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accept of such a sacrifice : and, after all, you are much more
worthy of such a treasure than I am I really only meant it
for a present to Mori.'

" 'A present, your Royal Highness ! ' cried he, horrified ;
'I wouldn't give such a jewel to anything short of St. Cecilia,
the violin, you are aware, was her instrument/

" 'Now, then, for our fortunes !' cried tho Duke, as he drew



208 THE CONFESSIONS OP CON CREGAN.

forth his ticket ; ' I believe I'm the lucky one this is num-
ber 2000.'

" ' Two thousand and one ! ' exclaimed Lord E , hold-
ing up his, aud in an ecstasy of triumph sat down to recover
himself.

" ' Here is the key, my Lord,' said one of the party, ad-
vancing towards him.

" He sprang up, and thrust it into the lock; in his agitation
he shook the box, and a slight, soft cadence, like a faiut cry,
was heard.

" ' The soul of music hovers o'er it still,' he exclaimed
theatrically, and flinging back the lid discovered Me ! Yes,
ladies and gentlemen, in a very smart white robe, with very
tasty embroidery, and a lace cap, which I am assured v/as
pure Valenciennes, there I lay ! I am not aware whether my
infantine movements were peculiarly seductive or not ; but I
have been told that I went through my gamut at a key that
even overtopped the laughter around me.

"'A very bad jest a mauvaise plaisanterie of the worst
taste, I must sa}',' said Lord E , turning away, and leav-
ing the room.

" I never rightly knew how the matter was afterwards
made up, but certainly it was by his Lordship's directions,
and at his charge, that I was nursed, reared, and educated.
My expenses at Eton and Oxford, as well as the cost of my
commission, came from him; and it was only a few days ago,
on learning his death, that I also learned the termination of
my good fortune in life. He bequeathed me what he
styled my ' family mansion ' the fiddle-case ; thus repaying
by this cruel jest the practical joke passed upon himself so
many years before."

" What name did they give yon, sir ? "

" I was called after the celebrated violinist of Cremona,
who lived in the seventh century, who was named Cornelius
Crejanus, or, as some spell, Creganus; and, in compliance
with modern usages, they anglicized me into Con Cregan."

"I have the honour to propose Con Cregan's health," said
the president; "and may he see many happy years ere he
next goes to sleep in a wooden box ! "

This very gratifying toast was drunk with the most flatter-
ing acclamations, and I descended from the tribune the "man
of the evening."

If some of the company who put credence in my story did
not hesitate to ascribe a strong interest in me to the Royal
Duke himself, others, who put less faith in my narrative,




Pizziclietoiri's wouJert'ul licldlt.



" THE ORDINARY OF ALL NATIONS." 209

thought less of my parentage and more of myself; so that
what I lost on one hand, I gained on the other.

There was a discretion, a certain shadowy prudery about
certain portions of my story, of which I have not attempted
to convey any notion here, but which I saw had " told " with
the fair part of my audience, who, possibly not over rigid in
many of their opinions, were well pleased with the delicate
reserve in which I shrouded my direct allusion to my parent-
age. A rough, red-whiskered skipper, indeed, seemed disposed
to pour a broadside into this mystery, by asking, " If his
royal highness never took any notice of me ? " but the refined
taste of the company concurred in the diplomatic refusal to
answer a question of which the "hon. gentleman on the straw
chair " had given "no notice."

The pleasures of the table a very luscious bowl of the
liquid which bore the mysterious epithet of " Thumbo-rig,"
and which was a concoction of the genus punch, spiced,
sugared, and iced to a degree that concealed its awful
tendency to anti-Mathewism bright eyes that were no
churls of their glances merry converse, and that wondrous
" magnetism of the board," which we call good fellowship
made the time pass rapidly. Toasts and sentiments of every
fashion went round, and we were political, literary, arbitrary,
amatory, sentimental, and satiric by turns. They were
pleasant varlets ! and in their very diversity of humours there
was that clash and collision of mind and metal that tell more
effectively than the best packed party of choice wits who ever
sat and watched each other.

Then, there was a jolly jumbling up of bad English, bad
Dutch, bad French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, that
would drive a sober listener clean mad. Stories began in one
tongue merged into another ; and so into a third ; while ex-
planations, mistakes, and corrections ran along side of the
narrative, often far more amusing than the story to which
they were attached. Personalities, too, abounded, but with a
most unqualified good temper; and on the whole I never
beheld a merrier set.

M. Palamede alone did not relish the scene. He himself
was nobody at such a moment, and he longed for the ball-room
and the dance ; and it was only after repeated summonses of
his bell that we at last arose and entered the saloon,
where we found him standing, fiddle in hand, while rap-
ping smartly a couple of times with his bow, he called
out

"Places! nlaces! Monsieur le Due de Gubbins, to your

p



210 THE CONFESSIONS OF CON CREGAN.

place. Ladies, I beg attention. Madame la Marquise, dans
la bonne societe on no donne jamais un soufflet."

" Ah, here's old Rosin again ! " cried several of the party,
who, with all this familiarity, appeared to view him with no
small respect.

" Shall I find you a partner, Monsieur de Congreganne ? "
said he to mo.

" Thanks," said I ; " but, with your permission, I'll not
dance just yet."

"As you please, it is but a contre danse," said he
shrugging his shoulders, while he moved away to arrange
the figures.

I had not perceived before that a kind of orchestra, con-
sisting of two fiddles, a flute, and a tambourine, was
stationed in a long gallery over the door by which we
entered ; Monsieur Palamede being, however, director, not
alone of the music, but of the entire entertainment. The
band now struck up a well-known English country-dance,
and away went the couples, flying down the room to the
merry measure ; Monsieur de Rosanne arranging the figures,
beating the time, preserving order, and restraining irregu-
larities, with the energy of one possessed.

"Ah, Monsieur leCaptaine de Cocks, e'en est trop. Made-
moiselle de Spicer, pas se haut ! de arms graceful ! Ladies,
no keep your hands under your what ye call him jupe
apron ha ! ha ! Black man negro no talk so loud when
you make punch ! "

" Chassez balancez ! La grace ! Madame la Marquise,
la grace ! " Then, as he passed me, he muttered with a voice
guttural from anger, " Quel supplice ! "

As I continued to gaze on the scene, I could not help
being struck with the extreme diversity of look and expres-
sion ; for while there were some faces on which iniquity had
laid its indelible stamp, there were others singularly pleasing,
and some actually beautiful. Among the men, the same
character prevailed throughout a rude, coarse good-humour
the sailor-type everywhere ; but a few seemed persons of
a higher class, and on these a life of vice and debauchery had
produced the most marked change, and you could still see,
amid the traces of nights of riot and abandonment, the rem-
nant of finer features, the expression they had worn before
their "fall." If I was surprised at the good looks of many
of the women, still more was I by a gracefulness of carriage
and an air of deportment that seemed as much out of place
as they were unsuited to such companionship. One young



"THE OEDINARY OP ALL NATIONS." 211

fellow appeared to be a general favourite with the company.
He was tall, well-made, and had that indescribably rakish
character about his very gesture that is rarely a bad indica-
tion of the possessor's mode of life. I had no difficulty in
learning his name, for every one called him by it at each
instant, and "Fred Falkoner " was heard on all sides. It
was he who selected the music for the dance ; his partner, for.
the time being, was the belle of the room, and he lounged
about supreme. Nor was his title a bad one he was the
great entertainer of the whole assembly. The refreshments
were almost entirely of his ordering, and the clink of his
dollars might be heard keeping merry time with the strains
of the violins. I watched him with some interest I
thought I could see that, in descending to such companion-
ship, there was a secret combat between his self-respect and
a strange passion for seeing life in low places, which, when
added to the flattery such a man invariably obtains from his
inferiors, is a dangerous and subtle temptation. The more I
studied him, the stronger grew this conviction ; nay, at
times, the expression of scorn upon his handsome features
was legible even to the least remarking. It was while I still
continued to watch him that he passed me, with a dark
Spanish-looking girl upon his arm, when he turned round
suddenty, and staring at me fixedly a few seconds, said, " We
met once before to-day ! "

" I am not aware of it," said I, doubtingly.

" Yes, yes. I never forget a face, least of all when it re-
sembles yours. I saw you this morning at the Picayune."

" True, I was there."

" What a precious set of rascals those fellows were. You
supposed that they were going to join the expedition. Not a
bit of it. Some were gamblers ; the greater number thieves
and pickpockets. I know them all ; and, indeed, I was
going to warn you about them, for I saw you were a stranger,
but I lost sight of you in the crowd. But there's the music.
Will you have a partner ? "

" With all my heart," said I, glad to encourage our further
acquaintance.

" You speak Spanish? "

" Not a word."

" Well, no matter. If you did, you should have mine
here. But what say you to Mademoiselle Heloise, yonder?
a bit faded or so ; but I remember her second ' Ballarina '
at the Havannah, only two years back."

I made the suitable acknowledgment ; and the next mo-

p 2



212 THE CONFESSIONS OF CON CREGAN.

ment saw me whirling away in a waltz, at least iu such on
approximation to that measure as my Quebec experience
suggested, with a very highly rouged and black eyebrowed
" danseuse." My French was better than my dancing; and
so Mademoiselle Heloise was satisfied to accept my arm,
while we paraded the room, discussing the company after
the most approved fashion.

The French have a proverb, " Bete comme une danseuse,"
nnd I must say that my fair friend did not prove an excep-
tion. Her whole idea of life was limited to what takes
place in rehearsal of a morning, or on the night of represen-
tation. She recounted to me her history from the time she
had been a " Rat," such is the technical at the Grand
Opera of Paris, flying through the air on a wire, or sitting
periliously perched upon a pasteboard cloud. Thence she
had advanced to the state of Fairy Queen, or some winged
messenger of those celestials who wear muslin trousei-s with
gold stars, and always stand in the " fifth position." Pass-
ing through the grade of Swiss peasant, Turkish slave, and
Neapolitan market girl, she had at last arrived at the legiti-
mate drama of " legs," yclept " ballet d'action ; " and although
neither her beauty nor abilities had been sufficient to achieve
celebrity in Paris, she was accounted a Taglioni in the " pro-
vinces," and deemed worthy of exportation to the colonies.

" Non contigit quique adire Corinthiam!" we cannot all
have our " loges" at the " Grand Opera," and happy for us
it is so, or what would become of the pleasure we derive
from third, fourth, and fifth-rate performances elsewhere.
True, indeed, if truffles were a necessary of life, there would
be a vast amount of inconvenience and suffering. Now
Mademoiselle Heloise, whose pirouettes were no more minded
in Paris nor singled out for peculiar favour than one of the
lamps in the row of footlights, was a kind of small idol in
the Havannah. She had the good fortune to live in an age
when the heels take precedence of the head, and she shared
in the enthusiasm by which certain people in our clay would
bring back the heathen mythology for the benefit of the corps
de ballet.

Alas for fame ! in the very climax of her glory she grew
fat! Now flesh to a danseuse is like cowardice to a soldier,
or shame to a lawyer it is the irreconcilable quality. The
gauzy natures who float to soft music must not sup. Every
cutlet costs an "entrechat!" Hard and terrible condition
of existence, and proving how difficult and self-denying a
thing it is to be an angel, even in this world !



"THE ORDINARY OF ALL NATIONS." 213

So much for Mademoiselle Heloise ; and if the reader be
weary of her, so was I.

" You'll have to treat her to a supper," whispered Falkoner,
as he passed me.

" I've not a cent in my purse," said I, thinking it better
to tell the truth than incur the reproach of stinginess.

" Never mind take mine," said he, as he dropped a very
weighty purse into my coat-pocket, and moved away before
I could make any answer.

Perhaps the greatest flattery an individual can receive is
to win some acknowledgment of confidence from an utter
stranger. To know that by the chance intercourse of {i few
minutes you have so impressed another, who never saw you
before, that he is impelled at once to befriend you, your self-
esteem so pleasantly gratified, immediately re-acts upon the
cause, and you are at a loss whether most to applaud your
own good gifts, or the ready wittedness of him who appre-
ciated them so instantaneously.

I was still hesitating, revolving doubtless the pleasant
sense of flattery aforesaid, when Falkoner came flying past
with his partner. " Order supper for four," cried he, as he
whizzed by.

" What does he say, mon cher Comte?" said my partner.

I translated his command, and found that the notion
pleased her vastly.

The dining-room by this time had been metamorphosed
into a kind of coffee-room, with small supper-tables, at which
parties were already assembling ; and here we now took our
places, to con over the bill of fare, and discuss scolloped
oj'sters, cold lobster, devilled haddock, and other like deli-
cacies.

Falkoner soon joined us, and we sat down, the merriest
knot in the room. I must have been brilliant! I feel it so,
this hour; a kind of warm glow rushes to my cheeks as I
think over that evening ; and how the guests from the dif-
ferent parts of the room grew gradually nearer and nearer
to listen to the converse at our table, and hear the smart
things that came pattering down like hail ! What pressing
invitations came pouring in upon me. The great Mastodon
himself could not have eaten a tithe of the breakfasts to
which I was asked, nor would the grog-tub of a seventy-
four contain all the rum-and-water I was proffered by skip-
pers lying " in dock."

Falkoner, however, pleased me more than the rest. There
was something in his cordiality that did not seem like a



214 THE CONFESSIONS OP CON CTIEGAN.

passing fancy ; and I could not help feeling that however
corrupted and run to waste by dissipation, there was good
stuff about him. He interested me, too, on another score ;
he had formerly made one of a Texan excursion that had
penetrated even to the Rio del Norte, and his escapes and
adventures amused me highly. The ladies, I believe, at last
found us very ungallant cavaliers ; for they arose and left us
talking over prairie life and the wild habits of the chase, till
day began to shine through the windows.

"The Christobal sails to-morrow," said he, "for Galvcston ;
but even she, smart sailer that she is, will scarce arrive in
time to catch these fellows. Here we are at the fifth of the
month ; the eighth was to be the start : then that, supposing
you to reach Galveston by the seventh, gives you no time to
get your kit ready, look after arms, and buy a nag. What
say you, then, if we make a party of our own ? charter one
of these small craft a hundred dollars or so will do it. We
can then take our time to pick up good cattle, look out for a
couple of mules for our baggage, and a spare mustang or so,
if a horse should knock up."

I concurred at once : the plan was fascination itself. Ad-
venture, liberty, novelty, enterprise, and a dash of danger to
heighten all. Falkoner talked of dollars as if they macada-
mized the road to St. Louis ; and I, glowing with punch and
pride together, spoke of the expense as a mere trifle. To
this hour I cannot say whether I had really mystified myself
into the notion that I possessed ample means, or was merely
indulging the passing pleasure of a delightful vision. So
was it, however : I smiled at the cheapness of everything,
could scarcely fancy such a thing as a Mexican pony for eighty
dollars ; and laughed, actually laughed, at the price of the
rifle, when all my worldly substance, at the moment, would
not have purchased copper caps for it.

" Don't go too expensively to work, Cregan," cried he ;
" and, above all, bring no European servant. A Mexicai.
fellow or, better still, a half-breed is the thing for the
prairies. You have to forget your Old World habits, and
rough it."

"So I can," said I, laughing good-humouredly ; "I'm
in a capital mind for a bit of sharp work too. Just
before I left the 90th, we made a forced march from St.
John's, through the forest country, and I feel up to any-
thing."

"You'll not like the cattle at first. I'm afraid," said he,
" they have that racking action the Yankees are fond of.



"THE ORDINARY OF ALL NATIONS." 215

There is a capital mare at Galveston, if we could get her.
These fellows will snap her up most likely."

" Butcher's mare," said I, hazarding a guess.

" Ah ! you've been looking after her already," said he,
surprised. " Well, to tell you the truth, that was one of my
objects in coming here to-night. I heard that some of these
skipper fellows had got the winning ticket : I paid twenty
dollars to the office-clerk to see the number, and determined
to buy it up. Here it is. Can you read these figures ? for,
hang me, if the punch, or the heat, or the dancing, has not
made me quite dizzy."

"Let me see ; Number 438," said I, repeating it a couple
of times over.

" Yes, that is it. If I could have chanced on it, I'd have
ran down to-morrow by the Christdbal. She lies about a
mile out, and will weigh with the ebb, at eight oclock. That
mare she killed Butcher by a down leap over a rock, but
never scratched herself is worth at least a thousand dollars."

"I offered eight hundred for her on mere character,"
said I, sitting back, and sipping my liquid with a most pro-
found quietude.

Falkoner was evidently surprised with this announcement ;
but more so from the rakish indifference it betrayed about
money, than as bespeaking me rich and affluent.

And thus we chatted away till the black waiter made his
appearance to open the windows, and prepare for the work of
the day.

" Where are you stopping ? " said Falkoner, as we arose
from the table.

" At Condor House," said I, boldly giving the name of a
very flash hotel. " But it's too noisy : I don't like it."

" Nor do I. It's confoundedly expensive, too. I wish you
would come to Herrick's ; it is not quite so stylish perhaps,
but I think the cookery is better, and you'd not pay five
dollars a bottle for Madeira, and eight for Champagne."

" That is smart," said I. " They've not let me have my
bill yet ; but I fancied they were costly folk."

" Well, come and dine with me at Herrick's to-morrow,
and decide for yourself."

" Why not try the Condor with me ? " said I.

" Another day, with all my heart, but I have a friend to-
morrow : so come and meet him at six o'clock."

I agreed ; and then we chatted on about London and town
folks, in a way that, even with all I had drunk, amazed me
for the cool impudence in which I indulged.



216 THE CONFESSIONS or CON CREOAN,

" You knew De Courcy, of course," said he, after a long
run of mutual friends had been disposed of.

" Jack ? " cried I, " Jack De Courcy of the Coldstreams
yes, I think I did. Jack and I were like brothers. The
last steeple chase I rode in Ireland was for poor Jack De
Courcy ; a little chestnut mare with a good deal of the Arab
about her."

" I remember her well, an active devil, but she couldn't go
for more than half a mile."

" Well, I managed to screw a race out of her."

" You must tell me all about that to-morrow ; for I find my
unfortunate head is like a bell with the vibration of the last
stroke of the hammer 011 it. Don't forget, to-morrow, sharp
six. You'll meet nobody but Broughton."

"Dudley Sir Dudley Broughton? "

" The same. You know him then already ? Poor fellow !
he's terribly cut up ; but he'll be glad to see an old friend.
Have you been much together ? "

" A great deal. I made a cruise with him in his yacht,
the Firefly."

" What a rare piece of fortune to have met you ! " cried
Falkoner, as he shook my hand once more. And so, with
the most fervent assurances of meeting on the morrow, we
parted, he, to saunter slowly towards his hotel, and I to
stand in the middle of the street, and, as I wiped the
perspiration from my brow, to ask myself, had I gone clean
mad.

I was so overwhelmed by the shock of my own impudence,
that I stood where Falkoner left me for full five minutes,
motionless and spell-bound. To have boasted of my intimacy
with Captain De Courcy, although the Atlantic rolled between
us, was bad enough in all conscience ; but to have talked of
Sir Dudley the haughty, insolent, overbearing Sir Dudley
Broughton as "my old friend," was something that actually
appalled me. How could my vain boastfulness have so far
got the better of my natural keenness ? how could my silly
self-sufficiency have carried me so far? "Ah?" thought I,
" it was not the real Con Cregan who spoke such ineffable
folly ; these were the outpourings of that diabolical ' Thumbo-
rig.'"

While, therefore, I entered into a bond with myself to
eschew that insidious compound in future, I also adopted the
far more imminent and important resolve, to run away from
New Orleans. Another sun must not set upon me in that
city, come what might. With a shudder I called to mind



"THE ORDINARY OP ALL NATIONS." 217

Sir Dudley's own avowal of his passion as a hater, and I could
not ventui'e to confront such danger.

I accordingly hastened to my miserable lodging, and pack-
ing up my few clothes, now reduced to the compass of a
bundle in a handkerchief, I paid my bill, and on a minute
calculation of various pieces of strange coinage, found myself
the possessor of four dollars and a quarter, a small sum, and
something less than a cent for every ten miles I was removed
from my native land. What meant the term, "country," after all,
to such as me;* He has a country who possesses property in
it whose interests tie him to the soil, where his name is
known, and his presence recognized ; but what country belongs
to him where no resting-place is found for his weary feet,
whose home is an inn, whose friends are the fellow-travellers
with whom he has journeyed ? The ties of country, like those
of kindred, are superstitions high and holy ones sometimes,
but still superstitions. Believe in them, if you can, and so
much the better for you ; but in some hour the conviction
will come that man is of every land.

Thus pondering, I trudged along at a smart pace, my lundle
on a stick over my shoulder, never noticing the road, and only
following the way because it seemed to lead out of the city.
It was a gorgeous morning ; the sun glittered on the bright
roofs, and lit up the gay terraces of the houses, where creepers
of every tint and foliage were tastefully entwined and fes-
tooned, as these people knew so well to dispose. Servants
were opening windows, displaying handsomely-furnished
rooms, replete with every luxury, as I passed ; busy housemaids
were brushing, and sweeping, and polishing ; and shining
niggers were beating carpets and shaking hearthrugs, while
others were raking the gravel before the doors, or watering
the rich magnolias and cactuses that stood sentinel beneath
the windows. Carriages, too, Avere washing, and high-bred
horses standing out to be groomed all signs of wealth, and
of the luxuries of the rich men, whose close-drawn curtains
portended sleep. " Ay," thought I, "there are hundreds,
here, whose weightiest evil would be that they awoke an hour
earlier than their wont that their favourite Arab had stood
on a sharp stone that some rude branch had scratched the



Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 5) → online text (page 22 of 50)