the 8th aroused the sleeping soldiers from their miserable couches, which, wretched as they were, they, nevertheless, rose from reluctantly--so wearied and fatigued had they been by the preceding day's march; not one among the number felt so indisposed to stir as the worthy quarter-master; his peculiar avocations had demanded a more than usual exertion on his part, and in the posture he had laid down at night, he rested till morning, without stirring a limb. Twice the reveille had rung through the little encampment, and twice the quarter-master had essayed to open his eyes, but in vain; at last he made a tremendous effort, and sat bolt upright on the floor, hoping that the sudden effort might sufficiently arouse him; slowly his eyes opened, and the first thing they beheld was the figure of the dead priest, with a light cavalry helmet on his head, seated before him. Ridgeway, who was "bon Catholique," trembled in every joint--it might be a ghost, it might be a warning, he knew not what to think--he imagined the lips moved, and so overcome with terror was he at last, that he absolutely shouted like a maniac, and never cased till the hut was filled with officers and men, who hearing the uproar ran to his aid--the surprise of the poor quarter-master at the apparition, was scarcely greater than that of the beholders--no one was able to afford any explanation of the circumstance, though all were assured that it must have been done in jest--the door upon which the priest had been conveyed, afforded the clue--they had forgotten to restore it to its place
--accordingly the different billets were examined, and at last O'Flaherty was discovered in a most commodious bed, in a large room without a door, still fast asleep, and alone; how and when he had parted from his companions, he never could precisely explain, though he has since confessed it was part of his scheme to lead them astray in the village, and then retire to the bed, which he had determined to appropriate to his sole use.
Old Ridgeway's rage knew no bounds; he absolutely foamed with passion, and in proportion as he was laughed at his choler rose higher; had this been the only result, it had been well for poor Tom, but unfortunately the affair got to be rumoured through the country--the inhabitants of the village learned the indignity with which the Padre had been treated; they addressed a memorial to Lord Wellington--inquiry was immediately instituted--O'Flaherty was tried by court martial, and found guilty; nothing short of the heaviest punishment that could be inflicted under the circumstances would satisfy the Spaniards, and at that precise period it was part of our policy to conciliate their esteem by every means in our power. The commander-in-chief resolved to make what he called an "example," and poor O'Flaherty--the life and soul of his regiment--the darling of his mess, was broke, and pronounced incapable of ever serving his Majesty again. Such was the event upon which my poor friend's fortune in life seemed to hinge--he returned to Ireland, if not entirely broken-hearted, so altered that his best friends scarcely knew him; his "occupation was gone;" the mess had been his home; his brother officers were to him in place of relatives, and he had lost all. His after life was spent in rambling from one watering place to another, more with the air of one who seeks to consume than enjoy his time; and with such a change in appearance as the alteration in his fortune had effected, he now stood before me, but altogether so different a man, that but for the well-known tones of a voice that had often convulsed me with laughter, I should scarcely have recognised him."Lorrequer, my old friend, I never thought of seeing you here--this is indeed a piece of good luck." "Why, Tom? You surely knew that the __ were in Ireland, didn't you?"
"To be sure. I dined with them only a few days ago, but they told me you were off to Paris, to marry something superlatively beautiful, and most enormously rich, the daughter of a duke, if I remember right; but certes, they said your fortune was made, and I need not tell you, there was not a man among them better pleased that I was to hear it."
"Oh! they said so, did they? Droll dogs--always quizzing--I wonder you did not perceive the hoax--eh--very good, was it not?" This I poured out in short broken sentences, blushing like scarlet, and fidgeting like a school girl with downright nervousness.
"A hoax! devilish well done too,"--said Tom, "for old Carden believed the whole story, and told me that he had obtained a six months' leave for you to make your 'com.' and, moreover, said that he had got a letter from the nobleman, Lord _____ confound his name.""Lord Grey, is it?" said I, with a sly look at Tom.
"No, my dear friend," said he drily, "it was not Lord Grey--but to continue--he had got a letter from him, dated from Paris, stating his surprise that you had never joined them there, according to promise, and that they knew your cousin Guy, and a great deal of other matter I can't remember--so what does all this mean? Did you hoax the noble Lord as well as the Horse Guards, Harry?"