Charles James Lever.

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so fine a fish, and get such a ducking ;' and with that I
mounted my barb, and. waving my hand, wished them a
good-bye, and galloped into Killaloe.

" This story I have only related because, insignificant
as it was, it loecame in a manner the pivot of my then
fate in life. The jockey at once made me an offer of
partnership in his traffic, displaying before me the numer-
ous advantages of such a proposal. I was a disengaged
man — my prospects not peculiarly brilliant — the state of
my exchequer by no means encouraging the favourite
nostrum of a return to cash payments, and so I acceded,
and entered at once upon my new profession with all the
enthusiasm I was always able to command, no matter
what line of life solicited my adoption.

" But it's near one o'clock, and so now, Mr. O'Leary, if
you've no objection, we'll have a grill and a glass of
Madeira, and then, if you can keep awake an hour or so
longer, I'll try and finish my adventures."



70 THE ADVENTURES OF ARTHUR o'lEARY.



CHAPTER VI.

THE smuggler's stoky — (continued).

*' I LEFi' off at tliafc flattering portion of my history where
I became a horse-dealer. In this capacity I travelled over
a considerable portion of Ireland, now larking it in the
West, jollifying in the South, and occasionally suffering a
penance for both enjoyments by a stray trip to Ulster.
In these rambles I contrived to make acquaintance with
most of the resident gentry, who, by the special free-
masonry that attends my calling, scrupled not to treat me
on terms of half equality, and even invite me to their
houses, a piece of condescension on their part, which they
well knew was paid for in more solid advantages.

" In a word, Mr. O'Leary, I became a kind of moral
amphibia, with powers to sustain life in two distinct and
opposite elements ; now brushing my way among frieze-
coated farmers, trainers, dealers, sharpers, and stablemen ;
now floating on the surface of a politer world, where the
topics of conversation took a different range, and were
couched in a very different vocabulary.

" ]My knowledge of French, and my acquaintance with
Parisian life, at least as seen in that class in which I used
to mix. added to a kind of natural tact, made me, as far
as manners and 'usage 'were concerned, the equal of those
with whom I associated, and I managed matters so well,
that the circumstance of my being seen in the morning
with cords and tops of jockey cut, showing off a ' screw,'
or extolling the symmetry of a spavined hackney, never
interfered with the pretensions I put forward at night,
when, dressed in a suit of accurate black, I turned over
the last new opera, or delivered a vf^ry scientific criticism
on the new ' ballet ' in London, or the latest fashion im-
ported from the Continent.

" Were I to trace this part of my cai'eer, I might per-
haps umuse you more liy the incidents it contained than



• THE smuggler's STORY. 71

by any other portion of ray life. Wotliing indeed is so
suggestive of adventure as that anomaly which the French
denominate so significantly — ' a false position.' The man
■who — come, come, don't be afraid, though that sounds
very like Joseph Surface, I'm not going to moralize — the
man, I say, who endeavours to sustain two distinct lines
in life is very likely to fail in both, and so I felt it ; for
while my advantages all inclined to one side, my taste
and predilections leaned to the other ; I could never adopt
knavery as a profession — as an amateur I gloried in it.
Roguery, without risk, was a poor pettifogging policy that
I spurned ; but a practical joke that involved life or limb,
a hearty laugh, or a heavy reckoning, was a temptation
I never could resist. The more I mixed in society, the
greater my intimacy with persons of education and refine
nient, the stronger became my repugnance to my actua
condition, and the line of life I had adopted. AVhile my
position in society was apparently more fixed, I became
in reality more nervously anxious for its stability. The
fascinations which in the better walks of life are thrown
around the man of humble condition, but high aspirings,
are strong and sore temptations, while he measures and
finds himself not inferior to others to whom the race is
open and the course is free, and yet feels in his own heart
that there is a bar npon his escutcheon which excludes
him from the lists. I began now to experience this in all
its poignancy. Among the acquaintances I had formed,
one of my most intimate was a young baronet, who had
just succeeded to a large estate in the county of Kilkenny.
Sir Harvey Blundell was an Anglo-Irishman in more
than one sense. From his English father he had inherited
certain staid and quiet notions of propriety'', certain con-
ventional ideas regarding the observance of etiquette, which
are less valued in Ireland ; while from his mother, he
succeeded to an appreciation of native fun and drollery, of
all the whims and oddities of Irish life, which, strange
enovigh, are as well understood by the Anglo-Irishman as
by one ' to the manner born.'

" I met Sir Harvey at a supper party in College. Some
song I had sung of my own composing, or some stoiy of
my inventing, I forget which, tickled his fanc}-. He



72 THE ADVENTURES OF ARTHUR o'lEART.

begged to he introduced to mc, drew his chair over to my
side of the table, and ended by giving- me an invitation to
his house for the partridge-shooting, Avhich was to begin
in a few days. I readily assented ; it was a season iu
which I had nothing to do, my friend Dan had gone over
to the Highlands to make a purchase of some ponies ; I
was rather flush of cash, and consequently iu good spirits.
It was arranged that I should drive him down iu my
drag, a turn-out with four spanking greys, of whose match
and colour, shape and action, I was not a little vain.

" "We posted to Carlow, to which place I had sent on
my horses, and arrived the same evening at Sir Harvey's
house in time for dinner. This was the first acquaintance
I had made, independent of my profession. Sir Harvey
knew me as Mr. O'Kelly, whom he met at an old friend's
chambers in College ; and he introduced me thus to his
company, adding to his intimates in a whisper I could
overhear — ' devilish fast fellow, up to everything — knows
life at home and abroad, and has such a team ! ' Hei-e
were requisites enough, in all conscience, to win favour
among any set of young country gentlemen, and I soon
found myself surrounded by a circle who listened to my
opinions on every subject, and recorded my judgment*
with the most implicit faith in their wisdom, no matter
on what subject I talked, — women, wine, the drama, play,
sporting, debts, duns, or duels, — my word was law.

" Two circumstances considerably aided me in my pre-
sent supremacy. Fii-st, Sir Harvey's friends were all
3'oung m.eu from Oxford, who knew little of the world,
and less of that part of it called Ireland ; and secondly, they
were all strangers to me, and consequently my liberty of
speech was unti-ammelled by any unpleiu;ant reminiscences,
of dealing in fairs or auctions.

"The establishment was presided over by Sir Harvey's
sister, at least nominally so, her presence being a reason
for having ladies at his parties ; and although she was-
only nineteen, she gave a tone and character to the habits
of the house which without her it never could have
possessed. Miss Blundell was a very charming person,
combining in herself two qualities which, added to beauty,
m>%de a very irresistible ensejnble. She ha(? the greatest




. Gtiafov .



.yh .yi/i/2'U^a^ayey ^,^-t?^!i^ ^cay i^-^z^ym^on^-



THE smuggler's STORY. 73

flow of spirits, with a retiring and almost timidly bashful
disposition ; courage for anything, and a delicacy that
shrunk abashed from all that boi'dcred on display, or bore
the slightest semblance of efi'rontery. I shall say no more,
than that before I was a week in the house I was over
head and ears in love witli her ; my whole thoughts cen-
tred in her; my chief endeavour was to show myself in
such a light as might win her favour.

" Every accomplishment I possessed — every art and
power of amusing, I exerted in her service ; and at last
perceived that she was not indifierent to me. Then, and
then for the first time, came the thought — who was 1,
that dared to do this — what ha^d I of station, rank, or
wealth to entitle me to sue — perhaps to gain, the affec-
tions of one like her ? The duplicity of my conduct started
up before me, and I saw for the first time how the mere
ardour of pui-suit that led me on and on — how the daring
to surmount a difficulty had stirred my heart, at first to
win, and then to worship her. The bitterness of my self-
reproach at that moment became a punishment, which,
even now, I remember with a shudder. It is too true! The
great misfortunes of life form more endurable subjects for
memory in old age, than the instances, however trivial,
where we have acted amiss, and where conscience rebukes
us. I have had my share of calamity, one way or other — •
my life has been more than once in peril — and in such
peril as might well shake the nerve of the boldest : I can
think on all these, and do think on them often, without
fear or heart-failing ; but never can I face the hours, when
my own immediate self-love and vanity brought their own
penalty on me, without a sense of self-abasement as vivid
as the moment I first experienced it. But I must hasten,
over this. I had been now about six weeks in Sir
Harvey's house, day after day detei'mining on my depai
ture, and invariably yielding, when the time came, to
some new request to stay for something or other — now,
A day's fishing on the Nore — now, another morning at the
partridge — then, there was a boat-race, or a music party,
or a picnic — in fiict, each day led on to another, and ]
found myself lingering on, unable to tear myself from
where, I felt, my remaining was ruin.



74 THE ADVENTURES OF ARTHUR o'lEARY.

" At last I made up ray mind, and determined, come
wliat -would, to take my leave, never to return. I men-
tioned to Sir Ilarvey in the morning that some matter
of importance required my presence in town, and by a
half-promise to spend my Christmas with him, obtained
his consent to my departure.

"We were returninc' from an eveninof walk — Miss
Blundell was leaning on my arm — we were the last of the
party, the others having, by some chance or other, gone
forward, leaving us to follow alone. For some time
neither of us spoke. What were her thoughts I cannot
guess; mine were, I acknowledge, entirely fixed upon the
hour I was to see her for the last time, while I balanced
whether I should speak of my ajDproaching departure, or
leave her without even a ' good-bye.'

" I did not know at the time so well as I now do, how
much of the interest I had excited in her heart depended
on the mystery of my life. The stray hints I now and
then droj)ped — the stories into which I was occasionally
led — the wild scenes, and wilder adventures, in which I
bore my part — had done more than stimulate her curiosity
concerning me. This, I repeat, I knew not at the time,
and the secret of my career weighed like a crime upon my
conscience. I hesitated lono- whether I should not dis-
close every circumstance of my life, and, by the avowal of
my utter unworthiness, repair, as far as might be, the
injuiy I had done her. Then came that fatal ''amour
propre,^ that involved me originally in the pursuit, and I
was silent. We had not been many minutes thus, when a
servant came from the house, to inform Miss Blundell that
her cousin, Captain Douglas, had ai'rived. As she nodded
her head in reply, I perceived the colour mounted to her
cheek, an expression of agitation passed over her features.

•' ' Who is Captain Douglas ? ' said I, without, however,
venturing to look more fully at her.

" ' Oh ! a cousin — a second or third cousin, I believe ;
but a great friend of Harvey's.'

"' And of his sister's, too, if I might presume so far?'

" * Quite wrong for once,' said she, with an effort to
seem at ease : ' he's not the least a favourite of mine,
although '



THE smuggler's STORY. 75

" ' Yoti are of his !' I added, quickly. ' Well, well, I
really beg pardon for this boldness of mine.' How I was
about to continue, I know not, when her brother's voice,
calling her aloud, broke off all further conversation.

*' ' Come, Fanny,' said he, ' here's Harry Douglas, just
come with all the London gossip— he's been to Windsor,
too, and has been dining with the Prince. O'Kelly, you
must know Douglas, you are just the men to suit each
other. — He's got a heavy book on the Derby, and will be
delighted to have a chat with you about the turf.'

" As I followed Miss Blundell into the drawing-room,
my heart was heavy and depressed.

" Few of the misfortunes in life come on us without
foreboding. The clouds that usher in the storm, cast their
shadows on the earth before they break ; and so it is with
cur fate. A gloomy sense of coming evil presages the
blow about to fall, and he who would not be stunned by
the stroke, must not neglect the warning.

" The room was full of people — the ordinary buzz and
chit-chat of an evening party was going forward, among
which I heard my name bandied about on every side.

" ' O'Kelly will arrange this,' cried one — ' leave it all to
O'Kelly — he must decide it;' and so on, when suddenly
Blundell called out — ■

" ' O'Kelly, come up here,' and then, taking me by the
arm, he led me to the end of the room, where, with his
back turned towards us, a tall, fashionable-looking man
was talking to his sister.

*' ' Harry,' cried the host, as he touched his elbow,
'let me introduce a very particular friend of mine — Mr.
O'Kelly.'

" Captain Douglas wheeled sharply round, and fixing
on me a pair of dark eyes, overshadowed with heavy beet-
ling brows, looked at me sternly without speaking. A
cold thrill ran through me from head to foot as I met
his gaze ; the last time we had seen each other was in a
square of the Royal Barracks, vv'here he was pui'chasing a
remount for his troop, and I was the horse-dealer.

" ' Tour friend, Mr. O'Kelly ! ' said he, as he fixed his
glass in his cje, and a most insulting curl, half smile, half
sneer, played about his mouth.



7G TUE ADVENTURES OF ARTHUH o'lEARY.

•' How very absurd you arc, Harry,' said Miss Blundell,
endeavouring, by an allusion to something they were
speaking of, to relieve the excessive awkwardness of the
moment.

" ' Yes, to be sure, mjf friend,' chimed in Sir Harvey,
'and a devilish good fellow too, and the best judge of
horse- flesh,'

'• ' I haven't a doubt of it,' was the dry remark of the
Captain ; ' but how did he get here ? '

" ' Sir,' said J, in a voice scarce audible with passion,
' whatever, or whoever I am, by birth at least I am fully
your equal.'

" ' D n your pedigree,' said he, coolly.

" ' Whv, Harry ? ' interrupted Blundell ; * what are you
thinking'of? Mr. O'Kellyis '

" ' A jockey — a horse-dealer, if you will, and the best
hand at passing off a screw I've met for some time. I say,
sir,' continued he, in a louder tone, 'that roan charger
hasn't answered his warranty — he stands at Dycer's for
you.'

" Had a thunderbolt fallen in the midst of us, the con-
sternation could not have been greater ; as for me, every-
thing around bore a look of mockery and scorn. DerLsion
and contempt sat on every feature, and a wild uncertainty
of purpose, like coming insanit}", flitted through my brain.
What I said, or how I quitted the spot, I am unable to
say ; my last remembrance of that accursed moment via.f\
the burst of horrid laughter that filled my eai'S as I rushed
out. J almost think that I hear it still, like the yell of
the furies ; its very cadence was torture. I ran from the
house — 1 crossed the fields without a thought of whither I
was going— escape, concealment, my only oI)ject. I sought
to hide rnyself for ever from the eyes of those who had
looked upon me with such withering contempt; and I
should have been thankful to him who would have given
me refuge beneath the dank grass of the churchyard.

'■ Never did a guilty man fly from the scene of his crime
with more precipitate haste than I did from the spot which
had witnessed my shame and degradation. At every step
I thought of the cruel speeches, the harsh railings, and
the bitter irony of all before whom, but one hour ago, I



THE smuggler's stoky. 77

stood cliief and pre-eminent; and although T vowed to
myself never to meet any of them again, I could not pluck
from my heart the innate ?ense of my despicable condition,
and how low I must now stand in the estimation of the
very lowest I had so late looked down upon. And here
let me passingly remark, that while we often hold lightly
the praise of those upon whose powers of judgment and
reach of information "we place little value, by some strange
contrariety we feel most bitterly the censure of these very
people whenever any trivial circumstance, any small or
petty observance with which they are acquainted, gives
them, for the time, the power of an opinion. The mere
fact of our contempt for them adds a poignancy to their
condemnation, and I question much if we do not bear up
better asfainst the censure of the wise than the scoff of the
ignorant.

" On I went, and on, never even turning my head ; for
though I had left all the little wealth I possessed in the
world, I would gladly have given it, ten times told, to
have blotted out even a particle of the shame that rested
on my character. Scarcely had I reached the high road,
when I heard the quick tramp of horses and the rattle of
wheels behind me ; and, so strong were the instincts of
my fear, that I scarcely dared to look back : at length I
did so, and beheld the mail-coach coming towards me at a
rapid pace. As it neared, I hailed the coachman, and
without an inquiry as to where it was going, I sprang up
to a place on the roof, thankful that ere long I should
leave miles between me and my torturers.

" The same evening we arrived in Cork. During the
journey I made acquaintance with a sergeant of a light
dragoon regiment, who was proceeding in charge of three
recruits to the depot at Cove. With the quick eye of his
calling, the fellow saw something in my dispirited state
that promised success to his wishes ; and he immediately
began the thousand-times-told tale of the happiness of a
soldier's life. I stopped him short at once, for my mind
was already made up, and before the day broke I had
enlisted in his Majesty's 12th Light Dragoons^ at that time
scrvincr in America.

" If I have spared you the recital of many painful pas-



78 THE ADVENTURES OF ARTHUR o'lEARY.

sages in my life, I shall also pass over this portion of my
career, -which, though not marked by any distinct feature
of calamity, was, perhaps, the most painful I ever knew.
He who thinks that in joining the ranks of an army, his
only trials will be the severity of an unaccustomed dis-
cipline, and the common hardships of a soldier's life, takes
but a very shallow view of what is before him. Coarso
and vulgar associates — depraved tastes and brutal habits
— the ribald jest of the barrack-room — the comrade spirit
of a class, the very lowest and meanest — these are the
trials, the almost insupportable trials, of him who has
known better days.

" As hour by hour he finds himself yielding to the
gradual pressure of his fate, and feels his mind assuming,
one by one, the prejudices of those about him, his self-
esteem falls with his condition, and he sees that the time
is not distant when all inequality between him and his
fellows shall cease, and every trait of his former self be
washed away for ever.

"After four months of such endurance as I dare not
even now suffer myself to dwell upon, orders arrived at
Cove for the recruits of the different regiments at once to
proceed to Chatham, whence they were to be forwarded to
their respective corps. I believe, in my heart, had this
order not come I should have deserted, so unendurable
bad my life become. The thought of active service, the
prospect of advancement, however remote, cheered my
spirits, and, for the first time since I joined, my heart was
light on the moi-ning when the old ' Northumberland *
transport anchored in the harbour, and the signal for
embarking the troops floated from the mast-head. A
motley crew we were — frieze-coated, red-coated, and no-
coated ; some, ruddy-clieeked farmers' boys, sturdy good-
humoured fellows, with the bloom of counti-y life upon
their faces ; some, the pale, sickly inhabitants of towns,
whose sharpened features and quick penetrating eyes
betokened how much their wits had contributed to their
maintenance. A few there were, like myself, drawn from
a better class, but already scarce distinguishable amid the
herd. We were nearly five hundred in number, one featui'O
of equality pervading all — none of us had any arms. Some



THE smuggler's STORY, 79

instances of revolt and mutiny that had occurred, a short
time previous, on board troop-ships, had induced tho
Horse Guards to adopt this resolution, and a general order
Tvas issued that the recruits should not receive arms before
their arrival at Chatham. At last we Aveighed anchor, and
with a light easy wind stood out to sea. It was the first
time I had been ofl-jat for many a long day, and as I
leaned over the bulwark, and heard the light rustle of the
Avaves as they broke on the cut-water, and watched the
white foam as it rippled past, I thought on the old days of
my smuggling life, when I trod the plank of my little
craft, with a step as light and a heart as free as ever did
the proudest admiral on tlie poop-deck of his three-decker ;
and as I remcMiibered what I then had been, and thought
of what I no-.v was, a growing melancholy settled upon
me, and I sat apart and spoke to none.

" On tlie third night after we sailed, the breeze, which
had set in at sunset, increased considerably, and a heavy
sea rolled in from the westward. Now, although tho
w^eather was not sucli as to endanger the safety of a good
ship with an able crew, yet was it by no means a matter
of indifference in an old rotten craft like the ' JS"orthum-
berland,' condemned half a dozen years before, and barely
able to make her voyage in light winds and fine weather.
Our skipper knew this well, and I could see by the agita-
tion of his features, and the altered tones of his voice, how
little he liked the freshening gale, and the low moaning
sound that swept along the sea, and threatened a storm.
The pumps had been at work for some hours, and it was
clear that the most we could do was to keep the water
from gaining on us. A chance observation of mine had
attracted the skipper's attention, and after a few minutes'
conversation he saw that I was a seaman not only better
informed, but more habituated to danger than himself; he
was, therefore, glad to take counsel from mc, and at my
suggestion a spare sail was bent, and passed under the
ship's bottom, which soon arrested the progress of the
leak, and, at the same time, assisted the vessel's sailing.
^Meanwhile the storm was increasing, and it now blew
what the sailors call 'great guns.'

" "We were staggei'ing along under light canvas, when



80 THE ADVENTURES OF ARTHUR o'lEARY.

the look-out-ahead announced a licfht on the weather-
bow ; it ^Yas evidently coraiug towards us, and scarce half
a mile distant ; we had no more than time to hang out
a lantern in the tops and put up the helm, when a large
ship, whose sides rose several I'eet above our own, swept
by us, and so close, that her yard-arms actually touched
our ricijing as she yawed over in the sea. A muttered
thanksgiving for our escape, for such it was, broke from
every lip ; and hardlj'- was it uttered, when again a voice
cried out, ' Here she comes to leeward,' and sure enough
the dark shadow of the large mass moving at a speed
far greater than ours passed under our lee, while a harsh
summons was shouted out to know who we were, and
■whither bound. ' The " Northumberland," with troops,'
was the ans^ver ; and before the words Avere well out, a
banging noise was heard — the ports of the stranger ship
were Hung open — a bright flash, like a line of flame, ran
her entire length, and a raking broadside was poured into
us. The old transport reeled over and trembled like a
thing of life, — her shattered sides and torn bulwarks let
in the water as she heeled to the shock, and for an instant,



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe adventures of Arthur O'Leary → online text (page 7 of 40)