Paddy Finn, by W H G Kingston.
This is one of Kingston's longest adventure stories, but possibly also one of his best. The eponymous hero is tracked through his time at sea as a midshipman. Exciting events follow on each other's heels, fast and furious. Very well written, showing the extraordinary depth of knowledge that the author possessed. You will definitely enjoy reading it, if you enjoy this genre at all. You may care to listen to it instead, in which case it makes an excellent audiobook.
PADDY FINN, BY W H G KINGSTON.
THE HOME OF MY ANCESTORS.
"The top of the morning to you, Terence," cried the major, looking down upon me from the window of his bedroom.
I was standing in front of the castle of Ballinahone—the seat of the O'Finnahans, my ancestors—on the banks of the beautiful Shannon, enjoying the fresh air of the early morning.
"Send Larry up, will you, with a jug of warm water for shaving; and, while I think of it, tell Biddy to brew me a cup of hot coffee. It will be some time before breakfast is ready, and my hand isn't as steady as it once was till I've put something into my inside."
The old house had not been provided with bells for summoning the attendants; a loud shout, a clap of the hands, or the clatter of fire-irons, answering the purpose.
"Shure, Larry was sent to meet the postboy, uncle, and I'll be after taking you up the warm water; but Biddy maybe will not have come in from milking the cows, so if Dan Bourke is awake, and will give me the key of the cellar, mightn't I be bringing you up a glass of whisky?" I asked, knowing the taste of most of the guests at the castle.
"Arrah, boy, don't be tempting me!" cried the major in a half-angry tone; "that morning nip is the bane of too many of us. Go and do as I bid you."
I was about entering the house to perform the duty I had undertaken, when I caught sight of my foster-brother, Larry Harrigan, galloping up the avenue, mounted on the bare back of a shaggy little pony, its mane and tail streaming in the breeze.
"Hurrah! hurrah! yer honour; I've got it," he cried, as he waved a letter above his carroty and hatless pate. "I wouldn't have been after getting it at all, at all, for the spalpeen of a postboy wanted tinpence before he would give it me, but sorra a copper had I in my pocket, and I should have had to come away without it, if Mr McCarthy, the bailiff, hadn't been riding by, and paid the money for me."
I took the letter; and telling Larry, after he had turned the pony into the yard, to bring up the warm water and the cup of hot coffee, I hurried, with the official-looking document in my hand, up to my uncle's room. He met me at the door, dressed in his trousers and shirt, his shirt-sleeves tucked up in order to perform his ablutions, exhibiting his brawny arms, scarred with many a wound,—his grizzled hair uncombed, his tall figure looking even more gaunt than usual without the military coat in which I was accustomed to see him. He eagerly took the letter.
"Come in, my boy, and sit down on the foot of the bed while I see what my friend Macnamara writes in answer to my request," he said, as he broke the seal, and with a deliberation which didn't suit my eagerness, opened a large sheet of foolscap paper, which he held up to the light that he might read it more easily.
While he was thus engaged, Larry brought up the warm water and the cup of steaming coffee, and, with a look at the major's back which betokened anything but respect, because it was not a glass of whisky, placed the jug and cup on the table. Larry was, I must own, as odd-looking an individual as ever played the part of valet. His shock head of hair was unacquainted with comb or brush; his grey coat reached to his calves; his breeches were open at the knees; his green waistcoat, too short to reach the latter garment, was buttoned awry; huge brogues encased his feet, and a red handkerchief, big enough to serve as the royal of a frigate, was tied loosely round his neck. He stood waiting for further orders, when the major, turning round to take a sip of coffee, by a sign bade him begone, and he vanished.
Major McMahon, my mother's uncle, was an old officer, who, having seen much service for the better part of half a century,—his sword being his only patrimony,—on retiring from the army had come to live with us at Castle Ballinahone when I was a mere slip of a boy. Knowing the world well,—having been taught prudence by experience, though he had never managed to save any of his pay or prize-money, and was as poor as when he first carried the colours,—he was of the greatest service to my father, who, like many another Irish gentleman of those days, knew nothing of the world, and possessed but a small modicum of the quality I have mentioned. The major, seeing the way matters were going at Castle Ballinahone, endeavoured to set an example of sobriety to the rest of the establishment by abstaining altogether from his once favourite beverage of rum shrub and whisky punch, although he had a head which the strongest liquor would have failed to affect, and he was therefore well able to manage everything on the estate with prudence, and as much economy as the honour of the family would allow. My father was an Irish gentleman, every inch of him. He delighted to keep up the habits and customs of the country, which, to say the best of them, were not calculated to serve his own interests or those of his family. He was kind-hearted and generous; and if it had not been for the rum shrub, and whisky-toddy, and the hogsheads of claret which found their way into his cellar, and thence into his own and his guests' insides, he would have been happy and prosperous, with few cares to darken his doors. But the liquor, however good in itself, proved a treacherous friend, as it served him a scurvy trick in return for the affection he had shown to it, leaving him a martyr to the gout, which, while it held sway over him, soured his otherwise joyous and happy spirits. It made him occasionally seem harsh even to us, though he was in the main one of the kindest and most indulgent of fathers. He was proud of his family, of his estate,—or what remained of it,—of his children, and, more than all, of his wife; and just reason he had to be so of the latter, for she was as excellent a mother as ever breathed, with all the attractive qualities of an Irish lady. That means a mighty deal; for I have since roamed the world over, and never have I found any of their sex to surpass my fair countrywomen.
I must describe our family mansion. Enough of the old building remained to allow it still to be called a castle. A round tower or keep, with two of the ancient walls surmounted by battlements, stood as they had done for centuries, when the castle had often defied a hostile force; but the larger portion had been pulled down and replaced by a plain structure, more commodious, perhaps, but as ugly as could well be designed. Round it ran a moat, over which was a drawbridge,—no longer capable of being drawn up,—while a flight of stone steps led to the entrance door, ungraced by a porch. The large hall, the walls of which were merely whitewashed, with a roof of plain oak, had from its size an imposing appearance. The walls of the hall were decked with firearms,— muskets, pistols, arquebuses, blunderbusses,—pikes, and halberts, symmetrically arranged in stars or other devices; stags' horns, outstretched eagles' wings, extended skins of kites, owls, and king-fishers, together with foxes' brushes, powder-flasks, shot-pouches, fishing-rods, nets, and dogs' collars; while in the corners stood four figures, clothed in complete suits of armour, with lances in their hands, or arquebuses on their arms.
Over the front door were the skin and wings of an enormous eagle, holding a dagger in its mouth,—the device of our family. A similar device in red brick-work was to be seen on the wall above the entrance on the outside. Paint had been sparsely used,—paper not at all,—many of the rooms being merely whitewashed, though the more important were wainscotted with brown oak, and others with plain deal on which the scions of our race had for several generations exercised their artistic skill, either with knives, hot irons, or chalk. The breakfast and dining-rooms, which opened from the great hall, were wainscotted, their chief embellishments being some old pictures in black frames, and a number of hunting, shooting, and racing prints, with red tape round them to serve the purpose of frames; while the library so-called was worthy of being the habitation of an ascetic monk, though two of the walls were covered with book-shelves which contained but few books, and they served chiefly to enable countless spiders to form their traps for unwary flies, while a table covered with green cloth and three wooden chairs formed its only furniture.
The bedrooms were numerous enough to accommodate the whole of our large family, and an almost unlimited number of guests, who, on grand occasions, were stowed away in them, crop and heels. The less said about the elegance of the furniture the better; or of the tea and breakfast services, which might once have been uniform, but, as most of the various pieces had gone the way of all crockery, others of every description of size and shape had taken their places, till scarcely two were alike; but that didn't detract from our happiness or the pleasure of our guests, who, probably from their own services being in the same condition, scarcely noticed this.
I had long had a desire to go to sea, partly from reading Captain Berkeley's History of the Navy, Robinson Crusoe, and the Adventures of Peter Wilkins, and partly from taking an occasional cruise on the Shannon,—that queen of rivers, which ran her course past the walls of Ballinahone, to mingle with the ocean, through the fair city of Limerick.
Often had I stood on the banks, watching the boats gliding down on the swift current, and listening to the songs of the fishermen, which came from far away up the stream!
I had, as most boys would have done, talked to my mother, and pestered my father and uncle, till the latter agreed to write to an old friend of his in the navy to consult him as to the best means of enabling me to gratify my wishes.
But I have been going ahead to talk of my family, forgetful of my honoured uncle, the major. He conned the letter, holding it in his two hands, now in one light, now in another, knitting his thick grey eyebrows to see the better, and compressing his lips. I watched him all the time, anxious to learn the contents, and yet knowing full well that it would not do to interrupt him. At last he came to the bottom of the page.
"It's just like him!" he exclaimed. "Terence, my boy, you'll have the honour of wearing His Majesty's uniform, as I have done for many a long year, though yours will be blue and mine is red; and you'll bring no discredit on your cloth, I'll be your surety for it."
"Thank you, uncle, for your good opinion of me," I said. "And am I really to become a midshipman, and wear a cockade in my hat, and a dirk by my side?"
"Within a few days you may be enjoying that happiness, my boy," answered the major. "My old friend, Captain Macnamara, writes me word that he'll receive you on board the Liffy frigate, which, by a combination of circumstances, is now lying in Cork Harbour,—fortunate for us, but which might have proved disastrous to her gallant officers and crew, for she was dismasted in a gale, and was within an ace of being driven on shore. But a miss is as good as a mile; and when under jury-masts she scraped clear of the rocks, and got into port in safety. Here my letter, after wandering about for many a day, found him, and he has lost no time in replying to it. One of his midshipmen having gone overboard in the gale, he can give you his berth; but mind you, Terence, don't go and be doing the same thing."
"Not if I can help it, uncle," I replied. "And Larry? will he take Larry? The boy has set his heart upon going to sea, and it would be after breaking if he were parted from me. He has been talking about it every day since he knew that I thought of going; and I promised him I would beg hard that he might go with me."
"As Captain Macnamara says that the Liffy has had several men killed in action, I have no doubt that a stout lad like Larry will not be refused; so you may tell him that when he volunteers, I'll answer for his being accepted," was the answer.
"Thank you, uncle; it will make him sing at the top of his voice when he hears that," I said. "And when are we to be off?"
"To-morrow, or the day after, at the furthest," answered the major. "I intend to go with you to introduce you to your captain, and to have a talk with him over old times."
"Then may I run and tell my father and mother, and Maurice, and Denis, and the girls?"
"To be sure, boy; but you mustn't be surprised if they are not as delighted to hear of your going, as you are to go," he answered, as I bolted out of the room.
I found my brothers turning out of bed, and gave them a full account of the captain's letter. They took the matter coolly.
"I wish you joy," said Maurice, who was expecting shortly to get his commission in our uncle's old regiment. I then went to the girls, who were by this time dressed. Kathleen and Nora congratulated me warmly.
"And shure are you going to be a real midshipman?" said Nora. "I wish I was a boy myself, that I might go to sea, and pull, and haul, and dance a hornpipe."
They, at all events, didn't seem so much cast down as my uncle supposed they would be. My father had just been wheeled out of his chamber into the breakfast room, for he was suffering from an attack of his sworn enemy.
"Keep up the honour of the O'Finnahans, my boy; and you'll only do that by performing your duty," he said, patting me on the back,—for shaking hands was a ceremony he was unwilling to venture on with his gouty fingers.
My mother was later than usual. I hurried off to her room. As she listened to my account her eyes were fixed on me till they became filled with tears.
"You have chosen a rough life, Terence; but may God protect you," she said, throwing her arms round my neck, and kissing my brow. "I could not prevent your going even if I would, as your uncle has accepted Captain Macnamara's offer; for a profession you must have, and it is a fine one, I've no doubt. But wherever you go, my dear boy, remember that the thoughts of those at home will be following you."
More she said to the same effect. When she at length released me, I hurried out to tell Larry, Dan Bourke, and the rest of the domestics. At first Larry looked very downcast; but when he heard that he was to go too, he gave expression to his joy in a wild shout, which rang through the kitchen. Biddy, the cook, and the other females were not so heroic as my sisters, for they began to pipe their eyes in a way I couldn't stand, so I ran off to the breakfast room; whether it was at the thoughts of losing Larry or me, I didn't stop to consider. My speedy departure to become a son of Neptune was the only subject of conversation during the morning meal. It was agreed that to enable me to make a respectable appearance on board His Majesty's frigate, I ought to be provided with a uniform; and a message was despatched to Pat Cassidy, the family tailor, to appear forthwith, and exercise his skill in manufacturing the necessary costume. The major, who had frequently been at sea, believed that he could give directions for shaping the garments correctly; and as all were agreed that blue was the required colour, he presented me with a cloth cloak, which, though it had seen some service, was considered suitable for the purpose.
Pat Cassidy soon arrived with his shears and tape; and being installed in a little room, where he was sure of not being interrupted, took my measure, and set to work, under the major's directions, to cut out and stitch a coat and breeches in what was considered approved nautical fashion. The difficulty was the buttons; but my mother fortunately discovered a moth-eaten coat and waistcoat of a naval lieutenant, a relative, who had paid a visit to Castle Ballinahone many years before, and, having been killed in action shortly afterwards, had never returned to claim his garments. There being fewer buttons than the major considered necessary, Pat Cassidy proposed eking them out with a few military ones sewn on in the less conspicuous parts. Meantime, my mother and sisters and the maids were as busily engaged in preparing the rest of my kit, carrying off several of my brothers' shirts and stockings, which they faithfully promised in due time to replace. "Where there's a will there's a way," and before night, Pat Cassidy, aided by the busy maids, had performed his task, as had my mother and sisters theirs; and it was considered that I was fairly fitted out for my new career, the major promising to get for me at Cork such other things as I might require.
With intense satisfaction I put on my uniform, of which, though the gold lace was somewhat tarnished, and the buttons not over bright, I was mightily proud. My father presented me with a sword, which had been my grandfather's. It was of antique make, and, being somewhat rusty, was evidently unwilling to leave the scabbard. Nora, notwithstanding, proudly girded it on my side by a broad leathern belt with a huge silver clasp, which I thought had a very handsome appearance. I little dreamed that my costume was not altogether according to the rules and regulations of the naval service. The coat was long in the waist, and longer in the skirts, which were looped back with gold lace, Pat having also surrounded the cuffs with a band of the same material. The inside was lined with white silk, and there were patches of white cloth on the collar. The waistcoat, which came down to my hips, was of flowered silk, made out of one of my great-grandmother's petticoats, which had long been laid by, and was now by unanimous consent devoted to my use. The breeches were very full, Pat observing that I should be after growing rapidly on the salt sea, and would require room in them. White cotton stockings covered the lower part of my legs, and huge silver buckles adorned my shoes; a cockade, manufactured by my uncle, was stuck in my hat; while a frilled shirt and red silk handkerchief tied round my neck completed my elegant costume. Having once donned my uniform,—if so it could be called,—I was unwilling to take it off again; and, highly delighted with my appearance, I paced about the hall for some time. My father watched me, while he laughed till the tears streamed from his eyes to see me draw my sword and make an onslaught on one of the mailed warriors in the corner.
"Hurrah, Terence! Bravo! bravo!" cried Maurice. "But just be after remembering that a live enemy won't stand so quiet as old Brian Boru there."
The toils of the day over, my father, in spite of his gout, was wheeled into the supper room, when he, in a glass of the strongest whisky-toddy, and my uncle in one of old claret, drank my health and success in the naval career I was about to enter, my brothers joining them in other beverages; and I am very sure that my fond mother more effectually prayed that I might be protected from the perils and dangers to which I should be exposed.
I COMMENCE MY JOURNEY TO CORK.
It was on a fine spring morning, the birds carolling sweetly in the trees, that I set forth, accompanied by my uncle and Larry Harrigan, to commence my career on the stormy ocean. My father had been wheeled to the hall door, my mother stood by his side with her handkerchief to her eyes, my sisters grouped round her, my brothers outside tossing up their hats as they shouted their farewells,—their example being imitated by the domestics and other retainers of the house. The major rode a strong horse suitable to his weight. He was dressed in his red long-skirted, gold-laced coat, boots reaching above his knees, large silver spurs, three-cornered hat on the top of his wig, with a curl on each side, his natural hair being plaited into a queue behind. A brace of pistols was stuck in his leathern belt, while a sword, with the hilt richly ornamented,—the thing he prized most on earth, it having been presented to him for his gallantry at the capture of an enemy's fort, when he led the forlorn hope,—hung by his side. I was mounted on my own horse, my legs for the journey being encased in boots. A cloak was hung over my shoulders; I also had a brace of pistols—the gift of my brother Maurice—in my belt; while in my hand I carried a heavy riding-whip, as did my uncle, serving both to urge on our steeds, and to defend ourselves against the sudden attack of an unexpected foe. Larry followed on a pony, with uncombed mane and tail, its coat as shaggy as a bear's; his only weapon a shillelah; his dress such as he usually wore on Sundays and holidays. I need not describe the partings which had previously taken place. The major gave the word "Forward!" and we trotted down the avenue at a rapid rate. I could not refrain from giving a lingering look behind. My sisters waved their handkerchiefs; my mother had too much use for hers to do so; my brothers cheered again and again; and I saw Larry half pulled from his pony, as his fellow-servants gripped him by the hands; and two or three damsels, more demonstrative than the rest, ran forward to receive his parting salutes. My chest, I should have said, was to come by the waggon, which would arrive at Cork long before the ship sailed. The more requisite articles, such as changes of linen and spare shoes, were packed in valises strapped to Larry's and my cruppers; while the major carried such things as he required in his saddle-bags. We soon lost sight of the Shannon, and the top of the castle tower appearing above the trees. For some time we rode on in silence, but as neither my respected relative nor I were accustomed to hold our tongues, we soon let them wag freely. He talked as we rode on in his usual hearty way, giving me accounts of his adventures in many lands. Larry kept behind us, not presuming to come up and join in the conversation. He was of too happy a spirit to mind riding alone, while he relieved himself by cracking jokes with the passers-by. I have spoken of his warm affection for me. He also—notwithstanding his rough outside—possessed a talent for music, and could not only sing a capital song, but had learned to play the violin from an old fiddler, Peter McLeary, who had presented him with an instrument, which he valued like the apple of his eye. He now carried it in its case, strapped carefully on behind him. We rode on too fast to allow of his playing it, as I have seen him do on horseback many a time, when coming from marriages or wakes, where he was consequently in great request. We made a long day's journey, having rested a couple of hours to bait our horses; and not reaching the town of Kilmore till long after sundown.
The assizes were taking place. The judge and lawyers, soldiers, police, and witnesses, filled every house in the town. Consequently the only inn at which we could hope to obtain accommodation was crowded. All the guests had retired to their rooms; but the landlady, Mrs Mccarthy, who knew my uncle, undertook to put us up. Larry took the horses round to the stables, where he would find his sleeping place, and we entered the common room. Mrs McCarthy was the only person in the establishment who seemed to have any of her wits about her. The rest of the inmates who were still on foot had evidently imbibed a larger amount of the potheen than their heads could stand, she herself being even more genial than usual.
"Shure, major dear, there are two gentlemen of the bar up-stairs who don't know their feet from their heads; and as your honour will be rising early to continue your journey, we'll just tumble them out on the floor, and you can take their bed. We'll put them back again before they wake in the morning; or if we're after forgetting it, they'll only think they have rolled out of their own accord, and nobody'll be blamed, or they be the worse for it; and they'll have reason to be thankful, seeing that if they had really tumbled on the floor, they might have broken their necks."
My uncle, who would on no account agree to this hospitable proposal, insisted on sitting up in an arm-chair, with his legs on another, assuring Mrs McCarthy that he had passed many a night with worse accommodation.
"Shure, then, the young gentleman must go to bed," observed the hostess. "There's one I've got for him in the kitchen,—a little snug cupboard by the fireside; and shure he'll there be as warm and comfortable as a mouse in its hole."
To this the major agreed, as the bed was not big enough for both of us, and indeed was too short for him.
Supper being ended, my uncle composed himself in the position he intended to occupy, with his cloak wrapped round him, and I accompanied Mrs McCarthy into the kitchen, which was in a delightful state of disorder. She here let down, from a little niche in which it was folded, a small cupboard-bed, on which, though the sheets and blankets were not very clean, I was not sorry to contemplate a night's rest. The landlady, wishing me good-night, withdrew to her own quarters. Molly, the maid-servant, I should have said, long before this, overcome by the sips she had taken at the invitation of the guests, was stowed away in a corner somewhere out of sight.
Pulling off my boots and laced coat and waistcoat, which I stowed for safe keeping under the pillow, I turned into bed by the light of the expiring embers of the fire, and in a few seconds afterwards was fast asleep. I was not conscious of waking for a single moment during the night; and had I been called, should have said that only a few minutes had passed since I had closed my eyes, when, to my horror, all at once I found myself in a state of suffocation, with my head downwards, pressed closely between the bolster and pillow, and my feet in the air. Every moment I thought would be my last. I struggled as violently as my confined position would allow, unable, in my confusion, to conceive where I was, or what had happened. I in vain tried to shout out; when I opened my mouth, the feather pillow filled it, and no sound escaped. I felt much as, I suppose, a person does drowning. Thoughts of all sorts rushed into my mind, and I believed that I was doomed to an ignominious exit from this sublunary scene, when suddenly there came a crash, and, shot out into the middle of the room, I lay sprawling on the floor, unable to rise or help myself, my head feeling as if all the blood in my body had rushed into it. The button which had kept the foot of the shut-up-bed in its place had given way.
"Murder! murder!" I shouted out, believing that some diabolical attempt had been made to take my life.
"Murther! murther!" echoed Molly, who, broom in hand, was engaged at the further end of the kitchen. "Och, somebody has been kilt entirely." And, frightened at the spectacle I exhibited, she rushed out of the room to obtain assistance.
My cries and hers had aroused Mrs Mccarthy, who rushed in, followed by the waiting-man and my uncle, who, gazing at me as I lay on the floor, and seeing that I was almost black in the face, ordered one of the servants to run off for the apothecary, to bleed me. In the meantime, Mrs Mccarthy had hurried out for a pitcher of cold water. Having dashed some over my face, she poured out several glasses, which I swallowed one after the other, and by the time the apothecary had arrived had so far recovered as to be able to dispense with his services. Molly confessed to having got up at daylight, and begun to set matters to rights in the kitchen; and, not observing me, supposing that her mistress—who usually occupied the bed—had risen, she had hoisted it up into its niche, and had turned the button at the top to keep it in its place. Had not the button given way, my adventures, I suspect, would have come to an untimely termination.
Having performed my ablutions, with the assistance of Mrs McCarthy, in a basin of cold water, I was perfectly ready for breakfast, and very little the worse for what had happened. Our meal was a hearty one, for my uncle, like an old soldier, made it a rule to stow away on such occasions a liberal supply of provisions, which might last him, if needs be, for the remainder of the day, or far into the next.
Breakfast over, he ordered round the horses, and we recommenced our journey. After riding some distance, on turning round, I perceived that Larry was not following us.
"He knows the road we're going, and will soon overtake us," said my uncle.
We rode on and on, however, and yet Larry didn't appear. I began to feel uneasy, and at last proposed turning back to ascertain if any accident had happened to him. He would surely not have remained behind of his own free will. He had appeared perfectly sober when he brought me my horse to mount; besides which, I had never known Larry drunk in his life,—which was saying a great deal in his favour, considering the example he had had set him by high and low around.
"We'll ride on slowly, and if he doesn't catch us up we'll turn back to look for the spalpeen, though the delay will be provoking," observed the major.
Still Larry did not heave in sight.
The country we were now traversing was as wild as any in Ireland. High hills on one side with tall trees, and more hills on the other, completely enclosed the road, so that it often appeared as if there was no outlet ahead. The road itself was rough in the extreme, scarcely allowing of the passage of a four-wheeled vehicle; indeed, our horses had in some places to pick their way, and rapid movement was impossible—unless at the risk of breaking the rider's neck, or his horse's knees. Those celebrated lines had not been written:—
"If you had seen but these roads before they were made, You'd have lift up your hands and blessed General Wade."
I had, however, been used to ground of all sorts, and was not to be stopped by such trifling impediments as rocks, bushes, stone walls, or streams.
"Something must have delayed Larry," I said at length. "Let me go back, uncle, and find him, while you ride slowly on."
"No, I'll go with you, Terence. We shall have to make a short journey instead of a long one, if the gossoon has been detained in Kilmore; and I haven't clapped eyes on him since we left the town."
We were on the point of turning our horses' heads to go back, when suddenly, from behind the bushes and rocks on either side of the road, a score of ruffianly-looking fellows, dressed in the ordinary costume of Irish peasants, rushed out and sprang towards us, some threatening to seize our reins, and others pointing muskets, blunderbusses, and pistols at us. Those not possessing these weapons were armed with shillelahs. One of the fellows, with long black hair and bushy beard,—a hideous squint adding to the ferocity of his appearance,—advanced with a horse-pistol in one hand, the other outstretched as if to seize the major's rein. At the same time a short but strongly-built ruffian, with a humpback, sprang towards me, evidently intending to drag me off my horse, or to haul the animal away, so that I might be separated from my companion.
"Keep close to my side, Terence," he said in a low voice. "Out with your pistol, and cover that villain approaching."
At the moment, as he spoke, his sword flashed in the sunlight, and with the back of the blade he struck up the weapon of his assailant, which exploded in the air. He was about to bring down the sharp edge on the fellow's head, when a dozen others, with shrieks and shouts, rushed towards us, some forcing themselves in between our horses, while others, keeping on the other side of the major, seized his arms at the risk of being cut down. Several grasped his legs and stirrups. His horse plunged and reared, but they nimbly avoided the animal's heels. Two of the gang held the horse's head down by the reins, while an attempt was made to drag the rider from his seat. They doubtless thought if they could master him, that I should become an easy prey. Their object, I concluded, was to make us prisoners, rather than to take our lives, which they might have done at any moment by shooting us with their firearms. Still our position was very far from an agreeable one. My uncle, who had not spoken another word, firmly kept his seat, notwithstanding the efforts of the ruffian crew to pull him off his saddle. In the meantime, the hunchback, whose task, it seemed, was to secure me, came on, fixing his fierce little eyes on my pistol, which I fancied was pointed at his head.
"If you come an inch further, I'll fire," I cried out.
He answered by a derisive laugh, followed by an unearthly shriek, given apparently to unnerve me; and then, as he saw my finger on the trigger, he ducked his head, as if about to spring into the water. The pistol went off, the bullet passing above him. The next instant, rising and springing forward, he clutched my throat, while another fellow caught hold of my rein.
WE MEET WITH FURTHER ADVENTURES.
In spite of my uncle's skill as a swordsman, and the pistols, on which I had placed so much reliance, we were overpowered before we could strike a blow in our own defence, and were completely at the mercy of our assailants. The major, however, all the time didn't lose his coolness and self-possession.
"What are you about to do, boys?" he asked. "You have mistaken us for others. We are travellers bound to Cork, not wishing to interfere with you or any one else."
"We know you well enough, Major McMahon," answered the leader of the gang. "If you're not the man we want, you'll serve our purpose. But understand, we'll have no nonsense. If you come peaceably we'll not harm you; we bear you no grudge. But if you make further resistance, or attempt to escape, you must take the consequences; we care no more for a man's life than we do for that of a calf." The ruffian thundered out the last words at the top of his voice.
"Who are you, my friend, who talk so boldly?" asked the major.
"If you want to know, I'm Dan Hoolan himself, and you may have heard of my doings throughout the country."
"I have heard of a scoundrel of that name, who has murdered a few helpless people, and who is the terror of old women; but whether or not you're the man, is more than I can say," answered the major in a scornful tone.
"Blood and 'ounds, is that the way you speak to me?" cried Hoolan, for there could be no doubt that he was the notorious outlaw. "I'll soon be after showing you that it's not only women I frighten. Bring these fine-coated gentlemen along, boys, and we'll set them dangling to a branch of Saint Bridget's oak, to teach their likes better manners. Och, boys, it'll be rare fun to see them kick their legs in the air, till their sowls have gone back to where they came from."
I fully believed the outlaws were going to treat us as their leader proposed.
"You dare do nothing of the sort, boys," said my uncle.
"You know well enough that if you ill-treat us there will be a hue and cry after you, and that before many weeks have passed by, one and all of you will be caught and gibbeted."
"That's more aisy to say than to do," answered Hoolan.
"Bring them along, boys; and mind you don't let them escape you."
"Sorra's the chance of that," cried the men, hanging on tighter to our legs. We were thus led forward, still being allowed to keep our seats in our saddles, but without a chance of effecting our escape, though I observed that my uncle's eye was ranging round to see what could be done. He looked down on me. I daresay I was paler than usual, though I did my best to imitate his coolness.
"Keep up your spirits, Terence," he said. "I don't believe that those fellows intend to carry out their threats. Though why they have made us prisoners is beyond my comprehension."
Some of our captors growled out something, but what it was I could not understand, though I think it was a hint to the major and me to hold our tongues. The hunchback kept close to me, having released my throat, and merely held on to me by one of my legs. Hoolan himself stalked at our head, with the pistol, which he had reloaded, in his hand. The men talked among themselves in their native Irish, but didn't address another word to us. They seemed eager to push on, but the character of the road prevented our moving out of a foot's pace. On and on we went, till we saw a group of large trees ahead. Hoolan pointed to them with a significant gesture. His followers, with loud shouts, hurried us forward. I now observed that two of them had coils of rope under their arms. They were of no great strength, but sufficient to bear the weight of an ordinary man. We quickly reached the trees, when the outlaws made us dismount under one, which, I remarked, had a wide extending bough, about fifteen feet from the ground. My uncle now began to look more serious than before, as if, for the first time, he really believed that our captors would carry out their threats.
"Terence, we must try and free ourselves from these ruffians," he said. "I have no care for myself, but I don't want your young life to be taken from you. Keep your eyes about you, and if you can manage to spring into your saddle, don't pull rein until you have put a good distance between yourself and them."
"I could not think of going, and leaving you in the hands of the ruffians, Uncle McMahon," I answered. "I'll beg them to spare your life, and will promise them any reward they may demand,—a hundred, or two hundred pounds. Surely they would rather have the money than take your life."
"Don't promise them anything of the sort," he said. "If they were to obtain it, they would be seizing every gentleman they could get hold of. Their object is not money, or they would have robbed us before this. Do as I tell you, and be on the watch to escape while they are trying to hang me. I'll take care to give you a good chance."
While he was speaking they were throwing the ropes over the bough, and ostentatiously making nooses at the end of each of them. They were not very expert, and failed several times in throwing the other end over the bough. The ends of each of the ropes were grasped by three men, who looked savagely at us, as if they were especially anxious to see our necks in the opposite nooses, and apparently only waiting the order from their chief.
"If you have prayers to say, you had better say them now," cried the leader of the outlaws.
"It's time to speak to you now, Dan Hoolan," said my uncle, as if he had not heard the last remark. "Whether you really intend to hang us or not, I can't say; but if you do, vengeance is sure to overtake you. To kill an old man would be a dastardly deed, but doubly accursed would you be should you deprive a young lad like this of his life. If you have no pity on me, have regard to your own soul. There's not a priest in the land who would give you absolution."
"Hould there, and don't speak another word," shouted Hoolan. "I have given you the chance of praying, and you wouldn't take it, so it's yourselves will have to answer for it. Quick, boys, bring them along."
Our captors were leading us forward, and, as I had no wish to lose my life, I was looking out for an opportunity of obeying my uncle's instructions, when, with a strength which those who held him could not have supposed he possessed, knocking down one on either side, he threw himself upon Hoolan, who, not expecting such an attack, was brought to the ground. At the same moment the major, drawing a knife which the ruffian had in his belt, held it as if to strike him to the heart. The hunchback, seeing the danger of his leader, regardless of me, rushed forward to his assistance; when, finding myself at liberty, I darted towards my horse, which was held by one only of the men, who, eagerly watching the strife, did not observe me. Twisting his shillelah from his hands, and snatching the reins, I was in a moment in the saddle; but I had no intention of deserting my uncle. Firmly grasping the shillelah, I laid it about the heads of the men who were on the point of seizing the major. Hoolan, however, was completely at his mercy; and had they ventured to touch him, one blow of the knife would have ended the villain's life, though probably his companions would have revenged his death by shooting us the moment after. But just then loud shouts were heard in the distance, and a party of men on horseback, whom no one had observed, were seen galloping at a tearing rate towards us.
"Hoora! hoora! Tim Phelan's gained his cause!" shouted a horseman. "He's proved an alibi, and been set free by the judge."
Our captors, on hearing the shouts, turned to greet the new-comers, forgetting for the moment their previous intention and their leader, who lay on the ground, the major still holding his knife at his throat. Presently, who should I see riding out from the crowd but Larry Harrigan himself.
"Thunder and 'ounds!" he exclaimed. "What were they going to do to you? Shure I never thought they'd have ventured on that."
He now came up to Hoolan with my uncle bending over him.
"Spare his life, major dear," he exclaimed. "He never intended to kill you; and if you'll let him go I'll tell your honour all about it by and by."
"Is this the case, Dan Hoolan?" asked my uncle. "On your soul, man, did you not intend to put your threat into execution?"
"No, I didn't, as I'm a living man," said the outlaw, as, released by my uncle, he rose to his feet.
"I'll tell your honour. I wanted to see how you and your young nephew would face the death I threatened; and I intended at the last moment to release you both if you would promise to take a message to the judge who was trying Tim Phelan, swearing that he was free of the murder of Mick Purcell, and knows no more about it than a babe unborn; for there's one amongst us who did the deed, and they may catch him if they can."
This announcement completely changed the aspect of affairs. The outlaws brought us our horses, and with many apologies for the trouble they had given us, assisted us to mount.
"I'm not the man to harbour ill-feeling against any one," said the major, turning to the crowd of apparently humble-looking peasants. "But, my boys, I'd advise you to follow a better calling without delay. And now I'll wish you good morning. If we ever meet again, may it be under pleasanter circumstances."
Though the greater part of those present didn't understand what he said, the rest interpreted it in their own fashion: the outlaws and the new-comers raising a loud cheer, we rode off, followed by Larry, and continued our journey as if nothing particular had occurred.
"And what made you keep behind us, Larry?" asked my uncle, who summoned him up alongside.
"I'll tell your honour," answered Larry. I was sleeping in the stables after I'd attended to the horses, when I heard three or four boys talking together; so I opened my eyes to listen, seeing it was something curious they were saying. I soon found that they were talking about Tim Phelan, who was to be tried in the morning. I thin recollected that Tim was my father's second cousin's nephew, and so of course I felt an interest in the fate of the boy.
"Says one to the other, 'If the alibi isn't proved, shure we're bound in honour to try and rescue him.'
"'There are a hundred at least of us bound to do the same,' answered the other, 'and of course we'll find many more to help if we once begin.'
"'Thin I'll be one of them,' I cried out, starting up without thinking that yer honour would be wanting me to continue the journey this morning. Blood is stronger than water, as yer know, major dear, and with the thought of rescuing Tim Phelan, I forgot everything else. When I joined the boys, I found a dozen or more met together, and they made me swear a mighty big oath that I would stick to them till Tim Phelan was acquitted or set free if condemned. So when the morning came, I knew that I could overtake yer honour and Maisther Terence by making my baste move along after the trial was over. As soon as yer honour had started, I went back to my friends, and after some time, while talking to them, I heard that Dan Hoolan was on the road to carry out another plan of his own, in case Tim should be condemned. What it was I didn't find out for some time, when one of the boys tauld me that Dan intended to get hold of one of the lawyers, or a magistrate, or a gintleman of consequence, and to threaten to hang him if Tim was not set free. I was almost shrinking in my brogues when I thought that Dan Hoolan might be after getting hold of yer honour, but my oath prevented me from setting off till the boys came rushing out of the court saying that Tim was acquitted. I thin tauld them about all I was afraid of, so they jumped on the backs of the horses without waiting to cheer Tim or carry him round the town. It was mighty convanient that we arrived in time; but, major dear, you will see clearly that if I hadn't stopped behind, there would have been three of us to be hung by Dan instead of two; so well pleased I am that I found out that it was Tim, my father's second cousin's nephew, who was going to be tried."
"Well, master Larry, it's well for us all that you had your wits about you, so I'll say nothing more to you for neglecting your orders, which were to follow close at our heels," observed the major.
"Thank yer honour; but you'll be after remembering that I didn't suppose that Dan Hoolan was really going to hang yer honour, or I'd have been in a much more mighty fright at hearing that he was going to have a hand in the matter."
This little incident will afford some idea of the state of my native country at the time of which I write.
After Larry had given this explanation for his non-appearance, he dropped behind, and my uncle and I rode on side by side, talking of various matters, and whenever the road would permit, putting our horses into a trot or a canter to make up for lost time. Darkness overtook us before we reached the town at which my uncle proposed to stop for the night. I confess that I kept a look-out now on one side, now on the other, lest any more of Dan Hoolan's gang might be abroad, and have a fancy to examine our valises and pockets. We rode on for nearly three hours in the dark, without meeting, however, with any further adventure. We reached Timahoe, where there being no event of importance taking place, we found sufficient accommodation and food both for man and beast, which was promised on the sign outside, though, to be sure, it could not be seen in the dark, but I observed it the next morning as we rode away.
I must pass over the remainder of the journey till we had got over the greater part of our journey to the fair city of Cork. We had been riding on like peaceable travellers, as we were, when we reached a village, through the centre of which, having nothing to detain us there, we passed on at our usual pace. It appeared quiet enough. The children were tumbling about with the pigs in the mud, and the women peered out of the half-open doors, but seeing who we were, drew in their heads again without addressing us, or replying to any of Larry's most insinuating greetings.
"There's something going on, though what it may be is more than I can tell," remarked my uncle.
Just as we got outside the village, though not a sound reached our ears, we caught sight, coming round a corner on the right, of a party of men, each armed with a shillelah, which he grasped tightly in his right hand, while he looked keenly ahead, as if expecting some one to appear. They had started forward apparently at the sound of our horses' feet, and stopped on seeing who we were.
"Good evening, boys," said my uncle, as we rode on. They made no reply.
We had got a little further on when I saw another party on the left coming across the country at a rapid rate. One of them, running forward, inquired if we had seen any of the boys of Pothrine, the name, I concluded, of the village we had just passed through.
"Not a few of them, who are on the look-out for you, boys, and if you're not wishing for broken heads, you'll go back the way you came," answered my uncle.
"Thank yer honour, we'll chance that," was the answer, and the man rejoining his party, they advanced towards the village. Scarcely a minute had passed before loud cries, whacks, and howls struck upon our ears.
"They're at it," cried my uncle, and turning back we saw two parties hotly engaged in the middle of the road; shillelahs flourishing in the air, descending rapidly to crack crowns or meet opposing weapons. At the same time Larry was seen galloping in hot haste towards the combatants. My uncle called him back, but the noise of the strife must have prevented him from hearing the summons, for he continued his course. I rode after him, being afraid that he was intending to join in the scrimmage, but I was too late to stop him, for, throwing his rein over the stump of a tree which stood convenient at one side of the road, he jumped off, and in a second was in the midst of the fray.
I had often seen faction fights on a small scale in our own neighbourhood, but I had never witnessed such ferocity as was displayed on the present occasion.
Conspicuous among the rest were two big fellows, who carried shillelahs of unusually large proportions. They had singled each other out, being evidently champions of their respective parties, and it was wonderful to observe the dexterity with which they assaulted each other, and defended their heads from blows, which, if delivered as intended, would have crushed their skulls or broken their arms or legs. In vain I shouted to Larry to come out of it, and at last I got so excited myself, that had I possessed a shillelah, I think that, notwithstanding the folly of the action, I should have jumped off my horse and joined in the battle. At length one of the champions was struck to the ground, where three or four others on the same side were already stretched. It was the one, as far as I could make out, that Larry had espoused, and to which the men who had spoken to us belonged. Presently I saw Larry spring out from the crowd, his head bleeding and his coat torn.
On seeing me he shouted, "Be off with yer, Maisther Terence, for they'll be coming after us," and running towards his pony, which the tide of battle was approaching, he took the reins and leaped on its back.
Knowing how annoyed my uncle would be if we got into any trouble, I followed Larry's advice, but not a moment too soon, for the defeated party came scampering along the road, with the victors after them, shrieking and yelling like a party of madmen let loose.
"On, on, Master Terence dear!" shouted Larry, and galloping forward, I soon overtook my uncle, who had turned back on hearing the hubbub, to ascertain what had become of me. On seeing that I was safe, he again turned his horse's head, and as he had no wish to get involved in the quarrel, he rode forward, closely followed by Larry. The howls, and shouts, and shrieks grew fainter as we advanced.
"That boy will be brought into proper discipline before long if he gets on board the frigate," said my uncle when I told him what had occurred, "and that love of fighting any but his country's enemies knocked out of him, I've a notion."
It was growing dusk when the lights of the town where we were to stop appeared ahead. Suddenly it struck me that I didn't hear the hoofs of Larry's steed. Turning round to speak to him, he was nowhere visible.
"Larry, come on, will you?" I shouted, but Larry didn't reply.
"The boy can't have had the folly to go back with his broken head to run the chance of another knock down," observed my uncle. "We must go and see what he has been after."
We accordingly turned round and rode back, I galloping ahead and shouting his name. I hadn't gone far when I saw his pony standing by the side of the road. As I got up to the animal, there was Larry doubled up on the ground. I called to him, but he made no reply. Leaping from my horse, I tried to lift him up. Not a sound escaped his lips. I was horrified at finding that to all appearances he was dead.
My uncle's first exclamation on reaching me was, "The lad has broken his neck, I'm afraid; but, in case there may be life left in him, the sooner we carry him to a doctor the better. Help me to place him on my saddle, Terence."
Stooping down, notwithstanding his weight, my uncle drew up his inanimate body, and placed it before him, whilst I led on his pony.
Fortunately, the inn was at the entrance of the town. My uncle, bearing Larry in his arms, entered it with me, and ordering a mattress to be brought, placed him on it, shouting out—
"Be quick, now; fetch a doctor, some of you!"
My countrymen, though willing enough to crack each others' pates, are quite as ready to help a fellow-creature in distress; and, as my uncle spoke, two, if not three, of the bystanders hurried off to obey his order.
Meanwhile, the stable-boy having taken our horses, my uncle and I did our best to resuscitate our unfortunate follower. His countenance was pale as a sheet, except where the streaks of blood had run down it; his hair was matted, and an ugly wound was visible on his head. On taking off his handkerchief, I discovered a black mark on his neck, which alarmed me more than the wound. I fully believed that my poor foster-brother was dead.
Scarcely a minute had elapsed before two persons rushed into the room; one short and pursy, the other tall and gaunt, both panting as if they had run a race.
"I have come at your summons, sir!" exclaimed the tall man.
"And shure, so have I! and was I not first in the room?" cried the second.
"In that, Doctor Murphy, you are mistaken!" exclaimed the tall man, "for didn't I put my head over your shoulder as we came through the door?"
"But my body was in before yours, Mr O'Shea; and I consider that you are bound to give place to a doctor of medicine!"
"But this appears to me to be a surgical case," said the tall man; "and as the head, as all will allow, is a more honourable part of the body than the paunch, I claim to be the first on the field; and, moreover, to have seen the patient before you could possibly have done so, Doctor Murphy. Sir," he continued, stalking past his brother practitioner, and making a bow with a battered hat to the major, "I come, I presume, on your summons, to attend to the injured boy; and such skill as I possess—and I flatter myself it's considerable—is at your service. May I ask what is the matter with him?"
"Here's a practitioner who doesn't know what his patient is suffering from by a glance of the eye!" cried the doctor of medicine. "Give place, Mr O'Shea, to a man of superior knowledge to yourself," exclaimed Doctor Murphy. "It's easy enough to see with half a glance that the boy has broken his neck, and by this time, unless he possesses a couple of spines,—and I never knew a man have more than one, though,—he must be dead as a door nail!"
"Dead!" cried Mr O'Shea; "the doctor says his patient's dead without feeling a pulse or lifting an eyelid."
"You, at all events, ought to know a corpse from a live man," cried the fat medico, growing irate, "when it's whispered that you have made as many dead bodies in the town itself as would serve for a couple of battles and a few scrimmages to boot."
"And you, Doctor Murphy, have poisoned one-half of your patients, and the others only survive because they throw the physic you send them to the dogs."
"Come, gentlemen," exclaimed the major, "while you are squabbling, any spark of life the poor boy may contain will be ebbing away. As I am not acquainted with the skill you respectively possess, I beg that you, Doctor Murphy, as holding the higher grade in your profession, will examine the boy, and express your opinion whether he is dead or alive, and state, if there's life in him, which you consider the best way to bring him round, and set him on his feet again."
Mr O'Shea, on hearing this, stepped back a few paces, and, folding his arms, looked with supreme contempt on the little doctor, who, stooping down over Larry with watch in hand, at which he mechanically gazed with a serious countenance, felt his pulse.
"His hand is cold and clammy, and there's not a single thump in his arteries," he said with solemn gravity; and letting fall Larry's hand he proceeded to examine his neck. "The vertebra broken, cracked, dislocated," he continued, in the same solemn tone. "D'ye see this black mark down his throat? it's amply sufficient to account for death. I hereby certify that this is a corpse before me, and authorise that he may be sent home to his friends for Christian burial."
"Och ahone! och ahone!" I cried out, throwing myself by the side of the mattress. "Is Larry really dead? Oh, doctors dear, can't both of you put your heads together and try to bring him to life again?"
"When the breath is out of the body, 'tis more than all the skill of the most learned practitioners can accomplish," exclaimed Doctor Murphy, rising from his knees. "I pronounce the boy dead, and no power on earth can bring him round again."
"I hold to the contrary opinion," said Mr O'Shea, advancing and drawing out of his pocket a case of instruments, from which he produced a large operation knife, and began to strop it on the palm of his hand. "It's fortunate for the boy that he didn't move, or Doctor Murphy would have been thrusting one of his big boluses down his throat and drenched him with black draughts. Stand aside, friends, and you shall see that a surgeon's skill is superior to a doctor's knowledge. I have your leave, sir, to proceed as I consider necessary?" he asked, turning to the major.
"Certainly," answered my uncle; "if Doctor Murphy considers him dead and you believe him to be alive, and act accordingly, I have more hopes in the results of your skill than in that of the other gentleman."
"You'll remain in town some time, sir, I presume, and as you're a gentleman, I shall expect a visit from you," exclaimed the fat doctor, as, nearing the door, he made a bow, and, gold cane in hand, waddled out of the room.
Mr O'Shea cast a contemptuous glance at him, and then kneeling down, applied his knife to the nape of Larry's neck. Warm blood immediately spouted forth. "I told you so," he exclaimed; "blood doesn't flow like this from a corpse. Bring hot water and cloths." These he applied to Larry's neck, and continued to pour the water on them, "to draw out the blood," as he said, and relieve the patient's head. Then pressing his knees against Larry's shoulders, he gave a pull at his head which seemed likely to dislocate his neck, if it hadn't been broken already.
As he did this, he exclaimed, "There now, I have taken the twists out, and the boy will be all to rights in the course of an hour."
A groan and a heavy sigh proclaimed that there was still life in poor Larry. Presently he opened one eye and then the other, and some spoonfuls of whisky and water, which Surgeon O'Shea poured down his throat, contributed still further to revive him.
In the course of half-an-hour Larry asked in a low voice, "Did yer beat back the O'Sullivans, yer honour? shure they were coming after us at a mighty great rate, and I fancy some one of them gave me a whack on the crown which brought me to the ground."
"Keep quiet and don't be talking," answered the surgeon, who, proud of his success, had been carefully watching his patient. "He'll do now, gentlemen," he added, looking up at my uncle and me. "We'll put him to bed, and by to-morrow morning he'll be as blithe as a lark, barring a stiff neck."
MY FIRST DAY ON BOARD.
I sat up with Larry for the greater part of the night, after the surgeon had left him. He groaned sometimes as if in pain, and talked at one time of the scrimmage with the O'Sullivans, and at another of his fiddle, which he feared had been broken. I accordingly, to pacify him, went down and got it, and managed to produce some few notes, which had the desired effect. The major after some time came in to relieve me, for we could not trust any of the people at the inn, who would to a certainty have been dosing our patient with whisky, under the belief that they were doing him a kindness, but at the risk of producing a fever.
In the morning Mr O'Shea came in.
"I thought you said that the boy would be all to rights by this time," I observed.
"Shure that was somewhat hyperbolical," he answered, with a wink. "You can't expect a man with a broken neck, and a gash as big as my thumb at the back of it, to come round in a few hours."
We couldn't complain, for certainly the worthy surgeon had been the means of saving Larry's life; but the incident detained us three whole days, before he was fit to mount his pony and accompany us to Cork. Before leaving my uncle called on Doctor Murphy, who, to his great amusement, he found had no intention of calling him out, but merely expected to receive a fee for pronouncing a living man a dead one. Though my uncle might have declined to pay the amount demanded, he handed it to the doctor, and wished him good morning.
I afterwards heard that Doctor Murphy had challenged Mr O'Shea. That gentleman, however, refused to go out on the plea that should he be wounded, and become a patient of his brother practitioner, he should certainly go the way of the rest of those under his medical care. For many a long day Doctor Murphy and Mr O'Shea carried on a fierce warfare, till their patients agreed to fight it out and settle the matter, when the doctor's party being defeated, no inconsiderable number of broken heads being the result, he left the town to exercise his skill in some other locality, where, as Mr O'Shea remarked, there was a superabundant population.
We were too late on arriving at Cork to go on board the frigate that evening, and thus Larry got the advantage of another night's rest, and I had time to brush up my uniform, and, as I conceived, to make myself as smart as any officer in His Majesty's service. The next morning my uncle hired a boat to proceed down the fair river of Cork to the harbour where the frigate lay. As we approached her my heart thrilled with pleasure as I thought of the honour I was about to enjoy of becoming one of her officers.
"There's the Liffy, yer honour," said the boatman, pointing her out as she lay some distance from the shore. Her masts had already been replaced, and her yards were across, though the sails were not as yet bent; this, however, I did not observe.
"I hope I have not detained her, uncle," I said; "I should be sorry to have done that."
The major seldom indulged in a laugh, but he did so on this occasion till the tears rolled down his cheeks.
"Midshipmen are not of so much account as you suppose, Terence," he said, still laughing. "If you were to go on shore and not return on board in time, you would soon discover that the ship would not wait for you a single moment after the captain had resolved to put to sea."
As we approached, the sentry hailed to know who we were. In my eagerness I replied, "Major McMahon and the new midshipman, Mr Terence O'Finnahan," whereat a laugh came forth from one of the ports at which, as it appeared, some of my future messmates were standing.
"You'd have better have held your tongue," said my uncle. "And now, Terence, remember to salute the flag as you see me do," he added, as he was about to mount the side of the ship. He went up, I followed, and next came Larry. On reaching the deck he took off his hat, and I doffed mine with all the grace I could muster, Larry at the same time making a profound bow and a scrape of his foot. The master's mate who received us, when my uncle inquired for Captain Macnamara, pointed to the after-part of the deck, where my future commander, with several other well-dressed officers, was standing. My uncle at once moved towards him, and I and Larry followed in the same direction. The captain, a fine-looking man, seeing him approach came forward, and they exchanged cordial greetings.
"I have come expressly to introduce my nephew Terence to you, Macnamara," said my uncle. "You were good enough, in a letter I received from you a few days ago, to say that you would receive him as a midshipman on board your ship. He's a broth of a boy, and will be an ornament to the service, I hope."
"Can't say that he is much of an ornament at present," I heard one of the officers remark to another. "Looks more like a mummer or stage-player than a midshipman."
Looking up, I observed a smile on their countenances, as they eyed me from head to foot.
"Wishing to present the boy in a respectable way to you on the quarter-deck of His Majesty's ship, we had a uniform made for him at Ballinahone, which is, I fancy, such as your officers are accustomed to wear on grand occasions," said the major, taking me by the arm as if to exhibit me to more advantage.
"I thought rather that it was the fashionable dress worn by young gentlemen in the west of Ireland at wakes or weddings," remarked the captain; "but I confess, my dear McMahon, that I do not recognise it as a naval uniform, except in the matter of the buttons, which I see are according to the right pattern. The young gentleman will have to dress differently, except when he has a fancy to go to a masquerade on shore."
The major stepped back with a look of astonishment; then surveying the uniform of the officers standing around, and taking another look at my costume, he exclaimed, laughing, "Faith, I see there is a difference, but as no regulations or patterns were procurable at Ballinahone, we did the best we could."
"Of that I have no doubt about, McMahon; you always did your best, and very well done it was," said the captain; "but I would advise you to take your nephew on shore, and get him rigged out in a more proper costume as soon as possible."
I was completely taken aback on hearing this, and finding that instead of making a favourable impression on the captain, my costume had produced a very contrary effect. In a short time, however, somewhat regaining my confidence and remembering Larry, I turned to my uncle and begged that, according to his promise, he would introduce him.
"To be shure I will," he answered, and then addressing the captain, he said, "My nephew has a foster-brother, the boy standing there, who has made up his mind to go to sea. Will you receive him on board your ship? I own, however, that he will require a good deal of licking into shape before he becomes a sailor."
"He appears to be a stout lad, and I have no doubt but that in course of time we shall succeed in making him one," answered the captain. "Do you wish to go to sea, boy?"
Larry, who didn't quite understand, I suspect, what licking into shape meant, answered notwithstanding, "Shure, yer honour, wherever Maisther Terence goes, I'm desirous of following, and as he's to become a midshipman, I'd wish to go wherever I can be with him."
"That cannot be so exactly," answered the captain, laughing; "but if you become one of the crew, you'll not be far from him, and I hope I may see you some day following your leader on board an enemy's ship, and hauling down her flag."
"Hurrah! shure that's what I'll be after doing, and anything else your honour plaises," exclaimed Larry at the top of his voice, flourishing his hat at the same time above his head. "I'll be after showing yer honour how the boys in Tipperary fight."
That matter being settled much to my satisfaction, Larry was taken off to have his name entered on the ship's books, for in those days a fish having been once caught in the net, it was not thought advisable to let him go again. In the meantime, my uncle having gone into the captain's cabin to take luncheon, I was led by a person whom, though I thought he was an officer, I supposed, from his appearance, to be one of very subordinate rank, to be introduced to my new messmates, in the midshipmen's berth.
"And so you think we wear silks and satins on board ship, I see, young gentleman, do you?" he said with a comical grin, eyeing my new coat and waistcoat. "You'll have to send these back to your grandmother, or the old woman who made them for you."
"Arrah, sir, d'ye intend to insult me?" I asked. "Were they not put together by Pat Cassidy, the family tailor, under the direction of my uncle, Major McMahon, and he shure knows what a young gentleman should wear on board ship."
"No, my lad, I only intended to laugh at you; but do you know who I am?"
"No, but I'll have you to understand that an O'Finnahan of Castle Ballinahone, County Tipperary, Ireland, is not to be insulted with impunity," I answered, trying to look as dignified as I could.
"Then I'll give you to understand, young sir, that I'm the first lieutenant of this ship, and that lieutenants don't insult midshipmen, even if they think fit to send them to the masthead. It will be your business to obey, and to ask no questions."
As I knew no more, at the time, of the rank and position of a first lieutenant on board ship than I did of the man in the moon, this announcement did not make much impression on my mind. I only thought that he was some old fellow who was fond of boasting, and had a fancy to try and make me believe that he was a personage of importance, or perhaps to frighten me. I soon discovered, however, that though he generally wore a shabby uniform, he was not a man to be trifled with. I may as well here say that his name was Saunders, that he was a thorough tar, who had come in at the hawse-hole, and had worked his way up to his present position. Old "Rough and Ready" I found he was called. His hands were continually in the tar-bucket, and he was never so happy as when, with a marline-spike hung round his neck by a rope-yarn, he was engaged in gammoning the bowsprit, or setting up the rigging. But that I found out afterwards.
"Now come along, youngster, for I don't wish to be hard on you; I'm only laughing at the ridiculous figure you cut," he said, giving way to a burst of rough merriment. By the time it was over we reached the door of the berth, where the midshipmen were assembled for dinner.
"Young gentlemen," said Mr Saunders with perfect gravity, opening the door, "I have to tell you that this is Mr Terence O'Finnahan, of Castle Ballinahone, County Tipperary, Ireland, who is to become your messmate as soon as he is docked of his fine feathers; and you'll be pleased to receive him as such."
Saying this he took his departure, and two of my new messmates seized me by the fists, which they gripped with a force intended perhaps to show the ardour of their regard, but which was excessively painful to my feelings. I restrained them, however, and stood looking round at the numerous strange faces turned towards me.
"Make room for Mr Terence O'Finnahan, of Castle Ballinahone, County Tipperary, Ireland," cried an old master's mate from the further end of the table; "but let all understand that it's the last time such a designation is to be applied to him. It's much too long a name for any practical purpose, and from henceforth he's to be known on board this ship as Paddy Finn, the Irish midshipman; and so, Paddy Finn, old boy, I'll drink your health. Gentlemen, fill your glasses; here's to the health of Paddy Finn."
Every one in the berth filled up their mugs and cups with rum and water, in which they pledged me with mock gravity. Having in the meantime taken my seat, I rose and begged to return my thanks to them for the honour they had done me, assuring them that I should be happy to be known by the new name they had given me, or by any other which might sound as sweet.
"Only, gentlemen, there's one point I must bargain for," I added; "let me be called Paddy, whatever other designation you may in your judgment think fit to bestow on me, for let me tell you that I consider it an honour to be an Irishman, and I am as proud of my native land as you can be of yours."
"Bravo, Paddy!" cried several. "You're a trump," observed the president.
"The chief has got pluck in him," said the Scotch assistant surgeon, who sat opposite to the president, a man whose grizzled hair showed that he had been long in the service.
"Where did you get those clothes from?" asked a young gentleman, whom I afterwards found to be the purser's clerk.
"He picked them up at a theatrical property shop as he passed through Cork," remarked another.
"Haul in the slack of your impudence," cried the president, whose favour I had won. "If his friends had never seen a naval uniform, how should they know how to rig him out?"
"I'm mightily obliged to you, sir," I said, for I was by this time getting heartily ashamed of my gay feathers; "and as the ship won't be sailing yet, I hope to get fitted out properly before I return on board."
"All right, youngster," said the president. "Now, I will have the pleasure of helping you to a slice of mutton. Hand the greens and potatoes up to Paddy Finn."
The plate was passed round to me, and I was allowed, without being further bantered, to discuss the viands placed under my nose, which I did with a good appetite. I was not silent, however, but introducing my journey to Cork, amused my messmates with an account of the various incidents which had occurred. When, at length, one of the midshipmen who had being doing duty on deck appeared at the door to say that Major McMahon was about to return on shore, and wanted his nephew, my new friends shook me warmly by the hand, and the president again proposed three hearty cheers for their new messmate, Paddy Finn.
I MAKE THE ACQUAINTANCE OF ONE OF MY NEW MESSMATES.
I was in much better spirits when I rejoined my uncle than when I had been led below by Mr Saunders. I found him standing with the captain on the main-deck, they having just come out of the cabin.
"I should like to take a turn round the ship before we leave her, in case I should be unable to pay you another visit," said the major. "I wish to brush up my recollections of what a frigate is like."
"Come along then," answered the captain, and he led the way along the deck.
As we got forward, we heard loud roars of laughter and clapping of hands. The cause was very evident, for there was Larry in the midst of a group of seamen, dancing an Irish jig to the tune of one of his most rollicksome songs.
"Stop a bit, my boys, and I'll show you what real music is like," he exclaimed after he had finished the song. "Wait till I get my fiddle among yer, and I'll make it squeak louder thin a score of peacocks or a dozen of sucking pigs;" and he then began again singing—
"A broth of a boy was young Daniel O'Shane, As he danced with the maidens of fair Derrynane."
Then he went on jigging away, to the great delight of his audience,—no one observing the captain or us.
It was very evident that Larry had without loss of time made himself at home among his new shipmates. They treated him much as they would have treated a young bear, or any other pet animal they might have obtained. I had expected to find him looking somewhat forlorn and downcast among so many strangers; but in reality, I ought to have trusted an Irish boy of his degree to make friends wherever he goes.
"I think we may leave your follower where he is, as, should you not require his services, he is much more likely to be kept out of mischief here than he would be ashore," said the captain to the major.
To this my uncle agreed. We had got some way along the deck when I felt a touch on my shoulder, and turning round, saw Larry's countenance grinning from ear to ear.
"Shure they're broths of boys these sailor fellows, and I'm mighty plaised to be among them; but, Maisther Terence dear, I have a favour to ask you. Would you tell the captain that I'd be mightily obliged to him if he would let me go back to Cork for my fiddle. I left it at the inn, and if I had it now I'd set all the boys on board a-jigging, with the captain and officers into the bargain."
I told him that as the captain thought it better he should remain on board, I could not ask leave for him to go on shore; but I promised that if I had an opportunity, I would send him his violin at once, or if not, would be careful to bring it myself.
"You'll not be long then, Maisther Terence; for the boys here are mighty eager to hear me play."
Assuring him how glad I was to find that he was happy, I advised him to go back to his new friends again, promising not to forget his violin.
We had come on board on the larboard side; we now went to the starboard. On each side of the gangway stood several officers and midshipmen, while on the accommodation-ladder were arranged two lines of boys. The captain's own gig was waiting for us, manned by eight smart seamen, their oars in the air. The captain himself descended, returning the salutes of the officers and men. I followed my uncle, who was treated with a similar mark of respect; but as I thought a portion was intended for me, and wishing to act in the politest way possible, I took off my hat altogether, and made several most polite bows. I had a suspicion, however, from the expression on the countenances of the midshipmen, with the suppressed titter among them, together with the grin on the faces of the men and boys, that I was doing something not altogether according to custom. Perhaps, I thought to myself, I hadn't bowed low enough, so I turned, now to my right, now to my left, and, not seeing where I was going to, should have pitched right down the ladder had not one of the men standing there caught my arm, bidding me as he did so to keep my hat on my head.
In my eagerness to get into the boat I made a spring, and should have leapt right over into the water had not another friendly hand caught me and forced me down by the side of the major.
The captain, taking the white yoke-lines, gave the order to shove off; the boat's head swung away from the side of the frigate; the oars fell with their blades flat on the water; and we began to glide rapidly up the harbour, propelled by the sturdy arms of the crew. I felt very proud as I looked at the captain in his cocked hat and laced coat, and at the midshipman who accompanied him, in a bran new uniform, though, to be sure, there wasn't much of him to look at, for he was a mere mite of a fellow.
Had I not discovered that my own costume was not according to rule, I should have considered it a much more elegant one than his. After some time, the captain observing, I fancy, that I looked rather dull, having no one to talk to, said something to the midshipman, who immediately came and sat by me.
"Well, Paddy, how do you like coming to sea?" he asked in a good-natured tone.
"I've not yet formed an opinion," I answered.
"True, my boy; Cork harbour is not the Atlantic," he remarked. "We may chance to see the waves running mountains high when we get there, and all the things tumbling about like shuttlecocks."
"I'll be content to wait until I see that same to form an opinion," I answered. "As I've come to sea, I shall be glad to witness whatever takes place there."
"You're not to be caught, I perceive," he said. "Well, Paddy, and how do you like your name?"
"Faith, I'm grateful to you and my other messmates for giving it," I answered. "I'm not ashamed of the name, and I hope to have the opportunity of making it known far and wide some day or other; and now may I ask you what's your name, for I haven't had the pleasure of hearing it."
"Thomas Pim," he answered.
"Come, that's short enough, anyhow," I observed.
"Yes; but when I first came aboard, the mess declared it was too long, so they cut off the 'h' and the 'as' and 'm' and called me Tom Pi; but even then they were not content, for they further docked it of its fair proportions, and decided that I was to be named Topi, though generally I'm called simply Pi."
"Do you mind it?" I asked.
"Not a bit," he answered. "It suits my size, I confess; for, to tell you the truth, I'm older than I look, and have been three years at sea."
"I thought you had only just joined," I remarked, for my companion was, as I have just said, a very little fellow, scarcely reaching up to my shoulder. On examining his countenance more minutely, I observed that it had a somewhat old look.
"Though I'm little I'm good, and not ashamed of my size or my name either," he said. "When bigger men are knocked over, I've a chance of escaping. I can stow myself away where others can't get in their legs; and when I go aloft or take a run on shore, I've less weight to carry,— so has the steed I ride. When I go with others to hire horses, I generally manage to get the best from the stable-keeper."
"Yes, I see that you have many advantages over bigger fellows," I said.
"I'm perfectly contented with myself now I've found that out, but I confess that at first I didn't like being laughed at and having remarks made about my name and my size. I have grown slightly since then, and no one observes now that I'm an especially little fellow."
Tom spoke for some time on the same subject.
"I say, Paddy Finn, I hope you and I will be friends," he continued. "I've heard that you Irishmen are frequently quarrelsome, but I hope you won't quarrel with me, or, for your own sake, with any of the rest of the mess. You'll gain nothing by it, as they would all turn against you to put you down."
"No fear of that," I replied, "always provided that they say nothing insulting of Ireland, or of my family or friends, or of the opinions I may hold, or take liberties which I don't like, or do anything which I consider unbecoming gentlemen."
"You leave a pretty wide door open," remarked Tom; "but, as I said before, if you don't keep the peace it will be the worse for you."
We were all this time proceeding at a rapid rate up the stream, between its wooded and picturesque banks. On arriving at Cork, the captain wished the major good-bye, saying that I must be on board again within three days, which would allow me ample time to get a proper uniform made.
I asked Tom Pim what he was going to do with himself, and proposed that, after I had been measured by the tailor, we should take a stroll together.
"Do you think the captain brought me up here for my pleasure?" he said. "I have to stay by the boat while he's on shore, to see that the men don't run away. Why, if I didn't keep my eye on them, they'd be off like shots, and drunk as fiddlers by the time the captain came back."
"I'm sorry you can't come," I said. "By the bye, talking of fiddlers, will you mind taking a fiddle on board to the boy who came with me,— Larry Harrigan? I promised to send it to him, though I didn't expect so soon to have the opportunity."
"With the greatest pleasure in the world," said Tom Pim. "Perhaps I may take a scrape on it myself. When I was a little fellow, I learned to play it."
"You must have been a very little fellow," I couldn't help remarking, though Tom didn't mind it.
As our inn was not far off, I asked my uncle to let me run on and get the fiddle, and take it down to the boat. As I carried it along, I heard people making various remarks, evidently showing that they took me for a musician or stage-player, which made me more than ever anxious to get out of a costume which I had once been so proud of wearing. Having delivered the violin in its case to Tom Pim, who promised to convey it to Larry, I rejoined my uncle.
We proceeded at once to the tailor recommended by Captain Macnamara, who, having a pattern, promised to finish my uniform in time, and to supply all the other articles I required. We spent the few days we were in Cork in visiting some old friends of the major's.
I was very anxious about the non-appearance of my chest, but the night before I was to go on board, to my great satisfaction, it arrived.
"It's a good big one, at all events," I thought; "it will hold all the things I want, and some curiosities I hope to bring back from foreign parts."
It was capable of doing so, for although it might have been somewhat smaller than the one in which the bride who never got out again hid away, it was of magnificent proportions, solid as oak and iron clamps could make it; it was big enough to hold half-a-dozen of my smaller brothers and sisters, who used to stow themselves away in it when playing hide-and-seek about the house.