STORIES OF COMEDY
BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY The Riverside Press Cambridge 1914
COPYRIGHT, 1875, BY JAMES R. OSGOOD & CO. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
BARNY O'REIRDON THE NAVIGATOR Samuel Lover 7
HADDAD-BEN-AHAB THE TRAVELLER John Galt 58
BLUEBEARD'S GHOST Wm. M. Thackeray 67
THE PICNIC PARTY Horace Smith 102
FATHER TOM AND THE POPE Samuel Ferguson 131
JOHNNY DARBYSHIRE William Howitt 168
THE GRIDIRON Samuel Lover 206
THE BOX TUNNEL Charles Reade 217
BARNY O'REIRDON THE NAVIGATOR.
BY SAMUEL LOVER.
Barny O'Reirdon was a fisherman of Kinsale, and a heartier fellow never hauled a net nor cast a line into deep water: indeed Barny, independently of being a merry boy among his companions, a lover of good fun and good whiskey, was looked up to, rather, by his brother fishermen, as an intelligent fellow, and few boats brought more fish to market than Barny O'Reirdon's; his opinion on certain points in the craft was considered law, and in short, in his own little community, Barny was what is commonly called a leading man. Now your leading man is always jealous in an inverse ratio to the sphere of his influence, and the leader of a nation is less incensed at a rival's triumph than the great man of a village. If we pursue this descending scale, what a desperately jealous person the oracle of oyster-dredges and cockle-women must be! Such was Barny O'Reirdon.
Seated one night at a public house, the common resort of Barny and other marine curiosities, our hero got entangled in debate with what he called a strange sail,—that is to say, a man he had never met before, and whom he was inclined to treat rather magisterially upon nautical subjects; at the same time the stranger was equally inclined to assume the high hand over him, till at last the new-comer made a regular outbreak by exclaiming, "Ah, tare-and-ouns, lave aff your balderdash, Mr. O'Reirdon, by the powdhers o' war it's enough, so it is, to make a dog bate his father, to hear you goin' an as if you war Curlumberus or Sir Crustyphiz Wran, when ivery one knows the divil a farther you iver war nor ketchin crabs or drudgen oysters."
"Who towld you that, my Watherford Wondher?" rejoined Barny; "what the dickens do you know about sayfarin' farther nor fishin' for sprats in a bowl wid your grandmother?"
"O, baithershin," says the stranger.
"And who made you so bowld with my name?" demanded O'Reirdon.
"No matther for that," said the stranger; "but if you'd like for to know, shure it's your own cousin Molly Mullins knows me well, and maybe I don't know you and yours as well as the mother that bore you, aye, in throth; and sure I know the very thoughts o' you as well as if I was inside o' you, Barny O'Reirdon."
"By my sowl thin, you know betther thoughts than your own, Mr. Whippersnapper, if that's the name you go by."
"No, it's not the name I go by; I've as good a name as your own, Mr. O'Reirdon, for want of a betther, and that's O'Sullivan."
"Throth there's more than there's good o' them," said Barny.
"Good or bad, I'm a cousin o' your own twice removed by the mother's side."
"And is it the Widda O'Sullivan's boy you'd be that left this come Candlemas four years?"
"Throth thin you might know better manners to your eldhers, though I'm glad to see you, anyhow, agin; but a little thravellin' puts us beyant ourselves sometimes," said Barny, rather contemptuously.
"Throth I nivir bragged out o' myself yit, and it's what I say, that a man that's only fishin' aff the land all his life has no business to compare in the regard o' thracthericks wid a man that has sailed to Fingal."
This silenced any further argument on Barny's part. Where Fingal lay was all Greek to him; but, unwilling to admit his ignorance, he covered his retreat with the usual address of his countrymen, and turned the bitterness of debate into the cordial flow of congratulation at seeing his cousin again.
The liquor was frequently circulated, and the conversation began to take a different turn, in order to lead from that which had very nearly ended in a quarrel between O'Reirdon and his relation.
The state of the crops, county cess, road jobs, etc., became topics, and various strictures as to the utility of the latter were indulged in, while the merits of the neighboring farmers were canvassed.
"Why thin," said one, "that field o' whate o' Michael Coghlan is the finest field o' whate mortial eyes was ever set upon,—divil the likes iv it myself ever seen far or near."
"Throth thin sure enough," said another, "it promises to be a fine crap anyhow, and myself can't help thinkin' it quare that Mikee Coghlan, that's a plain-spoken, quite (quiet) man, and simple like, should have finer craps than Pether Kelly o' the big farm beyant, that knows all about the great saycrets o' the airth, and is knowledgeable to a degree, and has all the hard words that iver was coined at his fingers' ends."
"Faith, he has a power o' blasthogue about him sure enough," said the former speaker, "if that could do him any good, but he isn't fit to hould a candle to Michael Coghlan in the regard o' farmin'."
"Why blur and agers," rejoined the upholder of science, "sure he met the Scotch steward that the lord beyant has, one day, that I hear is a wondherful edicated man, and was brought over here to show us all a patthern,—well, Pether Kelly met him one day, and, by gor, he discoorsed him to a degree that the Scotch chap hadn't a word left in his jaw."
"Well, and what was he the betther o' having more prate than a Scotchman?" asked the other.
"Why," answered Kelly's friend, "I think it stands to rayson that the man that done out the Scotch steward ought to know somethin' more about farmin' than Mikee Coghlan."
"Augh! don't talk to me about knowing," said the other, rather contemptuously. "Sure I gev in to you that he has a power o' prate, and the gift o' the gab, and all to that. I own to you that he has the-o-ry, and che-mis-thery, but he hasn't the craps. Now, the man that has the craps is the man for my money."
"You're right, my boy," said O'Reirdon, with an approving thump of his brawny fist upon the table, "it's a little talk goes far,—doin' is the thing."
"Ah, yiz may run down larnin' if yiz like," said the undismayed stickler for theory versus practice, "but larnin' is a fine thing, and sure where would the world be at all only for it, sure where would the staymers (steamboats) be, only for larnin'?"
"Well," said O'Reirdon, "and the divil may care if we never seen them; I'd rather depind an wind and canvas any day than the likes o' them! What are they good for, but to turn good sailors into kitchen-maids, bilin' a big pot o' wather and oilin' their fire-irons, and throwin' coals an the fire? Augh? thim staymers is a disgrace to the say; they're for all the world like old fogies, smokin' from mornin' till night and doin' no good."
"Do you call it doin' no good to go fasther nor ships iver wint before?"
"Pooh; sure Solomon, queen o' Sheba, said there was time enough for all things."
"Thrue for you," said O'Sullivan, "fair and aisy goes far in a day, is a good ould sayin'."
"Well, maybe you'll own to the improvement they're makin' in the harbor o' Howth, beyant, in Dublin, is some good."
"We'll see whether it'll be an improvement first," said the obdurate O'Reirdon.
"Why, man alive, sure you'll own it's the greatest o' good it is, takin' up the big rocks out o' the bottom o' the harbor."
"Well, an' where's the wondher o' that? sure we done the same here."
"O yis, but it was whin the tide was out and the rocks was bare; but up at Howth, they cut away the big rocks from undher the say intirely."
"O, be aisy; why how could they do that?"
"Aye, there's the matther, that's what larnin' can do; and wondherful it is intirely! and the way it is, is this, as I hear it, for I never seen it, but heerd it described by the lord to some gintlemin and ladies one day in his garden where I was helpin' the gardener to land some salary (celery). You see the ingineer goes down undher the wather intirely, and can stay there as long as he plazes."
"Whoo! and what o' that? Sure I heered the long sailor say, that come from the Aystern Injees, that the ingineers there can a'most live under wather; and goes down looking for diamonds, and has a sledge-hammer in their hand, brakin' the diamonds when they're too big to take them up whole, all as one as men brakin' stones an the road."
"Well, I don't want to go beyant that; but the way the lord's ingineer goes down is, he has a little bell wid him, and while he has that little bell to ring, hurt nor harm can't come to him."
"Arrah be aisy."
"Divil a lie in it."
"Maybe it's a blissed bell," said O'Reirdon, crossing himself.
"No, it is not a blissed bell."
"Why thin now do you think me sich a born nathral as to give in to that? as if the ringin' iv the bell, barrin' it was a blissed bell, could do the like. I tell you it's unpossible."
"Ah, nothin' 's unpossible to God."
"Sure I wasn't denyin' that; but I say the bell is unpossible."
"Why," said O'Sullivan, "you see he's not altogether complete in the demonstheration o' the mashine; it is not by the ringin' o' the bell it is done, but—"
"But what?" broke in O'Reirdon impatiently. "Do you mane for to say there is a bell in it at all at all?"
"Yis, I do," said O'Sullivan.
"I towld you so," said the promulgator of the story.
"Aye," said O'Sullivan, "but it is not by the ringin' iv the bell it is done."
"Well, how is it done then?" said the other, with a half-offended, half-supercilious air.
"It is done," said O'Sullivan, as he returned the look with interest,—"it is done entirely by jommethry."
"Oh! I understan' it now," said O'Reirdon, with an inimitable affectation of comprehension in the Oh!—"but to talk of the ringin' iv a bell doin' the like is beyant the beyants intirely, barrin', as I said before, it was a blissed bell, glory be to God!"
"And so you tell me, sir, it is jommethry," said the twice-discomfited man of science.
"Yis, sir," said O'Sullivan with an air of triumph, which rose in proportion as he carried the listeners along with him,—"jommethry."
"Well, have it your own way. There's them that won't hear rayson sometimes, nor have belief in larnin'; and you may say it's jommethry if you plaze; but I heerd them that knows betther than iver you knew say—"
"Whisht, whisht! and bad cess to you both," said O'Reirdon, "what the dickens are yiz goin' to fight about now, and sich good liquor before yiz? Hillo! there, Mrs. Quigley, bring uz another quart i' you plaze; aye, that's the chat, another quart. Augh! yiz may talk till yo're black in the face about your invintions, and your staymers, and bell ringin' and gash, and railroads; but here's long life and success to the man that invinted the impairil (imperial) quart; that was the rail beautiful invintion." And he took a long pull at the replenished vessel, which strongly indicated that the increase of its dimensions was a very agreeable measure to such as Barny.
After the introduction of this and other quarts, it would not be an easy matter to pursue the conversation that followed. Let us, therefore, transfer our story to the succeeding morning, when Barny O'Reirdon strolled forth from his cottage, rather later than usual, with his eyes bearing eye witness to the carouse of the preceding night. He had not a headache, however; whether it was that Barny was too experienced a campaigner under the banners of Bacchus, or that Mrs. Quigley's boast was a just one, namely, "that of all the drink in her house, there wasn't a headache in a hogshead of it," is hard to determine, but I rather incline to the strength of Barny's head.
Barny sauntered about in the sun, at which he often looked up, under the shelter of compressed bushy brows and long-lashed eyelids, and a shadowing hand across his forehead, to see "what o' day" it was; and, from the frequency of this action, it was evident the day was hanging heavily with Barny. He retired at last to a sunny nook in a neighboring field, and stretching himself at full length, basked in the sun, and began "to chew the cud of sweet and bitter thought." He first reflected on his own undoubted weight in his little community, but still he could not get over the annoyance of the preceding night, arising from his being silenced by O'Sullivan; "a chap," as he said himself, "that lift the place four years agon a brat iv a boy, and to think iv his comin' back and outdoin' his elders, that saw him runnin' about the place, a gassoon, that one could tache a few months before"; 'twas too bad. Barny saw his reputation was in a ticklish position, and began to consider how his disgrace could be retrieved. The very name of Fingal was hateful to him; it was a plague-spot on his peace that festered there incurably. He first thought of leaving Kinsale altogether; but flight implied so much of defeat, that he did not long indulge in that notion. No; he would stay, "in spite of all the O'Sullivans, kith and kin, breed, seed, and generation." But at the same time he knew he should never hear the end of that hateful place, Fingal; and if Barny had had the power, he would have enacted a penal statute, making it death to name the accursed spot, wherever it was; but not being gifted with such legislative authority, he felt Kinsale was no place for him, if he would not submit to be flouted every hour out of the four-and-twenty, by man, woman, and child, that wished to annoy him. What was to be done? He was in the perplexing situation, to use his own words, "of the cat in the thripe shop," he didn't know which way to choose. At last, after turning himself over in the sun several times, a new idea struck him. Couldn't he go to Fingal himself? and then he'd be equal to that upstart, O'Sullivan. No sooner was the thought engendered, than Barny sprang to his feet a new man; his eye brightened, his step became once more elastic,—he walked erect, and felt himself to be all over Barny O'Reirdon once more. "Richard was himself again."
But where was Fingal?—there was the rub. That was a profound mystery to Barny, which, until discovered, must hold him in the vile bondage of inferiority. The plain-dealing reader would say, "Couldn't he ask?" No, no; that would never do for Barny: that would be an open admission of ignorance his soul was above, and consequently Barny set his brains to work to devise measures of coming at the hidden knowledge by some circuitous route, that would not betray the end he was working for. To this purpose, fifty stratagems were raised, and demolished in half as many minutes, in the fertile brain of Barny, as he strided along the shore; and as he was working hard at the fifty-first, it was knocked all to pieces by his jostling against some one whom he never perceived he was approaching, so immersed was he in his speculations, and on looking up, who should it prove to be but his friend "the long sailor from the Aystern Injees." This was quite a godsend to Barny, and much beyond what he could have hoped for. Of all men under the sun, the long sailor was the man in a million for Barny's net at that minute, and accordingly he made a haul of him, and thought it the greatest catch he ever made in his life.
Barny and the long sailor were in close companionship for the remainder of the day, which was closed, as the preceding one, in a carouse; but on this occasion there was only a duet performance in honor of the jolly god, and the treat was at Barny's expense. What the nature of their conversation during the period was, I will not dilate on, but keep it as profound a secret as Barny himself did, and content myself with saying, that Barny looked a much happier man the next day. Instead of wearing his hat slouched, and casting his eyes on the ground, he walked about with his usual unconcern, and gave his nod and the passing word of civilitude to every friend he met; he rolled his quid of tobacco about in his jaw with an air of superior enjoyment, and if disturbed in his narcotic amusement by a question, he took his own time to eject "the leperous distilment" before he answered the querist,—a happy composure, that bespoke a man quite at ease with himself. It was in this agreeable spirit that Barny bent his course to the house of Peter Kelly, the owner of the "big farm beyant," before alluded to, in order to put in practice a plan he had formed for the fulfilment of his determination of rivalling O'Sullivan.
He thought it probable that Peter Kelly, being one of the "snuggest" men in the neighborhood, would be a likely person to join him in a "spec," as he called it (a favorite abbreviation of his for the word "speculation"), and accordingly, when he reached the "big-farm house," he accosted the owner with his usual "God save you."
"God save you kindly, Barny," returned Peter Kelly; "an' what is it brings you here, Barny," asked Peter, "this fine day, instead o' being out in the boat?"
"O, I'll be out in the boat soon enough, and it's far enough too I'll be in her; an' indeed it's partly that same is bringin' me here to yourself."
"Why, do you want me to go along wid you, Barny?"
"Troth an' I don't, Mr. Kelly. You're a knowledgeable man an land, but I'm afeared it's a bad bargain you'd be at say."
"And what wor you talking about me and your boat for?"
"Why, you see, sir, it was in the regard of a little bit o' business, an' if you'd come wid me and take a turn in the praty-field, I'll be behouldin' to you, and maybe you'll hear somethin' that won't be displazin' to you."
"An' welkim, Barny," said Peter Kelly.
When Barny and Peter were in the "praty-field," Barny opened the trenches (I don't mean the potato trenches), but, in military parlance, he opened the trenches and laid siege to Peter Kelly, setting forth the extensive profits that had been realized at various "specs" that had been made by his neighbors in exporting potatoes. "And sure," said Barny, "why shouldn't you do the same, and they are ready to your hand? as much as to say, why don't you profit by me, Peter Kelly? And the boat is below there in the harbor, and, I'll say this much, the divil a betther boat is betune this and herself."
"Indeed, I b'lieve so, Barny," said Peter, "for considhering where we stand, at this present, there's no boat at all at all betune us." And Peter laughed with infinite pleasure at his own hit.
"O, well, you know what I mane, anyhow, an', as I said before, the boat is a darlint boat, and as for him that commands her—I b'lieve I need say nothin' about that." And Barny gave a toss of his head and a sweep of his open hand, more than doubling the laudatory nature of his comment on himself.
But, as the Irish saying is, "to make a long story short," Barny prevailed on Peter Kelly to make an export; but in the nature of the venture they did not agree. Barny had proposed potatoes; Peter said there were enough of them already where he was going; and Barny rejoined that, "praties were so good in themselves there never could be too much o' thim anywhere." But Peter being a knowledgeable man, and up to all the "saycrets o' the airth, and understanding the the-o-ry and the che-mis-thery," overruled Barny's proposition, and determined upon a cargo of scalpeens (which name they gave to pickled mackerel), as a preferable merchandise, quite forgetting that Dublin Bay herrings were a much better and as cheap a commodity, at the command of the Fingalians. But in many similar mistakes the ingenious Mr. Kelly has been paralleled by other speculators. But that is neither here nor there, and it was all one to Barny whether his boat was freighted with potatoes or scalpeens, so long as he had the honor and glory of becoming a navigator, and being as good as O'Sullivan.
Accordingly the boat was laden and all got in readiness for putting to sea, and nothing was now wanting but Barny's orders to haul up the gaff and shake out the jib of his hooker.
But this order Barny refrained to give, and for the first time in his life exhibited a disinclination to leave the shore. One of his fellow-boatmen, at last, said to him, "Why thin, Barny O'Reirdon, what the divil is come over you, at all at all? What's the maynin' of your loitherin' about here, and the boat ready and a lovely fine breeze aff o' the land?"
"O, never you mind; I b'lieve I know my own business anyhow, an' it's hard, so it is, if a man can't ordher his own boat to sail when he plazes."
"O, I was only thinking it quare; and a pity more betoken, as I said before, to lose the beautiful breeze, and—"
"Well, just keep your thoughts to yourself, i' you plaze, and stay in the boat as I bid you, and don't be out of her on your apperl, by no manner o' manes, for one minit, for you see I don't know when it may be plazin' to me to go aboord an' set sail."
"Well, all I can say is, I never seen you afeared to go to say before."
"Who says I'm afeared?" said O'Reirdon; "you'd betther not say that agin, or in troth I'll give you a leatherin' that won't be for the good o' your health,—troth, for three straws this minit I'd lave you that your own mother wouldn't know you with the lickin' I'd give you; but I scorn your dirty insinuation; no man ever seen Barny O'Reirdon afeard yet, anyhow. Howld your prate, I tell you, and look up to your betthers. What do you know iv navigation? Maybe you think it's as aisy for to sail on a voyage as to go start a fishin'." And Barny turned on his heel and left the shore.
The next day passed without the hooker sailing, and Barny gave a most sufficient reason for the delay, by declaring that he had a warnin' givin him in a dhrame (Glory be to God), and that it was given to him to understand (under Heaven) that it wouldn't be lucky that day.
Well, the next day was Friday, and Barny, of course, would not sail any more than any other sailor who could help it on this unpropitious day. On Saturday, however, he came, running in a great hurry down to the shore, and, jumping aboard, he gave orders to make all sail, and taking the helm of the hooker, he turned her head to the sea, and soon the boat was cleaving the blue waters with a velocity seldom witnessed in so small a craft, and scarcely conceivable to those who have not seen the speed of a Kinsale hooker.
"Why, thin, you tuk the notion mighty suddint, Barny," said the fisherman next in authority to O'Reirdon, as soon as the bustle of getting the boat under way had subsided.
"Well, I hope it's plazin' to you at last," said Barny, "troth one ud think you were never at say before, you wor in such a hurry to be off; as new-fangled a'most as the child with a play toy."
"Well," said the other of Barny's companions, for there were but two with him in the boat, "I was thinkin' myself, as well as Jemmy, that we lost two fine days for nothin', and we'd be there a'most, maybe, now, if we sail'd three days agon."
"Don't b'lieve it," said Barny, emphatically. "Now, don't you know yourself that there is some days that the fish won't come near the lines at all, and that we might as well be castin' our nets on the dhry land as in the say, for all we'll catch if we start on an unlooky day; and sure, I towld you I was waitin' only till I had it given to me to undherstan' that it was looky to sail, and I go bail we'll be there sooner than if we started three days agon, for if you don't start with good look before you, faix maybe it's never at all to the end o' your trip you'll come."
"Well, there's no use in talkin' aboot it now, anyhow; but when do you expec' to be there?"
"Why, you see we must wait antil I can tell how the wind is like to hould on, before I can make up my mind to that."
"But you're sure now, Barny, that you're up to the coorse you have to run?"
"See now, lave me alone and don't be cross crass-questionin' me—tare-an-ouns, do you think me sich a bladdherang as for to go to shuperinscribe a thing I wasn't aiquil to?"
"No; I was only goin' to ax you what coorse you wor goin' to steer?"
"You'll find out soon enough when we get there—and so I bid you agin lay me alone,—just keep your toe in your pump. Shure I'm here at the helm, and a weight on my mind, and it's fitther for you, Jim, to mind your own business and lay me to mind mine; away wid you there and be handy, haul taut that foresheet there, we must run close on the wind; be handy, boys; make everything dhraw."
These orders were obeyed, and the hooker soon passed to windward of a ship that left the harbor before her, but could not hold on a wind with the same tenacity as the hooker, whose qualities in this particular render it peculiarly suitable for the purposes to which it is applied, namely, pilot and fishing boats.
We have said a ship left the harbor before the hooker had set sail; and it is now fitting to inform the reader that Barny had contrived, in the course of his last meeting with the "long sailor," to ascertain that this ship, then lying in the harbor, was going to the very place Barny wanted to reach. Barny's plan of action was decided upon in a moment; he had now nothing to do but to watch the sailing of the ship and follow in her course. Here was, at once, a new mode of navigation discovered.
The stars, twinkling in mysterious brightness through the silent gloom of night, were the first encouraging, because visible, guides to the adventurous mariners of antiquity. Since then, the sailor, encouraged by a bolder science, relies on the unseen agency of nature, depending on the fidelity of an atom of iron to the mystic law that claims its homage in the north. This is one refinement of science upon another. But the beautiful simplicity of Barny O'Reirdon's philosophy cannot be too much admired,—to follow the ship that is going to the same place. Is not this navigation made easy?
But Barny, like many a great man before him, seemed not to be aware of how much credit he was entitled to for his invention, for he did not divulge to his companions the originality of his proceeding; he wished them to believe he was only proceeding in the commonplace manner, and had no ambition to be distinguished as the happy projector of so simple a practice.
For this purpose he went to windward of the ship and then fell off again, allowing her to pass him, as he did not wish even those on board the ship to suppose he was following in their wake; for Barny, like all people that are quite full of one scheme, and fancy everybody is watching them, dreaded lest any one should fathom his motives. All that day Barny held on the same course as his leader, keeping at a respectful distance, however, "for fear 'twould look like dodging her," as he said to himself; but as night closed in, so closed in Barny with the ship, and kept a sharp lookout that she should not give him the slip. The next morning dawned, and found the hooker and ship companions still; and thus matters proceeded for four days, during which entire time they had not seen land since their first losing sight of it, although the weather was clear.
"By my sowl," thought Barny, "the channel must be mighty wide in these parts, and for the last day or so we've been goin' purty free with a flowing sheet, and I wondher we aren't closin' in wid the shore by this time; or maybe it's farther off than I thought it was." His companions, too, began to question Barny on the subject, but to their queries he presented an impenetrable front of composure, and said "it was always the best plan to keep a good bowld offin'." In two days more, however, the weather began to be sensibly warmer, and Barny and his companions remarked that it was "goin' to be the finest sayson—God bless it—that ever kem out o' the skies for many a long year, and maybe it's the whate would not be beautiful, and a great dale of it."
It was at the end of a week that the ship which Barny had hitherto kept ahead of him showed symptoms of bearing down upon him, as he thought, and, sure enough, she did; and Barny began to conjecture what the deuce the ship could want with him, and commenced inventing answers to the questions he thought it possible might be put to him in case the ship spoke him. He was soon put out of suspense by being hailed and ordered to run under her lee, and the captain, looking over the quarter, asked Barny where he was going.
"Faith then, I'm goin' an my business," said Barny.
"But where?" said the captain.
"Why, sure, an' it's no matther where a poor man like me id be goin'," said Barny.
"Only I'm curious to know what the deuce you've been following my ship for, the last week."
"Follyin' your ship! Why, thin, blur-an-agers, do you think it's follyin' yiz I am?"
"It's very like it," said the captain.
"Why, did two people niver thravel the same road before?"
"I don't say they didn't; but there's a great difference between a ship of seven hundred tons and a hooker."
"O, as for that matther," said Barny, "the same high-road sarves a coach and four and a lowback car, the thravellin' tinker an' a lord a' horseback."
"That's very true," said the captain, "but the cases are not the same, Paddy, and I can't conceive what the devil brings you here."
"And who ax'd you to consayve anything about it?" asked Barny, somewhat sturdily.
"D—n me, if I can imagine what you're about, my fine fellow," said the captain; "and my own notion is, that you don't know where the d—l you're going yourself."
"O baithershin!" said Barny, with a laugh of derision.
"Why then do you object to tell?" said the captain.
"Arrah sure, captain, an' don't you know that sometimes vessels is bound to sail under saycret ordhers?" said Barny, endeavoring to foil the question by badinage.
There was a universal laugh from the deck of the ship, at the idea of a fishing-boat sailing under secret orders; for, by this time, the whole broadside of the vessel was crowded with grinning mouths and wondering eyes at Barny and his boat.
"O, it's a thrifle makes fools laugh," said Barny.
"Take care, my fine fellow, that you don't be laughing at the wrong side of your mouth before long, for I've a notion that you're cursedly in the wrong box, as cunning a fellow as you think yourself. D—n your stupid head, can't you tell what brings you here?"
"Why, thin, by gor, one id think the whole say belonged to you, you're so mighty bowld in axin' questions an it. Why, tare-an-ouns, sure I've as much right to be here as you, though I haven't as big a ship nor as fine a coat,—but maybe I can take as good a sailin' out o' the one, and has as bowld a heart under th' other."
"Very well," said the captain, "I see there's no use in talking to you, so go to the d—l your own way." And away bore the ship, leaving Barny in indignation and his companions in wonder.
"An' why wouldn't you tell him?" said they to Barny.
"Why, don't you see," said Barny, whose object was now to blind them,—"don't you see, how do I know but maybe he might be goin' to the same place himself, and maybe he has a cargo of scalpeens as well as uz, and wants to get before us there."
"True for you, Barny," said they. "By dad, you're right." And their inquiries being satisfied, the day passed as former ones had done, in pursuing the course of the ship.
In four days more, however, the provisions in the hooker began to fail, and they were obliged to have recourse to the scalpeens for sustenance, and Barny then got seriously uneasy at the length of the voyage, and the likely greater length, for anything he could see to the contrary; and, urged at last by his own alarms and those of his companions, he was enabled, as the wind was light, to gain on the ship, and when he found himself alongside he demanded a parley with the captain.
The captain, on hearing that the "hardy hooker," as she got christened, was under his lee, came on deck; and as soon as he appeared Barny cried out,—
"Why, thin, blur-an-agers, Captain dear, do you expec' to be there soon?"
"Where?" said the captain.
"O, you know yourself!" said Barny.
"It's well for me I do," said the captain.
"Thrue for you, indeed, your honor," said Barny, in his most insinuating tone; "but whin will you be at the ind o' your voyage, Captain jewel?"
"I daresay in about three months," said the captain.
"O Holy Mother!" ejaculated Barny; "three months!—arrah, it's jokin' you are, Captain dear, and only want to freken me."
"How should I frighten you?" asked the captain.
"Why, thin, your honor, to tell God's thruth, I heard you were goin' there, an' as I wanted to go there too, I thought I couldn't do better nor to folly a knowledgeable gintleman like yourself, and save myself the throuble iv findin' it out."
"And where do you think I am going?" said the captain.
"Why, thin," said Barny, "isn't it to Fingal?"
"No," said the captain, "it's to Bengal."
"O Gog's blakey!" said Barny, "what'll I do now, at all at all?"
The captain ordered Barny on deck, as he wished to have some conversation with him on what he, very naturally, considered a most extraordinary adventure. Heaven help the captain! he knew little of Irishmen, or he would not have been so astonished. Barny made his appearance. Puzzling question and more puzzling answer followed in quick succession between the commander and Barny, who, in the midst of his dilemma, stamped about, thumped his head, squeezed his caubeen into all manner of shapes, and vented his despair anathematically: "O, my heavy hathred to you, you tarnal thief iv a long sailor, it's a purty scrape yiv led me into. By gor, I thought it was Fingal he said, and now I hear it is Bingal. O, the divil sweep you for navigation, why did I meddle or make wid you at all at all? And my curse light on you, Terry O'Sullivan, why did I iver come across you, you onlooky vagabone, to put sich thoughts in my head? And so it's Bingal, and not Fingal, you're goin' to, Captain?"
"Yes, indeed, Paddy."
"An' might I be so bowld to ax, Captain, is Bingal much farther nor Fingal?"
"A trifle or so, Paddy?"
"Och, thin, millia murther, weirasthru, how'll I iver get there at all at all?" roared out poor Barny.
"By turning about, and getting back the road you've come, as fast as you can."
"Is it back? O Queen iv Heaven! an' how will I iver get back?" said the bewildered Barny.
"Then, you don't know your course, it appears?"
"O, faix I knew it iligant, as long as your honor was before me."
"But you don't know your course back?"
"Why, indeed, not to say rightly all out, your honor."
"Can't you steer?" said the captain.
"The divil a betther hand at the tiller in all Kinsale," said Barny, with his usual brag.
"Well, so far so good," said the captain. "And you know the points of the compass,—you have a compass, I suppose?"
"A compass! by my sowl an' it's not let alone a compass, but a pair a compasses I have, that my brother the carpinthir left me for a keepsake whin he wint abroad; but, indeed, as for the points o' thim I can't say much, for the childer spylt thim intirely, rootin' holes in the flure."
"What the plague are you talking about?" asked the captain.
"Wasn't your honor discoorsin' me about the points o' the compasses?"
"Confound your thick head!" said the captain. "Why, what an ignoramus you must be, not to know what a compass is, and you at sea all your life? Do you even know the cardinal points?"
"The cardinals! faix, an' it's a great respect I have for them, your honor. Sure, ar'n't they belongin' to the pope?"
"Confound you, you blockhead!" roared the captain, in a rage,—"'twould take the patience of the pope and the cardinals, and the cardinal virtues into the bargain, to keep one's temper with you. Do you know the four points of the wind?"
"By my sowl, I do, and more."
"Well, never mind more, but let us stick to four. You're sure you know the four points of the wind?"
"By dad, it would be a quare thing if a seyfarin' man didn't know somethin' about the wind anyhow. Why, Captain dear, you must take me for a nathral intirely, to suspect me o' the like o' not knowin' all about the wind. By gor, I know as much o' the wind a'most as a pig."
"Indeed, I believe so," laughed out the captain.
"O, you may laugh if you plaze, and I see by the same that you don't know about the pig, with all your edication, Captain."
"Well, what about the pig?"
"Why, sir, did you never hear a pig can see the wind?"
"I can't say that I did."
"O, thin he does, and for that rayson who has a right to know more about it?"
"You don't, for one, I dare say, Paddy; and maybe you have a pig aboard to give you information."
"Sorra taste, your honor, not as much as a rasher o' bacon; but it's maybe your honor never seen a pig tossing up his snout, consaited like, and running like mad afore a storm."
"Well, what if I have?"
"Well, sir, that is when they see the wind a-comin'."
"Maybe so, Paddy, but all this knowledge in piggery won't find you your way home; and, if you take my advice, you will give up all thoughts of endeavoring to find your way back, and come on board. You and your messmates, I dare say, will be useful hands, with some teaching; but, at all events, I cannot leave you here on the open sea, with every chance of being lost."
"Why, thin, indeed, and I'm behowlden to your honor; and it's the hoighth o' kindness, so it is, you offer; and it's nothin' else but a gintleman you are, every inch o' you; but I hope it's not so bad wid us yet, as to do the likes o' that."
"I think it's bad enough," said the captain, "when you are without a compass and knowing nothing of your course, and nearly a hundred and eighty leagues from land."
"An' how many miles would that be, Captain?"
"Three times as many."
"I never larned the rule o' three, Captain, and maybe your honor id tell me yourself."
"That is rather more than five hundred miles."
"Five hundred miles!" shouted Barny. "O, the Lord look down upon us! how'll we ever get back?"
"That's what I say," said the captain; "and therefore, I recommend you to come aboard with me."
"And where 'ud the hooker be all the time?" said Barny.
"Let her go adrift," was the answer.
"Is it the darlint boat? O, by dad, I'll never hear o' that at all."
"Well, then, stay in her and be lost. Decide upon the matter at once, either come on board or cast off." And the captain was turning away as he spoke, when Barny called after him, "Arrah, thin, your honor, don't go jist for one minit antil I ax you one word more. If I wint wid you, whin would I be home again?"
"In about seven months."
"O, thin, that puts the wig an it at wanst. I dar'n't go at all."
"Why, seven months are not long passing."
"Thrue for you, in throth," said Barny, with a shrug of his shoulders. "Faix, it's myself knows, to my sorrow, the half year comes round mighty suddint, and the lord's agint comes for the thrifle o' rent."
"Then what's your objection, as to the time?" asked the captain.
"Arrah, sure, sir, what would the woman that owns me do while I was away? and maybe it's break her heart the craythur would, thinking I was lost intirely; and who'd be at home to take care o' the childher' and airn thim the bit and the sup, whin I'd be away? and who knows but it's all dead they'd be afore I got back? Och hone! sure the heart id fairly break in my body, if hurt or harm kem to them, through me. So, say no more, Captain dear, only give me a thrifle o' directions how I'm to make an offer at gettin' home, and it's myself that will pray for you night, noon, and mornin' for that same."
"Well, Paddy," said the captain, "as you are determined to go back, in spite of all I can say, you must attend to me well while I give you as simple instructions as I can. You say you know the four points of the wind, north, south, east, and west."
"How do you know them? for I must see that you, are not likely to make a mistake. How do you know the points?"
"Why, you see, sir, the sun, God bless it, rises in the aist, and sets in the west, which stands to raison; and whin you stand bechuxt the aist and the west, the north is forninst you."
"And when the north is fornenst you, as you say, is the east on your right or your left hand?"
"On the right hand, your honor."
"Well, I see you know that much, however. Now," said the captain, "the moment you leave the ship, you must steer a northeast course, and you will make some land near home in about a week, if the wind holds as it is now, and it is likely to do so; but, mind me, if you turn out of your course in the smallest degree you are a lost man."
"Many thanks to your honor!"
"And how are you off for provisions?"
"Why, thin, indeed, in the regard o' that same we are in the hoighth o' distress, for exceptin' the scalpeens, sorra taste passed our lips for these four days."
"O, you poor devils!" said the commander, in a tone of sincere commiseration, "I'll order you some provisions on board before you start."
"Long life to your honor! and I'd like to drink the health of so noble a gintleman."
"I understand you, Paddy, you shall have grog too."
"Musha, the heavens shower blessin's an you, I pray the Virgin Mary and the twelve apostles, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, not forgettin' Saint Pathrick."
"Thank you, Paddy; but keep your prayers for yourself, for you need them all to help you home again."
"Oh! never fear, when the thing is to be done, I'll do it, by dad, wid a heart and a half. And sure, your honor, God is good, an' will mind dessolute craythurs like uz on the wild oceant as well as ashore."
While some of the ship's crew were putting the captain's benevolent intentions to Barny and his companions into practice, by transferring some provisions to the hooker, the commander entertained himself by further conversation with Barny, who was the greatest original he had ever met. In the course of their colloquy, Barny drove many hard queries at the captain, respecting the wonders of the nautical profession, and at last put the question to him plump:—
"Oh! thin, Captain dear, and how is it at all at all, that you make your way over the wide says intirely to them furrin parts?"
"You would not understand, Paddy, if I attempted to explain to you."
"Sure enough, indeed, your honor, and I ask your pardon, only I was curious to know, and sure no wondher."
"It requires various branches of knowledge to make a navigator."
"Branches," said Barny, "by gar I think it id take the whole tree o' knowledge to make it out. And that place you are going to, sir, that Bingal (oh! bad luck to it for a Bingal, it's the sore Bingal to me), is it so far off as you say?"
"Yes, Paddy, half round the world."
"Is it round in airnest, Captain dear? Round about!"
"O, thin, ar'n't you afeard that whin you come to the top and that you're obleedged to go down, that you'd go slidderhin away intirely, and never be able to stop, maybe. It's bad enough, so it is, going down hill by land, but it must be the dickens all out by wather."
"But there is no hill, Paddy; don't you know that water is always level?"
"By dad, it's very flat anyhow, and by the same token it's seldom I throuble it; but sure, your honor, if the wather is level, how do you make out that it is round you go?"
"That is a part of the knowledge I was speaking to you about," said the captain.
"Musha, bad luck to you, knowledge, but you're a quare thing!—and where is it Bingal, bad cess to it, would be at all at all?"
"In the East Indies."
"O, that is where they make the tay, isn't it, sir?"
"No, where the tea grows is further still."
"Further! why that must be the ind of the world intirely; and they don't make it, thin, sir, but it grows, you tell me."
"Is it like hay, your honor?"
"Not exactly, Paddy; what puts hay in your head?"
"Oh! only bekase I hear them call it Bohay."
"A most logical deduction, Paddy."
"And is it a great deal farther, your honor, the tay country is?"
"Yes, Paddy, China it is called."
"That's, I suppose, what we call Chaynee, sir?"
"By dad, I never could come at it rightly before, why it was nathral to drink tay out o' chaynee. I ax your honor's pardon for bein' troublesome, but I hard tell from the long sailor, iv a place they call Japan, in them furrin parts, and is it there, your honor?"
"Quite true, Paddy."
"And I suppose it's there the blackin' comes from."
"No, Paddy, you are out there."
"O well, I thought it stood to rayson, as I heerd of Japan blackin', sir, that it would be there it kem from; besides,—as the blacks themselves,—the naygers, I mane, is in them parts."
"The negroes are in Africa, Paddy, much nearer to us."
"God betune us and harm. I hope I would not be too near them," said Barny.
"Why, what's your objection?"
"Arrah sure, sir, they're hardly mortials at all, but has the mark o' the bastes an thim."
"How do you make out that, Paddy?"
"Why sure, sir, and didn't Natur make thim wid wool on their heads, plainly makin' it undherstood to Chrishthans, that they were little more nor cattle?"
"I think your head is a wool-gathering now, Paddy," said the captain, laughing.
"Faix, maybe so, indeed," answered Barny, good-humoredly, "but it's seldom I ever went out to look for wool and kem home shorn, anyhow," said he, with a look of triumph.
"Well, you won't have that to say for the future, Paddy," said the captain, laughing again.
"My name's not Paddy, your honor," said Barny, returning the laugh, but seizing the opportunity to turn the joke aside, that was going against him; "my name isn't Paddy, sir, but Barny."
"O, if it was Solomon, you'll be bare enough when you go home this time; you have not gathered much this trip, Barny."
"Sure, I've been gathering knowledge, anyhow, your honor," said Barny, with a significant look at the captain, and a complimentary tip of his hand to his caubeen, "and God bless you for being so good to me."
"And what's your name besides Barny?" asked the captain.
"O'Reirdon, your honor,—Barny O'Reirdon's my name."
"Well, Barny O'Reirdon, I won't forget your name nor yourself in a hurry, for you are certainly the most original navigator I ever had the honor of being acquainted with."
"Well," said Barny, with a triumphant toss of his head, "I have done Terry O'Sullivan, at any rate, the devil a half so far he ever was, and that's a comfort. I have muzzled his clack for the rest iv his life, and he won't be comin' over us wid the pride iv his Fingal while I'm to the fore, that was a'most at Bingal!
"Terry O'Sullivan,—who is he, pray?" said the captain.
"O, he's a scut iv a chap that's not worth your axin' for,—he's not worth your honor's notice,—a braggin' poor craythur. O, wait till I get home, and the devil a more braggin' they'll hear out of his jaw."
"Indeed then, Barny, the sooner you turn your face toward home the better," said the captain: "since you will go, there is no need of your losing more time."
"Thrue for you, your honor,—and sure it's well for me I had the luck to meet with the likes o' your honor, that explained the ins and the outs iv it, to me, and laid it all down as plain as prent."
"Are you sure you remember my directions?" said the captain.
"Troth an I'll niver forget them to the day o' my death, and is bound to pray, more betoken, for you and yours."
"Don't mind praying for me till you get home, Barny; but answer me, how are you to steer when you shall leave me?"
"The nor-aist coorse, your honor, that's the coorse agin the world."
"Remember that! Never alter that course till you see land,—let nothing make you turn out of a northeast course."
"Throth an' that would be the dirty turn, seein' that it was yourself that ordhered it. O no, I'll depend my life an the nor-aist coorse, and God help any that comes betune me an' it,—I'd run him down if he was my father."
"Well, good by, Barny."
"Good by, and God bless you, your honor, and send you safe."
"That's a wish you want for yourself, Barny,—never fear for me, but mind yourself well."
"O, sure, I'm as good as at home wanst I know the way, barrin' the wind is conthrary; sure the nor-aist coorse'll do the business complate. Good by, your honor, and long life to you, and more power to your elbow, and a light heart and a heavy purse to you evermore, I pray the blessed Virgin and all the saints, amin!" And so saying, Barny descended the ship's side, and once more assumed the helm of the "hardy hooker."
The two vessels now separated on their opposite courses. What a contrast their relative situations afforded! Proudly the ship bore away under her lofty and spreading canvas, cleaving the billows before her, manned by an able crew, and under the guidance of experienced officers; the finger of science to point the course of her progress, the faithful chart to warn of the hidden rock and the shoal, the long line and the quadrant to measure her march and prove her position. The poor little hooker cleft not the billows, each wave lifted her on its crest like a sea-bird; but the three inexperienced fishermen to manage her; no certain means to guide them over the vast ocean they had to traverse, and the holding of the "fickle wind" the only chance of their escape from perishing in the wilderness of waters. By the one, the feeling excited is supremely that of man's power. By the other, of his utter helplessness. To the one, the expanse of ocean could scarcely be considered "trackless." To the other, it was a waste indeed.
Yet the cheer that burst from the ship, at parting, was answered as gayly from the hooker as though the odds had not been so fearfully against her, and no blither heart beat on board the ship than that of Barny O'Reirdon.
Happy light-heartedness of my countrymen! How kindly have they been fortified by nature against the assaults of adversity; and if they blindly rush into dangers, they cannot be denied the possession of gallant hearts to fight their way out of them.
But each hurrah became less audible; by degrees the cheers dwindled into faintness, and finally were lost in the eddies of the breeze.
The first feeling of loneliness that poor Barny experienced was when he could no longer hear the exhilarating sound. The plash of the surge, as it broke on the bows of his little boat, was uninterrupted by the kindred sound of human voice; and, as it fell upon his ear, it smote upon his heart. But he replied, waved his hat, and the silent signal was answered from those on board the ship.
"Well, Barny," said Jemmy, "what was the captain sayin' to you at the time you wor wid him?"
"Lay me alone," said Barny, "I'll talk to you when I see her out o' sight, but not a word till thin. I'll look afther him, the rale gintleman that he is, while there's a topsail of his ship to be seen, and then I'll send my blessin' afther him, and pray for his good fortune wherever he goes, for he's the right sort and nothin' else." And Barny kept his word, and when his straining eye could no longer trace a line of the ship, the captain certainly had the benefit of "a poor man's blessing."
The sense of utter loneliness and desolation had not come upon Barny until now; but he put his trust in the goodness of Providence, and in a fervent mental outpouring of prayer resigned himself to the care of his Creator. With an admirable fortitude, too, he assumed a composure to his companions that was a stranger to his heart; and we all know how the burden of anxiety is increased when we have none with whom to sympathize. And this was not all. He had to affect ease and confidence, for Barny not only had no dependence on the firmness of his companions to go through the undertaking before them, but dreaded to betray to them how he had imposed on them in the affair. Barny was equal to all this. He had a stout heart, and was an admirable actor; yet, for the first hour after the ship was out of sight, he could not quite recover himself, and every now and then, unconsciously, he would look back with a wishful eye to the point where last he saw her. Poor Barny had lost his leader.
The night fell, and Barny stuck to the helm as long as nature could sustain want of rest, and then left it in charge of one of his companions, with particular directions how to steer, and ordered, if any change in the wind occurred, that they should instantly awake him. He could not sleep long, however; the fever of anxiety was upon him, and the morning had not long dawned when he awoke. He had not well rubbed his eyes and looked about him, when he thought he saw a ship in the distance approaching them. As the haze cleared away, she showed distinctly bearing down toward the hooker. On board the ship, the hooker, in such a sea, caused surprise as before, and in about an hour she was so close as to hail, and order the hooker to run under her lee.
"The devil a taste," said Barny. "I'll not quit my nor-aist coorse for the king of Ingland, nor Bonyparty into the bargain. Bad cess to you, do you think I've nothin' to do but plaze you?"
Again he was hailed.
"Oh! bad luck to the toe I'll go to you."
"Spake loudher you'd betther," said Barny, jeeringly, still holding on his course.
A gun was fired ahead of him.
"By my sowl you spoke loudher that time, sure enough," said Barny.
"Take care, Barny," cried Jemmy and Peter together. "Blur-an-agers, man, we'll be kilt if you don't go to them."
"Well, and we'll be lost if we turn out iv our nor-aist coorse, and that's as broad as it's long. Let them hit iz if they like; sure it ud be a pleasanter death nor starvin' at say. I tell you agin I'll turn out o' my nor-aist coorse for no man."
A shotted gun was fired. The shot hopped on the water as it passed before the hooker.
"Phew! you missed it, like your mammy's blessin'," said Barny.
"O murther!" said Jemmy, "didn't you see the ball hop aff the wather forninst you. O murther, what 'ud we ha' done if we wor there at all at all?"
"Why, we'd have taken the ball at the hop," said Barny, laughing, "accordin' to the ould sayin'."
Another shot was ineffectually fired.
"I'm thinking that's a Connaughtman that's shootin'," said Barny, with a sneer.[A] The allusion was so relished by Jemmy and Peter, that it excited a smile in the midst of their fears from the cannonade.
[A] This is an allusion of Barny's to a prevalent saying in Ireland, addressed to a sportsman who returns home unsuccessful, "So you've killed what the Connaughtman shot at."
Again the report of the gun was followed by no damage.
"Augh! never heed them!" said Barny, contemptuously. "'It's a barkin' dog that never bites,' as the owld sayin' says." And the hooker was soon out of reach of further annoyance.
"Now, what a pity it was, to be sure," said Barny, "that I wouldn't go aboord to plaze them. Now who's right? Ah, lave me alone always, Jimmy; did you iver know me wrong yet?"
"O, you may hillow now that you are out o' the wood," said Jemmy, "but, accordin' to my idays, it was runnin' a grate risk to be conthrary wid them at all, and they shootin' balls afther us."
"Well, what matther?" said Barny, "since they wor only blind gunners, an' I knew it; besides, as I said afore, I won't turn out o' my nor-aist coorse for no man."
"That's a new turn you tuk lately," said Peter. "What's the raison you're runnin' a nor-aist coorse now, an' we never hear'd iv it afore at all, till afther you quitted the big ship?"
"Why, thin, are you sich an ignoramus all out," said Barny, "as not for to know that in navigation you must lie an a great many different tacks before you can make the port you steer for?"
"Only I think," said Jemmy, "that it's back intirely we're goin' now, and I can't make out the rights o' that at all."
"Why," said Barny, who saw the necessity of mystifying his companions a little, "you see, the captain towld me that I kum around, an' rekimminded me to go th' other way."
"Faix, it's the first time I ever heard o' goin' round by say," said Jemmy.
"Arrah, sure, that's part o' the saycrets o' navigation, and the varrious branches o' knowledge that is requizit for a navigator; and that's what the captain, God bless him, and myself was discoorsin' an aboord; and, like a rale gintleman as he is, Barny, says he; Sir, says I; you've come the round, says he. I know that, says I, bekase I like to keep a good bowld offin', says I, in contrairy places. Spoke like a good sayman, says he. That's my principles, says I. They're the right sort, says he. But, says he (no offence), I think you wor wrong, says he, to pass the short turn in the ladie-shoes,[B] says he. I know, says I, you mane beside the three-spike headlan'. That's the spot, says he, I see you know it. As well as I know my father, says I."
[B] Some offer Barny is making at latitudes.
"Why, Barny," said Jemmy, interrupting him, "we seen no headlan' at all."
"Whisht, whisht!" said Barny, "bad cess to you, don't thwart me. We passed it in the night, and you couldn't see it. Well, as I was saying, I knew it as well as I know my father, says I, but I gev the preference to go the round, says I. You're a good sayman for that same, says he, an' it would be right at any other time than this present, says he, but it's onpossible now, tee-totally, on account o' the war, says he. Tare alive, says I, what war? An' didn't you hear o' the war? says he. Divil a word, says I. Why, says he, the naygers has made war on the king o' Chaynee, says he, bekase he refused them any more tay; an' with that, what did they do, says he, but they put a lumbargo on all the vessels that sails the round, an' that's the rayson, says he, I carry guns, as you may see; and I rekimmind you, says he, to go back, for you're not able for thim, and that's jist the way iv it. An' now, wasn't it looky that I kem acrass him at all, or maybe we might be cotch by the naygers, and ate up alive."
"O, thin, indeed, and that's thrue," said Jemmy and Peter, "and whin will we come to the short turn?"
"O, never mind," said Barny, "you'll see it when you get there; but wait till I tell you more about the captain, and the big ship. He said, you know, that he carried guns afeard o' the naygers, and in troth it's the hoight o' care he takes o' them same guns; and small blame to him, sure they might be the salvation of him. 'Pon my conscience, they're taken betther care of than any poor man's child. I heerd him cautionin' the sailors about them, and givin' them ordhers about their clothes."
"Their clothes!" said his two companions at once, in much surprise; "is it clothes upon cannons?"
"It's thruth I'm tellin' you," said Barny. "Bad luck to the lie in it, he was talkin' about their aprons and their breeches."
"O, think o' that!" said Jemmy and Peter, in surprise.
"An' 't was all iv a piece," said Barny, "that an' the rest o' the ship all out. She was as nate as a new pin. Throth, I was a'most ashamed to put my fut on the deck, it was so clane, and she painted every color in the rainbow; and all sorts o' curiosities about her; and instead iv a tiller to steer her, like this darlin' craythur iv ours, she goes wid a wheel, like a coach all as one; and there's the quarest thing you iver seen, to show the way, as the captain gev me to understan', a little round rowly-powly thing in a bowl, that goes waddlin' about as if it didn't know its own way, much more nor show anybody theirs. Throth, myself thought that if that's the way they're obliged to go, that it's with a great deal of fear and thrimblin' they find it out."
Thus it was that Barny continued most marvellous accounts of the ship and the captain to his companions, and by keeping their attention so engaged, prevented their being too inquisitive as to their own immediate concerns, and for two days more Barny and the hooker held on their respective courses undeviatingly.
The third day Barny's fears for the continuity of his nor-aist coorse were excited, as a large brig hove in sight, and the nearer she approached, the more directly she appeared to be coming athwart Barny's course.
"May the divil sweep you," said Barny, "and will nothin' else sarve you than comin' forninst me that away? Brig-a-hoy there!" shouted Barny, giving the tiller to one of his messmates, and standing at the bow of his boat. "Brig-a-hoy there!—bad luck to you, go 'long out o' my nor-aist coorse." The brig, instead of obeying him, hove to, and lay right ahead of the hooker. "O, look at this!" shouted Barny, and he stamped on the deck with rage,—"look at the blackguards where they're stayin', just a-purpose to ruin an unfortunate man like me. My heavy hathred to you, quit this minit, or I'll run down an yes, and if we go to the bottom, we'll haunt you forevermore,—go 'long out o' that, I tell you. The curse o' Crummil on you, you stupid vagabones, that won't go out iv a man's nor-aist coorse!"
From cursing Barny went to praying as he came closer. "For the tendher marcy o' heaven an' lave my way. May the Lord reward you, and get out o' my nor-aist coorse! May angels make your bed in heavin and don't ruinate me this a way." The brig was immovable, and Barny finished with a duet volley of prayers and curses together, apostrophizing the hard case of a man being "done out o' his nor-aist coorse."
"A-hoy there!" shouted a voice from the brig, "put down your helm or you'll be aboard of us. I say, let go your jib and foresheet,—what are you about, you lubbers?"
'Twas true that the brig lay so fair in Barny's course, that he would have been aboard, but that instantly the manoeuvre above alluded to was put in practice on board the hooker; as she swept to destruction toward the heavy hull of the brig, he luffed up into the wind alongside her. A very pale and somewhat emaciated face appeared at the side, and addressed Barny.
"What brings you here?" was the question.
"Throth, thin, and I think I might betther ax what brings you here, right in the way o' my nor-aist coorse."
"Where do you come from?"
"From Kinsale; and you didn't come from a betther place, I go bail."
"Where are you bound to?"
"Why then, ain't you ashamed o' yourself an' not to know where Fingal is?"
"It is not in these seas."
"O, and that's all you know about it," says Barny.
"You're a small craft to be so far at sea. I suppose you have provisions on board?"
"To be sure we have; throth if we hadn't, this id be a bad place to go a beggin'."
"What have you eatable?"
"The finest o' scalpeens."
"What are scalpeens?"
"Why, you're mighty ignorant intirely," said Barny; "why, scalpeens is pickled mackerel."
"Then you must give us some, for we have been out of everything eatable these three days; and even pickled fish is better than nothing."
It chanced that the brig was a West India trader, which unfavorable winds had delayed much beyond the expected period of time on her voyage, and though her water had not failed, everything eatable had been consumed, and the crew reduced almost to helplessness. In such a strait the arrival of Barny O'Reirdon and his scalpeens was a most providential succor to them, and a lucky chance for Barny, for he got in exchange for his pickled fish a handsome return of rum and sugar, much more than equivalent to their value. Barny lamented much, however, that the brig was not bound for Ireland, that he might practice his own peculiar system of navigation; but as staying with the brig could do no good, he got himself put into his nor-aist coorse once more, and ploughed away toward home.
The disposal of his cargo was a great godsend to Barny in more ways than one. In the first place, he found the most profitable market he could have had; and, secondly, it enabled him to cover his retreat from the difficulty which still was before him of not getting to Fingal after all his dangers, and consequently being open to discovery and disgrace. All these beneficial results were thrown away upon one of Barny's readiness to avail himself of every point in his favor: and, accordingly, when they left the brig, Barny said to his companions, "Why, thin, boys, 'pon my conscience, but I'm as proud as a horse wid a wooden leg this minit, that we met them poor unfort'nate craythers this blessed day, and was enabled to extind our charity to them. Sure, an' it's lost they'd be only for our comin' acrass them, and we, through the blessin' o' God, enabled to do an act o' marcy, that is, feedin' the hungry; and sure every good work we do here is before uz in heaven,—and that's a comfort anyhow. To be sure, now that the scalpeens is sowld, there's no use in goin' to Fingal, and we may as well jist go home."
"Faix, I'm sorry myself," said Jemmy, "for Terry O'Sullivan said it was an iligant place intirely, an' I wanted to see it."
"To the divil wid Terry O'Sullivan," said Barny; "how does he know what's an iligant place? What knowledge has he of iligance! I'll go bail he never was half as far a navigatin' as we,—he wint the short cut, I go bail, and never dar'd for to vinture the round, as I did."
"By dad, we wor a great dale longer anyhow than he towld me he was."
"To be sure we wor," said Barny; "he wint skulkin' in by the short cut, I tell you, and was afeard to keep a bowld offin' like me. But come, boys, let uz take a dhrop o' the bottle o' sper'ts we got out o' the brig. By gor, it's well we got some bottles iv it; for I wouldn't much like to meddle wid that darlint little kag iv it antil we get home." The rum was put on its trial by Barny and his companions, and in their critical judgment was pronounced quite as good as the captain of the ship had bestowed upon them, but that neither of those specimens of spirit was to be compared to whiskey. "By dad," says Barny, "they may rack their brains a long time before they'll make out a purtier invintion than potteen,—that rum may do very well for thim that has the misforthin' not to know betther; but the whiskey is a more nathral sper't accordin' to my idays." In this, as in most other of Barny's opinions, Peter and Jemmy coincided.
Nothing particular occurred for the two succeeding days, during which time Barny most religiously pursued his nor-aist coorse, but the third day produced a new and important event. A sail was discovered on the horizon, and in the direction Barny was steering, and a couple of hours made him tolerably certain that the vessel in sight was an American, for though it is needless to say that he was not very conversant in such matters, yet from the frequency of his seeing Americans trading to Ireland, his eye had become sufficiently accustomed to their lofty and tapering spars, and peculiar smartness of rig, to satisfy him that the ship before him was of transatlantic build; nor was he wrong in his conjecture.
Barny now determined on a manoeuvre, classing him among the first tacticians at securing a good retreat.
Moreau's highest fame rests upon his celebrated retrograde movement through the Black Forest.
Xenophon's greatest glory is derived from the deliverance of his ten thousand Greeks from impending ruin by his renowned retreat.
Let the ancient and the modern hero "repose under the shadow of their laurels," as the French have it, while Barny O'Reirdon's historian, with a pardonable jealousy for the honor of his country, cuts down a goodly bough of the classic tree, beneath which our Hibernian hero may enjoy his otium cum dignitate.
Barny calculated the American was bound for Ireland, and as she lay almost as directly in the way of his "nor-aist coorse" as the West-Indian brig, he bore up to and spoke her.
He was answered by a shrewd Yankee captain.
"Faix, an' it's glad I am to see your honor again," said Barny.
The Yankee had never been to Ireland, and told Barny so.
"O, throth, I couldn't forget a gintleman so aisy as that," said Barny.
"You're pretty considerably mistaken now, I guess," said the American.
"Divil a taste," said Barny, with inimitable composure and pertinacity.
"Well, if you know me so tarnation well, tell me what's my name." The Yankee flattered himself he had nailed Barny now.
"Your name, is it?" said Barny, gaining time by repeating the question; "why, what a fool you are not to know your own name."
The oddity of the answer posed the American, and Barny took advantage of the diversion in his favor, and changed the conversation.
"By dad, I've been waitin' here these four or five days, expectin' some of you would be wantin' me."
"Some of us!—How do you mean?"
"Sure, an' ar'n't you from Amerikay?"
"Yes; and what then?"
"Well, I say I was waitin' for some ship or other from Amerikay, that ud be wantin' me. It's to Ireland you're goin'?"
"Well, I suppose you'll be wantin' a pilot," said Barny.
"Yes, when we get in shore, but not yet."
"O, I don't want to hurry you," said Barny.
"What port are you a pilot of?"
"Why, indeed, as for the matther o' that," said Barny, "they're all aiqual to me a'most."
"All?" said the American. "Why, I calculate you couldn't pilot a ship into all the ports of Ireland."
"Not all at wanst," said Barny, with a laugh, in which the American could not help joining.
"Well, I say, what ports do you know best?"
"Why, thin, indeed," said Barny, "it would be hard for me to tell; but wherever you want to go, I'm the man that'll do the job for you complate. Where is your honor goin'?"
"I won't tell you that,—but do you tell me what ports you know best?"
"Why, there's Watherford, and there's Youghal, an' Fingal."
"So you don't know where Fingal is. O, I see you're a sthranger, sir,—an' then there's Cork."
"You know Cove, then?"
"Is it the Cove o' Cork?"
"I was bred and born there, and pilots as many ships into Cove as any other two min out of it."
Barny thus sheltered his falsehood under the idiom of his language.
"But what brought you so far out to sea?" asked the captain.
"We wor lyin' out lookin' for ships that wanted pilots, and there kem an the terriblest gale o' wind aff the land, an' blew us to say out intirely, an' that's the way iv it, your honor."
"I calculate we got a share of the same gale; 'twas from the nor-east."
"O, directly!" said Barny, "faith, you're right enough. 'Twas the nor-aist coorse we wor an sure enough; but no matther now that we've met wid you,—sure we'll have a job home anyhow."
"Well, get aboard then," said the American.
"I will, in a minit, your honor, whin I jist spake a word to my comrades here."
"Why, sure it's not goin' to turn pilot you are," said Jemmy, in his simplicity of heart.
"Whisht, you omadhaun!" said Barny, "or I'll cut the tongue out o' you. Now mind me, Pether. You don't undherstan' navigashin and the varrious branches o' knowledge, an' so all you have to do is to folly the ship when I get into her, an' I'll show you the way home."
Barny then got aboard the American vessel, and begged of the captain, that as he had been out at sea so long, and had gone through "a power o' hardship intirely," he would be permitted to go below and turn in to take a sleep, "for in throth it's myself and sleep that is sthrayngers for some time," said Barny, "an' if your honor'll be plazed I'll be thankful if you won't let them disturb me antil I'm wanted, for sure till you see the land there's no use for me in life, an' throth I want a sleep sorely."
Barnes request was granted, and it will not be wondered at, that after so much fatigue of mind and body, he slept profoundly for four-and-twenty hours. He then was called, for land was in sight, and when he came on deck the captain rallied him upon the potency of his somniferous qualities, and "calculated" he had never met any one who could sleep "four-and-twenty hours at a stretch before."
"O sir," said Barny, rubbing his eyes, which were still a little hazy, "whiniver I go to sleep I pay attintion to it."
The land was soon neared, and Barny put in charge of the ship, when he ascertained the first landmark he was acquainted with; but as soon as the Head of Kinsale hove in sight, Barny gave a "whoo," and cut a caper that astonished the Yankees, and was quite inexplicable to them, though, I flatter myself, it is not to those who do Barny the favor of reading his adventures.
"O, there you are, my darlint ould head! An' where's the head like o' you? Throth, it's little I thought I'd ever set eyes an your good-looking faytures agin. But God's good!"
In such half-muttered exclamations, did Barny apostrophize each well-known point of his native shore, and when opposite the harbor of Kinsale, he spoke the hooker that was somewhat astern, and ordered Jemmy and Peter to put in there, and tell Molly immediately that he was come back, and would be with her as soon as he could, after piloting the ship into Cove. "But an your apperl don't tell Pether Kelly o' the big farm, nor, indeed, don't mintion to man or mortial about the navigation we done antil I come home myself and make them sensible o' it, bekase, Jemmy and Pether, neither o' yiz is aqual to it, and doesn't undherstan' the branches o' knowledge requizit for discoorsin' o' navigation."
The hooker put into Kinsale, and Barny sailed the ship into Cove. It was the first ship he ever had acted the pilot for, and his old luck attended him; no accident befell his charge, and, what was still more extraordinary, he made the American believe he was absolutely the most skilful pilot on the station. So Barny pocketed his pilot's fee, swore the Yankee was a gentleman, for which the republican did not thank him, wished him good by, and then pushed his way home with what Barny swore was the aisiest-made money he ever had in his life. So Barny got himself paid for piloting the ship that showed him the way home.
HADDAD-BEN-AHAB THE TRAVELLER.
BY JOHN GALT.
Haddad-Ben-Ahab was a very wise man, and he had several friends, men of discernment, and partakers of the wisdom of ages; but they were not all so wise as Haddad-Ben-Ahab. His sentences were short, but his knowledge was long, and what he predicted generally came to pass, for he did not pretend to the gift of prophecy. The utmost he ever said in that way was, that he expected the sun to rise to-morrow, and that old age was the shadow of youth.
Besides being of a grave temperament, Haddad-Ben-Ahab was inclined to obesity; he was kindly and good-natured to the whole human race; he even carried his benevolence to the inferior creation, and often patted his dogs on the head and gave them bones; but cats he could not abide. Had he been a rat he could not have regarded them with more antipathy; and yet Haddad-Ben-Ahab was an excellent man, who smoked his chibouque with occasional cups of coffee and sherbet, interspersed with profound aphorisms on the condition of man, and conjectures on the delights of paradise.
With his friends he passed many sunbright hours; and if much talk was not heard among them on these occasions, be it remembered that silence is often wisdom. The scene of their social resort was a little kiosk in front of one of the coffee-houses on the bank of the Tigris. No place in all Bagdad is so pleasantly situated. There the mighty river rolls in all the affluence of his waters, pure as the unclouded sky, and speckled with innumerable boats, while the rippling waves, tickled, as it were, by the summer breezes, gambol and sparkle around.
The kiosk was raised two steps from the ground; the interior was painted with all the most splendid colors. The roof was covered with tiles that glittered like the skin of the Arabian serpent, and was surmounted with a green dragon, which was painted of that imperial hue, because Haddad-Ben-Ahab was descended from the sacred progeny of Fatima, of whom green is the everlasting badge, as it is of nature. Time cannot change it, nor can it be impaired by the decrees of tyranny or of justice.
One beautiful day Haddad-Ben-Ahab and his friends had met in this kiosk of dreams, and were socially enjoying the fragrant smoke of their pipes, and listening to the refreshing undulations of the river, as the boats softly glided along,—for the waters lay in glassy stillness,—the winds were asleep,—even the sunbeams seemed to rest in a slumber on all things. The smoke stood on the chimney-tops as if a tall visionary tree grew out of each; and the many-colored cloths in the yard of Orooblis, the Armenian dyer, hung unmolested by a breath. Orooblis himself was the only thing, in that soft and bright noon, which appeared on the land to be animated with any purpose.
Orooblis was preparing a boat to descend the Tigris, and his servants were loading it with bales of apparel and baskets of provisions, while he himself was in a great bustle, going often between his dwelling-house and the boat, talking loud and giving orders, and ever and anon wiping his forehead, for he was a man that delighted in having an ado.
Haddad-Ben-Ahab, seeing Orooblis so active, looked at him for some time; and it so happened that all the friends at the same moment took their amber-headed pipes from their lips, and said,—
"Where can Orooblis, the Armenian dyer, be going?"
Such a simultaneous interjection naturally surprised them all, and Haddad-Ben-Ahab added,—
"I should like to go with him, and see strange things, for I have never been out of the city of Bagdad, save once to pluck pomegranates in the garden of Beys-Addy-Boolk." And he then rose and went to the boat which Orooblis was loading, and spoke to him; and when it was ready they seated themselves on board and sailed down the Tigris, having much pleasant discourse concerning distant lands and hills whose tops pierced the clouds, and were supposed to be the pillars that upheld the crystal dome of the heavens.
Haddad-Ben-Ahab rejoiced greatly as they sailed along, and at last they came to a little town, where Orooblis, having business in dyestuffs to transact, went on shore, leaving his friend. But in what corner of the earth this little town stood Haddad-Ben-Ahab knew not; for, like other travellers, he was not provided with much geographical knowledge.
But soon after the departure of Orooblis he thought he would also land and inquire. Accordingly, taking his pipe in his hand, he stepped out of the boat and went about the town, looking at many things, till he came to a wharf where a large ship was taking merchandise on board; and her sailors were men of a different complexion from that of the watermen who plied on the Tigris at Bagdad.
Haddad-Ben-Ahab looked at them, and as he was standing near to where they were at work, he thought that this ship afforded a better opportunity than he had enjoyed with Orooblis to see foreign countries. He accordingly went up to the captain and held out a handful of money, and indicated that he was desirous to sail away with the ship.
When the captain saw the gold he was mightily civil, and spoke to Haddad-Ben-Ahab with a loud voice, perhaps thinking to make him hear was the way to make him understand. But Haddad-Ben-Ahab only held up the forefinger of his right hand and shook it to and fro. In the end, however, he was taken on board the ship, and no sooner was he there than he sat down on a sofa, and drawing his legs up under him kindled his pipe and began to smoke, much at his ease, making observations with his eyes as he did so.
The first observation Haddad-Ben-Ahab made was, that the sofa on which he had taken his place was not at all like the sofas of Bagdad, and therefore when he returned he would show that he had not travelled without profit by having one made exactly similar for his best chamber, with hens and ducks under it, pleasantly feeding and joyously cackling and quacking. And he also observed a remarkable sagacity in the ducks, for when they saw he was a stranger, they turned up the sides of their heads and eyed him in a most curious and inquisitive manner,—very different, indeed, from the ducks of Bagdad.
When the ship had taken on board her cargo she spread her sails, and Haddad-Ben-Ahab felt himself in a new situation; for presently she began to lie over, and to plunge and revel among the waves like a glad creature. But Haddad-Ben-Ahab became very sick, and the captain showed him the way down into the inside of the vessel, where he went into a dark bed, and was charitably tended by one of the sailors for many days.
After a season there was much shouting on the deck of the ship, and Haddad-Ben-Ahab crawled out of his bed, and went to the sofa, and saw that the ship was near the end of her voyage.
When she had come to a bank where those on board could step out, Haddad-Ben-Ahab did so: and after he had seen all the strange things which were in the town where he thus landed, he went into a baker's shop,—for they eat bread in that town as they do in Bagdad,—and bought a loaf, which having eaten, he quenched his thirst at a fountain hard by, in his ordinary manner of drinking, at which he wondered exceedingly.
When he had solaced himself with all the wonders of that foreign city, he went to a fakier, who was holding two horses ready saddled; beautiful they were, and, as the fakier signified by signs, their hoofs were so fleet that they left the wind behind them. Haddad-Ben-Ahab then showed the fakier his gold, and mounted one of the horses, pointing with the shaft of his pipe to the fakier to mount the other; and then they both rode away into the country, and they found that the wind blew in their faces.
At last they came to a caravansary, where the fakier bought a cooked hen and two onions, of which they both partook, and stretching themselves before the fire which they had lighted in their chamber, they fell asleep and slept until the dawn of day, when they resumed their journey into remoter parts and nearer to the wall of the world, which Haddad-Ben-Ahab conjectured they must soon reach. They had not, however, journeyed many days in the usual manner when they came to the banks of a large river, and the fakier would go no farther with his swift horses. Haddad-Ben-Ahab was in consequence constrained to pay and part from him, and to embark in a ferry-boat to convey him over the stream, where he found a strange vehicle with four horses standing ready to carry him on towards the wall of the world, "which surely," said he to himself, "ought not to be now far off."
Haddad-Ben-Ahab showed his gold again, and was permitted to take a seat in the vehicle, which soon after drove away; and he remarked, in a most sagacious manner, that nothing in that country was like the things in his own; for the houses and trees and all things ran away as the vehicle came up to them; and when it gave a jostle, they gave a jump; which he noted as one of the most extraordinary things he had seen since he left Bagdad.
At last Haddad-Ben-Ahab came to the foot of a lofty green mountain, with groves and jocund villages, which studded it, as it were, with gems and shining ornaments, and he said, "This must be the wall of the world, for surely nothing can exist on the other side of these hills! but I will ascend them and look over, for I should like to tell my friends in Bagdad what is to be seen on the outside of the earth." Accordingly he ascended the green mountain, and he came to a thick forest of stubby trees: "This is surprising," said Haddad-Ben-Ahab, "but higher I will yet go." And he passed through that forest of trees and came to a steep moorland part of the hill, where no living thing could be seen, but a solitude without limit, and the living world all glittering at the foot of the mountain.
"This is a high place," said Haddad-Ben-Ahab, "but I will yet go higher," and he began to climb with his hands. After an upward journey of great toil he came to a frozen region, and the top of the wall of the world was still far above him. He was, however, none daunted by the distance, but boldly held on in the ascent, and at last he reached the top of the wall. But when he got there, instead of a region of fog and chaos, he only beheld another world much like our own, and he was greatly amazed, and exclaimed with a loud voice,—"Will my friends in Bagdad believe this?—but it is true, and I will so tell them." So he hastened down the mountain, and went with all the speed he could back to Bagdad; saying, "Bagdad," and giving gold to every man he met, until he reached the kiosk of dreams, where his friends were smoking and looking at the gambols of the Tigris.
When the friends of Haddad-Ben-Ahab saw him approach, they respectively took their pipes from their mouths and held them in their left hands, while they pressed their bosoms with their right, and received him with a solemn salaam, for he had been long absent, and all they in the mean time had heard concerning him was only what Orooblis, the Armenian dyer, on his return told them: namely, that he was gone to the wall of the world, which limits the travels of man. No wonder then that they rejoiced with an exceeding gladness to see him return and take his place in the kiosk among them, as if he had never been a day's journey away from Bagdad.
They then questioned him about his adventures, and he faithfully related to them all the wonders which have been set forth in our account of the journey; upon which they declared he had made himself one of the sages of the earth.
Afterward they each made a feast, to which they invited all the philosophers in Bagdad, and Haddad-Ben-Ahab was placed in the seat of honor, and being courteously solicited, told them of his travels, and every one cried aloud, "God is great, and Mahomet is his prophet!"
When they had in this manner banqueted, Haddad-Ben-Ahab fell sick, and there was a great talk concerning the same. Some said he was very ill; others shook their heads and spoke not; but the world is full of envy and hard-heartedness, and those who were spiteful because of the renown which Haddad-Ben-Ahab, as a traveller who had visited the top of the wall of the world with so much courage, had acquired, jeered at his malady, saying he had been only feasted overmuch. Nevertheless, Haddad-Ben-Ahab died; and never was such a funeral seen in all Bagdad, save that of the caliph Mahoud, commonly called the Magnificent. Such was the admiration in which the memory of the traveller was held, the poets made dirges on the occasion, and mournful songs were heard in the twilight from the windows of every harem. Nor did the generation of the time content itself with the ceremonies of lamentation: they caused a fountain to be erected, which they named the Fountain of Haddad-Ben-Ahab the traveller; and when the slaves go to fetch water, they speak of the wonderful things he did, and how he was on the top of the wall of the world, and saw the outside of the earth; so that his memory lives forever among them, as one of the greatest, the wisest, and the bravest of men.
BY WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY.
For some time after the fatal accident which deprived her of her husband, Mrs. Bluebeard was, as may be imagined, in a state of profound grief.
There was not a widow in all the country who went to such an expense for black bombazine. She had her beautiful hair confined in crimped caps, and her weepers came over her elbows. Of course, she saw no company except her sister Anne (whose company was anything but pleasant to the widow); as for her brothers, their odious mess-table manners had always been disagreeable to her. What did she care for jokes about the major, or scandal concerning the Scotch surgeon of the regiment? If they drank their wine out of black bottles or crystal, what did it matter to her? Their stories of the stable, the parade, and the last run with the hounds, were perfectly odious to her; besides, she could not bear their impertinent mustachios, and filthy habit of smoking cigars.
They were always wild, vulgar young men, at the best; but now,—now, O, their presence to her delicate soul was horror! How could she bear to look on them after what had occurred? She thought of the best of husbands ruthlessly cut down by their cruel, heavy, cavalry sabres; the kind friend, the generous landlord, the spotless justice of peace, in whose family differences these rude cornets of dragoons had dared to interfere, whose venerable blue hairs they had dragged down with sorrow to the grave.
She put up a most splendid monument to her departed lord over the family vault of the Bluebeards. The rector, Dr. Sly, who had been Mr. Bluebeard's tutor at college, wrote an epitaph in the most pompous yet pathetic Latin: "Siste, viator! moerens conjux, heu! quanto minus est cum reliquis versari quam tui meminisse"; in a word, everything that is usually said in epitaphs. A bust of the departed saint, with Virtue mourning over it, stood over the epitaph, surrounded by medallions of his wives, and one of these medallions had as yet no name in it, nor (the epitaph said) could the widow ever be consoled until her own name was inscribed there. "For then I shall be with him. In coelo quies," she would say, throwing up her fine eyes to heaven, and quoting the enormous words of the hatchment which was put up in the church, and over Bluebeard's hall, where the butler, the housekeeper, the footman, the housemaid, and scullions were all in the profoundest mourning. The keeper went out to shoot birds in a crape band; nay, the very scarecrows in the orchard and fruit garden were ordered to be dressed in black.
Sister Anne was the only person who refused to wear black. Mrs. Bluebeard would have parted with her, but she had no other female relative. Her father, it may be remembered by readers of the former part of her Memoirs, had married again, and the mother-in-law and Mrs. Bluebeard, as usual, hated each other furiously. Mrs. Shacabac had come to the hall on a visit of condolence; but the widow was so rude to her on the second day of the visit that the step-mother quitted the house in a fury. As for the Bluebeards, of course they hated the widow. Had not Mr. Bluebeard settled every shilling upon her? and, having no children by his former marriage, her property, as I leave you to fancy, was pretty handsome. So Sister Anne was the only female relative whom Mrs. Bluebeard would keep near her; and, as we all know, a woman must have a female relative under any circumstances of pain, or pleasure, or profit,—when she is married, or when she is widowed, or when she is in a delicate situation. But let us continue our story.
"I will never wear mourning for that odious wretch, sister!" Anne would cry.
"I will trouble you, Miss Anne, not to use such words in my presence regarding the best of husbands, or to quit the room at once!" the widow would answer.
"I'm sure it's no great pleasure to sit in it. I wonder you don't make use of the closet, sister, where the other Mrs. Bluebeards are."
"Impertinence! they were all embalmed by M. Gannal. How dare you report the monstrous calumnies regarding the best of men? Take down the family Bible, and read what my blessed saint says of his wives,—read it, written in his own hand:—
"'Friday, June 20.—Married my beloved wife, Anna Maria Scrogginsia.
"'Saturday, August 1.—A bereaved husband has scarcely strength to write down in this chronicle that the dearest of wives, Anna Maria Scrogginsia, expired this day of sore throat.'
"There! can anything be more convincing than that? Read again:—
"'Tuesday, September 1.—This day I led to the hymeneal altar my soul's blessing, Louisa Matilda Hopkinson. May this angel supply the place of her I have lost!
"'Wednesday, October 5.—O Heavens! pity the distraction of a wretch who is obliged to record the ruin of his dearest hopes and affections! This day my adored Louisa Matilda Hopkinson gave up the ghost! A complaint of the head and shoulders was the sudden cause of the event which has rendered the unhappy subscriber the most miserable of men.
"Every one of the women are calendared in this delightful, this pathetic, this truly virtuous and tender way; and can you suppose that a man who wrote such sentiments could be a murderer, miss?"
"Do you mean to say that he did not kill them, then?" said Anne.
"Gracious goodness, Anne, kill them! they died all as naturally as I hope you will. My blessed husband was an angel of goodness and kindness to them. Was it his fault that the doctors could not cure their maladies? No, that it wasn't! and when they died the inconsolable husband had their bodies embalmed in order that on this side of the grave he might never part from them."
"And why did he take you up in the tower, pray? And why did you send me in such a hurry to the leads? and why did he sharpen his long knife, and roar out to you to COME DOWN?"
"Merely to punish me for my curiosity,—the dear, good, kind, excellent creature!" sobbed the widow, overpowered with affectionate recollections of her lord's attentions to her.
"I wish," said Sister Anne, sulkily, "that I had not been in such a hurry in summoning my brothers."
"Ah!" screamed Mrs. Bluebeard, with a harrowing scream, "don't,—don't recall that horrid, fatal day, miss! If you had not misled your brothers, my poor, dear, darling Bluebeard would still be in life, still—still the soul's joy of his bereaved Fatima!"
Whether it is that all wives adore husbands when the latter are no more, or whether it is that Fatima's version of the story is really the correct one, and that the common impression against Bluebeard is an odious prejudice, and that he no more murdered his wives than you and I have, remains yet to be proved, and, indeed, does not much matter for the understanding of the rest of Mrs. B.'s adventures. And though people will say that Bluebeard's settlement of his whole fortune on his wife, in event of survivorship, was a mere act of absurd mystification, seeing that he was fully determined to cut her head off after the honeymoon, yet the best test of his real intentions is the profound grief which the widow manifested for his death, and the fact that he left her mighty well to do in the world.
If any one were to leave you or me a fortune, my dear friend, would we be too anxious to rake up the how and the why? Pooh! pooh! we would take it and make no bones about it, and Mrs. Bluebeard did likewise. Her husband's family, it is true, argued the point with her, and said, "Madam, you must perceive that Mr. Bluebeard never intended the fortune for you, as it was his fixed intention to chop off your head! It is clear that he meant to leave his money to his blood relations, therefore you ought in equity to hand it over." But she sent them all off with a flea in their ears, as the saying is, and said, "Your argument may be a very good one, but I will, if you please, keep the money." And she ordered the mourning as we have before shown, and indulged in grief, and exalted everywhere the character of the deceased. If any one would but leave me a fortune, what a funeral and what a character I would give him!