The Collected Writings of SAMUEL LOVER
TREASURE TROVE EDITION
In Ten Volumes
THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF SAMUEL LOVER
A Tale of Irish Life
IN TWO VOLUMES—VOLUME ONE
BOSTON LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY MDCCCCIII
Copyright, 1901, by Little, Brown, & Co.
UNIVERSITY PRESS JOHN WILSON AND SON CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A.
I have been accused in certain quarters, of giving flattering portraits of my countrymen. Against this charge I may plead that, being a portrait-painter by profession, the habit of taking the best view of my subject, so long prevalent in my eye, has gone deeper, and influenced my mind:—and if to paint one's country in its gracious aspect has been a weakness, at least, to use the words of an illustrious compatriot,
"—the failing leans to virtue's side."
I am disinclined, however, to believe myself an offender in this particular. That I love my country dearly I acknowledge, and I am sure every Englishman will respect me the more for loving mine, when he is, with justice, proud of his—but I repeat my disbelief that I overrate my own.
The present volume, I hope, will disarm any cavil from old quarters on the score of national prejudice. The hero is a blundering fellow whom no English or other gentleman would like to have in his service; but still he has some redeeming natural traits: he is not made either a brute or a villain; yet his "twelve months' character," given in the successive numbers of this volume, would not get him a place upon advertisement either in "The Times" or "The Chronicle." So far am I clear of the charge of national prejudice as regards the hero of the following pages.
In the subordinate personages, the reader will see two "Squires" of different types—good and bad; there are such in all countries. And, as a tale cannot get on without villains, I have given some touches of villainy, quite sufficient to prove my belief in Irish villains, though I do not wish it to be believed that the Irish are all villains.
I confess I have attempted a slight sketch, in one of the persons represented, of a gentleman and a patriot;—and I conceive there is a strong relationship between the two. He loves the land that bore him—and so did most of the great spirits recorded in history. His own mental cultivation, while it yields him personal enjoyment, teaches him not to treat with contumely inferior men. Though he has courage to protect his honour, he is not deficient in conscience to feel for the consequences; and when opportunity offers the means of amende, it is embraced. In a word, I wish it to be believed that, while there are knaves, and fools, and villains in Ireland,—as in other parts of the world,—honest, intelligent, and noble spirits are there also.
I cannot conclude without offering my sincere thanks for the cordial manner in which my serial offering has been received by the public, and noticed by the critical press, whose valuable columns have been so often opened to it in quotation; and, when it is considered how large an amount of intellect is employed in this particular department of literature, the highest names might be proud of such recognition.
London, 1st December, 1842.
The reprinting of the foregoing address, attached to the First Edition, sufficiently implies that my feelings and opinions respecting my country and my countrymen remain unchanged. So far, enough said.
I desire, however, to add a few words to inform those who may, for the first time, read the story in this the Fourth Edition, that the early pages were written fifteen years ago, as a magazine article;—that the success of that article led to the continuation of the subject in other articles, and so on, till, eventually, twelve monthly numbers made up a book. A story thus originated could not be other than sketchy and desultory, and open to the captiousness of over-fastidious criticism: it was never meant to be a work of high pretension—only one of those easy trifles which afford a laugh, and require to be read in the same careless spirit of good humour in which they are written.
In such a spirit, I am happy to say, "Handy Andy" was read fourteen years ago, and has continued to be read ever since; and as this reprint, in a cheaper form, will open it to thousands of fresh readers, I give these few introductory words to propitiate in the future the kindly spirit which I gratefully remember in the past.
London, 26th July, 1854.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Andy Icing the Champagne Frontispiece
Andy's First Attempt at Music Vignette on Title
Andy's Introduction to the Squire Page 6
An Irish Inquest " 80
Andy's Welcome Home " 102
The Reward of Humanity " 129
The Widow Flanagan's Party " 295
Etched by W. H. W. Bicknell from drawings by Samuel Lover
Andy Rooney was a fellow who had the most singularly ingenious knack of doing everything the wrong way; disappointment waited on all affairs in which he bore a part, and destruction was at his fingers' ends; so the nickname the neighbours stuck upon him was Handy Andy, and the jeering jingle pleased them.
Andy's entrance into this world was quite in character with his after achievements, for he was nearly the death of his mother. She survived, however, to have herself clawed almost to death while her darling "babby" was in arms, for he would not take his nourishment from the parent fount unless he had one of his little red fists twisted into his mother's hair, which he dragged till he made her roar; while he diverted the pain by scratching her, till the blood came, with the other. Nevertheless, she swore he was "the loveliest and sweetest craythur the sun ever shined upon;" and when he was able to run about and wield a little stick, and smash everything breakable belonging to her, she only praised his precocious powers, and she used to ask, "Did ever any one see a darlin' of his age handle a stick so bowld as he did?"
Andy grew up in mischief and the admiration of his mammy; but, to do him justice, he never meant harm in the course of his life, and he was most anxious to offer his services on all occasions to those who would accept them; but they were only the persons who had not already proved Andy's peculiar powers.
There was a farmer hard by in this happy state of ignorance, named Owen Doyle, or, as he was familiarly called, Owny na Coppal, or, "Owen of the Horses," because he bred many of these animals, and sold them at the neighbouring fairs; and Andy one day offered his services to Owny when he was in want of some one to drive up a horse to his house from a distant "bottom," as low grounds by a river-side are called in Ireland.
"Oh, he's wild, Andy, and you'd never be able to ketch him," said Owny.
"Troth, an' I'll engage I'll ketch him if you'll let me go. I never seen the horse I couldn't ketch, sir," said Andy.
"Why, you little spridhogue, if he took to runnin' over the long bottom, it 'ud be more than a day's work for you to folly him."
"Oh, but he won't run."
"Why won't he run?"
"Bekaze I won't make him run."
"How can you help it?"
"I'll soother him."
"Well, you're a willin' brat, anyhow; and so go on, and God speed you!" said Owny.
"Just gi' me a wisp o' hay an' a han'ful iv oats," said Andy, "if I should have to coax him."
"Sartinly," said Owny, who entered the stable and came forth with the articles required by Andy, and a halter for the horse also.
"Now, take care," said Owny, "that you are able to ride that horse if you get on him."
"Oh, never fear, sir. I can ride owld Lanty Gubbins' mule betther nor any o' the boys on the common, and he couldn't throw me th' other day, though he kicked the shoes av him."
"After that you may ride anything," said Owny; and indeed it was true; for Lanty's mule, which fed on the common, being ridden slily by all the young vagabonds in the neighbourhood, had become such an adept in the art of getting rid of his troublesome customers that it might well be considered a feat to stick on him.
"Now take great care of him, Andy, my boy," said the farmer.
"Don't be afeared, sir," said Andy, who started on his errand in that peculiar pace which is elegantly called a "sweep's trot;" and as the river lay between Owny Doyle's and the bottom, and was too deep for Andy to ford at that season, he went round by Dinny Dowling's mill, where a small wooden bridge crossed the stream.
Here he thought he might as well secure the assistance of Paudeen, the miller's son, to help him in catching the horse; so he looked about the place until he found him, and telling him the errand on which he was going, said, "If you like to come wid me, we can both have a ride." This was temptation sufficient for Paudeen, and the boys proceeded together to the bottom, and they were not long in securing the horse. When they had got the halter over his head, "Now," said Andy, "give me a lift on him;" and accordingly, by Paudeen's catching Andy's left foot in both his hands clasped together in the fashion of a stirrup, he hoisted his friend on the horse's back; and as soon as he was secure there, Master Paudeen, by the aid of Andy's hand, contrived to scramble up after him; upon which Andy applied his heel to the horse's side with many vigorous kicks, and crying "hurrup!" at the same time, endeavoured to stimulate Owny's steed into something of a pace as he turned his head towards the mill.
"Sure arn't you going to crass the river?" said Paudeen.
"No, I'm going to lave you at home."
"Oh, I'd rather go up to Owny's, and it's the shortest way acrass the river."
"Yes, but I don't like."
"Is it afeared that you are?" said Paudeen.
"Not I, indeed!" said Andy; though it was really the fact, for the width of the stream startled him, "but Owny told me to take grate care o' the baste, and I'm loath to wet his feet."
"Go 'long wid you, you fool! what harm would it do him? Sure he's neither sugar nor salt, that he'd melt."
"Well, I won't anyhow," said Andy, who by this time had got the horse into a good high trot, that shook every word of argument out of Paudeen's body; besides, it was as much as the boys could do to keep their seats on Owny's Bucephalus, who was not long in reaching the miller's bridge. Here voice and halter were employed to pull him in, that he might cross the narrow wooden structure at a quiet pace. But whether his double load had given him the idea of double exertion, or that the pair of legs on each side sticking into his flanks (and perhaps the horse was ticklish) made him go the faster, we know not; but the horse charged the bridge as if an Enniskilliner were on his back, and an enemy before him; and in two minutes his hoofs clattered like thunder on the bridge, that did not bend beneath him. No, it did not bend, but it broke; proving the falsehood of the boast, "I may break, but I won't bend;" for, after all, the really strong may bend, and be as strong as ever: it is the unsound that has only the seeming of strength, which breaks at last when it resists too long.
Surprising was the spin the young equestrians took over the ears of the horse, enough to make all the artists of Astley's envious; and plump they went into the river, where each formed his own ring, and executed some comical "scenes in the circle," which were suddenly changed to evolutions on the "flying cord" that Dinny Dowling threw to the performers, which became suddenly converted into a "tight rope" as he dragged the voltigeurs out of the water; and for fear their blood might be chilled by the accident, he gave them an enormous thrashing with a dry end of the rope, just to restore circulation; and his exertions, had they been witnessed, would have charmed the Humane Society.
As for the horse, his legs stuck through the bridge, as though he had been put in a chiroplast, and he went playing away on the water with considerable execution, as if he were accompanying himself in the song which he was squealing at the top of his voice. Half the saws, hatchets, ropes, and poles in the parish were put in requisition immediately, and the horse's first lesson in chiroplastic exercise was performed with no other loss than some skin and a good deal of hair. Of course Andy did not venture on taking Owny's horse home; so the miller sent him to his owner, with an account of the accident. Andy for years kept out of Owny na Coppal's way; and at any time that his presence was troublesome, the inconvenienced party had only to say, "Isn't that Owny na Coppal coming this way?" and Andy fled for his life.
When Andy grew up to be what in country parlance is called "a brave lump of a boy," his mother thought he was old enough to do something for himself; so she took him one day along with her to the squire's, and waited outside the door, loitering up and down the yard behind the house, among a crowd of beggars and great lazy dogs, that were thrusting their heads into every iron pot that stood outside the kitchen door, until chance might give her "a sight o' the squire afore he wint out, or afore he wint in;" and after spending her entire day in this idle way, at last the squire made his appearance, and Judy presented her son, who kept scraping his foot, and pulling his forelock, that stuck out like a piece of ragged thatch from his forehead, making his obeisance to the squire, while his mother was sounding his praises for being the "handiest craythur alive—and so willin'—nothin' comes wrong to him."
"I suppose the English of all this is, you want me to take him?" said the squire.
"Throth, an' your honour, that's just it—if your honour would be plazed."
"What can he do?"
"Anything, your honour."
"That means nothing, I suppose," said the squire.
"Oh, no, sir. Everything, I mane, that you would desire him to do."
To every one of these assurances on his mother's part Andy made a bow and a scrape.
"Can he take care of horses?"
"The best of care, sir," said the mother; while the miller who was standing behind the squire, waiting for orders, made a grimace at Andy, who was obliged to cram his face into his hat to hide the laugh, which he could hardly smother from being heard, as well as seen.
"Let him come, then, and help in the stables, and we'll see what we can do."
"May the Lord——"
"That'll do—there, now go."
"Oh, sure, but I'll pray for you, and——"
"Will you go?"
"And may the angels make your honour's bed this blessed night, I pray."
"If you don't go, your son shan't come."
Judy and her hopeful boy turned to the right about in double-quick time, and hurried down the avenue.
The next day Andy was duly installed into his office of stable-helper; and, as he was a good rider, he was soon made whipper-in to the hounds, for there was a want of such a functionary in the establishment; and Andy's boldness in this capacity soon made him a favourite with the squire, who was one of those rollicking boys on the pattern of the old school, who scorned the attentions of a regular valet, and let any one that chance threw in his way bring him his boots, or his hot water for shaving, or his coat, whenever it was brushed. One morning, Andy, who was very often the attendant on such occasions, came to his room with hot water. He tapped at the door.
"Who's that?" said the squire, who had just risen, and did not know but it might be one of the women servants.
"It's me, sir."
"Oh—Andy! Come in."
"Here's the hot water, sir," said Andy, bearing an enormous tin can.
"Why, what the d——l brings that enormous tin can here? You might as well bring the stable bucket."
"I beg your pardon, sir," said Andy, retreating. In two minutes more Andy came back, and, tapping at the door, put in his head cautiously, and said, "The maids in the kitchen, your honour, say's there's not so much hot water ready."
"Did I not see it a moment since in your hand?"
"Yes, sir; but that's not nigh the full o' the stable-bucket."
"Go along, you stupid thief! and get me some hot water directly."
"Will the can do, sir?"
"Ay, anything, so you make haste."
Off posted Andy, and back he came with the can.
"Where'll I put it sir?"
"Throw this out," said the squire, handing Andy a jug containing some cold water, meaning the jug to be replenished with the hot.
Andy took the jug, and the window of the room being open, he very deliberately threw the jug out. The squire stared with wonder, and at last said—
"What did you do that for?"
"Sure you towld me to throw it out, sir."
"Go out of this, you thick-headed villain!" said the squire, throwing his boots at Andy's head, along with some very neat curses. Andy retreated, and thought himself a very ill-used person.
Though Andy's regular business was "whipper-in," yet he was liable to be called on for the performance of various other duties: he sometimes attended at table when the number of guests required that all the subs should be put in requisition, or rode on some distant errand for the "mistress," or drove out the nurse and children on the jaunting-car; and many were the mistakes, delays, or accidents, arising from Handy Andy's interference in such matters;—but as they were seldom serious, and generally laughable, they never cost him the loss of his place, or the squire's favour, who rather enjoyed Andy's blunders.
The first time Andy was admitted into the mysteries of the dining-room, great was his wonder. The butler took him in to give him some previous instructions, and Andy was so lost in admiration at the sight of the assembled glass and plate, that he stood with his mouth and eyes wide open, and scarcely heard a word that was said to him. After the head man had been dinning his instructions into him for some time, he said he might go, until his attendance was required. But Andy moved not; he stood with his eyes fixed by a sort of fascination on some object that seemed to rivet them with the same unaccountable influence which the rattlesnake exercises over its victim.
"What are you looking at?" said the butler.
"Them things, sir," said Andy, pointing to some silver forks.
"Is it the forks?" said the butler.
"Oh, no, sir! I know what forks is very well; but I never seen them things afore."
"What things do you mean?"
"These things, sir," said Andy, taking up one of the silver forks, and turning it round and round in his hand in utter astonishment, while the butler grinned at his ignorance, and enjoyed his own superior knowledge.
"Well!" said Andy, after a long pause, "the devil be from me if ever I seen a silver spoon split that way before!"
The butler gave a horse laugh, and made a standing joke of Andy's split spoon; but time and experience made Andy less impressed with wonder at the show of plate and glass, and the split spoons became familiar as "household words" to him; yet still there were things in the duties of table attendance beyond Andy's comprehension—he used to hand cold plates for fish, and hot plates for jelly, &c. But "one day," as Zanga says—"one day" he was thrown off his centre in a remarkable degree by a bottle of soda-water.
It was when that combustible was first introduced into Ireland as a dinner beverage that the occurrence took place, and Andy had the luck to be the person to whom a gentleman applied for some soda-water.
"Sir?" said Andy.
"Soda-water," said the guest, in that subdued tone in which people are apt to name their wants at a dinner-table.
Andy went to the butler. "Mr. Morgan, there's a gintleman——"
"Let me alone, will you?" said Mr. Morgan.
Andy manoeuvred round him a little longer, and again essayed to be heard.
"Don't you see I'm as busy as I can be? Can't you do it yourself?"
"I dunna what he wants."
"Well, go ax him," said Mr. Morgan.
Andy went off as he was bidden, and came behind the thirsty gentleman's chair, with, "I beg your pardon, sir."
"Well!" said the gentleman.
"I beg your pardon, sir; but what's this you axed me for?"
"Soda-water: but, perhaps you have not any."
"Oh, there's plenty in the house, sir! Would you like it hot, sir?"
The gentleman laughed, and supposing the new fashion was not understood in the present company said, "Never mind."
But Andy was too anxious to please to be so satisfied, and again applied to Mr. Morgan.
"Sir!" said he.
"Bad luck to you!—can't you let me alone?"
"There's a gentleman wants some soap and wather."
"Soap and wather, sir."
"Divil sweep you!—Soda-wather you mane. You'll get it under the side-board."
"Is it in the can, sir?"
"The curse o' Crum'll on you! in the bottles."
"Is this it, sir?" said Andy producing a bottle of ale.
"No, bad cess to you!—the little bottles."
"Is it the little bottles with no bottoms, sir?"
"I wish you wor in the bottom o' the say!" said Mr. Morgan, who was fuming and puffing, and rubbing down his face with a napkin, as he was hurrying to all quarters of the room, or, as Andy said, in praising his activity, that he was "like bad luck—everywhere."
"There they are!" said Mr. Morgan at last.
"Oh, them bottles that won't stand," said Andy; "sure them's what I said, with no bottoms to them. How'll I open it?—it's tied down."
"Cut the cord, you fool!"
Andy did as he was desired; and he happened at the time to hold the bottle of soda-water on a level with the candles that shed light over the festive board from a large silver branch, and the moment he made the incision, bang went the bottle of soda, knocking out two of the lights with the projected cork, which, performing its parabola the length of the room, struck the squire himself in the eye at the foot of the table: while the hostess at the head had a cold bath down her back. Andy, when he saw the soda-water jumping out of the bottle, held it from him at arm's length; every fizz it made, exclaiming, "Ow!—ow!—ow!" and, at last, when the bottle was empty, he roared out, "Oh, Lord!—it's all gone!"
Great was the commotion;—few could resist laughter except the ladies, who all looked at their gowns, not liking the mixture of satin and soda-water. The extinguished candles were relighted—the squire got his eye open again—and the next time he perceived the butler sufficiently near to speak to him, he said in a low and hurried tone of deep anger, while he knit his brow, "Send that fellow out of the room!" but, within the same instant, resumed his former smile, that beamed on all around as if nothing had happened.
Andy was expelled the salle a manger in disgrace, and for days kept out of the master's and mistress' way: in the meantime the butler made a good story of the thing in the servants' hall; and, when he held up Andy's ignorance to ridicule, by telling how he asked for "soap and water," Andy was given the name of "Suds," and was called by no other for months after.
But, though Andy's functions in the interior were suspended, his services in out-of-door affairs were occasionally put in requisition. But here his evil genius still haunted him, and he put his foot in a piece of business his master sent him upon one day, which was so simple as to defy almost the chance of Andy making any mistake about it; but Andy was very ingenious in his own particular line.
"Ride into the town and see if there's a letter for me," said the squire one day to our hero.
"You know where to go?"
"To the town, sir."
"But do you know where to go in the town?"
"And why don't you ask, you stupid thief?"
"Sure I'd find out, sir."
"Didn't I often tell you to ask what you're to do, when you don't know?"
"And why don't you?"
"I don't like to be throublesome, sir."
"Confound you!" said the squire; though he could not help laughing at Andy's excuse for remaining in ignorance.
"Well," continued he, "go to the post-office. You know the post-office, I suppose?"
"Yes, sir, where they sell gunpowder."
"You're right for once," said the squire; for his Majesty's postmaster was the person who had the privilege of dealing in the aforesaid combustible. "Go then to the post-office, and ask for a letter for me. Remember—not gunpowder, but a letter."
"Yis, sir," said Andy, who got astride of his hack, and trotted away to the post-office. On arriving at the shop of the postmaster (for that person carried on a brisk trade in groceries, gimlets, broadcloth, and linen-drapery,) Andy presented himself at the counter, and said, "I want a letther, sir, if you plaze."
"Who do you want it for?" said the postmaster, in a tone which Andy considered an aggression upon the sacredness of private life: so Andy thought the coolest contempt he could throw upon the prying impertinence of the postmaster was to repeat his question.
"I want a letther, sir, if you plaze."
"And who do you want it for?" repeated the postmaster.
"What's that to you?" said Andy.
The postmaster, laughing at his simplicity, told him he could not tell what letter to give him unless he told him the direction.
"The directions I got was to get a letther here—that's the directions."
"Who gave you those directions?"
"And who's your master?"
"What consarn is that o' yours?"
"Why, you stupid rascal! if you don't tell me his name, how can I give you a letter?"
"You could give it if you liked: but you're fond of axin' impident questions, bekase you think I'm simple."
"Go along out o' this! Your master must be as great a goose as yourself, to send such a messenger."
"Bad luck to your impidence," said Andy; "is it Squire Egan you dar to say goose to?"
"Oh, Squire Egan's your master, then?"
"Yes, have you anything to say agin it?"
"Only that I never saw you before."
"Faith, then you'll never see me agin if I have my own consint."
"I won't give you any letter for the squire, unless I know you're his servant. Is there any one in the town knows you?"
"Plenty," said Andy, "it's not every one is as ignorant as you."
Just at this moment a person to whom Andy was known entered the house, who vouched to the postmaster that he might give Andy the squire's letter. "Have you one for me?"
"Yes, sir," said the postmaster, producing one—"fourpence."
The gentleman paid the fourpence postage, and left the shop with his letter.
"Here's a letter for the squire," said the postmaster; "you've to pay me elevenpence postage."
"What 'ud I pay elevenpence for?"
"To the devil wid you! Didn't I see you give Mr. Durfy a letther for fourpence this minit, and a bigger letther than this? and now you want me to pay elevenpence for this scrap of a thing. Do you think I'm a fool?"
"No: but I'm sure of it," said the postmaster.
"Well you're welkum to be sure, sure;—but don't be delayin' me now: here's fourpence for you, and gi' me the letther."
"Go along, you stupid thief!" said the postmaster, taking up the letter, and going to serve a customer with a mouse-trap.
While this person, and many others were served, Andy lounged up and down the shop, every now and then putting in his head in the middle of the customers, and saying, "Will you gi' me the letther?"
He waited for above half an hour, in defiance of the anathemas of the postmaster, and at last left, when he found it impossible to get common justice for his master, which he thought he deserved as well as another man; for, under this impression, Andy determined to give no more than the fourpence.
The squire in the meantime was getting impatient for his return, and when Andy made his appearance, asked if there was a letter for him.
"There is, sir," said Andy.
"Then give it to me."
"I haven't it, sir."
"What do you mean?"
"He wouldn't give it to me, sir."
"Who wouldn't give it you?"
"That owld chate beyant in the town—wanting to charge me double for it."
"Maybe it's a double letter. Why the devil didn't you pay what he asked, sir?"
"Arrah, sir, why would I let you be chated? It's not a double letther at all: not above half the size o' one Mr. Durfy got before my face for fourpence."
"You'll provoke me to break your neck some day, you vagabond! Ride back for your life, you omadhaun; and pay whatever he asks, and get me the letter."
"Why, sir, I tell you he was sellin' them before my face for fourpence a-piece."
"Go back, you scoundrel! or I'll horsewhip you; and if you're longer than an hour, I'll have you ducked in the horse-pond!"
Andy vanished, and made a second visit to the post-office. When he arrived, two other persons were getting letters, and the postmaster was selecting the epistles for each, from a large parcel that lay before him on the counter; at the same time many shop customers were waiting to be served.
"I'm come for that letther," said Andy.
"I'll attend to you by-and-by."
"The masther's in a hurry."
"Let him wait till his hurry's over."
"He'll murther me if I'm not back soon."
"I'm glad to hear it."
While the postmaster went on with such provoking answers to these appeals for dispatch, Andy's eye caught the heap of letters which lay on the counter: so while certain weighing of soap and tobacco was going forward, he contrived to become possessed of two letters from the heap, and, having effected that, waited patiently enough till it was the great man's pleasure to give him the missive directed to his master.
Then did Andy bestride his hack, and in triumph at his trick on the postmaster, rattled along the road homeward as fast as the beast could carry him. He came into the squire's presence, his face beaming with delight, and an air of self-satisfied superiority in his manner, quite unaccountable to his master, until he pulled forth his hand, which had been grubbing up his prizes from the bottom of his pocket; and holding three letters over his head, while he said, "Look at that!" he next slapped them down under his broad fist on the table before the squire, saying—
"Well! if he did make me pay elevenpence, by gor, I brought your honour the worth o' your money anyhow!"
Andy walked out of the room with an air of supreme triumph, having laid the letters on the table, and left the squire staring after him in perfect amazement.
"Well, by the powers! that's the most extraordinary genius I ever came across," was the soliloquy the master uttered as the servant closed the door after him; and the squire broke the seal of the letter that Andy's blundering had so long delayed. It was from his law-agent on the subject of an expected election in the county, which would occur in case of the demise of the then sitting member;—it ran thus:
"My dear Squire,—I am making all possible exertions to have every and the earliest information on the subject of the election. I say the election,—because, though the seat of the county is not yet vacant, it is impossible but that it must soon be so. Any other man than the present member must have died long ago; but Sir Timothy Trimmer has been so undecided all his life that he cannot at present make up his mind to die; and it is only by Death himself giving the casting vote that the question can be decided. The writ for the vacant county is expected to arrive by every mail, and in the meantime I am on the alert for information. You know we are sure of the barony of Ballysloughgutthery, and the boys of Killanmaul will murder any one that dares to give a vote against you. We are sure of Knockdoughty also, and the very pigs in Glanamuck would return you; but I must put you on your guard on one point where you least expected to be betrayed. You told me you were sure of Neck-or-nothing Hall; but I can tell you you're out there; for the master of the aforesaid is working heaven, earth, ocean, and all the little fishes, in the other interest; for he is so over head and ears in debt, that he is looking out for a pension, and hopes to get one by giving his interest to the Honourable Sackville Scatterbrain, who sits for the Borough of Old Goosebery at present, but whose friends think his talents are worthy of a county. If Sack wins, Neck-or-nothing gets a pension—that's poz. I had it from the best authority. I lodge at a milliner's here:—no matter; more when I see you. But don't be afraid; we'll bag Sack, and distance Neck-or-nothing. But, seriously speaking, it's too good a joke that O'Grady should use you in this manner, who have been so kind to him in money matters: but, as the old song says, 'Poverty parts good company;' and he is so cursed poor that he can't afford to know you any longer, now that you have lent him all the money you had, and the pension in prospectu is too much for his feelings. I'll be down with you again as soon as I can, for I hate the diabolical town as I do poison. They have altered Stephen's Green—ruined it I should say. They have taken away the big ditch that was round it, where I used to hunt water-rats when a boy. They are destroying the place with their d——d improvements. All the dogs are well, I hope, and my favourite bitch. Remember me to Mrs. Egan, whom all admire.
"My dear squire, yours per quire,
"To Edward Egan, Esq., Merryvale."
Murtough Murphy was a great character, as may be guessed from his letter. He was a country attorney of good practice; good, because he could not help it—for he was a clever, ready-witted fellow, up to all sorts of trap, and one in whose hands a cause was very safe; therefore he had plenty of clients without his seeking them. For if Murtough's practice had depended on his looking for it, he might have made broth of his own parchment; for though to all intents and purposes a good attorney, he was so full of fun and fond of amusement, that it was only by dint of the business being thrust upon him he was so extensive a practitioner. He loved a good bottle, a good hunt, a good joke, and a good song, as well as any fellow in Ireland: and even when he was obliged in the way of business to press a gentleman hard—to hunt his man to the death—he did it so good-humouredly that his very victim could not be angry with him. As for those he served, he was their prime favourite; there was nothing they could want to be done in the parchment line, that Murtough would not find out some way of doing; and he was so pleasant a fellow, that he shared in the hospitality of all the best tables in the county. He kept good horses, was on every race-ground within twenty miles, and a steeple-chase was no steeple-chase without him. Then he betted freely, and, what's more, won his bets very generally; but no one found fault with him for that, and he took your money with such a good grace, and mostly gave you a bon mot in exchange for it—so that, next to winning the money yourself, you were glad it was won by Murtough Murphy.
The squire read his letter two or three times, and made his comments as he proceeded. "'Working heaven and earth to'—ha!—so that's the work O'Grady's at—that's old friendship,—foul!—foul! and after all the money I lent him, too;—he'd better take care—I'll be down on him if he plays false;—not that I'd like that much either:—but—let's see who's this coming down to oppose me?—Sack Scatterbrain—the biggest fool from this to himself;—the fellow can't ride a bit,—a pretty member for a sporting county! 'I lodge at a milliner's'—divil doubt you, Murtough; I'll engage you do. Bad luck to him!—he'd rather be fooling away his time in a back parlour, behind a bonnet shop, than minding the interests of the county. 'Pension'—ha!—wants it sure enough;—take care, O'Grady, or, by the powers, I'll be at you. You may baulk all the bailiffs, and defy any other man to serve you with a writ; but, by jingo! if I take the matter in hand, I'll be bound I'll get it done. 'Stephen's Green—big ditch—where I used to hunt water-rats.' Divil sweep you, Murphy, you'd rather be hunting water-rats any day than minding your business. He's a clever fellow for all that. 'Favourite bitch—Mrs. Egan.'—Aye! there's the end of it—with his bit o' po'thry, too! The divil!"
The squire threw down the letter, and then his eye caught the other two that Andy had purloined.
"More of that stupid blackguard's work!—robbing the mail—no less!—that fellow will be hanged some time or other. Egad, may be they'll hang him for this! What's best to be done? May be it will be the safest way to see whom they are for, and send them to the parties, and request they will say nothing: that's it."
The squire here took up the letters that lay before him, to read their superscriptions; and the first he turned over was directed to Gustavus Granby O'Grady, Esq., Neck-or-nothing Hall, Knockbotherum. This was what is called a curious coincidence. Just as he had been reading all about O'Grady's intended treachery to him, here was a letter to that individual, and with the Dublin post-mark too, and a very grand seal.
The squire examined the arms; and, though not versed in the mysteries of heraldry, he thought he remembered enough of most of the arms he had seen to say that this armorial bearing was a strange one to him. He turned the letter over and over again, and looked at it back and front, with an expression in his face that said, as plain as countenance could speak, "I'd give a trifle to know what is inside of this." He looked at the seal again: "Here's a—goose, I think it is, sitting on a bowl with cross-bars on it, and a spoon in its mouth: like the fellow that owns it, may be. A goose with a silver spoon in its mouth—well, here's the gable-end of a house, and a bird sitting on the top of it. Could it be Sparrow? There is a fellow called Sparrow, an under-secretary at the Castle. D——n it! I wish I knew what it's about."
The squire threw down the letter as he said, "D——n it!" but took it up again in a few seconds, and catching it edgewise between his forefinger and thumb, gave a gentle pressure that made the letter gape at its extremities, and then, exercising that sidelong glance which is peculiar to postmasters, waiting-maids, and magpies who inspect marrowbones, peeped into the interior of the epistle, saying to himself as he did so, "All's fair in war, and why not in electioneering?" His face, which was screwed up to the scrutinising pucker, gradually lengthened as he caught some words that were on the last turn-over of the sheet, and so could be read thoroughly, and his brow darkened into the deepest frown as he scanned these lines: "As you very properly and pungently remark, poor Egan is a spoon—a mere spoon." "Am I a spoon, you rascal?" said the squire, tearing the letter into pieces, and throwing it into the fire. "And so, Misther O'Grady, you say I'm a spoon!" and the blood of the Egans rose as the head of that pugnacious family strode up and down the room: "I'll spoon you, my buck!—I'll settle your hash! may be I'm a spoon you'll sup sorrow with yet!"
Here he took up the poker, and made a very angry lunge at the fire that did not want stirring, and there he beheld the letter blazing merrily away. He dropped the poker as if he had caught it by the hot end, as he exclaimed, "What the d——l shall I do? I've burnt the letter!" This threw the squire into a fit of what he was wont to call his "considering cap;" and he sat with his feet on the fender for some minutes, occasionally muttering to himself what he began with,—"What the d——l shall I do? It's all owing to that infernal Andy—I'll murder that fellow some time or other. If he hadn't brought it—I shouldn't have seen it, to be sure, if I hadn't looked; but then the temptation—a saint couldn't have withstood it. Confound it! what a stupid trick to burn it! Another here, too—must burn that as well, and say nothing about either of them:" and he took up the second letter, and, merely looking at the address, threw it into the fire. He then rang the bell, and desired Andy to be sent to him. As soon as that ingenious individual made his appearance, the squire desired him, with peculiar emphasis, to shut the door, and then opened upon him with—
"You unfortunate rascal!"
"Yis, your honour."
"Do you know that you might be hanged for what you did to-day?"
"What did I do, sir?"
"You robbed the post-office."
"How did I rob it, sir?"
"You took two letters that you had no right to."
"It's no robbery for a man to get the worth of his money."
"Will you hold your tongue, you stupid villain! I'm not joking: you absolutely might be hanged for robbing the post-office."
"Sure I didn't know there was any harm in what I done; and for that matther sure, if they're sitch wonderful value, can't I go back again wid 'em?"
"No, you thief! I hope you've not said a word to any one about it."
"Not the sign of a word passed my lips about it."
"Take care, then, that you never open your mouth to mortal about it, or you'll be hanged, as sure as your name is Andy Rooney."
"Oh! at that rate I never will. But may be your honour thinks I ought to be hanged?"
"No,—because you did not intend to do a wrong thing; but, only I have pity on you, I could hang you to-morrow for what you have done."
"Thank you, sir."
"I've burnt the letters, so no one can know anything about the business unless you tell on yourself: so remember,—not a word."
"Faith, I'll be dumb as the dumb baste."
"Go now; and once for all, remember you'll be hanged so sure as you ever mention one word about this affair."
Andy made a bow and a scrape, and left the squire, who hoped the secret was safe. He then took a ruminating walk round the pleasure-grounds, revolving plans of retaliation upon his false friend O'Grady; and having determined to put the most severe and sudden measure of the law in force against him, for the money in which he was indebted to him, he only awaited the arrival of Murtough Murphy from Dublin to execute his vengeance. Having settled this in his own mind, he became more contented, and said, with a self-satisfied nod of the head, "We'll see who's the spoon."
In a few days Murtough Murphy returned from Dublin, and to Merryvale he immediately proceeded. The squire opened to him directly his intention of commencing hostile law proceedings against O'Grady, and asked what most summary measures could be put in practice against him.
"Oh! various, various, my dear squire," said Murphy; "but I don't see any great use in doing so yet—he has not openly avowed himself."
"But does he not intend to coalesce with the order party?"
"I believe so—that is, if he's to get the pension."
"Well, and that's as good as done, you know; for if they want him, the pension is easily managed."
"I am not so sure of that."
"Why, they're as plenty as blackberries."
"Very true; but, you see, Lord Gobblestown swallows all the pensions for his own family; and there are a great many complaints in the market against him for plucking that blackberry-bush very bare indeed; and unless Sack Scatterbrain has swingeing interest, the pension may not be such an easy thing."
"But still O'Grady has shown himself not my friend."
"My dear squire, don't be so hot; he has not shown himself yet."
"Well, but he means it."
"My dear squire, you oughtn't to jump at a conclusion as you would at a twelve-foot drain or a five-bar gate."
"Well, he's a blackguard!"
"No denying it; and therefore keep him on your side if you can, or he'll be a troublesome customer on the other."
"I'll keep no terms with him;—I'll slap at him directly. What can you do that's wickedest?—latitat, capias—fee-faw-fum, or whatever you call it?"
"Halloo! squire, your overrunning your game: may be after all, he won't join the Scatterbrains, and——"
"I tell you it's no matter; he intended doing it, and that's all the same. I'll slap at him—I'll blister him!"
Murtough Murphy wondered at this blind fury of the squire, who, being a good-humoured and good-natured fellow in general, puzzled the attorney the more by his present manifest malignity against O'Grady. But he had not seen the turn-over of the letter: he had not seen "spoon,"—the real and secret cause of the "war-to-the-knife" spirit which was kindled in the squire's breast.
"Of course, you can do what you please; but, if you'd take a friend's advice——"
"I tell you I'll blister him."
"He certainly bled you very freely."
"I'll blister him, I tell you, and that smart. Lose no time, Murphy, my boy: let loose the dogs of law on him, and harass him till he'd wish the d——l had him."
"Just as you like, but——"
"I'll have it my own way, I tell you; so say no more."
"I'll commence against him at once, then, as you wish it; but it's no use, for you know very well that it will be impossible to serve him."
"Let me alone for that! I'll be bound I'll find fellows to get the inside of him."
"Why, his house is barricaded like a jail, and he has dogs enough to bait all the bulls in the country."
"No matter: just send me the blister for him, and I'll engage I'll stick it on him."
"Very well, squire; you shall have the blister as soon as it can be got ready. I'll tell you when you may send over to me for it, and your messenger shall have it hot and warm for him. Good bye, squire."
"Good bye, Murphy!—lose no time."
"In the twinkling of a bedpost. Are you going to Tom Durfy's steeple-chase?"
"I'm not sure."
"I've a bet on it. Did you see the widow Flannagan lately? You didn't? They say Tom's pushing it strong there. The widow has money, you know, and Tom does it all for the love o' God; for you know, squire, there are two things God hates—a coward and a poor man. Now, Tom's no coward; and, that he may be sure of the love o' God on the other score, he's making up to the widow; and as he's a slashing fellow, she's nothing loth, and, for fear of any one cutting him out, Tom keeps as sharp a lookout after her as she does after him. He's fierce on it, and looks pistols at any one that attempts putting his comether on the widow, while she looks 'as soon as you plaze,' as plain as an optical lecture can enlighten the heart of man: in short, Tom's all ram's horns, and the widow all sheep's eyes. Good bye, squire." And Murtough put his spurs to his horse, and cantered down the avenue, whistling the last popular tune.
Andy was sent over to Murtough Murphy's for the law process at the appointed time; and as he had to pass through the village, Mrs. Egan desired him to call at the apothecary's for some medicine that was prescribed for one of the children.
"What'll I ax for, ma'am?"
"I'd be sorry to trust to you, Andy, for remembering. Here's the prescription; take care of it, and Mr. M'Garry will give you something to bring back; and mind, if it's a powder——"
"Is it gunpowdher, ma'am?"
"No—you stupid—will you listen? I say, if it's a powder, don't let it get wet as you did the sugar the other day."
"And if it's a bottle, don't break it, as you did the last."
"And make haste."
"Yis, ma'am;" and off went Andy.
In going through the village, he forgot to leave the prescription at the apothecary's and pushed on for the attorney's: there he saw Murtough Murphy, who handed him the law process, inclosed in a cover, with a note to the squire.
"Have you been doing anything very clever lately, Andy?" said Murtough.
"I don't know, sir," said Andy.
"Did you shoot any one with soda-water since I saw you last?"
"Did you kill any more dogs lately, Andy?"
"Faix, you're too hard on me, sir; sure I never killed but one dog, and that was an accident——"
"An accident!—curse your impudence, you thief! Do you think, if you killed one of the pack on purpose, we wouldn't cut the very heart o' you with our hunting whips?"
"Faith, I wouldn't doubt you, sir; but, sure, how could I help that divil of a mare runnin' away wid me, and thramplin' the dogs?"
"Why didn't you hold her, you thief?"
"Hould her, indeed!—you just might as well expect to stop fire among flax as that one."
"Well, be off with you now, Andy, and take care of what I gave you for the squire."
"Oh, never fear, sir," said Andy, as he turned his horse's head homewards. He stopped at the apothecary's in the village, to execute his commission for the "misthis." On telling the son of Galen that he wanted some physic "for one o' the childre up at the big house," the dispenser of the healing art asked what physic he wanted.
"Faith, I dunna what physic."
"What's the matter with the child?"
"He's sick, sir."
"I suppose so, indeed, or you wouldn't be sent for medicine, you're always making some blunder. You come here, and don't know what description of medicine is wanted."
"Don't I?" said Andy, with a great air.
"No, you don't, you omadhaun!" said the apothecary.
Andy fumbled in his pockets, and could not lay hold of the paper his mistress entrusted him with, until he had emptied them thoroughly of their contents upon the counter of the shop; and then, taking the prescription from the collection, he said, "So you tell me I don't know the description of the physic I'm to get. Now, you see, you're out; for that's the description!" and he slapped the counter impressively with his hand as he threw down the recipe before the apothecary.
While the medicine was in the course of preparation for Andy, he commenced restoring to his pockets the various parcels he had taken from them in hunting for the recipe. Now, it happened that he had laid them down close beside some articles that were compounded, and sealed up for going out, on the apothecary's counter: and as the law process which Andy had received from Murtough Murphy chanced to resemble in form another inclosure that lay beside it, containing a blister, Andy, under the influence of his peculiar genius, popped the blister into his pocket instead of the package which had been confided to him by the attorney, and having obtained the necessary medicine from M'Garry, rode home with great self-complacency that he had not forgot to do a single thing that had been entrusted to him. "I'm all right this time," said Andy to himself.
Scarcely had he left the apothecary's when another messenger alighted at its door, and asked "If Squire O'Grady's things was ready?"
"There they are," said the innocent M'Garry, pointing to the bottles, boxes, and blister, he had made up and set aside, little dreaming that the blister had been exchanged for a law process: and Squire O'Grady's own messenger popped into his pocket the legal instrument that it was as much as any seven men's lives were worth to bring within gunshot of Neck-or-nothing Hall.
Home he went, and the sound of the old gate creaking on its hinges at the entrance of the avenue awoke the deep-mouthed dogs around the house, who rushed infuriate to the spot to devour the unholy intruder on the peace and privacy of the patrician O'Grady; but they recognised the old grey hack and his rider, and quietly wagged their tails and trotted back, and licked their lips at the thoughts of the bailiff they had hoped to eat. The door of Neck-or-nothing Hall was carefully unbarred and unchained, and the nurse-tender was handed the parcel from the apothecary's, and re-ascended to the sick room with slippered foot as quietly as she could; for the renowned O'Grady was, according to her account, "as cross as two sticks;" and she protested, furthermore, "that her heart was grey with him."
Whenever O'Grady was in a bad humour, he had a strange fashion of catching at some word that either he himself, or those with whom he spoke, had uttered, and after often repeating it, or rather mumbling it over in his mouth, as if he were chewing it, off he started into a canter of ridiculous rhymes to the aforesaid word, and sometimes one of these rhymes would suggest a new idea, or some strange association which had the oddest effect possible; and to increase the absurdity, the jingle was gone through with as much solemnity as if he were indulging in a deep and interesting reverie, so that it was difficult to listen without laughing, which might prove a serious matter when O'Grady was in one of the tantarums, as his wife used to call them.
Mrs. O'Grady was near the bed of the sick man as the nurse-tender entered.
"Here's the things for your honour, now," said she, in her most soothing tone.
"I wish the d——l had you and them!" said O'Grady.
"Gusty, dear!" said his wife. (She might have said stormy instead of gusty.)
"Oh! they'll do you good, your honour," said the nurse-tender, curtsying, and uncorking bottles, and opening a pill-box.
O'Grady made a face at the pill-box, and repeated the word "pills" several times, with an expression of extreme disgust. "Pills—pills—kills—wills—ay—make your wills—make them—take them—shake them. When taken—to be well shaken—shew me that bottle."
The nurse-tender handed a phial, which O'Grady shook violently.
"Curse them all!" said the squire. "A pretty thing to have a gentleman's body made a perfect sink, for these blackguard doctors and apothecaries to pour their dirty drugs into—faugh! drugs—mugs—jugs!" he shook the phial again, and looked through it.
"Isn't it nice and pink, darlin'?" said the nurse-tender.
"Pink!" said O'Grady eying her askance, as if he could have eaten her. "Pink, you old besom, pink"—he uncorked the phial, and put it to his nose. "Pink—phew—!" and he repeated a rhyme to pink which would not look well in print.
"Now, sir, dear, there's a little blisther just to go on your chest—if you plaze."
"A warm plasther, dear."
"A blister you said, you old divil!"
"Well, sure its something to relieve you."
The squire gave a deep growl, and his wife put in the usual appeal of "Gusty, dear!"
"Hold you tongue, will you? How would you like it? I wish you had it on your——"
"Deed-an-deed, dear," said the nurse-tender.
"By the 'ternal war! if you say another word, I'll throw the jug at you!"
"And there's a nice dhrop o' gruel I have on the fire for you," said the nurse, pretending not to mind the rising anger of the squire, as she stirred the gruel with one hand, while with the other she marked herself with the sign of the cross, and said in a mumbling manner, "God presarve us! he's the most cantankerous Christian I ever kem across!"
"Shew me that infernal thing!" said the squire.
"What thing, dear?"
"You know well enough, you old hag!—that blackguard blister!"
"Here it is, dear. Now just open the burst o' your shirt, and let me put it an you."
"Give it into my hand here, and let me see it."
"Sartinly, sir;—but I think, if you'd let me just——"
"Give it to me, I tell you!" said the squire, in a tone so fierce that the nurse paused in her unfolding of the packet, and handed it with fear and trembling to the already indignant O'Grady. But it is only imagination can figure the outrageous fury of the squire when, on opening the envelope with his own hand, he beheld the law process before him. There, in the heart of his castle, with his bars, and bolts, and bull-dogs, and blunderbusses around him, he was served—absolutely served—and he had no doubt the nurse-tender was bribed to betray him.
A roar and a jump up in bed, first startled his wife into terror, and put the nurse on the defensive.
"You infernal old strap!" shouted he, as he clutched up a handful of bottles on the table near him and flung them at the nurse, who was near the fire at the time: and she whipped the pot of gruel from the grate, and converted it into a means of defence against the phial-pelting storm.
Mrs. O'Grady rolled herself up in the bed-curtains while the nurse screeched "Murther!" and at last, when O'Grady saw that bottles were of no avail, he scrambled out of bed, shouting, "Where's my blunderbuss?" and the nurse-tender, while he endeavoured to get it down from the rack where it was suspended over the mantel-piece, bolted out of the door and ran to the most remote corner of the house for shelter.
In the meantime, how fared it at Merryvale. Andy returned with his parcel for the squire, and his note from Murtough Murphy, which ran thus:—
* * * * *
"My Dear Squire,—I send you the blister for O'Grady as you insist on it; but I think you won't find it easy to serve him with it.—Your obedient and obliged,
"To Edward Egan, Esq., Merryvale."
* * * * *
The squire opened the cover, and when he saw a real instead of a figurative blister, grew crimson with rage. He could not speak for some minutes, his indignation was so excessive. "So," said he at last, "Mr. Murtough Murphy, you think to cut your jokes with me, do you? By all that's sacred, I'll cut such a joke on you with the biggest horsewhip I can find, that you'll remember it. 'Dear Squire, I send you the blister.' Bad luck to your impidence! Wait till awhile ago—that's all. By this and that, you'll get such a blistering from me, that all the spermaceti in M'Garry's shop won't cure you."
Squire Egan was as good as his word. He picked out the most suitable horsewhip for chastising the fancied impertinence of Murtough Murphy; and as he switched it up and down with a powerful arm, to try its weight and pliancy, the whistling of the instrument through the air was music to his ears, and whispered of promised joy in the flagellation of the jocular attorney.
"We'll see who can make the sorest blister," said the squire.
"I'll back whalebone against Spanish flies any day. Will you bet, Dick?" said he to his brother-in-law, who was a wild, helter-skelter sort of fellow, better known over the country as Dick the Divil than Dick Dawson.
"I'll back your bet, Ned."
"There's no fun in that, Dick, as there is nobody to take it up."
"May be Murtough will. Ask him before you thrash him: you'd better."
"As for him" said the squire, "I'll be bound he'll back my bet after he gets a taste o' this;" and the horsewhip whistled as he spoke.
"I think he had better take care of his back than his bet," said Dick as he followed the squire to the hall-door, where his horse was in waiting for him, under the care of the renowned Andy, who little dreamed of the extensive harvest of mischief which was ripening in futurity, all from his sowing.
"Don't kill him quite, Ned," said Dick, as the squire mounted to his saddle.
"Why, if I went to horsewhip a gentleman, of course I should only shake my whip at him; but an attorney is another affair. And, as I'm sure he'll have an action against me for assault, I think I may as well get the worth of my money out of him, to say nothing of teaching him better manners for the future than to play off his jokes on his employers." With these words off he rode in search of the devoted Murtough, who was not at home when the squire reached his house; but as he was returning through the village, he espied him coming down the street in company with Tom Durfy and the widow, who were laughing heartily at some joke Murtough was telling them, which seemed to amuse him as much as his hearers.
"I'll make him laugh at the wrong side of his mouth," thought the squire, alighting and giving his horse to the care of one of the little ragged boys who were idling in the street. He approached Murphy with a very threatening aspect, and confronting him and his party so as to produce a halt, he said, as distinctly as his rage would permit him to speak, "You little insignificant blackguard, I'll teach you how you'll cut your jokes on me again; I'll blister you, my buck!" and laying hands on the astonished Murtough with the last word, he began a very smart horsewhipping of the attorney. The widow screamed, Tom Durfy swore, and Murtough roared, with some interjectional curses. At last he escaped from the squire's grip, leaving the lappel of his coat in his possession; and Tom Durfy interposed his person between them when he saw an intention on the part of the flagellator to repeat his dose of horsewhip.
"Let me at him, sir, or by——"
"Fie, fie, squire!—to horsewhip a gentleman like a cart-horse."
"A gentleman!—an attorney you mean."
"I say a gentleman, Squire Egan," cried Murtough fiercely, roused to gallantry by the presence of a lady, and smarting under a sense of injury and whalebone. "I'm a gentleman, sir, and demand thesatisfaction of a gentleman. I put my honour into your hands, Mr. Durfy."
"Between his finger and thumb, you mean, for there's not a handful of it," said the squire.
"Well, sir," replied Tom Durfy, "little or much, I'll take charge of it. That's right, my cock," said he to Murtough, who notwithstanding his desire to assume a warlike air, could not resist the natural impulse of rubbing his back and shoulders which tingled with pain, while he exclaimed, "Satisfaction! satisfaction!"
"Very well," said the squire, "you name yourself as Mr. Murphy's friend?" added he to Durfy.
"The same, sir," said Tom. "Whom do you name as yours?"
"I suppose you know one Dick the Divil?"
"A very proper person, sir;—no better: I'll go to him directly."
The widow clung to Tom's arm, and looking tenderly at him, cried, "Oh, Tom, Tom, take care of your precious life!"
"Bother!" said Tom.
"Ah, Squire Egan, don't be so bloodthirsty!"
"Fudge, woman!" said the squire.
"Ah, Mr. Murphy, I'm sure the squire's very sorry for beating you."
"Divil a bit," said the squire.
"There, ma'am," said Murphy, "you see he'll make no apology."
"Apology!" said Durfy, "apology for a horsewhipping, indeed! Nothing but handing a horsewhip (which I wouldn't ask any gentleman to do), or a shot, can settle the matter."
"Oh, Tom! Tom! Tom!" said the widow.
"Ba! ba! ba!" shouted Tom, making a crying face at her. "Arrah, woman, don't be making a fool of yourself. Go in to the 'pothecary's, and get something under your nose to revive you: and let us mind our own business."
The widow with her eyes turned up, and an exclamation to Heaven, was retiring to M'Garry's shop, wringing her hands, when she was nearly knocked down by M'Garry himself, who rushed from his own door, at the same moment that an awful smash of his shop-window and the demolition of his blue and red bottles alarmed the ears of the bystanders, while their eyes were drawn from the late belligerent parties to a chase which took place down the street of the apothecary, roaring "Murder!" followed by Squire O'Grady with an enormous cudgel.
O'Grady, believing that M'Garry and the nurse-tender had combined to serve him with a writ, determined to wreak double vengeance on the apothecary, as the nurse had escaped him; and, notwithstanding all his illness and the appeals of his wife, he left his bed and rode to the village, to "break every bone in M'Garry's skin." When he entered the shop, the pharmacopolist was much surprised, and said, with a congratulatory grin at the great man, "Dear me, Squire O'Grady, I'm delighted to see you."
"Are you, you scoundrel!" said the squire, making a blow of his cudgel at him, which was fended off by an iron pestle the apothecary fortunately had in his hand. The enraged O'Grady made a rush behind the counter, which the apothecary nimbly jumped over, crying, "Murder!" as he made for the door, followed by his pursuer, who gave a back-handed slap at the window-bottles en passant, and produced the crash which astonished the widow, who now joined her screams to the general hue and cry; for an indiscriminate chase of all the ragamuffins in the town, with barking curs and screeching children, followed the flight of M'Garry and the pursuing squire.
"What the divil is all this about?" said Tom Durfy, laughing. "By the powers! I suppose there's something in the weather to produce all this fun—though it's early in the year to begin thrashing, for the harvest isn't in yet. But, however, let us manage our little affair, now that we're left in peace and quietness, for the blackguards are all over the bridge after the hunt. I'll go to Dick the Divil immediately, squire, and arrange time and place."
"There's nothing like saving time and trouble on these occasions," said the squire. "Dick is at my house, I can arrange time and place with you this minute, and he will be on the ground with me."
"Very well," said Tom; "where is it to be?"
"Suppose we say the cross-roads, halfway between this and Merryvale? There's very pretty ground there, and we shall be able to get our pistols and all that ready in the meantime between this and four o'clock—and it will be pleasanter to have it all over before dinner."
"Certainly, squire," said Tom Durfy; "we'll be there at four. Till then, good morning, squire;" and he and his man walked off.
The widow, in the meantime, had been left to the care of theapothecary's boy, whose tender mercies were now, for the first time in his life, demanded towards a fainting lady; for the poor raw country lad, having to do with a sturdy peasantry in every-day matters, had never before seen the capers cut by a lady who thinks it proper, and delicate, and becoming, to display her sensibility in a swoon; and truly her sobs, and small screeches, and little stampings and kickings, amazed young gallipot. Smelling salts were applied;—they were rather weak, so the widow inhaled the pleasing odour with a sigh, but did not recover. Sal volatile was next put into requisition;—this was something stronger, and made her wriggle on her chair, and throw her head about with sundry "Ohs!" and "Ahs!" The boy, beginning to be alarmed at the extent of the widow's syncope, bethought himself of assafoetida; and, taking down a goodly bottle of that sweet-smelling stimulant, gave the widow the benefit of the whole jar under her nose. Scarcely had the stopper been withdrawn, when she gave a louder screech than she had yet executed, and exclaiming "Faugh!" with an expression of the most concentrated disgust, opened her eyes fiercely upon the offender, and shut up her nose between her forefinger and thumb against the offence, and snuffled forth at the astonished boy, "Get out o' that, you dirty cur! Can't you let a lady faint in peace and quietness? Gracious Heavens! would you smother me, you nasty brute? Oh, Tom, where are you?" and she took to sobbing forth "Tom! Tom!" and put her handkerchief to her eyes, to hide the tears that were not there, while from behind the corner of the cambric she kept a sharp eye on the street, and observed what was going on. She went on acting her part very becomingly, until the moment Tom Durfy walked off with Murphy; but then she could feign no longer, and jumping up from her seat, with an exclamation of "The brute!" she ran to the door, and looked down the street after them. "The savage!" sobbed the widow; "the hardhearted monster! to abandon me here to die—oh! to use me so—to leave me like a—like a"—(the widow was fond of similes)—"like an old shoe—like a dirty glove—like a—like I don't know what!" (the usual fate of similes). "Mister Durfy, I'll punish you for this—I will!" said the widow, with an energetic emphasis on the last word; and she marched out of the shop, boiling over with indignation, through which nevertheless, a little bubble of love now and then rose to the surface; and by the time she reached her own door, love predominated, and she sighed as she laid her hand on the knocker: "After all, if the dear fellow should be killed, what would become of me!—oh!—and that wretch, Dick Dawson, too—two of them. The worst of these merry devils is they are always fighting."
The squire had ridden immediately homewards, and told Dick Dawson the piece of work that was before them.
"And so he will have a shot at you, instead of an action?" said Dick. "Well there's pluck in that: I wish he was more of a gentleman, for your sake. It's dirty work, shooting attorneys."
"He's enough of a gentleman, Dick, to make it impossible for me to refuse him."
"Certainly, Ned," said Dick.
"Do you know, is he anything of a shot?"
"Faith, he makes very pretty snipe shooting; but I don't know if he has experience of the grass before breakfast."
"You must try and find out from some one on the ground; because, if the poor divil isn't a good shot, I wouldn't like to kill him, and I'll let him off easy—I'll give it to him in the pistol-arm, or so."
"Very well, Ned. Where are the flutes? I must look over them."
"Here," said the squire, producing a very handsome mahogany case of Rigby's best. Dick opened the case with the utmost care, and took up one of the pistols tenderly, handling it as delicately as if it were a young child or a lady's hand. He clicked the lock back and forward a few times; and, his ear not being satisfied at the music it produced, he said he should like to examine them: "At all events they want a touch of oil."
"Well, keep them out of the misthriss' sight, Dick, for she might be alarmed."
"Divil a taste," says Dick; "she's a Dawson, and there never was a Dawson yet that did not know men must be men."
"That's true, Dick. I would not mind so much if she wasn't in a delicate situation just now, when it couldn't be expected of the woman to be so stout; so go, like a good fellow, into your own room, and Andy will bring you anything you want."
Five minutes after, Dick was engaged in cleaning the duelling pistols, and Andy at his elbow, with his mouth wide open, wondering at the interior of the locks which Dick had just taken off.
"Oh, my heavens! but that's a quare thing, Misther Dick, sir," said Andy, going to take it up.
"Keep your fingers off it, you thief, do!" roared Dick, making a rap of the turnscrew at Andy's knuckles.
"Shure, I'll save you the trouble o' rubbin' that, Misther Dick, if you let me; here's the shabby leather."
"I wouldn't let your clumsy fist near it, Andy, nor your shabby leather, you villain, for the world. Go get me some oil."
Andy went on his errand, and returned with a can of lamp-oil to Dick, who swore at him for his stupidity; "The divil fly away with you!—you never do anything right; you bring me lamp-oil for a pistol."
"Well, sure I thought lamp-oil was the right thing for burnin'."
"And who wants to burn it, you savage?"
"Aren't you going to fire it, sir?"
"Choke you, you vagabond," said Dick, who could not resist laughing, nevertheless; "be off, and get me some sweet oil; but don't tell any one what it's for."
Andy retired, and Dick pursued his polishing of the locks. Why he used such a blundering fellow as Andy for a messenger might be wondered at, only that Dick was fond of fun, and Andy's mistakes were a particular source of amusement to him, and on all occasions when he could have Andy in his company he made him his attendant. When the sweet oil was produced, Dick looked about for a feather; but, not finding one, desired Andy to fetch him a pen. Andy went on his errand, and returned, after some delay, with an ink bottle.
"I brought you the ink, sir; but I can't find a pin."
"Confound your numskull! I didn't say a word about ink—I asked for a pen."
"And what use would a pin be without ink, now I ax yourself, Misther Dick?"
"I'd knock your brains out if you had any, you omadhaun! Go along, and get me a feather, and make haste."
Andy went off, and having obtained a feather, returned to Dick, who began to tip certain portions of the lock very delicately with oil.
"What's that for, Misther Dick, sir, if you plaze?"
"To make it work smooth."
"And what's that thing you're grazin' now, sir?"
"That's the tumbler."
"O Lord! a tumbler—what a quare name for it. I thought there was no tumbler but a tumbler for punch."
"That's the tumbler you would like to be cleaning the inside of, Andy."
"Thrue for you, sir. And what's that little thing you have your hand on now, sir?"
"That's the cock."
"Oh, dear, a cock! Is there e'er a hin in it, sir?"
"No, nor a chicken either, though there is a feather."
"The one in your hand, sir, that you're grazin' it with?"
"No: but this little thing—that is called the feather-spring."
"It's the feather, I suppose, makes it let fly."
"No doubt of it, Andy."
"Well, there's some sinse in that name, then; but who'd think of sich a thing as a tumbler and a cock in a pistle? And what's that place that open and shuts, sir?"
"Well, there's sinse in that name too, bekase there's fire in the thing; and it's as nath'ral to say pan to that as to a fryin'-pan—isn't it, Misther Dick?"
"Oh! there was a great gunmaker lost in you, Andy," said Dick, as he screwed on the locks, which he had regulated to his mind, and began to examine the various departments of the pistol-case, to see that it was properly provided. He took the instrument to cut some circles of thin leather, and Andy again asked him for the name o' that thing?
"This is called the punch, Andy."
"So there is the punch as well as the tumbler, sir."
"Ay, and very strong punch it is, you see, Andy;" and Dick, struck it with his little mahogany mallet, and cut his patches of leather.
"And what's that for, sir?—the leather I mane."
"That's for putting round the ball."
"Is it for fear 't would hurt him too much when you shot him."
"You're a queer customer, Andy," said Dick, smiling.
"And what weeshee little balls thim is, sir."
"They are always small for duelling-pistols."
"Oh, then thim is jewellin' pistles. Why, musha, Misther Dick, is it goin' to fight a jule you are?" said Andy, looking at him with earnestness.
"No, Andy, but the master is; but don't say a word about it."
"Not a word for the world. The masther's goin' to fight! God send him safe out iv it! amin. And who is he going to fight, Misther Dick?"
"Murphy, the attorney, Andy."
"Oh, won't the masther disgrace himself by fightin' the 'torney?"
"How dare you say such a thing of your master?"
"I ax your pard'n, Misther Dick: but sure you know what I mane. I hope he'll shoot him."
"Why, Andy, Murtough was always very good to you, and now you wish him to be shot."
"Sure, why wouldn't I rather have him kilt more than the masther?"
"But neither may be killed."
"Misther Dick," said Andy, lowering his voice, "wouldn't it be an iligant thing to put two balls into the pistle instead o' one, and give the masther a chance over the 'torney?"
"Oh, you murdherous villain!"
"Arrah! why shouldn't the masther have a chance over him!—sure he has childre, and 'Torney Murphy has none."
"At any rate, Andy, I suppose you'd give the masther a ball additional for every child he has, and that would make eight. So you might as well give him a blunderbuss and slugs at once."
Dick loaded the pistol-case, having made all right, and desired Andy to mount a horse, carry it by a back road out of the demesne, and wait at a certain gate he named until he should be joined there by himself and the squire, who proceeded at the appointed time to the ground.
Andy was all ready, and followed his master and Dick with great pride, bearing the pistol-case after them to the ground, where Murphy and Tom Durfy were ready to receive them; and a great number of spectators were assembled, for the noise of the business had gone abroad, and the ground was in consequence crowded.
Tom Durfy had warned Murtough Murphy, who had no experience as a pistol man, that the squire was a capital shot, and that his only chance was to fire as quickly as he could. "Slap at him, Morty, my boy, the minute you get the word; and if you don't hit him itself, it will prevent his dwelling on his aim."
Tom Durfy and Dick the Devil soon settled the preliminaries of the ground and mode of firing, and twelve paces having been marked, both the seconds opened their pistol-cases and prepared to load. Andy was close to Dick all the time, kneeling beside the pistol-case, which lay on the sod; and as Dick turned round to settle some other point on which Tom Durfy questioned him, Andy thought he might snatch the opportunity of giving his master "the chance" he suggested to his second. "Sure, if Misther Dick wouldn't like to do it, that's no raison I wouldn't," said Andy to himself, "and, by the powers! I'll pop in a ball onknownst to him." And, sure enough, Andy contrived, while the seconds were engaged with each other, to put a ball into each pistol before the barrel was loaded with powder, so that when Dick took up his pistols to load, a bullet lay between the powder and the touch-hole. Now, this must have been discovered by Dick, had he been cool: but he and Tom Durfy had wrangled very much about the point they had been discussing, and Dick, at no time the quietest person in the world, was in such a rage that the pistols were loaded by him without noticing Andy's ingenious interference, and he handed a harmless weapon to his brother-in-law when he placed him on his ground.
The word was given. Murtough, following his friend's advice, fired instantly—bang he went, while the squire returned but a flash in the pan. He turned a look of reproach upon Dick, who took the pistol silently from him, and handed him the other, having carefully looked to the priming after the accident which happened to the first.
Durfy handed his man another pistol also; and before he left his side, said in a whisper, "Don't forget—have the first fire."
Again the word was given. Murphy blazed away a rapid and harmless shot; for his hurry was the squire's safety, while Andy's murderous intentions were his salvation.
"D——n the pistol!" said the squire, throwing it down in a rage. Dick took it up with manifest indignation, and d——d the powder.
"Your powder's damp, Ned."
"No, it's not," said the squire, "it's you who have bungled the loading."
"Me!" said Dick, with a look of mingled rage and astonishment. "I bungle the loading of pistols! I, that have stepped more ground and arranged more affairs than any man in the country! Arrah, be aisy, Ned!"
Tom Durfy now interfered, and said for the present it was no matter, as, on the part of his friend, he begged to express himself satisfied.
"But it's very hard we're not to have a shot," said Dick, poking the touch-hole of the pistol with a pricker, which he had just taken from the case which Andy was holding before him.
"Why, my dear Dick," said Durfy, "as Murphy has had two shots, and the squire has not had the return of either, he declares he will not fire at him again; and, under these circumstances, I must take my man off the ground."
"Very well," said Dick, still poking the touch-hole, and examining the point of the pricker as he withdrew it.
"And now Murphy wants to know, since the affair is all over and his honour satisfied, what was your brother-in-law's motive in assaulting him this morning, for he himself cannot conceive a cause for it."
"Oh, be aisy, Tom."
"'Pon my soul it's true!"
"Why, he sent him a blister—a regular apothecary's blister—instead of some law process, by way of a joke, and Ned wouldn't stand it."
Durfy held a moment's conversation with Murphy, who now advanced to the squire, and begged to assure him there must be some mistake in the business, for that he had never committed the impertinence of which he was accused.
"All I know is," said the squire, "that I got a blister, which my messenger said you gave him."
"By virtue of my oath, squire, I never did it! I gave Andy an enclosure of the law process."
"Then it's some mistake that vagabond has made," said the squire. "Come here, you sir!" he shouted to Andy. Now Andy at this moment stood trembling under the angry eye of Dick the Devil, who, having detected a bit of lead on the point of the pricker, guessed in a moment Andy had been at work, and the unfortunate rascal, from the furious look of Dick, had a misgiving that he had made some blunder. "Why don't you come here when I call you?" said the squire. Andy laid down the pistol-case, and sneaked up to the squire. "What did you do with the letter Mr. Murphy gave you for me yesterday?"
"I brought it to your honour."
"No, you didn't," said Murphy. "You've made some mistake."
"Divil a mistake I made," answered Andy, very stoutly. "I wint home the minit you gev it to me."
"Did you go home direct from my house to the squire's?"
"Yis, sir, I did—I went direct home, and called at Mr. M'Garry's by the way for some physic for the childre."
"That's it!" said Murtough; "he changed my enclosure for a blister there; and if M'Garry has only had the luck to send the bit o' parchment to O'Grady, it will be the best joke I've heard this month of Sundays."
"He did! he did!" shouted Tom Durfy; "for don't you remember how O'Grady was after M'Garry this morning?"
"Sure enough," said Murtough, enjoying the double mistake. "By dad! Andy, you've made a mistake this time that I'll forgive you."
"By the powers o' war!" roared Dick the Devil; "I won't forgive him what he did now, though. What do you think?" said he, holding out the pistols, and growing crimson with rage, "may I never fire another shot, if he hasn't crammed a brace of bullets down the pistols before I loaded them; so no wonder you burned prime, Ned."
There was a universal laugh at Dick's expense, whose pride in being considered the most accomplished regulator of the duello was well known.
"Oh, Dick, Dick! you're a pretty second!" was shouted by all.
Dick, stung by the laughter, and feeling keenly the ridiculous position in which he was placed, made a rush at Andy, who, seeing the storm brewing, gradually sneaked away from the group, and when he perceived the sudden movement of Dick the Devil, took to his heels, with Dick after him.
"Hurra!" cried Murphy, "a race—a race! I'll bet on Andy—five pounds on Andy."
"Done!" said the squire: "I'll back Dick the Divil."
"Tare an' ouns!" roared Murphy, "how Andy runs! Fear's a fine spur."
"So is rage," said the squire. "Dick's hot-foot after him. Will you double the bet?"
"Done!" said Murphy.
The infection of betting caught the bystanders, and various gages were thrown and taken up upon the speed of the runners, who were getting rapidly into the distance, flying over hedge and ditch with surprising velocity, and, from the level nature of the ground, an extensive view could not be obtained, therefore Tom Durfy, the steeple-chaser, cried, "Mount, mount! or we'll lose the fun—into our saddles, and after them."
Those who had steeds took the hint, and a numerous field of horsemen joined in the pursuit of Handy Andy and Dick the Devil, who still maintained great speed. The horsemen made for a neighbouring hill, whence they could command a wider view; and the betting went on briskly, varying according to the vicissitudes of the race.
"Two to one on Dick—he's closing."
"Done! Andy will wind him yet."
"Well done—there's a leap! Hurra! Dick's down! Well done, Dick!—up again and going."
"Mind the next quickset hedge—that's a rasper, it's a wide gripe, and the hedge is as thick as a wall—Andy'll stick in it—mind him—well leaped, by the powers! Ha! he's sticking in the hedge—Dick'll catch him now. No, by jingo! he's pushed his way through—there, he's going again on the other side. Ha! ha! ha! ha! look at him—he's in tatters! he has left half of his breeches in the hedge!"
"Dick is over now. Hurra! he has lost the skirt of his coat! Andy is gaining on him—two to one on Andy."
"Down he goes!" was shouted as Andy's foot slipped in making a dash at another ditch, into which he went head over heels, and Dick followed fast, and disappeared after him.
"Ride! ride!" shouted Tom Durfy; and the horsemen put their spurs into the flanks of their steeds, and were soon up to the scene of action. There was Andy, rolling over and over in the muddy bottom of a ditch, floundering in rank weeds and duck's meat, with Dick fastened on him, pummelling away most unmercifully, but not able to kill him altogether, for want of breath.
The horsemen, in a universal screech of laughter, dismounted, and disengaged the unfortunate Andy from the fangs of Dick the Devil, who was dragged out of the ditch much more like a scavenger than a gentleman.
The moment Andy got loose, away he ran again, with a rattling "Tally-ho!" after him, and he never cried stop till he earthed himself under his mother's bed in the parent cabin.
Murtough Murphy characteristically remarked, that the affair of the day had taken a very whimsical turn;—"Here are you and I, squire, who went out to shoot each other, safe and well, while one of the seconds has come off rather worse for the wear; and a poor devil, who had nothing to say to the matter in hand, good, bad, or indifferent, is nearly killed."
The squire and Murtough then shook hands, and parted friends half an hour after they had met as foes; and even Dick contrived to forget his annoyance in an extra stoup of claret that day after dinner—filling more than one bumper in drinking confusion to Handy Andy, which seemed a rather unnecessary malediction.
After the friendly parting of the foes (pro tempore), there was a general scatter of the party who had come to see the duel: and how strange is the fact, that as much as human nature is prone to shudder at death under the gentlest circumstances, yet men will congregate to be its witnesses when violence aggravates the calamity! A public execution or a duel is a focus where burning curiosity concentrates; in the latter case, Ireland bears the palm for a crowd; in the former, the annals of the Old Bailey can amply testify. Ireland has its own interest, too, in a place of execution, but not in the same degree as England. They have been too used to hanging in Ireland to make it piquant: "toujours perdrix" is a saying which applies in this as in many other cases. The gallows, in its palmy days, was shorn of its terrors: it became rather a pastime. For the victim it was a pastime with a vengeance; for through it all time was past with him. For the rabble who beheld his agony, the frequency of the sight had blunted the edge of horror, and only sharpened that of unnatural excitement. The great school, where law should be the respected master, failed to inspire its intended awe;—the legislative lesson became a mockery; and death, instead of frowning with terror, grinned in a fool's cap from the scaffold.
This may be doubted now, when a milder spirit presides in the councils of the nation and on the bench; but those who remember Ireland not very long ago, can bear witness how lightly life was valued, or death regarded. Illustrative of this, one may refer to the story of the two basket-women in Dublin, who held gentle converse on the subject of an approaching execution.
"Won't you go see de man die to-morrow, Judy?"
"Oh no, darlin'," said Judy. (By-the-bye, Judy pronounced the n through her nose, and said "do.")
"Ah do, jewel," said her friend.
Judy again responded, "Do."
"And why won't you go, dear?" inquired her friend again.
"I've to wash de child," said Judy.
"Sure, didn't you wash it last week?" said her friend, in an expostulatory tone.
"Oh, well, I won't go," said Judy.
"Throth, Judy, you're ruinin' your health," said this soft-hearted acquaintance; "dere's a man to die to-morrow, and you won't come—augh!—you dever take do divarshin!"
And wherefore is it thus? Why should tears bedew the couch of him who dies in the bosom of his family, surrounded by those who love him, whose pillow is smoothed by the hand of filial piety, whose past is without reproach, and whose future is bright with hope? and why should dry eyes behold the duellist or the culprit, in whom folly or guilt may be the cause of a death on which the seal of censure or infamy may be set, and whose futurity we must tremble to consider? With more reason might we weep for the fate of either of the latter than the former, and yet we do not. And why is it so? If I may venture an opinion, it is that nature is violated: a natural death demands and receives the natural tribute of tears; but a death of violence falls with a stunning force upon the nerves, and the fountain of pity stagnates and will not flow.
Though there was a general scattering of the persons who came to see the duel, still a good many rode homeward with Murphy, who, with his second, Tom Durfy, beside him, headed the party, as they rode gaily towards the town, and laughed over the adventure of Andy and Dick.
"No one can tell how anything is to finish," said Tom Durfy; "here we came out to have a duel, and, in the end, it turned out a hunt."
"I am glad you were not in at my death, however," said Murphy, who seemed particularly happy at not being killed.
"You lost no time in firing, Murtough," said one of his friends.
"And small blame to me, Billy," answered Murphy; "Egan is a capital shot, and how did I know but he might take it into his head to shoot me?—for he's very hot when roused, though as good-natured a fellow in the main as ever broke bread; and yet I don't think, after all, he'd have liked to do me much mischief either; but, you see, he couldn't stand the joke he thought I played him."
"Will you tell us what it was?" cried another of the party, pressing forward, "for we can't make it out exactly, though we've heard something of it—wasn't it leeches you sent to him, telling him he was a blood-sucking villain?"
A roar of laughter from Murtough followed this question. "Lord, how a story gets mangled and twisted!" said he, as soon as he could speak. "Leeches! what an absurdity! No, it was——"
"A bottle of castor oil, wasn't it, by way of a present of noyeau?" said another of the party, hurrying to the front to put forward his version of the matter.
A second shout of laughter from Murphy greeted this third edition of the story. "If you will listen to me, I'll give you the genuine version," said Murtough, "which is better, I promise you, than any which invention could supply. The fact is, Squire Egan is enraged against O'Grady, and applied to me to harass him in the parchment line, swearing he would blister him; and this phrase of blistering occurred so often, that when I sent him over a bit o' parchment, which he engaged to have served on my bold O'Grady, I wrote to him, 'Dear Squire, I send you the blister;' and that most ingenious of all blunderers, Handy Andy, being the bearer, and calling at M'Garry's shop on his way home, picked up from the counter a real blister, which was folded up in an inclosure, something like the process, and left the law-stinger behind him."
"That's grate!" cried Doyle.
"Oh, but you have not heard the best of it yet," added Murphy. "I am certain the bit of parchment was sent to O'Grady, for he was hunting M'Garry this morning through the town, with a cudgel of portentous dimensions—put that and that together."