Charles James Lever.

The adventures of Arthur O'Leary online

. (page 5 of 40)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe adventures of Arthur O'Leary → online text (page 5 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

it ;' ' when they had it they spent it,' and so on, were tho
current expressions concerning them. Faith, I will say,
that in my time in Ireland — I don't know how it may-
be now — the aroma of a good property stood to the de-
scendants long after the sul«tance had left them; and if
tliey only stuck fast to the place where the family 1 ?


once been great, it took at least a couple of generations
before they need think of looking- out for a livelihood.

"Aunt Judy's revenue was something like eighty
pounds a year ; but in Tralee she was not measured by
the rule of the 'income tax.' 'Wasn't she own sister to
Peter O'Kelly of the Castle ; didn't Brien O'Kelly call
at the liouse when he was canvassing for the member, and
leave his card; and wasn't the card displayed on the
little mahogany table every evening, and wiped and put
by every morning, for fifteen years ; and sure the O'Kellya
had their own burial-ground, the ' O'Kellys' pound,' as it
was called, being a square spot inclosed within a wall, and
employed for all ' trespassers ' of tlic family within death's
domain. Here was gentility enough, in all conscience, even
had the reputation of her evening parties not been the talk
of the town. These Averc certainly exclusive enough, and
cojisistcd as I have told you.

" Aunt Judy loved her rubber, and so did her friends ;
and eight o'clock every evening saw the little party assem-
bled at a game of ' longs,' for penny points. It was no
small compliment to the eyesight of the players, that they
could distinguish the cards ; for with long use they had
become dimmed and indistinct. The queens had contracted
a very tatterdemalion look, and the knaves had got a most
vagabond expression for want of their noses, not to speak
of other difficulties in dealing, which certainly required
an expert hand, all the corners having long disappeared,
leaving the operation something like playing at quoits.

" The discipline of such an establishment, I need scarcely
say, was very distasteful to ine. I was seldom suffered
to go beyond t'ne door, more rarely still, alone. My
whole amusement consisted in hearing about the an-
cient grandeur of the O'Kellys, and listening to a very
prosy history of certain martyrs, not one of whom I
didn't envy in my heart ; while in the evening I slept
beneath the whist table, being too much afraid of ghosts
to venture upstairs to bed. It was on one of those even-
ings, when the party were assembled as usual ; some freak
of mine — I fear I was a rebellious subject — was being disv
cussed between the deals, it chanced that by some accident
I was awake, and heard the colloquy.


" ' 'Tis trutli I'm telling you, ma'am,' quoth my aiint;
* you'd think he was mild as milk, and there isn't a name
for the wickedness in liim.'

" ' When I was in the Buffs there was a fellow of the
name of Chxncy '

" ' Play a spade, captain,' said the priest, who had no
common horror of the story he had heard every evening
for twenty years.

"'And did ho really put the kitten into the oven?'
inquired JNIrs. Brown.

" ' Worse than that — he brought in Healy's buck goat
yestei'day, and set him opposite the looking-glass, and the
beast, thinking he saw another oi^posite him, bolted
straightforward, and, my dear, he stuck his horns through
the middle of it. There isn't a piece as big as the ace of

" ' When I was in the Buffs '

" ' 'Tis at say he ought to be — don't you think so, cap-
tain ?' said the priest -' them's trumps.'

" ' I beg your pardon, Father Donnellan ; let me
look at the trick. Well I'm sure I pity you, Miss

" ' And why wouldn't you ! his mother had a bad drop
in her, 'tis easy seen. Sure, Peter that's gone, rest his
soul in peace, he never harmed man nor beast ; but that
child there has notions of wickedness that would surprise
you. My elegant cornelian necklace he's taken the stones
out of, till it nearly chokes me to put it on.'

'"When I was in the Buffs, Miss O'Kelly, there
was '

"'Pay fourpence,' said the priest, pettishly, *and cut
tlie cai'ds. As I was saying, I'd send him to " say," and
if the stories be thi-ue I hear, he's not ill-titted for it ; he
does be the most of his time up there at the caves of
Ballybunniou, with the smugglers.'

" My aunt crimsoned a little at this, as I could riCC from
my place on the hearth-rug ; for it was only the day be-
fore I had brought in a package of gi'een tea, obtained
from the quarter alluded to.

" ' I'd send him to Banagher to-morrow,' said he, reso-
lutely ; ' I'd send him to school.'


THE smuggler's STORY. 49

" * There was one Clancy, I was saying, a great devil he
Tvas '

" ' And I'aix ould Martin will flog his ti'icks out of him,
if birch will do it,' said the priest.

"' ' Tis only a fortnight since he put hot cinders in the
letter-box, and burned half the Dublin bag,' said Mrs.
Brown. ' The town will be well rid of him.'

" This was exactly the notion I was coming to myself,
though dill'ering widely as to the destination by which I
was to manage my exchange out of it. The kind wishes
of the party towards me, too, had another effect — it
nerved me with a courage I never felt before — and when^
I took the first opportunity of a squabble at the whist-
table to make my escape from the room, I had so little fear
of ghosts and goblins, that I opened the street-door, and,
although the way led under the wall of the churchyard,,
set out on my travels, in a direction which was to in-
fluence all my after life.

" I had not proceeded far when I overtook some cars on
their way to Tarbert, on one of which I succeeded in ob-
taining a scat ; and, by daybreak, arrived at the Shan-
non, the object of my desires, and the goal of all my

" The worthy priest had not calumniated me in saying
that my associates were smugglers. Indeed, for weeks
past, I never missed any opportunity of my aunt leaving
the house, without setting out to meet a party who fre-
quented a small public-house, about three miles from
Tralee, and with whom I made more than one excursion
to the caves of Ballybunnion. It was owing to an acci-
dental piece of information I afforded them — that the-
revenue force was on their track — that I first learned to
know these fellows ; and from that moment I was a sworn
friend of every man among them. To be sure, they were
a motley crew. The craft belonged to Flushing, and the
skipper himself- was a Fleming ; the others were Kinsalo
fishermen, Ostenders, men from the coast of Bi-etagne, a
Norwegian pilot, and a negro who acted as cook. Tbeif
jovial style of life, the apparent good humour and good
fellowaliip that subsisted among them, a dash of reckles.s
devil-may-care sririt, resembling a schoolb^iy's love of fac



■ — all captivated me ; and when I found myself on board
tliG ' Dart,' as she lay at anchor under the shadow of the
tall cliffs, and saw the crew burnishing up pistols and
cutlasses, and making ready for a cruise, I had a proud
heart when they told me I might join and be one among
them. I su^^pose every boy has something in his nature
that inclines him to adventure. It was strong enough in
me, certainly.

" The hardy, weather-beaten faces of my companions —
their strong muscular frames — their coarse uniform of
striped Jersey wear, Avith black belts crossing on the chest
— all attracted my admiration : and from the red bunting
that floated at our gaff, to the I'l-ass swivels that peeped
from our bows, the whole ci-aft tlelighted me. I w^as not
long in acquiring the rough habits and manners of my
associates, and speedily became a favourite with every one
on board. All the eccentricities of my venerable aunt, all
the peculiarities of Father Donnellan, were dished up by me
for their amusement, and they never got tired laughing at
the desci"ij)tion of the whist-table. Besides, I was able to
afford them much valuable information about the neigh-
bouring genfi'y, all of whom I knew, either personally or
bv name. I was at once, therefore, employed as a kind of
diplomatic envoy to ascertain if Mr. Blennerbassett
wouldn't like a hogshead of brandy, or the Kuight of
Glynn a pipe of claret, in addition to many minor embas-
sies among the shebeen houses of the country, concerning
nigger-heads of tobacco, packages of tea, smuggled lace,
and silk handkerchiefs,

" Thus was my education begun ; and an apter scholar,
in all the art and mystery of smuggling, could scarcely
liave hccn found. I had a taste for picking up languages ;
and, before my first cruise was ovez", had got a very toler-
able smattering of French, Dutch, and Norwegian, and
some intimacy with the fashionable dialect used on the
banks of the Niger. Other accomplishments followed
these. I was a capital pistol shot — no bad hand with
the small-sword — could reef and steer, and had not my
equal on board in detecting a revenue officer, no matter
how artfully disguised. Such were my professional — my
Bocial quri'^'"»>:ons far exceeded these. I could play a


THE smuggler's STORY. 51

little on the violin and the guitar, and was able to throw
into rude verse any striking incident of our wild career,
and adajit an air to it, for the amusement of my compan-
ions. These I usually noted down in a book, accompany,
ing them with pen illustrations and notes ; and I assure
you, however little literary reputation this volume might
have acquired, ' O'Kelly's Log,' as it was called, formed
the great delight of ' Saturday night at sea.' These
things were all too local and personal in their interest to
amuse any one who didn't know the parties ; but mayhap
one day or other I'll give you a sight of the ' log,' and let
you hear some of our songs.

" I won't stop to detail any of the adventures of my
seafaring life ; strange and wild enough they were in all
conscience : one night staggering under close-i'eefed canvas
under a lee-shore ; another, carousing with a jolly set in a
' Schenck Haus ' at Rotterdam or Ostend ; now hiding in
the dark caves of Ballybunnion while the craft stood out to
sea ; now disguised, taking a run up to Paris, and dining
in the ' Cafe de I'Empirc,' in all the voluptuous extrava-
gance of the day. Adventure fast succeeding on adven-
ture, escape upon escape, had given my life a character of
wild excitement, which made me feel a single day's repos?
a period of ennui and monotony.

" Smuggling, too, became only apart of my occupatiot
l^Iy knowledge of French, and my power of disguising my
apjiearance, enabled me to mix in Parisian society of a
certain class Avithout any fear of detection. In this way I
obtained, from time to time, information of the greatest
consequence to our government ; and once brought some
documents from the war department of Ifapoleon, which
obtained for me the honour of an interview with Mr. Pitt
himself. This part of my career, however, would take me
too far away from my story, were I to detail any of the
many striking adventures which marked it ; so I'll pass on
at once to one of those eventful epochs of my life, two or
three of Avhich have changed for the time the cuiTcnt of
my destiny.

"I was about eighteen : the war with France had just
broken out, and the assembled camp at Boulogne threat-
ened the invasion of England, The morning we left tha

K 2


French coast, the preparations for the embarkation of the
troops were in great forwardness, and certain particulars
had reached us which convinced me that Napoleon really
intended an attempt, which many were disposed to believe
was merely a menace. In fact, an officer of the staff had
given me such information as explained the mode of the
descent, and the entire plan of the expedition. Before I
could avail myself of this, however, we had to land our
cargo, an unusually rich one, on the west coast of Ireland,
for my companions knew nothing all this time of the
system of ' espionage ' I had established, and little sus-
pected that one of their crew was in relation with the
Prime Minister of England.

" I have said I was about eighteen. My wild life, if it
nad made me feel older than my years, had given a hardi-
hood and enterprise to my character which heightened for
me the enjoyment of every bold adventure, and made me
feel a kind of ecstasy in every emergency where danger
and difficulty were present. I longed to be the skipper of
iuy own craft, sweeping the seas at my own will ; a bold
Imccaneer, caring less for gain than glory, until my name
should win for itself its own meed of fame, and my feats
be spoken of with awe and astonishment,

" Old Van Brock, our captain, was a hardy Fleming,
but all his energy of character, all his daring, were
directed to the one object — gain. For this there was
nothing he wouldn't attempt, nothing he wouldn't risk.
Now, our present voyage was one in which he had em-
barked all his capital ; the outbreak of a war warned him
that his trade must speedily be abandoned — he could no
longer hope to escape the cruisers of every country that
already filled the channel. This one voyage, however, if
successful, would give him an ample competence for life,
and he determined to hazard everything upon it.

" It was a dark and stormy night in November when
wc made the first light on the west coast of Ireland. Part
of our cargo was destined for Ballybunnion ; the remain-
der, and most valuable portion, was to be landed in the
Bay of Galway. It blew a gale from the south'ard and
westward, and the sea ran mountains high, not the short
jobble of a land-locked channel, but the heavy roll of the

THE smuggler's STORY. 53

great Atlantic — dark and frowning, swelling tc an enor-
mous height, and thundering away on tlie iron-bound
coast to leeward with a crasli that made our hearto quivei-.
The ' Dart ' was a good sea-boat, but the waves swept
her from stein to stern, and though nothing but a close-
reefed topsail was bent, we went spinning thiough the
water at the rate of twelve knots the hour. The hatch-
ways were battened down, and every preparation made for a
rough night, for as the darkness increased, so did the gale.

" The smuggler's fate is a dark and gloomy one. Let
the breeze fall, let the blue sky and fleecy clouds lie mir-
rored on the glassy deep, and straight a boat is seen
sweeping along with sixteen oars, springing with every
jeik of the strong arms to his capture. And when the
Avhite waves rise like mountains, and the lowering storm
descends, sending tons of water across his decks, and
wetting his highest rigging with the fleecy drift, he dares
not cry for help ; the signal that would speak of his dis-
tress would be the knell to toll his ruin. We knew this
well. We felt that, come what would, from others there
was nothing to be hoped. It was then with agonizing
suspense we watched the little craft as she worked in the
stormy sea ; we saw that with every tack we were losing.
The strong land current that set in towards the shore told
upon us at every reach; and when we went about, the
dark and beetling cliffs seemed actually toppling over us,
and the wild cries of the sea-fowl rang like a dirge in our
ears. The small storm-jib we Avere obliged to set sunk
us by the head, and at every pitch the little vessel seemed
threatening to go down, bow foremost.

" Our great endeavour was to round the headland which
forms the southern shore of the Shannon's mouth. There
is a small sound there, between this point and the rocks
they call the ' Blasquets,' and for this we were making with
all our might. Thus passed our night, and, when day
broke, a cheer of joy burst from our little crew, as we be-
held the Blasquets on our weather bow, and saw that the
fiound lay straight before us. Scarce had the shout died
away, when a man in the rigging cried out —

" ' A sail to windward ;' and the instant after added,
*a man-o'-vvar brig.'


"The skipper sprang on the bulwark, and setting liia
glass in the shrouds, examined the oliject, -which to the
naked eye was barely a haze in the horizon.

" She carries eighteen guns,' said he, slowly, ' and is
steering our course. I say, O'Kclly, there's no use in
running in shore to be pinioned — what's to be done ?'

" The thought of the information I was in possession of
flashed across me. Life was never so dear before, but I
could not speak. I knew the old man's all was on the
venture ; I knew, too, if we were attacked, his resolve
was to light her to the last spar that floated.

" ' Come,' said he, again, ' there's a point more south'ard
in the wind ; we might haul her close and make for Gal-
way Bay. Two hours Avould land the cargo — at least
enough of it ; and if the craft must g-o '

"A heavy squall struck us as he spoke; the vessel
reeled over, till she laid her crosstrees in the sea. A snap
like the report of a shot was heard, and the topmast came
tumbling down upon the deck, the topsail falling to lee-
ward and hanging by the bolt-ropes over our gunwale.
The little craft immediately fell ofi' from the wind, and
plunged deeper than ever in the boiling surf; at the same
instant a booming sound swept across the water, and a
shot striking the sea near, ricochetted over the bowsprit,
and passed on, dipping and bounding towards the shore.

" She's one of their newly-built ones,' said the second
mate, an Irishman, who chewed his quid of tobacco as ho
gazed at her, as coolly as if he was in a dockyard. ' I
knew tlie ring of her brass guns.'

"A second and a third flash, followed by two reports,
came almost together; but this time they fell short of us,
and passed away in our wake.

" We cut away the fallen rigging, and seeing nothing
for it now but to look to our own safety, we resolved to
run the vessel up the bay, and try if we could not manage
to conceal some portions of the cargo before the man-o'-
war could overtake us. The caves aloncr the shore Avere
all well known to us ; every one of them had served either
as a store or a place of concealment. The wind, however,
freshened every minute; the storm-jib was all we could
carry, and this, instead of aiding, dipped us h'^^w^-^^v by


the head, while the large ship gained moTncntarilj' on us,
and now hei' tall masts and white sails lowered cluso in
our wake.

" ' Shall we stare these puncheons? ' said tlie mate in
a whisper to the skipper ; ' sho'il bo aboard of us in na

" The old man made no reply, but his eyes turned from
the man-o'-war to shore, and back again, and his mouth
quivei'cd slightly.

" ' They'd better get the hatches open, and heave over
that tobacco,' said the mate, endeavouring to obtain an

" ' She's hauled down her signal for us to lie-to,' ob-
served the skip]ier, ' and see there, her bow ports are open
— here it comes.'

" A bright flash burst out as he spoke, and one blended
report was heard, as the shots skimmed the sea beside us.

" ' Run that long gun aft,' cried the old fellow, as his
eyes flashed and his colour mounted. * I'll rake their
V'tei'-deck for them, or 'I'm mistaken.'

" For the first time the command was not obeyed at
once. The men looked at each other in hesitation, and as
if not determined what part to take.

" ' What do yon stare at there ? ' cried he, in a voice of
passion. ' O'Kelly, up with the old bunting, and let them
see who they've got to deal with.'

"A brown flag, with a Dutch lion in the centre, was
run up the signal-halliards, and the next minute floated
out bravely from our gaff.

" A cheer burst from the man-o'-war's crew, as they
beheld the signal of defiance. Its answer was a smashing
discharge from, our long swivel that tore along their decks,
cutting the standing rigging, and wounding several as it
went. The triumph was short-lived for us. Shot after
shot poured in from, the brig, which, already to Avindward,
swept our entire decks ; while an incessant roll of small-
arms showed that our challenge was accepted to the

" ' Down helm,' said the old man in a whisper to tlio
sailor at the wheel — 'down helm;' while already the
spitting waves that danced half a mile ahead, betokened a


reef of rocks, over wLicli at low ^Yater a row-boat could
not float.

" • I know it, I know it well,' was the skipper's reply to
the muttered answer of the helmsman.

" By this time the brig was slackening sail, and still
ills fire was maintained as hotly as ever. The distance
between us increased at each moment, and, had we sea-
room, it was possible for us yet to escape.

" Our long gun was worked without ceasing, and we
could see from time to time that a bustle on the deck
denoted the destruction it was dealing ; when suddenly a
wikl shout burst from one of our men — 'the man-o'-war's
apround, — her topsails are aback.' A mad cheer — the
frantic cry of rage and desperation — broke from us; when,
at the instant, a reeling shock shook us from stem to stern.
The little vessel trembled like a living thing; and then, with
a crash like thunder, the hatchways sprang from their
fastenings, and the white sea leaped up and swept along
the deck. One drowning cry, one last mad yell burst forth.

" 'Three cheers, my boys ! ' cried the skipper, raising his
cap above his head.

"Already she was settling in the sea — the death-notes
rang out high over the storm ; a wave swept me over-
board at the minute, and I saw the old skipper clinging to
the bowsprit, while his long grey hair was floating wildly
behind : but the swooping sea rolled over and over me.
A kind of despairing energy nerved me, and after being
above an hour in the water, I was taken up, still swim-
ming, by one of the shore-boats, which, as the storm abated,
had ventured out to the assistance of the sloop ; and thus
was I shipwrecked within a few hundred yards of the spot
where I had ventured on the sea, being the only one
saved of all the crew. Of the ' Dart,' not a spar reached
shore ; tlie breaking sea tore her to atoms.

" The ' Hornet ' scarcely fared better. She landed eight
of her crew, badly wounded; one man was killed, and she
herself was floated only after months of labour, and never,
I believe, went to sea afterwards.

" The sympathy which in Ireland is never refused to
misfortune, no matter how incurred, stood me in stead
now ; for although every effort was made by the autho-

THE smuggler's STORY. 57

rlties to discover if finy of the smuggler's crew had reached
shore alive, and large rewards were offered, no one would
betray me ; and I lay as safely concealed beneath the
thatch of an humble cabin, as though the proud walls of a
baronial castle afforded me their protection.

" From day to day I used to hear of the hot and eager
inquiry going forward to trace out, by any means, some-
thing of the wrecked vessel ; and, at last, news reached
me that a celebrated thief-taker from Dublin had arrived
in the neighbourhood to assist in the search.

" There was no time to be lost now. Discovery would
not only have perilled my own life, but also have involved
those of my kind protectors. How to leave the village
was, however, the difficulty. Revenue and man-of-war
boats abounded on the Shannon since the day of the
wreck ; the Ennis road was beset by police, who scruti-
nized every traveller that passed on the west coast. The
alarm was sounded, and no chance of escape presented
itself in that quarter. In this dilemma, fortune, which so
often stood my friend, did not desert me. It chanced that
a strolling company of actors, who had been performing for
some weeks past in Kilrush, were about to set off to Ennis-
tymon, where they were to give several representations.
Nothing could be easier than to avoid detection in such
company ; and I soon managed to be included in the corps,
by accepting an engagement as a ' walking gentleman,' at
a low salary, and on the next morning found myself seated
on the 'van,' among a very motley crew of associates, in
whose ways and habits I very soon contrived to familiarize
myself, becoming, before we had gone many miles, some-
what of a favourite in the party.

" I will not weary you with any account of my strolling
life. Evei'v one knows something of the difficulties which
beset the humble drama ; and ours was of the humblest.
Joe Hume himself could not have questioned one solitary
item in our budget ; and I defy the veriest quibbler on a
grand jury to ' traverse' a spangle on a pair of our thea-

Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe adventures of Arthur O'Leary → online text (page 5 of 40)