Charles James Lever.

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but the raggedness of my clothes, and the general misery of
my appearance, might have saved me from the reproach of
what is so forcibly termed " blood-money."

" Come over to me this evening," said Father Rush, and
they were the only words of comfort I heard from any side.
*' Come over to me about six o'clock, Con, for I want to speak
to you."

They were long hours that intervened between that and
six. I could not stay in the town where every one I met
had some sneer or scoff against me ; I could not go home, I
had none ! and so, I wandered out into the open country,
taking my course towards a bleak common, about two miles
off, where few, if any one, was like to be but myself.

This wild and dreary tract lay alongside of the main road
to Athlone, and was traversed by several footpaths, by which
the country people were accustomed to make " short-cuts ''
to market, from one part of the road to another ; for the way
passing through a bog, took many a winding turn as the
ground necessitated.


There is a feeling of lonely desolation in wide far-stretching
wastes, that accords well with the purposeless vacuity of
hopelessness ; but somehow or other the very similitude
between the scene without, and the sense of desolation
within, establishes a kind of companionship. Lear was
speaking like a true philosopher when he uttered the words,
" I like this rocking of the battlements."

I had wandered some hours "here and there" upon the
common ; and it was now the decline of day, when I saw at
a little distance from me the figure of a young man, whose
dress and appearance bespoke condition, running along at a
brisk pace, but evidently labouring under great fatigue.

The instant he saw me he halted, and cried out, " I say,
my boy, is that Kilbeggan yonder, where I see the spire ? "
< Yes, sir."

' And where is the high road to Athlone ? "
' Yonder, sir, where the two trees are standing."
' Have you seen the coach pass the mail for Athlone ? "

'Yes, sir, she went through the town about half an
hour ago."

" Are ye certain, boy ? are ye quite sure of this ? " cried
he, in a voice of great agitation.

" I am quite sure, sir : they always change horses at
Moone's public-house ; and I saw them ' draw up ' there more
than half an hour since."

" Is there no other coach passes this road for Dublin ? "

" The night mail, sir, but she does not go to-night ; this is

"What is to be done?" said the youth in deep sorrow,
and he seated himself on a stone as he spoke, and hid his
face between his hands.

As he sat thus, I had time to mark him well, and scan
every detail of his appearance.

Although tall and stoutly knit, he could not have been
above sixteen, or at most seventeen years of age ; his dress,
a kind of shooting-jacket, was made in a cut that affected
fashion ; and I observed on one finger of his very white hand
a ring, which, even to my uneducated eyes, bespoke con-
siderable value.

He looked up at last, and his eyes were very red, and a
certain trembling of the lips showed that he was much
affected. " I suppose, my lad, I can find a chaise or a
carriage of some kind in Kilbeggan?" said he, "for I have
lost the mail. I had got out for a walk, and by the advice
of a countryman taken this path over the bog, expecting, as



he told me, it would cut off several miles of way. I suppose
I must have mistaken him, for I have been running for above
an hour, and am too late after all ; but still, if I can find
a chaise, I shall be in time yet."

" They're all gone, sir," said I ; " and sorry am I to have
such tidings to tell. The Sessions broke up to-day, and
they're away with the lawyers to Kinnegad."
' And how far is that from us ?"
' Sixteen miles or more, by the road."
' And how am I to get there ? "

' Unless ye walk it "

' Walk ! impossible. I am dead beat already ; besides the
time it would take would lose me all chance of reaching
Dublin as I want."

"Andy Smith has a horse, if he'd lend it; and there's a
short road by Hogan's boreen."

" Where does this Smith live ? " said he, stopping me

" Not a half-mile from here ; you can see the house from

" Come along, then, and show me the way, my boy," said
he ; and the gleam of hope seemed to lend alacrity to his

Away we set together, and, as we went, it was arranged
between us that if Andy would hire out his mare, I should
accompany the rider as guide, and bring back the animal to
its owner, while the traveller proceeded on his journey to

The negotiation was tedious enough ; for, at first, Andy
wouldn't appear at all ; he thought it was a process server
was after him a suspicion probably suggested by my pre-
sence, as it was generally believed that a rag of my father's
mantle had descended to me. It was only after a very cau-
tious and careful scrutiny of the young traveller through a
small glass eye it wasn't a window in the mud wall, that
he would consent to come out. When he did so, he treated
the proposal most indignantly. " Is it he hire out his baste ?
as if she was a dirty garraun of Betty Nowlan's of the head
inn, he wondered who'd ask the like ! " and so on.

The youth, deterred by this reception, would have aban-
doned the scheme at once ; but I, better acquainted with such
characters as Andy, and knowing that his difficulties were
only items in the intended charge, higgled, and bargained,
and bullied, and blarneyed by turns ; and, after some five-
and-forty minutes of alternate joking and abusing each other,


it \vas at last agreed on that the " basto " was to be ceded
for the sum of fifteen shillings " two-and-sixpence more if
his honour was pleased with the way she carried him." The
turnpike and a feed of oats being also at the charge of the
rider, as well as all repairs of shoes incurred by loss, or other-
wise. Then there came a supplemental clause as to the pecu-
liar care of the animal. How " she wasn't to be let drink
too much at once, for she'd get the cholic ; " and if she needed
shoeing, she was to have a "twitch" on her nose, or she'd
kick the forge to " smithereens." The same precaution to
be taken if the saddle required fresh girthing ; a hint was
given besides, not to touch her with the left heel, or she'd
certainly kick the rider with the hind leg of the same side ;
and, as a last caution given, to be on our guard at the cross-
roads at Toomes-bridge, or she'd run away towards Croghan,
where she once was turned out in foal. "Barring" these
peculiarities, and certain smaller difficulties about mounting,
" she was a lamb, and the sweetest tempered crayture ever
was haltered."

In the very midst of this panegyric upon the animal's good
and noble qualities he flung open the door of a little shed,
and exhibited her to our view. I verily believe, whatever
the urgency of the youth's reason for proceeding, that his
heart failed him at the sight of the steed ; a second's recon-
sideration seemed to rally his courage, and he said, " No
matter, it can't be helped ; saddle her at once, and let us
be off."

" That's easier said nor done," muttered Andy to himself,
as he stood at the door, without venturing a step farther.
" Con," said he, at last, in a species of coaxing tone I well
knew boded peril, " Con, a cushla! get a hould of her by the
head, that's a fine chap ; make a spring at the forelock."

" Maybe she'd kick "

" Sorra kick ! get up there, now, and I'll be talking to you
all the while."

This proposition, though doubtless meant as most encou-
raging, by no means reassured me.

" Come, come ! I'll bridle the infernal beast," said the
youth, losing all patience with both of us, and he sprung for-
ward into the stable ; but barely had he time to jump back, as
the animal let fly with both hind legs together. Andy, well
aware of what was coming, pulled us both back and shut to
the door, against which the hoofs kept up one rattling din of
kicks that shook the crazy edifice from roof to ground.

"Ye see what comes of startlin' her; the crayture's timid

c 2


as a kid," said Andy, whose blanched cheek badly corrobo-
rated his assumed composure. " Ye may do what ye plaze,
barrin' putting a bridle on her ; she never took kindly to

" But do ye intend me to ride her without one ? " said the

" By no manner of means, sir," said Andy, with a plausible
slowness on each word, that gave him time to think of an
expedient, " I wouldn't be guilty of the like ; none that knows
me would ever say it to me : I'm a poor man "

" You're a devilish tiresome one," broke in the youth sud-
denly ; " here we have been above half an hour standing at
the door, and none the nearer our departure than when we

*' Christy Moore could bridle her, if he was here," said
Andy ; " but he's gone to Moate, and won't be back till even-
ing ; may be that would do ? "

A very impatient, and not very pious exclamation con-
signed Christy to an untimely fate. " Well, don't be angry,
any how, sir," said Andy, " there's many a thing a body
might think of, if they wern't startled ; see, now, I have a
way this minute ; an elegant fine way, too.''

" Well, what is it ? Confound your long-winded speeches ! "

" There, now, you're angry again ! sure it's enough to give
one quite a through-otherness, and not leave them time to

" Your plan, your plan ! " said the young man, his lips
trembling with anger and impatience.

" Here it is, then ; let the ' Gossoon,' " meaning me, " get
up on the roof and take off two or three of the scraws, the
sods of grass, till he can get through, and then steal down on
the mare's back; when he's once on her, she'll never stir
head nor foot, and he can slip the bridle over her quite asy."

" The boy might be killed ; no, no, I'll not suffer that "

"Wait, sir," cried I, interrupting, "it's not so hard after
all ; once on her back I defy her to throw me."

" Sure I know that well ; sorra better rider in the Meath
hunt than little Con," broke in Andy ; backing me with a
ready flattery he thought would deceive me.

It was not without reluctance that the youth consented to
this forlorn hope, but he yielded at last; and so, with a bridle
fastened round me like a scarf, I was hoisted on the roof by
Andy ; and under a volley of encouraging expressions, ex-
horted to "go in and win."

" There I there, a cushla! " cried Andy, as he saw me per-


forming the first act of the piece with a vigour he had never
calculated on ; " 'tisn't a coach and six ye want to drive
through. Tear and ages ! ye'll take the whole roof off."
The truth was I worked away with a malicious pleasure in
the destruction of the old miser's roof ; nor is it quite certain
how far my zeal might have carried me ; when suddenly one
of the rafters mere light poles of ash gave way, and down
I went, at first slowly, and then quicker, into a kind of
funnel formed by the smashed timbers and the earthen sods.
The crash, the din, and the dust, appeared to have terrified
the wicked beast below, for she stood trembling in one corner
of the stable, and never moved a limb as I walked boldly up
and passed the bridle over her head. This done, I had barely
time to spring on her back, when the door was forced open
by the young gentleman, whose fears for my fate had absorbed
every other thought.

" Are you safe, my boy, quite safe ? " he cried, making his
way over the fallen rubbish.

"Oh! the devil fear him," cried Andy in a perfect rage of
passion ; " I wish it was his bones was smashed, instead of
the roof-sticks see ! Och, murther, only look at this."
And Andy stood amid the ruins, a most comical picture of
affliction, in part real and in part assumed. Meanwhile the
youth had advanced to my side, and with many a kind
and encouraging word, more than repaid me for all my

" 'Tisn't five pound will pay the damage," cried Andy,
running up on his fingers a sum of imaginary arithmetic.

" Where's the saddle, you old " What the young man

was about to add, I know not ; but at a look from me he
stopped short.

" Is it abusin' me you're for now afther wrecking my house
and destroying my premises ? " cried Andy, whose temper
was far from sweetened by the late catastrophe. " Sure what
marcy my poor beast would get from the likes of ye ! sorry
step she'll go in yer company ; pay the damages ye done,
and be off."

Here was a new turn of affairs, and judging from the
irascibility of both parties, a most disastrous one : it de-
manded, indeed, all my skill, all the practised dexterity of
a mind trained, as mine had been by many a subtlety, to effect
a compromise, which I did thus : my patron being cast in
the costs of all the damages, to the amount of twenty
shillings, and the original contract to be maintained in all ita


The young man paid the money without speaking ; but I
had time to mark that the purse from which he drew it was
far from weighty. " Are we free to go at last ? " cried he, in
a voice of suppressed wrath.

"Yes, yer honour; all's right," answered Andy, whose
heart was mollified at the sight of money ; " a pleasant
journey, and safe to ye ; take good care of the beast, don't
ride her over the stones, and "

The remainder of the exhortation was lost to us, as we set
forth in a short jog-trot, I running alongside.

" When we are once below the hill, yonder," said I to my
companion, " give her the whip, and make up for lost time."

" And how are you to keep up, my lad," asked he in some

I could scarcely avoid a laugh at the simplicity of the
question, as if an Irish gossoon with his foot on his native
bog, wouldn't be an overmatch in a day's journey for the best
hack that ever ambled. Away we went, sometimes joking
over, sometimes abusing the old miser Andy, of whom, for
my fellow-traveller's amusement, I told various little traits
and stories, at which he laughed with a zest quite new to me
to witness. My desire to be entertaining then led me on to
speak of my father and his many curious adventures the
skill with which he could foment litigation, and the wily
stratagems by which he sustained it afterwards. All the
cunning devices of the process server I narrated with a gusto
that smacked of my early training ; how, sometimes, my
crafty parent would append a summons to the collar of a dog,
and lie in wait till he saw the owner take it off and read it,
and them emerging from his concealment, cry out "sarved,"
and take to his heels ; and again how he once succeeded in
" serving " old Andy himself, by appearing as a beggar
woman, and begging him to light a bit of paper to kindle her
pipe. The moment, however, he took the bit of twisted paper,
the assumed beggar-woman screamed out, " Andy, yer sarved :
that's a process, my man ! " The shock almost took Andy's
life ; and there's not a beggar in the barony dares to come
near him since.

"Your father must be well off, then, I suppose," said my

" He was, a few weeks ago, sir; but misfortune has come
on us since that." I was ashamed to go on, and yet I felt
that strange impulse so strong in the Irish peasant to narrate
anything of a character which can interest by harrowing and
exciting the feelings.


Very little pressing was needed to make me recount the
whole story, down to the departure of my father with the other
prisoners sentenced to transportation.

" And whither were you going when I met you this morn-
ing on the common ?" said my fellow-traveller, in a voice of
some interest.

" To seek my fortune, sir," was my brief answer ; and
either the words, or the way they were uttered, seemed to
strike my companion, for he drew up short and stared at me,
repeating the phrase, " Seek your fortune ! " " Just so," said
I, warmed by an enthusiasm which then was beginning to
kindle within me, and which for many a long year since, and
in many a trying emergency, has cheered and sustained me.
" Just so, the world is wide, and there's a path for every one,
if they'd only look for it."

" But you saw what came of my taking a short cut, this
morning," said my companion, laughing.

" And you'd have been time enough too, if you had been
always thinking of what you were about, sir : but as you
told me, you began a thinking and a dreaming of twenty
things far away ; besides, who knows what good turn luck
may take, just at the very moment when we seem to have
least of it."

" You're quite a philosopher, Con," said he, smiling.

" So Father Mahon used to say, sir," said I, proudly,
and in reality highly flattered at the reiteration of the

Thus chatting, we journeyed along, lightening the way
with talk, and making the hours seem to me the very plea-
santest I had ever passed. At last we came in sight of the
steeple of Kinnegad, which lay in the plain before us, about
a mile distant.

The little town of Kinnegad was all astir as we entered it.
The " up mail" had just come down, in the main street, send-
ing all its passengers flying in various directions through
shop- windows ; into cow-houses and piggeries ; some being
proudly perched on the roof of a cabin, and others most
ignobly seated on a dunghill ; the most lamentable figure
of all being an elderly gentleman, who, having cut a sum-
merset through an apothecary's window, came forth cut by a
hundred small vials, and bearing on his person unmistakable
evidence of every odour from tar-water to assafoetida. The
conveyance itself lay, like the Ark after the deluge, quietly
reposing on one side ; while animals, male and female, " after
their kind," issued from within. Limping and disconsolate


figures were being assisted into the inn ; and black eyes and
smashed faces were as rife as in a country fair.

I was not slow in appropriating the calamity to a good
purpose ; " See, sir," I whispered to my companion, " you
said, a while ago, that nobody had such bad luck as yourself;
think what might have happened you now, if you hadn't
missed the coach."

" True enough, Con," said he, " there is such a thing as
being too late for bad as well as for good fortune ; and I
experience it now. But the next question is, how to get for-
ward ; for, of course, with a broken axle, the mail cannot
proceed further."

The difficulty was soon got over. The halt and the
maimed passengers, after loudly inveighing against all coach-
proprietors, the man that made, and the man that horsed,
he that drove, and he that greased the wheels of all public
conveyances, demanded, loudly, to be forwarded to the end
of their journey by various chaises, and other vehicles of the
town. I at the same time making use of my legal knowledge
to suggest that while doing so, they acted under protest ;
that it was " without prejudice " to any future proceedings
they might deem fit to adopt for compensatory damages. If
some laughed heartily at the source from which the hint
came, others said I was a " devilish shrewd chap," and
insinuated something about a joint-stock subscription of six-
pences for my benefit ; but the motion was apparently
unseconded, and so, like many benefactors of my species, I
had to apply to my conscience for my reward ; or safer still,
had to wait till 1 could pay myself.

My young companion, who now, in a few words, told me
that he was a student at Trinity College, and a " reader
for honours," pulled oat his purse to pay me. " Remember,
my boy, the name of Henry Lyndsay ; I'm easily found, if
you chance to come to Dublin ; not that I can be of much
service to any one, but I shall not forget the service you
rendered me this day. Here, take this, pay for the mare's
feeding, and when she has rested

I would not suffer him to proceed further, but broke in :
" I'm not going back, sir ! I'll never turn my footsteps that
way again ! Leave the mare in the inn ; Andy comes every
Saturday here for the market, and will find her safe. As for
me, I must 'seek my fortune;' and when one has to search
for anything, there's nothing like beginning early."

"You're a strange fellow, Con," said he, looking at me;
and I was shrewd enough to see that his features exhibited


no small astonishment at my words. " And where do you
intend to look for this same fortune you speak of?"

" No one place in particular, sir ! I read in an old book
once, that good luck is like sunshine, and is not found in all
climates at the same time ; so I intend to ramble about ; and
when I breakfast on the sunny side of the apple, never stay
to dine off the green one."

"And you are the kind of fellow to succeed!" said he, half
to himself, and rather as though reflecting on my words than
addressing me.

" So I intend, sir !" replied I, confidently.

" Have you ever read ' Gil Bias,' Con ? "

" I have it almost by heart, sir."

" That's it ! " said he, laughing ; " I see whence you've got
your taste for adventure. But remember, Con, Gil Bias lived
in different times from ours, and in a very different land.
He was, besides, a well-educated fellow, with no small share
of good looks and good manners."

" As for age and country, sir," said I, boldly, " men and
women are pretty much alike at all times, and in all places ;
in the old book I told you of a while ago, I read that human
passions, like the features of the face, are only infinite
varieties of the same few ingredients. Then, as to educa-
tion and the rest, what one man can pick up, so can another.
The will is the great thing, and I feel it very strong in me.
And now, to give a proof of it, I am determined to go up to
Dublin, and with your honour, too and you'll see if I won't
have my way."

" So you shall, Con ! " replied he, laughing ; " I'll take
you on the top of the chaise ; and although I cannot afford to
keep a servant, you shall stay with me in College, until
chance, in which you have such implicit faith, shall provide
better for you. Come now, lead the mare into the stable, for
I see my companions are packing up to be gone."

I was not slow in obeying the orders, and soon returned to
assist my new master with his luggage. All was quickly
settled ; and a few minutes after saw me seated on a port-
manteau on the roof on my way to Dublin.




IT was still dark, on a drizzling morning in January, as we
reached the Capital ; the lamps shone faintly through the
foggy, wet atmosphere ; and the gloom was deepened as we
entered the narrow streets at the west of the city. A few
glimmering lights from five-stories' high, showed where
some early riser was awaking to his daily toil ; while hero
and there, some rough-coated policeman stood at the corner
of a street to be rained on ; except these, no sign of living
thing appeared ; and I own the whole aspect was a sad
damper to the ardour of that enthusiasm which had often
pictured the great metropolis as some gorgeous fairy land.

The carriage stopped twice, to set down two of the travel-
lers, in obscure dingy streets, and then I heard Mr. Lj-ud-
say say, "To the. College;" and on we went through a
long labyrinth of narrow lanes and thoroughfares, which
gradually widened out into more spacious streets, arid at
length arrived at a great building, whose massive gates
slowly opened to receive, and then solemnly closed after us.
We now stood in a spacious quadrangle, silent and noiseless
as a church at midnight.

Mr. Lyndsay hastily descended, and ordering me to carry
in some of the baggage, I followed him into a large scantily-
furnished room, beyond which was a bedchamber, of like
accommodation. " This is my home, Con," said he, with a
melancholy attempt at a smile ; " and here," said he, leading
me to a small one-windowed room on the opposite side,
" here is yours." A bed, of that humble kind called a
stretcher, placed against one wall, and a large chest for
holding coals against the other, a bottomless chair, and a
shoe-brush with very scanty bristles, constituted the entire

It was some time after all the luggage was removed before
Mr. Lyndsay could get rid of the postillion ; like all poor
men in a like predicament, he had to bargain, and reason,
and remonstrate, submitting to many a mortification, and
enduring many a sore pang, at the pitiless ribaldry, which
knows nothing so contemptible as poverty ; at last, after

Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 5) → online text (page 3 of 50)