Charles James Lever.

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guardsmen about town.

"What do you bet that he has neither home to shelter
him, nor bed to sleep on this night ? " whispered one to his

" "What are you writing there, Cox ? " said another, to the
keen-eyed man, who was pencilling something on a card.

" There; that's my address, my boy; 12, Stafford Street:
Jeremiah Cox. Come to me about ten to-morrow."

Another, while he was speaking, made an effort to slip a
half-crown into my hand ; a measure I felt it becoming to
decline with a prompt, but courteous refusal. Indeed, I had
so identified myself with the part I was performing, that I
flung down my only sixpence on the table for the waiter, and
with a last salutation to the honourable company, walked out.
I have a perfect memory of every circumstance of the even-
ing, and I recollect that my swaggering exit was as free from
any semblance of concern or care as though a carriage waited
for me outside to convey me to a luxurious home !

It has often been a fancy of mine through life, to pass the
entire of a summer night out of door ; to wander either
through the moonlit roads of some picturesque country, or in
the still more solitary streets of a great city. I have always
felt on these occasions as though one were " stealing a march"
upon the sleeping world gaining so many more hours of
thought and reflection, which the busy conflict of life renders
so often difficult.

The hours of the night seem to typify so many stages of
existence, only reversing the natural order of age, and
making the period of deep reflection precede the era of san-
guine hope ; for if the solemn closing in of the darkness
suggests musing, so do the rosy tints and fresh air of break-
ing day inspire the warm hopefulness of youth. If " the
daylight sinking" invites the secret communing of the heart,
"the dawning of morn" glows with energetic purpose and
bold endeavour.

To come back to myself. I left the tavern without a
thought whither I should turn my steps. It was a calm

F 2


night, with a starry sky, and a mild genial air, so that to pass
the hours until morning without shelter, was no great priva-
tion. One only resolve I had formed never to go back to
Betty's. I felt that I had sojourned over long in such com-
panionship ; it was now time some other, and more upward
path should open before me.

Following the course of the Liffey, I soon reached the Quay
called the North Wall, and at last arrived at the bluff extre-
mity which looks out upon the opening of the river into the
Bay of Dublin. The great expanse was in deep shadow, but
so calm the sea, that the two lighthouses were reflected in
long columns of light in the tranquil water. The only sound
audible was the low monotonous plash of the sea against the
wall, or the grating noise of a chain cable, as the vessel it
held surged slowly with the tide. The sounds had something
plaintive in them, that soon imparted a tone of sadness to
my mind : but it was a melancholy not unpleasing ; and I sat
down upon a rude block of stone, weaving strange fancies of
myself and my future.

As I sat thus, my ear, grown more acute by habit, detected
the light clank of a chain, and something like a low thump-
ing sound in the water beneath me, and on peering down, I
discovered the form of a small boat, fastened to a ring in the
wall, and which, from time to time, grated against the strong
masonry. There it lay, with a pair of light oars run under
the thwarts, and its helm flapping to and fro, inert and pur-
poseless, like myself! so at least I fancied it ; and soon began
conceiving a strange parallel between it and me. I was sud-
denly startled from these musings by the sound of feet rapidly

I listened, and could hear a man coming towards meat full
speed. I sat down beneath the shadow of the wall, and he
passed me unnoticed, and then springing up on the parapet,
he gave a loud shrill whistle, waiting a few seconds as if for
the reply, he was silent, and then repeated it ; but still in
vain no answer came. "Blast them!" muttered he, "the
scoundrels will not show a light!" A third time did he
whistle, but though the sounds might be heard a mile off,
neither sight nor sound ever responded to them. " And that
rascal, too, to have left the boat at such a moment." Just as
he uttered these words, he sprang down from the wall, and
caught sight of me, as I lay, affecting sleep, coiled up
beneath it.

With a rude kick of his foot on my side, he aroused me,
saying, " D n the fellow, is this a time for sleeping ? I


told you to keep a sharp look-out for me here ! What ! who
are you ? " cried he, as I stood upright before him.

" A poor boy, sir, that has no roof to shelter him," said I,

He bent his head and listened ; and then, with a horrible
curse, exclaimed, " Here they are ! here they come 1 Can
you pull an oar, my lad ? "

" I can, sir," answered I.

" Well, jump down into the punt there, and row her round
the point to the stairs. Be quick ! down with you ! I have
cut my hand, and cannot help you. There, that's it, my lad !
catch the ring : swing yourself a little more to the right ; her
gunwale is just beneath your foot ; all right now ! well done !
Be alive now ! give way, give way !" and thus encouraging
me, he walked along the parapet above me, and in .a few
minutes stood fast, calling out, but in a lower and more
cautious voice, " There ! close in, now a strong pull that's
it ! " and then hastily descending a narrow flight of steps,
he sprang into the boat, and seated himself in the stern.
"Hush! be still!" cried he, "do not stir! they'll never see
us under the shadow of the wall !"

As he spoke, two dark figures mounted the wall, straight
above our heads, and stood for some seconds as it were peer-
ing into the distance.

" I'll swear I saw him take this way," cried one, in a deep
low voice.

"If he were the Devil himself, he could not escape us
here," said the other, with an accent of vindictive passion.

" And he is the Devil," said the former speaker.

" Pooh, nonsense, man! any fellow who can win at dice, or
has a steady finger with a pistol, is a marvel for you. Curses
on him ! he has given us the slip somehow."

" I'd not wonder, Harry, if he has taken the water ; he
swims like a duck ! "

" He could not have sprung from a height like that with-
out a plash, and we were close enough upon his heels to hear
it ; flash off some powder in a piece of paper ; it is dark as
pitch here."

While the men above were preparing their light, I heard a
slight stir in the stern of the boat. I turned my head and
saw my companion coolly fitting a cap on his pistol ; he was
doing it with difficulty, as he was obliged to hold the pistol
between his knees, -y.-hile he adjusted the cap with his left
hand ; the right hand he carried in the breast of his coat.
Nothing could be more calm, and collected than his every


movement, up to the instant when, having cocked the weapon,
he lay back in the boat, so as to have a full stare at the two
dark figures above us.

At last, the fuze was ready, and being lighted, it was held
for a few seconds in the hand, and then thrown into the air.
The red and lurid glare flashed full upon two savage-looking
faces, straight above our heads, and for an instant showed
their figm-es with all the distinctness of noon-day. I saw
them both, as if by a common impulse, lean over the parapet
and peer down into the dark water below ; and I could have
almost sworn that we were discovered ; my companion
evidently thought so too, for he raised his pistol steadily,
and took a long and careful aim. What a moment was that
for me, expecting at every instant to hear the report, and
then the heavy fall of the dead man into the water! my
throat was full to bursting. The bit of burning paper of the
fuze had fallen on my companion's pistol hand, but though it
must have scorched him, he never stirred, nor even brushed
it off. I thought that by its faint flicker, also, we might
have been seen ; but no, it was plain they had not perceived
us ; arid it was with a delight I cannot describe, that I saw
one and then the other descend from the wall, while I heard
the words, " There's the second time above five hundred
pounds has slipped from us. D n the fellow ! but if I hang
for him, I'll do it yet ! "

" Well, you've spoiled his hand for hazard for a while, any-
how, Harry ! " said the other. " I think you must have taken
his fingers clean off ! "

" The knife was like a razor," replied the other, with a
laugh ; " but he struck it out of my hand with a blow above
the wrist ; and, I can tell you, I'd as soon get the kick of a
horse as a short stroke of the same closed fist."

They continued to converse as they moved away, but their
words only reached me in broken unconnected sentences.
From all I could glean, however, I was in company with one
of enormous personal strength, and a most reckless intre-
pidity. At last, all was still ; not a sound to be heard on
any side ; and my companion, leaning forward, said, " Come,
my lad, pull me out a short distance into the offing ; we shall
soon see a light to guide us ! "

In calm still water I could row well. I had been boat-boy
to the priest at all his autumn fishing excursions on the
Westmeath Lakes, so that I acquitted myself creditably,
urged on, I am free to confess, by a very profound fear of
the large figure who loomed so mysteriously in the stern.


For a time we proceeded in deep silence, when at last he said,
" What vessel do you belong to, boy ? "

" I was never at sea, sir," replied I.

"Not a sailor! how comes it, then, you can row so

" I learned to row in fresh water, sir."

" What are you ? How came you to be here to-night ? "

" By merest chance, sir. I had no money to pay for a bed.
I have neither home nor friends. I have lived by holding
horses, and running errands, in the streets."

" Picking pockets occasionally, I suppose, too, when regular
business was dull ! "

"Never ! " said I, indignantly.

"Don't be shocked, my fine fellow !" said he, jeeringly ;
" better men than ever you'll be, have done a little that way.
I have made some lighter this evening myself, for the matter
of that!"

This confession, if very frank, was not very reassuring,
and so I made no answer, but rowed away with all my

" Well !" said he, after a pause, "luck has befriended me
twice to-night, and sending you to sleep under that wall was
not the worst turn of the two. Ship your oars, there, boy,
and let us see if you are as handy a surgeon as you are a
sailor ! Try and bind up these wounded fingers of mine, for
they begin to smart with the cold night air."

" Wait an instant," cried he ; " we are safe now, so you
may light this lantern ; " and he took from his pocket a small
and most elegantly-fashioned lantern, which he immediately

I own it was with a most intense curiosity I waited for the
light to scan the features of my singular companion ; nor was
my satisfaction inconsiderable when, instead of the terrific -
looking fellow half bravo, half pirate, I expected I per-
ceived before me a man of apparently thirty-one or two, with
large but handsome features and gentlemanly appearance.
He had an immense beard and moustache, which united at
either side of the mouth ; but this, ferocious enough to one
unaccustomed to it, could not take off the quiet regularity
and good humour of his manly features. He wore a large-
brimmed slouched felt-hat, that shaded his brows ; and he
seemed to be dressed with some care, beneath the rough
exterior of a common pilot coat ; at least he wore silk stock-
ings and shoes, as if in evening dress. These particulars I
had time to note, while he unwound from his crippled hand


the strips of a silk handkerchief, which, stiffened and clotted
with blood, bespoke a deep and severe wound.

If the operation were often painful, even to torture, he
never winced, or permitted the slightest expression of suffer-
ing to escape him. At last the undressing was completed,
and a fearful gash appeared, separating the four fingers almost
entirely from the hand. The keenness of the cut showed
that the weapon must have been, as the fellow averred, sharp
as a razor. Perhaps the copious loss of blood had exhausted
the vessels, or the tension of the bandage had closed them,
for there was little bleeding, and I soon succeeded, with
the aid of his cravat, in making a tolerable dressing of
the wound, and by filling up the palm of the hand, as I
had once seen done by a country surgeon in a somewhat
similar case. The pain was relieved by the gentle support

"Why, you are a most accomplished vagrant!" said he,
laughing, as he watched the artistic steps of my proceeding.
" What's your name ? I mean, what do you go by at
present ? for of course a fellow like you has a score of

" I have had only one name up to this," said I, " Con

" Con Cregan ! sharp and shrewd enough it sounds, too! "
said he ; " and what line of life do you mean to follow, Master
Con ? for I suspect you have not been without some specula-
tions on the subject."

" I have thought of various things, sir ; but how is a
poor boy like me to get a chance ? I feel as if I could pick
up a little of most trades, but I have no money, nor any

" Money friends! " exclaimed he, with a burst of bitter-
ness, quite unlike his previous careless humour. " Well, my
good fellow ! I had both one and the other more than most
people are supposed to have of either and what have they
brought me to ? " he held up his maimed and blood-clotted
hand, as he spoke this with a withering scorn in every

" No, my boy ! trust one who knows something of life
the lighter you start the easier your journey ! He that
sets his heart on it, can always make money ; and friends,
as they are called by courtesy, are still more easily acquired."

This was the first time I had ever heard any one speak of
the game of life, as such; and I cannot say what intense
pleasure the theme afforded me. I am certain I "ever stopped


to consider whether his views were right or not, whether the
shrewd results of a keen observer, or the prejudices of a dis-
appointed man. It was the subject, the matter discussed,
delighted me.

My companion appeared to feel that he had a willing
listener, and went freely on canvassing the various roads to
success, and with a certain air of confidence in all he said,
that to me seemed quite oracular. " What a fellow am I,"
said he at last, " to discourse in this strain to a street urchin,
whose highest ambition is to outrun his ragged competitors,
and be first 'in,' for the sixpence of some cantering cornet.
Pull ahead, lad, there's the light at last ; and hang me if
they're not two miles out."

The contemptuous tone of the last few words effectually
repressed any desire I might have had for further colloquy ;
and I rowed away in silence, putting forth all my strength
and skill, so that the light skiif darted rapidly and steadily
through the water.



STEADILY, and with all the vigour I could command, I pulled
towards the light. My companion sat quietly watching the
stars, and apparently following out some chain of thought
to himself; at last he said, " There, boy, breathe a bit,
there's no need to blow yourself, we're all safe long since ;
the Firefly is right ahead of us, and not far off either. Have
you never heard of the yacht ? "

" Never, sir."

" Nor of its owner, Sir Dudley Broughton ? "

" No, sir, I never heard the name."

li Well, come," cried he, laughing, " that is consolatory.
I'm, not half so great a reprobate as I thought myself! I
did not believe till now that there was an urchin of your
stamp living who could not have furnished at least some
anecdotes for a memoir of me ! Well, my lad, yonder,


where you see the blue light at the peak, is the Firefly, and
here, where I sit, is Sir Dudley Broughton. Ten minutes
more Avill put us alongside, so, if you're not tired, pull

" No, Sir Dudley," said I, for I was well versed in the
popular tact of catching up a name quickly, " I am able to
row twice as far."

" And now, Master Con," said he, " we are going to part ;
are you too young a disciple of your craft for a glass of grog ?
or are you a follower of that new-fangled notion of pale-
faced politicians, who like bad coffee and reason better than
whisky and fun ? "

" I'll take nothing to drink, Sir Dudley," said I. " I
have dined, and drunk well to-day, and I'll not venture

" As you please ; only I say you're wrong not to victual the
ship whenever you stand in-shore. No matter, put your hand
into this vest pocket, you'll find some shillings there, take
them, -whatever they be. You'll row the boat back with one
of my people ; and all I have to say is, if you do speak of
me, as no doubt you will and must, don't say anything about
these smashed fingers; I suppose they'll get right one of
these days, and I'd rather there was no gossip about them."

" I'll never speak of it I "

" There now, that's enough, no swearing, or I know you'll
break your promise. Back water a little, pull the starboard
oar : so, here we are alongside."

Sir Dudley had scarce done speaking, when a hoarse
voice from the yacht challenged us. This was replied to by
a terrific volley of imprecations on the stupidity of not
sooner showing the light, amid which Sir Dudley ascended
the side, and stood upon the deck. " Where's Halkett ? "
cried he, imperiously. " Here, sir," replied a short thick-set
man, with a sailor-like shuffle in his walk. " Send one of
the men back with the gig, and land that boy. Tell the
fellow, too, he's not to fetch Waters aboard, if he meets
him ; the scoundrel went off and left me to my fate this
evening, and it might have been no pleasant one, if I had
not found that lad yonder."

" We have all Sam Waters' kit on board, Sir Dudley,"
said Halkett, " shall we send it ashore ? "

" No. Tell him I'll leave it at Demerara for him, and he
may catch the yellow fever in looking after it," said he,

While listening to this short dialogue I had contrived to


approach a light which gleamed from the cabin window, and
then took the opportunity to count over my wealth, amount-
ing, as I supposed, to some seven or eight shillings. Guess
my surprise, to see that the pieces were all bright yellow
gold, eight shining sovereigns ! "

I had but that instant made the discovery, when the sailor
who was to put me on shore jumped into the boat and seated

" Wait one instant," cried I. " Sir Dudley Sir Dudley
Broughton! "

" Well, what's the matter?" said he, leaning over the

" This money you gave me "

" Not enough, of course ! I ought to have known that,"
said he, scornfully. " Give the whelp a couple of half-
crowns, Halkett, and send him adrift."

" Tou're wrong, sir," cried I, with passionate eagerness ;
" they are gold pieces sovereigns."

" The devil they are ! " cried he, laughing ; " the better
luck yours. Why didn't you hold your tongue about it ? "

" You bid me take some shillings, sir," answered I.

" How , d d honest you must be! do you hear that,
Halkett? the fellow had scruples about taking his prize-
money. Never mind, boy, I must pay for my blunder, you
may keep them now."

" I have pride, too," cried I, " and hang me if I touch

He stared at me, without speaking, for a few minutes, and
then said in a low flat voice, " Come on deck, lad/' 1
obeyed ; and he took a lighted lantern from the binnacle,
and held it up close to my face, and then moved it, so that
he made a careful examination of my whole figure.

" I'd give a crown to know who was your father," said he,

" Con Cregan, of Kilbeggan, sir."

" Oh, of course, I know all that. Come, now, what say
you to try a bit of life afloat ? Will you stay here ?"

" Will you take me, sir ? " cried I in ecstasy.

" Halkett, rig him out," said he, shortly. " Nip the
anchor with the ebb, and keep your course down channel."
With this he descended the cabin stairs and disappeared,
while I, at a signal from Halkett, stepped down the ladder
into the steerage. In the meanwhile, it will not be deemed
digressionary if I devote a few words to the singular cha-
racter into whose society I was now thrown, inasmuch as to


convey any candid narrative of my own career, I must
speak of those who, without influencing the main current of
my life, yet certainly gave some impulse and direction to its
first meanderings.

Sir Dudley Broughton was the only son of a wealthy
baronet, who, not from affection or overkindness, but out of
downright indolent indifference, permitted him, first as an
Eton boy, and afterwards as a gentleman commoner of Christ
Church, to indulge in every dissipation that suited his fancy.
An unlimited indulgence, a free command of whatever money
he asked for, added to a temper constitutionally headstrong
and impetuous, soon developed what might have been ex-
pected from the combination. He led a life of wild insubor-
dination at school, and was expelled from Oxford. With
faculties above rather than beneath mediocrity, and a certain
aptitude for acquiring the knowledge most in request in
society, he had the reputation of being one who, if he had
not unhappily so addicted himself to dissipation, would have
made a favourable figure in the world. After trying in vain
to interest himself in the pursuits of a country life, of which
the sporting was the only thing he found attractive, he joined
a well-known light cavalry regiment, celebrated for number-
ing among its officers more fast men than any other corps in
the service. His father dying about the same time, left him
in possession of a large fortune, which, with all his extrava-
gance, was but slightly encumbered. This fact, coupled with
his well-known reputation, made him popular with his brother
officers, most of whom having run through nearly all they
possessed, saw with pleasure a new Croesus arrive in the regi-
ment. Such a man as Broughton was just wanted. One
had a charger to get off; another wanted a purchaser for his
four-in-hand drag. The senior captain was skilful at billiards ;
and every one played "Lansquenet" and hazard.

Besides various schemes against his purse, the colonel had
a still more serious one against his person. He had a daughter,
a handsome, fashionable-looking girl, with all the manners of
society, and a great deal of that tact only to be acquired in
the very best foreign society. That she was no longer in the
fresh bloom of youth, nor with a reputation quite spotless,
were matters well known in the regiment ; but as she was still
eminently handsome, and " the Count Radchoffsky " had been
recalled by the emperor from the embassy of which he was
secretary, Lydia Delmar was likely, in the opinions of keen-
judging parties, to make a good hit with " some young fellow
who didn't know town." Broughton was exactly the man


Colonel Delmar wanted, good family, a fine fortune, and the
very temper a clever woman usually contrives to rule with
absolute sway.

There would be, unfortunately, no novelty in recording the
steps by which such a man is ruined. He did everything
that men do who are bent upon testing Fortune to the utmost.
He lent large sums to his " friends ; " he lost larger ones to
them. When he did win, none ever paid him, except by a
good-humoured jest upon his credit at Coutts'. " What the
devil do you want with money, Sir Dudley ? " was an appeal
he could never reply to. He ran horses at Ascot, and got
" squeezed ! " he played at " Crocky*s," and fared no better;
but, he was the favourite of the corps. " We could never get
on without Dudley," was a common remark, and it satisfied
him, that, with all his extravagance, he had made an invest-
ment in the hearts at least of his comrades. A few months
longer of this "fast" career would, in all likelihood, have
ruined him. He broke his leg by a fall in a steeple- chase,
and was thus driven, by sheer necessity, to lay up, and keep
quiet for a season. Now came Colonel Delmar's opportunity ;
the moment the news reached Coventry, he set off with his
daughter to Leamington. With the steeple- chasing, hazard

Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 5) → online text (page 8 of 50)