Charles James Lever.

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come, Mr. Cregan ! " said Joe.

" Let me interrupt you one moment," said I. " If I
should accompany you on this journey, there is one condition
only upon which I would consent to it."

" Whatever you like ; only say it," said he, over whom I
had established a species of magnetic influence.

" It is this, then," said I, " that you treat me on terms of
perfect equality forget my birth and rank in life ; regard
me exactly as one of yourselves. Let me be no longer any-
thing but Con Cregan."

" That's mighty handsome, entirely ! " said the old man
a sentiment concurred in by the whole family in chorus.

" Remember, then," said I, "no more Mr. Cregan. I am
Con nothing more ! "

Joe looked unutterable delight at the condescension.

" Secondly, I should not wish to go back to my lodgings
here, after what has occurred ; so I'll write a few lines to
have my trunks forwarded to Montreal, until which time I'll
ask of you to procure me a change of costume, for I cannot
bear to be seen in this absurd dress by daylight."

"To be sure whatever you please! " said Joe, overjoyed
at the projected arrangement.

After some further discussion on the subject, I inquired
where their luggage was stored ; and learned that it lay at
the Montreal Steamer Wharf, where it had been deposited
the preceding day ; and by a bill of the packets, which Joe
produced, I saw that she was to sail that very morning, at
eight o'clock. There was then no time to lose ; so I advised
my companions to move silently and noiselessly from the
house, and to follow me. With an implicit reliance on every
direction I uttered, they stole carefully down the stairs, and
issued into the street, which was now perfectly deserted.

Although in total ignorance of the locality, I stepped oat
confidently; and first making for the Harbour, as a "point
of departure," I at last reached the " New Wharf," as the
station of the river steamers was called. With an air of
the most consummate effrontery, I entered the office, to bargain
for our passage ; and although the clerks were not sparing of
their ridicule, both on my pretensions and my costume as
the conversation was carried on in French, my companions



"MY LUCUBRATIONS ON THE ST. LAWttENCE." 189

stared in wonder at my fluency, and in silent ecstasy at the
good fortune that had thrown them into such guidance.

It was a busy morning for me ; since besides getting their
luggage on board, and procuring them a hearty breakfast, I
had also to arrange about my own costume, of which I now
felt really ashamed at every step.

At length we got under weigh, and steamed stoutly against
the fast flowing St. Lawrence ; our decks crowded with a
multifarious and motley crew of emigrants, all bound for
various places in the Upper Province, but with as pleasant
an ignorance of where they were going, what it was like, and
how far off, as the most devoted fatalist could have wished
for. A few, and they were the shrewd exceptions, remem-
bered the name of the city in whose neighbourhood they
were about to settle ; many more could only say negatively,
that it wasn't Lachine, nor it wasn't Trois Rivieres ; some
were only capable of affirming that it was " beyant Montreal,"
or "higher up than Kingston;" and lastly, a " few bright
spirits" were going, " wid the help o' God, where Dan was,"
or " Peter." They were not downhearted, nor anxious, nor
fretful for all this ; far from it. It seemed as if the world
before them, in all the attractions of its novelty, suggested
hope. They had left a land so full of wretchedness, that no
change could well be worse ; so they sat in pleasant little
knots and groups upon the deck " discoorsin'." Ay, just
so! "discoorsin'." Sassenach that you are! I hear you
muttering, What is that ? Well, I'll tell you. " Discoor-
sin' " is not talking, nor chaffing, nor mere conversing. It
is not the causerie of the French, nor the conversazione of
Italy, nor is it the GesprdcVs Unterhaltung of plodding old
Germany, but it is an admirable melange of all together. It
is a grand olla podrida, where all things, political, religious,
agricultural, and educational, are discussed with such admir-
able keeping, such uniformity in the tone of sentiment and
expression, that it would be difficult to detect a change in the
subject-matter, from the quiet monotony of its handling.
The Pope the praties Molly Somebody's pig and the
Priest's pony Dan O'Connell's last instalment of hope the
price of oats the late assizes laments over the past, the
blessed days when there was little law and no police ; when
masses were cheap and mutton to be had for stealing it-
such were the themes in vogue. And though generally one
speaker " held the floor," there was a running chorus of
"Sure enough!" "Devil fear ye !" "An' why not?" kept
up, that made every hearer a sleeping partner iu the eloquence.



190 THE CONFESSIONS OF CON CREOAN.

Dissent or contradiction was a thing unheard of; they were
all subjects upon which each felt precisely alike. No man's
experience pointed to anything save rainy seasons and wet
potatoes, cheap bacon and high county cess. Life had its one
phase of monotonous want, only broken in upon by the mo-
mentary orgie of an election, or the excitement of a county
town on the Saturday of an execution.

And so it was. Like the nor'-easter that followed them
over the seas, came all the memories of what they had left
behind. They had little care for even a passing look at the
new and strange objects around them. The giant cedar
trees along the banks, the immense rafts, like floating
islands, hurrying past on the foaming current, with myriads
of figures moving on them, the endless forests of dark pines,
the quaint log-houses, unlike those farther north, and with
more pretension to architectural design, and now and then
a Canadian "bateau," shooting past like a sword-fish; its
red-capped crew saluting the steamer with a wild cheer that
would wake the echoes many a mile away. If they looked at
these, it was easy to see that they noted them but indiffer-
ently ; their hearts were far away. Ay ! in spite of misery,
and hardship, and famine, and flood, they were away in the
wilds of Erris, in the bleak plains of Donegal, or the lonely
glens of Connemara.

It has often struck me that our rulers should have per-
petuated the names of Irish localities in the New World.
One must have experienced the feeling himself to know the
charm of this simple association. The hourly-recurring name
that speaks so familiarly of home, is a powerful antidote to
the sense of banishment. Well, here 1 am, prosing about
emigrants, and their regrets, and wants, and hopes, and
wishes, and forgetting the while the worthy little group who,
with a hot "net" of potatoes, (for in this fashion each mess
is allowed to boil its quota,) arid a very savoury cut of ham,
awaited my presence in the steerage : they were good and
kindly souls every one of them. The old grandfather was a
fine prosy old grumbler about the year '98, and the terrible
doings of the " Orangemen." Joe was a stout-hearted, frank
fellow, that only wanted fair play in the world to make his
path steadily onward. The sons were, in Irish parlance, " good
boys," and the girls fine-tempered and good-natured, as
ninety-nine out of the hundred are in the land they come from.

Now, shall I forfeit some of my kind reader's consideration
if I say that, with all these excellences, and many others
besides, they became soon inexpressibly tiresome to me.



"MY LUCUBRATIONS ON THE ST. LAWRENCE." 191

There was not a theme they spoke on, that I had not already
by heart. Irish grievances, in all their moods and tenses, had
been always " stock pieces " in my father's cabin, and I am
bound to acknowledge that the elder Cregan had a sagacity of
perception, a shrewdness of discrimination, and an aptitude
of expression not to be found every day. Listening to the
Cullinanes after him was like hearing the butler commenting
in the servants' hall over the debate one had listened to in
"the House." It was a strange, queer sensation that I felt
coming over me as we travelled along day by day together,
and I can even now remember the shriek of ecstasy that
escaped me one morning, when I had hit upon the true
analysis of my feelings, and jumping up, I exclaimed, " Con !
you are progressing, my boy ; you'll be a gentleman yet ; you
have learned to be ' bored' already ! " From that hour I cul-
tivated " my Cullinanes " as people take a course of a Spa,
where, nauseous and distasteful at the time, one fancies he is
to store up Heaven knows how many years of future health
and vigour.

In a former chapter of these Confessions I have told the
reader the singular sensations I experienced when first under
the influence of port wine ; how a kind of transfusion, as it
were, of Conservative principles, a respect for order, a love of
decorum, a sleepy indisposition to see anything like confusion
going on about me ; all feelings which, I take it, are eminently
gentleman-like. Well, this fastidious weariness of the Cul-
linanes was evidently the " second round of the ladder." " It
is a grand thing to be able to look down upon any one ! " I
do not mean this in any invidious or unworthy sense ; not for
the sake of depreciating others, but purely for the sake of one's
own self-esteem. I would but convey that the secret con-
viction of superiority is amazingly exhilarating. To " hold
your stride " beside an intellect that you can pass when you
like, and yet merely accompany to what is called " make a
race," is rare fun ; to see the other using every effort of whip
and spur, bustling, shaking, and lifting, while you, well down
in your saddle, never put the rowel to the flank of your fancy,
this is indeed glorious sport ! In return for this, however,
there is an intolerable degree of lassitude in the daily asso-
ciation of people who are satisfied to talk for ever of the same
things in the same terms.

The incidents of our journey were few and uninteresting.
At Montreal I received a very civil note from Mrs. Davis,
accompanying my trunk and my purse. In the few lines I
had written to her from the packet-office, I said that my per-



192 THE CONFESSIONS OF CON CREGAN.

formance of a servant's character in her establishment had
been undertaken for a wager, which I had just won ; that I
begged of her, in consequence, to devote the wages owing to
me to any charitable office she should think fit, and kindly to
forward my effects to Montreal, together with a certificate
under her hand, that my real rank and station had never been
detected during my stay in her house ; this document being
necessary to convince my friend, Captain Pike, that I had
fulfilled the conditions of our bet.

Mrs. Davis's reply was a gem. " She had heard or read of
Conacre, but didn't suspect we were the Cregans of that
place. She did not know how she could ever forgive herself
for having subjected me to menial duties. She had indeed
been struck as who had not ? with certain traits of my
manner and address." In fact, poor Mrs. D., what with the
material for gossip suggested by the stoiy, the surprise, and
the saving of the wages, for I suspect that, like the Duke in
Junius, her charity ended where it is proverbially said to
begin, at home, was in a perfect paroxysm of delight with
me, herself, and the whole human race.

To me this was a precious document ; it was a patent of
gentility at once. It was a passport which, if not issued by
authority, had at least the " visa " of one witness to my rank,
and I was not the stuff to require many credentials..

Before we had decided on what day we should leave Mon-
treal, a kind of small mutiny began to show itself among our
party. The old man, grown sick of travelling, and seeing
the America of his hopes as far off as ever, became restive,
and refused to move farther. The sons had made acquaint-
ances on board the steamer, who assured them that " about
the lakes " a very vague geogi-aphy land was to be had
for asking. Peggy and Susan had picked up sweethearts,
and wanted to journey westward ; and poor Joe, pulled in
these various directions, gave himself up to a little interregnum
of drink, hoping that rum might decide what reason failed in.

As for me, I saw that my own influence would depend
upon my making myself a partisan ; and, too proud for this,
I determined to leave them. I possessed some thirty dollars,
a good kit, but, better than either, the most unbounded
confidence in myself, and a firm conviction that the world
was an instrument I should learn to play upon one day or
other. There wasno use in undeceiving them as to my real rank
and station. One of the pleasantest incidents of their lives would
be, in all probability, their having travelled in companionship
with a gentleman ; and so, remembering the story of the poor



"MY LUCUBBATIONS ON TUB ST. LAWRENCE." 193

alderman who never got over having learned that " Robinson
Crusoe " was a fiction, I left them this solace unalloyed ; and
after a most cordial leave-taking, and having written down
my father's address at New Orleans, I shook hands with the
men twice over, kissed the girls ditto, and stepped on board
the Kingston steamer, for no other reason that I know,
except that she was the first to leave the wharf that
morning.

I have said that I possessed something like thirty dollars ;
an advantageous sale ef a part of my wardrobe to a young
gentleman about to reside at Queenstown, as a waiter,
" realized " me as much more ; and with this sum I resolved
upon making a short tour of Canada and the States, in order
to pick up a few notions, and increase my store of expe-
riences, ere I adopted any fixed career.

We laugh at the old gentleman in the play, who on hearing
that his son has no want of money, immediately offers him
ten pistoles, but who obstinately leaves him to starve when
he discovers that he is without funds. We laugh at this, and
we deem it absurd and extravagant ; but it is precisely what
we see the world do in like circumstances. All its generosity
is reserved for all those who do not require assistance ; all its
denials for those in need. " My Lord " refuses half a dozen
dinners, while the poor devil author only knows the tune of
"Roast Beef!" These reflections forced themselves upon
me by observing that as I travelled along, apparently in no
want of means, a hundred offers were made me by my fellow-
travellers of situations and places : one would have enlisted
me as his partner in a very lucrative piece of peripateticism
viz., knife-grinding ; a vocation for which, after a few efforts
on board the steamer, Nature would seem to have destined
me, for I was assured I even picked up the sharp-knowing
cock of the eye required to examine the edge, and the style
of my pedal-action drew down rounds of applause ; still I
did not like it. The endless tramp upon a step, which
slipped from beneath you, seemed to emblematize a career
that led to nothing ; while an unpleasant association with
what I had heard of a treadmill completed my distaste
for it.

Another opened to me the more ambitious prospect of
a shopman at his " store," near Rochester ; and even showed
me, by way of temptation, some of the brilliant wares over
whose fortunes I should preside. There were ginghams, and
taffetas, and cottons of every hue and pattern ; but no, I felt
this was not my walk either ; and so I muttered to myself,





194 THE CONFESSIONS OF CON CREQAN.

"No, Con ! if you meddle with muslin, wait till it's fashioned
into a petticoat."

My next proposition came from a barber ; and really if I
did not take to the pole and basin, I own I was flattered nt
his praises of my skill. He pronounced my brush-hand as
something bold, and masterly as Rubens while my steel
manipulation was more brilliant than bloodless.

Then there was a Jew spectacle-maker a hawker of pam-
phlets an Indian moccasin merchant and twenty other of
various walks ; all of whom seemed to opine that their craft,
whatever it might be, was exactly the very line adapted to
my faculties. Once only was I really tempted : it was by
the editor of the Kingston newspaper, The Ontario Herald,
who offered to take me into his office, and in time induct mo
into the gentle pastime of paragraph writing. I did, I own,
feel a strong inclination for that free and independent kind
of criticism, which, although issuing from a garret, and by
the light of a "dip," does not scruple to remind royalty how
to comport itself, and gives kings and kaisers smart lessons
in good breeding. For a time my mind dwelt on all these
delights with ardour; but I soon felt that he who acts life
has an incomparable advantage over him who merely writes
it, and that even a poor performer is better, when the world
is his stage, than the best critic.

I'll wait, thought I, nothing within, no suggestive push
from conscience urged me to follow any of these roads ; and
so I journeyed away from Kingston to Fert George, thence
to Niagara; where I amused myself agreeably for a week,
sitting all day long upon the Table Eock, and watching the.
Falls in a dreamy kind of self-consciousness, brought on by
the din, the crash, the spray, the floating surf, and that vibra-
tion of the air on every side, which all conspire to make up
a sensation, that ever after associates with the memory of
that scene, and leaves any effort to describe it so difficult.

From this I wandered into the States by Schenactady,
TJtica, and Albany, down the Hudson to New York, thence
but why recite mere names? It was after about three
months' travelling, during which my wardrobe shared a fate
not dissimilar to ^Esop's bread-basket, that I found myself
at New Orleans. Coming even from the varied and strange
panorama that so many weeks of continual travelling present,
I was struck by the appearance of New Orleans. Do not bo
afraid, worthy reader ! you're not " in " for any description
of localities. I'll neither inflict you with a land view nor a
sea view. In my company you'll never hear a word about



"MY LUCUBRATIONS ON THE ST. LAWRENCE." 195

the measurement of a cathedral, or the number of feet in
height of a steeple. My care and my business are with men
and women. They are to me the real objects of travel. The
chequered board of human life is the map whose geography I
love to study; and my thoughts are far more with the stream
that flows from the heart, than with the grandest river that
ever sought the sea. When I said I was struck with New
Orleans, it was then with the air of its population. Never
did I behold such a mass of bold, daring, reckless fellows as
swaggered on every side. The fiery Frenchman, the deter-
mined-looking Yankee, the dark-browed Spaniard, the
Camanche and the half-caste, the Mulatto, the Texan, the
Negro, the Cuban, and the Creole, were all here, and all
seemed picked specimens of their race.

The least acute of observers could not fail to see that it
was a land where a quick eye, a steady foot, and a strong
hand were requisites of every-day life. The personal en-
counters, that in other cities are left altogether to the very
lowest class of inhabitants, were here in frequent use among
every grade and rank. Every one went armed ; the scenes
which so often occurred, showed the precaution a needful one.

The wide-awake look of the Yankee was sleepy indifference
when contrasted with the intense keenness of aspect that met
you here at every step, and you felt at once that you were in
company where all your faculties would be few enough for
self-protection. This, my first impression of the people, each
day's experience served to confirm. Whatever little veils of
shame and delicacy men throw over their sharp practices
elsewhere, here, I am free to confess, they despised such
hypocrisy. It was a free trade in wickedness. In iheir game
of life " cheating was fair." Now this in nowise suited me
nor my plans. I soon saw that all the finer traits of my own
astuteness would be submerged in the great ocean of coarse
roguery around me, and I soon resolved upon taking my
departure.

The how, and the where to ? two very important items in
the resolve were yet to be solved, and I was trotting along
Cliff Street one day, when my eyes rested suddenly upon the
great board with large letters on it, " Office of the Picayune"
I repeated the word over and over a couple of times, and
then remembered it was the journal in which the reward for
the Black Boatswain had been offered.

There was little enough, Heaven knows, in this to give me
any interest in the paper ; but the total isolation in which I
found myself, without one to speak, to or converse with, made

2



196 tflE CONFESSIONS Of CON

me feel that even the Picayune was an acquaintance ; and so I
drew near the window, where a considerable number of per-
sons were reading the last number of the paper, which in a
laudable spirit of generosity was exposed within the glass to
public gaze.

Mingling with these, but not near enough to read for my-
self, I could hear the topics that were discussed ; among
which, a row at the Congress a duel with revolvers a steam
explosion on the Mississippi and a few smart instances of
Lynch-law figured.

" What's that in the 'Yune print ? " said a great raw-boned
fellow, with a cigar like a small walking-cane in the corner of
his mouth.

" It's a Texan go," said another; " sha'n't catch me at that
trick."

" Well, I don't know," drawled out a sleek-haired man,
with a very Yankee drawl ; " I see Roarin' Peter, our judge
up at New Small-pox, take a tarnation deal of booty out of
that location."

" Where had he been ? " asked the tall fellow.

"At Guayugualla over the frontier."

" There is a bit to be done about there," said the other ;
and wrapping his mantle about him, lounged off.

" Guayugualla ! " repeated I ; and, retiring a little from
the crowd, I took from my pocket the little newspaper para-
graph of the negro, and read the name which had sounded so
familiarly to my ears.

I endeavoured once more to approach the window, but the
crowd had already increased considerably ; and I had nothing
for it but to go in and buy the paper, which now had taken a
strong hold upon me.

Cheap as was the paper, it cost me that day's dinner ; and
it was with a very great anxiety to test the value of my
sacrifice, that I hastened to the little miserable den which I
had hired as my sleeping-place.

Once within, I fastened the door, and spreading out the
journal on my bed, proceeded to search for the Texan para-
graph. It was headed in capitals, and easily found. It ran
thus : " Wanted, a few downright, go-ahead ones, to join an
excursion into the One-Star Republic, the object being to
push a way down south, and open a new trade-line for home
doings. Applicants to address the office of the paper, and
rally at Galveston, with rifle, pistols, ammunition, horse,
pack, and a bowie, on Tuesday, the 8th instant."

I'm sure I knew that paragraph off by heart before bed-



" MI LUCUBRATIONS ON THE ST. LAWRENCE." 197

time ; but just as I have seen a stupid man commit a proposi-
tion in Euclid to memory without ever being able to work
it. I was totally at a loss what to make of the meaning of
the expedition. It was, to say the least, somewhat mysterious;
and the whole being addressed to " go-ahead ones," who were
to come with rifles and bowie-knives, showed that they were
not likely to be missionaries. There was one wonderful clause
about it ; it smacked of adventure. There was a roving wild-
ness in the very thought which pleased me, and I straightway
opened a consultation with myself how I could compass the
object. My stock of money had dwindled down to four
dollars ; and although I still possessed some of the best articles
of my wardrobe, the greater portion had been long since
disposed of.

Alas ! the more I thought over it, the more hopeless did
my hope of journey appear, I made every imaginable good
bargain in my fancy ; I disposed of old waistcoats and gaiters,
as if they had been the honoured vestments of heroes and
sages ; I knocked down my shoes at prices that old Frederick's
boots wouldn't have fetched ; and yet, with all this, I fell far
short of a sum sufficient to purchase my equipment, in fact,
I saw that if I compassed " the bowie-knife," it would be the
full extent of my powers. I dwelt upon this theme so long,
that I grew fevered and excited : I got to believe that here
was a great career opening before me, to which one petty,
miserable obstacle opposed itself. I was like a man deterred
from undertaking an immense journey, by the trouble of



Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 5) → online text (page 20 of 50)