HotFreeBooks.com
Handy Andy, Volume One - A Tale of Irish Life, in Two Volumes
by Samuel Lover
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"Well done, Ratty!" shouted all the boys.

"Splash him, Tay!" cried Gusty. "Pull away, Goggy."

The three boys now began pelting large stones into the river close beside Furlong, splashing him so thoroughly, that he was wringing wet in five minutes. In vain Furlong shouted, "Young gentlemen! young gentlemen!" and, at last, when he threatened to complain to their father, they recommenced worse than before, and vowed they'd throw him into the stream if he did not promise to be silent on the subject; for, to use their own words, if they were beaten, they might as well duck him at once, and have the "worth of their licking." At last, a compromise being effected, Furlong stood up to walk off the plank. "Remember," said Ratty, "you won't tell we hoised[18] you?"

[18] A vulgarism for "hoisted."

"I won't indeed," said Furlong and he got safe to land.

"But I will!" cried a voice from a neighbouring wood; and Miss O'Grady appeared, surrounded by a crowd of little pet-dogs. She shook her head in a threatening manner at the offenders, and all the little dogs set up a yelping bark, as if to enforce their mistress's anger. The snappish barking of the pets was returned by one hoarse bay from "Bloodybones," which silenced the little dogs, as a broadside from a seventy-four would dumbfounder a flock of privateers, and the boys returned the sister's threat by a universal shout of "Tell-tale!"

"Go home, tell-tale!" they all cried; and with an action equally simultaneous, they stooped one and all for pebbles, and pelted Miss Augusta so vigorously, that she and her dogs were obliged to run for it.



CHAPTER XVI

Having recounted Furlong's out-door adventures, it is necessary to say something of what was passing at Neck-or-Nothing Hall in his absence.

O'Grady, on leaving the breakfast-table, retired to his justice-room to transact business, a principal feature in which was the examination of Handy Andy, touching the occurrences of the evening he drove Furlong to Merryvale; for though Andy was clear of the charge for which he had been taken into custody, namely, the murder of Furlong, O'Grady thought he might have been a party to some conspiracy to drive the stranger to the enemy's camp, and therefore put him to the question very sharply. This examination he had set his heart upon; and reserving it as a bonne bouche, dismissed all preliminary cases in a very off-hand manner, just as men carelessly swallow a few oysters preparatory to dinner.

As for Andy, when he was summoned to the justice-room, he made sure it was for the purpose of being charged with robbing the post-office, and cast a sidelong glance at the effigy of the man hanging on the wall, as he was marched up to the desk where O'Grady sat in magisterial dignity; and, therefore, when he found it was only for driving a gentleman to a wrong house all the pother was made, his heart was lightened of a heavy load, and he answered briskly enough. The string of question and reply was certainly an entangled one, and left O'Grady as much puzzled as before whether Andy was stupid and innocent, or too knowing to let himself be caught—and to this opinion he clung at last. In the course of the inquiry, he found Andy had been in service at Merryvale; and Andy, telling him he knew all about waiting at table, and so forth, and O'Grady being in want of an additional man-servant in the house while his honourable guest, Sackville Scatterbrain, should be on a visit with him, Andy was told he should be taken on trial for a month. Indeed, a month was as long as most servants could stay in the house—they came and went as fast as figures in a magic lantern.

Andy was installed in his new place, and set to work immediately scrubbing up extras of all sorts to make the reception of the honourable candidate for the county as brilliant as possible, not only for the honour of the house, but to make a favourable impression on the coming guest; for Augusta, the eldest girl, was marriageable, and to her father's ears "The Honourable Mrs. Sackville Scatterbrain" would have sounded much more agreeably than "Miss O'Grady."

"Well—who knows?" said O'Grady to his wife; "such things have come to pass. Furbish her up, and make her look smart at dinner—he has a good fortune, and will be a peer one of these days—worth catching. Tell her so."

Leaving these laconic observations and directions behind him, he set off to the neighbouring town to meet Scatterbrain, and to make a blow-up at the post-office about the missing letters. This he was the more anxious to do, as the post-office was kept by the brother of M'Garry, the apothecary; and since O'Grady had been made to pay so dearly for thrashing him, he swore eternal vengeance against the whole family. The post-master could give no satisfactory answer to the charge made against him, and O'Grady threatened a complaint to headquarters, and prophesied the postmaster's dismissal. Satisfied for the present with this piece of prospective vengeance, he proceeded to the inn, and awaited the arrival of his guest.

In the interim, at the Hall, Mrs. O'Grady gave Augusta the necessary hints, and recommended a short walk to improve her colour; and it was in the execution of this order that Miss O'Grady's perambulation was cut short by the pelting her sweet brothers gave her.

The internal bustle of the establishment caught the attention of the dowager, who contrived to become acquainted with its cause, and set about making herself as fascinating as possible; for though, in the ordinary routine of the family affairs, she kept herself generally secluded in her own apartments, whenever any affair of an interesting nature was pending, nothing could make her refrain from joining any company which might be in the house;—nothing;—not even O'Grady himself. At such times, too, she became strangely excited, and invariably executed one piece of farcical absurdity, of which, however, the family contrived to confine the exercise to her own room. It was wearing on her head a tin concern, something like a chimney-cowl, ornamented by a small weathercock, after the fashion of those which surmount church-steeples; this, she declared, influenced her health wonderfully, by indicating the variation of the wind in her stomach, which she maintained to be the grand ruling principle of human existence. She would have worn this head-dress in any company, had she been permitted, but the terrors of her son had sufficient influence over her to have this laid aside for a more seemly coiffure when she appeared at dinner or in the drawing-room; but while she yielded really through fear, she affected to be influenced through tenderness to her son's infirmity of temper.

"It is very absurd," she would say, "that Gustavus should interfere with my toilette; but, poor fellow, he's very queer, you know, and I humour him."

This at once explains why Master Ratty called the tinker "the milliner."

It will not be wondered at that the family carefully excluded the old lady from the knowledge of any exciting subject; but those who know what a talkative race children and servants are, will not be surprised that the dowager sometimes got scent of proceedings which were meant to be kept secret. The pending election, and the approaching visit of the candidate, somehow or other, came to her knowledge, and of course she put on her tin chimney-pot. Thus attired, she sat watching the avenue all day; and when she saw O'Grady return in a handsome travelling carriage with a stranger, she was quite happy, and began to attire herself in some ancient finery, rather the worse for wear, and which might have been interesting to an antiquary.

The house soon rang with bustle—bells rang, and footsteps rapidly paced passages, and pattered up and down stairs. Andy was the nimblest at the hall-door at the first summons of the bell; and, in a livery too short in the arms and too wide in the shoulders, he bustled here and there, his anxiety to be useful only putting him in everybody's way, and ending in getting him a hearty cursing from O'Grady.

The carriage was unpacked, and letter-boxes, parcels, and portmanteaus strewed the hall. Andy was desired to carry the latter to "the gentleman's room," and, throwing the portmanteau over his shoulder, he ran upstairs. It was just after the commotion created by the arrival of the Honourable Mr. Scatterbrain that Furlong returned to the house, wet and weary.

He retired to his room to change his clothes, and fancied he was now safe from further molestation, with an inward protestation that the next time the Master O'Gradys caught him in their company, they might bless themselves; when he heard a loud sound of hustling near his door, and Miss Augusta's voice audibly exclaiming, "Behave yourself, Ratty!—Gusty, let me go!"—when, as the words were uttered, the door of his room was shoved open, and Miss Augusta thrust in, and the door locked outside.

Furlong had not half his clothes on. Augusta exclaimed, "Gracious me!"—first put up her hands to her eyes, and then turned her face to the door.

Furlong hid himself in the bed-curtains, while Ratty, the vicious little rascal, with a malicious laugh, said, "Now, promise you'll not tell papa, or I'll bring him up here—and then, how will you be?"

"Ratty, you wretch!" cried Augusta, kicking at the door, "let me out!"

"Not a bit, till you promise."

"Oh, fie, Maste' O'Gwady!" said Furlong.

"I'll scream, Ratty, if you don't let me out!" cried Augusta.

"If you screech, papa will hear you, and then he'll come up and kill that fellow there."

"Oh, don't squeam, Miss O'Gwady!" said Furlong, very vivaciously, from the bed-curtains; "don't squeam, pway!"

"I'm not squeamish, sir," said Miss Augusta; "but it's dreadful to be shut up with a man who has no clothes on him. Let me out, Ratty—let me out!"

"Well, will you tell on us?"

"No."

"'Pon your honour?"

"'Pon my honour, no! Make haste! Oh, if papa knew of this!"

Scarcely had the words been uttered, when the heavy tramp and gruff voice of O'Grady resounded in the passage, and the boys scampered off in a fright, leaving the door locked.

"Oh, what will become of me!" said the poor girl, with the extremity of terror in her look—a terror so excessive, that she was quite heedless of the dishabille of Furlong, who jumped from the curtains, when he heard O'Grady coming.

"Don't be fwightened, Miss O'Gwady," said Furlong, half frightened to death himself. "When we explain the affair——"

"Explain!" said the girl, gasping. "Oh, you don't know papa!"

As she spoke, the heavy tramp ceased at the door—a sharp tap succeeded, and Furlong's name was called in the gruff voice of the Squire.

Furlong could scarcely articulate a response.

"Let me in," said O'Grady.

"I am not dwessed, sir," answered Furlong.

"No matter," said the Squire; "you're not a woman."

Augusta wrung her hands.

"I'll be down with you as soon as I am dwessed, sir," replied Furlong.

"I want to speak to you immediately—and here are letters for you—open the door."

Augusta signified by signs to Furlong that resistance would be vain; and hid herself under the bed.

"Come in, sir," said Furlong, when she was secreted.

"The door is fastened," said O'Grady.

"Turn the key, sir," said Furlong.

O'Grady unlocked the door, and was so inconsistent a person, that he never thought of the impossibility of Furlong's having locked it, but, in the richest spirit of bulls, asked him if he always fastened his door on the outside. Furlong said he always did.

"What's the matter with you?" inquired O'Grady. "You're as white as the sheet there;" and he pointed to the bed as he spoke.

Furlong grew whiter as he pointed to that quarter.

"What ails you, man?—Aren't you well?"

"Wather fatigued—but I'll be bette' pwesently. What do you wish with me, sir?"

"Here are letters for you—I want to know what's in them—Scatterbrain's come—do you know that?"

"No—I did not."

"Don't stand there in the cold—go on dressing yourself; I'll sit down here till you can open your letters: I want to tell you something besides." O'Grady took a chair as he spoke.

Furlong assumed all the composure he could; and the girl began to hope she should remain undiscovered, and most likely she would have been so lucky, had not the Genius of Disaster, with aspect malign, waved her sable wand, and called her chosen servant, Handy Andy, to her aid. He, her faithful and unfailing minister, obeyed the call, and at that critical juncture of time gave a loud knock at the chamber-door.

"Come in," said O'Grady.

Andy opened the door and popped in his head. "I beg your pardon, sir, but I kem for the jintleman's portmantle."

"What gentleman?" asked O'Grady.

"The Honourable, sir; I tuk his portmantle to the wrong room, sir; and I'm come for it now, bekase he wants it."

"There's no po'tmanteau here," said Furlong.

"O yis, sir," said Andy; "I put it undher the bed."

"Well, take it and be off," said O'Grady.

"No—no—no," said Furlong, "don't distu'b my woom, if you please, till I have done dwessing."

"But the Honourable is dhressing too, sir; and that's why he wants the portmantle."

"Take it, then," said the Squire.

Furlong was paralysed, and could offer no further resistance: Andy stooped, and lifting the valance of the bed to withdraw the portmanteau, dropped it suddenly, and exclaimed, "O Lord!"

"What's the matter?" said the Squire.

"Nothin', sir," said Andy, looking scared.

"Then take the portmanteau, and be hanged to you."

"Oh, I'll wait till the jintleman's done, sir," said Andy, retiring.

"What the devil is all this about?" said the Squire, seeing the bewilderment of Furlong and Andy. "What is it at all?" and he stooped as he spoke, and lifted the valance. But here description must end, and imagination supply the scene of fury and confusion which succeeded. At the first fierce volley of imprecation O'Grady gave vent to, Andy ran off and alarmed the family, Augusta screamed, and Furlong held for support by the bedpost, while, between every hurricane of oaths, O'Grady ran to the door, and shouted for his pistols, and anon returned to the chamber to vent every abusive epithet which could be showered on man and woman. The prodigious uproar soon brought the whole house to the spot; Mrs. O'Grady and the two spare girls amongst the first; Mat, and the cook, and the scullion, and all the housemaids in rapid succession; and Scatterbrain himself at last; O'Grady all the time foaming at the mouth, stamping up and down the room, shaking his fist at Furlong, and, after a volley of names impossible to remember or print, always concluding with the phrase, "Wait till I get my pistols!"

"Gusty, dear," said his trembling wife, "what is it all about?"

He glared upon her with his flashing eyes, and said, "Fine education you give your children, ma'am. Where have you brought up your daughters to go to, eh?"

"To church, my dear," said Mrs. O'Grady, meekly; for she being a Roman Catholic, O'Grady was very jealous of his daughters being reared staunch Protestants, and she, poor simple woman, thought that was the drift of his question.

"Church, my eye, woman!—Church, indeed!—'faith, she ought to have gone there before she came where I found her. Thunderan'ouns, where are my pistols?"

"Where has she gone to, my love?" asked the wife in a tremor.

"To the divil, ma'am. Is that all you know about it?" said O'Grady. "And you wish to know where she is?"

"Yes, love," said his wife.

"Then look under that bed, ma'am, and you'll see her without spectacles."

Mrs. O'Grady now gave a scream, and the girls and the housemaids joined in the chorus. Augusta bellowed from under the bed, "Mamma! mamma! indeed it's all Ratty—I never did it."

At this moment, to help the confusion, a fresh appearance made its way into the room; it was that of the Dowager O'Grady—arrayed in all the bygone finery of faded full-dress, and the tin chimney-pot on her head. "What is all this about?" she exclaimed, with an air of authority; "though my weathercock tells me the wind is nor'west, I did not expect such a storm. Is any one killed?"

"No," said O'Grady; "but somebody will be soon. Where are my pistols? Blood and fire! will nobody bring me my pistols?"

"Here they are, sir," said Handy Andy, running in.

O'Grady made a rush for the pistols, but his mother and his wife threw themselves before him, and Scatterbrain shoved Andy outside the room.

"Confound you, you numscull! would you give pistols into the hands of a frantic man?"

"Sure, he ax'd for them, sir."

"Go out o' this, you blockhead! Go and hide them somewhere, where your master won't find them."

Andy retired, muttering something about the hardness of a servant's case, in being scolded and called names for doing his master's bidding. Scatterbrain returned to the room, where the confusion was still in full bloom; O'Grady swearing between his mother and wife, while Furlong endeavoured to explain how the young lady happened to be in his room; and she kicking in hysterics amidst the maids and her sisters, while Scatterbrain ran to and fro between all the parties, giving an ear to Furlong, an eye to O'Grady, and smelling salts to his daughter.

The case was a hard one to a milder man than O'Grady—his speculation about Scatterbrain all knocked on the head, for it could not be expected he would marry the lady who had been found under another man's bed. To hush the thing up would be impossible, after the publicity his own fury had given to the affair. "Would she ever be married after such an affair was eclate?" The question rushed into his head on one side, and the answer rushed in at the other, and met it with a plump "No!"—the question and answer then joined hands in O'Grady's mind, and danced down the middle to the tune of "Haste to the wedding!"

"Yes," he said, slapping his forehead, "she must be married at once." Then, turning to Furlong, he said, "You're not married, I hope?"

Furlong acknowledged he was not, though he regretted the moment he had made the admission.

"'T is well for you," said O'Grady, "for it has saved your life. You shall marry her, then!" He never thought of asking Furlong's acquiescence in the measure. "Come here, you baggage!" he cried to Augusta, as he laid hold of her hand, and pulled her up from her chair; "come here! I intended you for a better man; but since you have such a hang-dog taste, why, go to him!" And he shoved her over to Furlong. "There!" he said, addressing him, "take her, since you will have her. We'll speak of her fortune after."

The poor girl stood abashed, sobbing aloud, and tears pouring from her downcast eyes. Furlong was so utterly taken by surprise, that he was riveted to the spot where he stood, and could not advance a step towards his drooping intended. At this awkward moment, the glorious old dowager came to the rescue; she advanced, tin chimney-pot and all, and taking a hand of each of the principals in hers, she joined them together in a theatrical manner, and ejaculated, with a benignant air, "Bless you, my children!"

In the midst of the mingled rage, confusion, fright, and astonishment of the various parties present, there was something so exquisitely absurd in the old woman's proceeding, that nearly every one felt inclined to laugh; but the terror of O'Grady kept their risible faculties in check. Fate, however, decreed the finale should be comic; for the cook, suddenly recollecting herself, exclaimed, "Oh, murther! the goose will be burned!" and ran out of the room; a smothered burst of laughter succeeded, which roused the ire of O'Grady, who, making a charge right and left amongst the delinquents, the room was soon cleared, and the party dispersed in various directions, O'Grady's voice rising loud above the general confusion, as he swore his way down-stairs, kicking his mother's tin turban before him.



CHAPTER XVII

Canvassing before an election resembles skirmishing before a battle;—the skirmishing was over, and the arrival of the Honourable Sackville Scatterbrain was like the first gun that commences an engagement;—and now both parties were to enter on the final struggle.

A jolly group sat in Murphy's dining-parlour on the eve of the day fixed for the nomination. Hitting points of speeches were discussed—plans for bringing up voters—tricks to interrupt the business of the opposite party—certain allusions on the hustings that would make the enemy lose temper; and, above all, everything that could cheer and amuse the people, and make them rejoice in their cause.

"Oh, let me alone for that much," said Murtough. "I have engaged every piper and fiddler within twenty miles round, and divil a screech of a chanter[19] or a scrape of catcut Scatterbrain can have for love or money—that's one grand point."

[19] The principal tube of a bagpipe.

"But," said Tom Durfy, "he has engaged the yeomanry band."

"What of that?" asked Dick Dawson; "a band is all very well for making a splash in the first procession to the hustings, but what good is it in working out the details?"

"What do you call details?" said Durfy.

"Why, the popular tunes in the public-houses and in the tally-rooms, while the fellows are waiting to go up. Then the dances in the evening—Wow!—won't Scatterbrain's lads look mighty shy when they know the Eganites are kicking their heels to 'Moll in the Wad,' while they haven't a lilt to shake their bones to?"

"To be sure," said Murphy; "we'll have the deserters to our cause from the enemy's camp before the first night is over;[20] wait till the girls know where the fiddles are—and won't they make the lads join us!"

[20] In those times elections often lasted many days.

"I believe a woman would do a good deal for a dance," said Doctor Growling; "they are immensely fond of saltatory motion. I remember, once in my life, I used to flirt with a little actress who was a great favourite in a provincial town where I lived, and she was invited to a ball there, and confided to me she had no silk stockings to appear in, and without them her presence at the ball was out of the question."

"That was a hint to you to buy the stockings," said Dick.

"No—you're out," said Growling. "She knew I was as poor as herself; but though she could not rely on my purse, she had every confidence in my taste and judgment, and consulted me on a plan she formed for going to the ball in proper twig. Now, what do you think it was?"

"To go in cotton, I suppose," returned Dick.

"Out, again, sir—you'd never guess it; and only a woman could have hit on the expedient; it was the fashion in those days for ladies in full dress to wear pink stockings, and she proposed painting her legs!"

"Painting her legs!" they all exclaimed.

"Fact, sir," said the doctor; "and she relied on me for telling her if the cheat was successful——"

"And was it?" asked Durfy.

"Don't be in a hurry, Tom. I complied on one condition—namely, that I should be the painter."

"Oh, you villain!" cried Dick.

"A capital bargain!" said Tom Durfy.

"But not a safe covenant," added the attorney.

"Don't interrupt me, gentlemen," said the doctor. "I got some rose-pink accordingly, and I defy all the hosiers in Nottingham to make a tighter fit than I did on little Jinney; and a prettier pair of stockings I never saw."

"And she went to the ball?" said Dick.

"She did!"

"And the trick succeeded?" added Durfy.

"So completely," said the doctor, "that several ladies asked her to recommend her dyer to them! So you see what a woman will do to go to a dance. Poor little Jinney!—she was a merry minx. By-the-bye, she boxed my ears that night, for a joke I made about the stockings. 'Jinney,' said I, 'for fear your stockings should fall down when you're dancing, hadn't you better let me paint a pair of garters on them?'"

The fellows laughed at the doctor's quaint conceit about the garters, but Murphy called them back to the business of the election.

"What next?" he said, "public-houses and tally-rooms to have pipers and fiddlers—ay—and we'll get up as good a march, too, as Scatterbrain, with all his yeomanry band;—think a cartfull of fiddlers would have a fine effect!"

"If we could only get a double-bass amongst them!" said Dick.

"Talking of double-basses," said the doctor, "did you ever hear the story of the sailor in an admiral's ship, who, when some fine concert was to be given on board——"

"Hang your concerts and stories!" said Murphy; "let us go on with the election."

"Oh, the doctor's story!" cried Tom Durfy and Dick Dawson together.

"Well, sir," continued the doctor, "a sailor was handing in, over the side, from a boat which bore the instruments from shore, a great lot of fiddles. When some tenors came into his hand he said those were real good-sized fiddles; and when a violoncello appeared, Jack, supposing it was to be held between the hand and the shoulder, like a violin, declared 'He must be a strapping chap that fiddle belonged to!' But when the double-bass made its appearance, 'My eyes and limbs!' cried Jack, 'I would like to see the chap as plays that!!!'"

"Well, doctor, are you done?" cried Murphy; "for, if you are, now for the election. You say, Dick, Major Dawson is to propose your brother-in-law?"

"Yes."

"And he'll do it well, too; the Major makes a very good straightforward speech."

"Yes," said Dick; "the old cock is not a bad hand at it. But I have a suspicion he's going to make a greater oration than usual and read some long rigmarolish old records."

"That will never do!" said Murphy, "as long as a man looks Pat in the face, and makes a good rattling speech 'out o' the face,' Pat will listen to him; but when a lad takes to heavy readings, Pat grows tired. We must persuade the Major to give up the reading."

"Persuade my father!" cried Dick. "When did you ever hear of his giving up his own opinion?"

"If he could be prevailed on even to shorten——" said Murphy.

"Oh, leave him to me," said Dick, laughing; "I'll take care he'll not read a word."

"Manage that, Dick, and you're a jewel!"

"I will," said Dick. "I'll take the glasses out of his spectacles the morning of the nomination, and then let him read, if he can."

"Capital, Dick; and now the next point of discussion is——"

"Supper, ready to come up, sir," said a servant, opening the door.

"Then, that's the best thing we could discuss, boys," said Murphy to his friends—"so up with the supper, Dan. Up with the supper! Up with the Egans! Down with the Scatterbrains—hurrah!—we'll beat them gaily."

"Hollow!" said Durfy.

"Not hollow," said Dick; "we'll have a tussle for it."

"So much the better," cried Murphy; "I would not give a fig for an easy victory—there's no fun in it. Give me the election that is like a race—now one ahead, and then the other; the closeness calling out all the energies of both parties—developing their tact and invention, and, at last, the return secured by a large majority."

"But think of the glory of a large one," said Dick.

"Ay," added Durfy, "beside crushing the hope of a petition on the part of your enemy to pull down the majority."

"But think of Murphy's enjoyment," said the doctor, "in defending the seat, to say nothing of the bill of costs."

"You have me there, doctor," said Murphy; "a fair hit, I grant you; but see, the supper is on the table. To it, my lads; to it! and then a jolly glass to drink success to our friend Egan."

And glass after glass they did drink in all sorts and shapes of well-wishing toasts; in short, to have seen the deep interest those men took in the success of their friend, might have gladdened the heart of a philanthropist; though there is no knowing what Father Mathew, had he flourished in those times, might have said to their overflowing benevolence.



CHAPTER XVIII

The morning of nomination which dawned on Neck-or-Nothing Hall saw a motley group of O'Grady's retainers assembling in the stable-yard, and the out-offices rang to laugh and joke over a rude but plentiful breakfast—tea and coffee, there, had no place—but meat, potatoes, milk, beer, and whisky were at the option of the body-guard, which was selected for the honour of escorting the wild chief and his friend, the candidate, into the town. Of this party was the yeomanry-band of which Tom Durfy spoke, though, to say the truth, considering Tom's apprehensions on the subject, it was of slender force. One trumpet, one clarionet, a fife, a big drum, and a pair of cymbals, with a "real nigger" to play them, were all they could muster.

After clearing off everything in the shape of breakfast, the "musicianers" amused the retainers, from time to time, with a tune on the clarionet, fife, or trumpet, while they waited the appearance of the party from the house. Uproarious mirth and noisy joking rang round the dwelling, to which none contributed more largely than the trumpeter, who fancied himself an immensely clever fellow, and had a heap of cut-and-dry jokes at his command, and practical drolleries in which he indulged to the great entertainment of all, but of none more than Andy, who was in the thick of the row, and in a divided ecstasy between the "blaky-moor's" turban and cymbals and the trumpeter's jokes and music; the latter articles having a certain resemblance, by-the-bye, to the former in clumsiness and noise, and therefore suited to Andy's taste. Whenever occasion offered, Andy got near the big drum, too, and gave it a thump, delighted with the result of his ambitious achievement.

Andy was not lost on the trumpeter: "Arrah, maybe you'd like to have a touch at these?" said the joker, holding up the cymbals.

"Is it hard to play them, sir?" inquired Andy.

"Hard!" said the trumpeter; "sure they're not hard at all—but as soft and smooth as satin inside—just feel them—rub your fingers inside."

Andy obeyed; and his finger was chopped between the two brazen plates. Andy roared, the bystanders laughed, and the trumpeter triumphed in his wit. Sometimes he would come behind an unsuspecting boor, and give, close to his ear, a discordant bray from his trumpet, like the note of a jackass, which made him jump, and the crowd roar with merriment; or, perhaps, when the clarionet or the fife was engaged in giving the people a tune, he would drown either, or both of them, in a wild yell of his instrument. As they could not make reprisals upon him, he had his own way in playing whatever he liked for his audience; and in doing so indulged in all the airs of a great artist—pulling out one crook from another—blowing through them softly, and shaking the moisture from them in a tasty style—arranging them with a fastidious nicety—then, after the final adjustment of the mouth-piece, lipping the instrument with an affectation exquisitely grotesque; but before he began he always asked for another drink.

"It's not for myself," he would say, "but for the thrumpet, the crayther; the divil a note she can blow without a dhrop."

Then, taking a mug of drink, he would present it to the bell of the trumpet, and afterwards transfer it to his own lips, always bowing to the instrument first, and saying, "Your health, ma'am!"

This was another piece of delight to the mob, and Andy thought him the funniest fellow he ever met, though he did chop his finger.

"Faix, sir, an' it is dhry work, I'm sure, playing the thing."

"Dhry!" said the trumpeter, "'pon my ruffles and tuckers—and that's a cambric oath—it's worse nor lime-burnin', so it is—it makes a man's throat as parched as pays."

"Who dar says pays?" cried the drummer.

"Howld your prate!" said the trumpeter, elegantly, and silenced all reply by playing a tune. As soon as it was ended, he turned to Andy and asked for a cork.

Andy gave it to him.

The man of jokes affected to put it into the trumpet.

"What's that for, sir?" asked Andy.

"To bottle up the music," said the trumpeter—"sure all the music would run about the place if I didn't do that."

Andy gave a vague sort of "ha, ha!" as if he were not quite sure whether the trumpeter was in jest or earnest, and thought at the moment that to play the trumpet and practical jokes must be the happiest life in the world. Filled with this idea, Andy was on the watch how he could possess himself of the trumpet, for could he get one blast on it, he would be happy: a chance at last opened to him; after some time, the lively owner of the treasure laid down his instrument to handle a handsome blackthorn which one of the retainers was displaying, and he made some flourishes with the weapon to show that music was not his only accomplishment. Andy seized the opportunity and the trumpet, and made off to one of the sheds where they had been regaling; and, shutting the door to secure himself from observation, he put the trumpet to his mouth and distended his cheeks near to bursting with the violence of his efforts to produce a sound; but all his puffing was unavailing for some minutes. At last a faint cracked squeak answered a more desperate blast than before, and Andy was delighted. "Everything must have a beginning," thought Andy, "and maybe I'll get a tune out of it yet." He tried again, and increased in power; for a sort of strangled screech was the result. Andy was in ecstasy, and began to indulge visions of being one day a trumpeter; he strutted up and down the shed like the original he so envied, and repeated some of the drolleries he heard him utter. He also imitated his actions of giving a drink to the trumpet, and was more generous to the instrument than the owner, for he really poured about half a pint of beer down its throat: he then drank its health, and finished by "bottling up the music," absolutely cramming a cork into the trumpet. Now Andy, having no idea the trumpeter made a sham of the action, made a vigorous plunge of a goodly cork into the throat of the instrument, and, in so doing, the cork went further than he intended: he tried to withdraw it, but his clumsy fingers, instead of extracting, only drove it in deeper—he became alarmed—and, seizing a fork, strove with its assistance to remedy the mischief he had done, but the more he poked, the worse; and, in his fright, he thought the safest thing he could do was to cram the cork out of sight altogether, and having soon done that, he returned to the yard, and laid down the trumpet unobserved.

Immediately after, the procession to the town started. O'Grady gave orders that the party should not be throwing away their powder and shot, as he called it, in untimely huzzas and premature music. "Wait till you come to the town, boys," said he, "and then you may smash away as hard as you can; blow your heads off, and split the sky."

The party of Merryvale was in motion for the place of action about the same time, and a merrier pack of rascals never was on the march. Murphy, in accordance with his preconceived notion of a "fine effect," had literally "a cart full of fiddlers;" but the fiddlers hadn't it all to themselves, for there was another cart full of pipers; and, by way of mockery to the grandeur of Scatterbrain's band, he had four or five boys with gridirons, which they played upon with pokers, and half a dozen strapping fellows carrying large iron tea-trays, which they whopped after the manner of a Chinese gong.

It so happened that the two roads from Merryvale and Neck-or-Nothing Hall met at an acute angle, at the same end of the town, and it chanced that the rival candidates and their retinues arrived at this point about the same time.

"There they are!" said Murphy, who presided in the cart full of fiddlers like a leader in an orchestra, with a shillelah for his baton, which he flourished over his head as he shouted, "Now give it to them, your sowls!—rasp and lilt away, boys!—slate the gridirons, Mike!—smaddher the tay-tray, Tom!"

The uproar of strange sounds that followed, shouting included, may be easier imagined than described; and O'Grady, answering the war-cry, sung out to his band—"What are you at, you lazy rascals?—don't you hear them blackguards beginning?—fire away, and be hanged to you!" His rascals shouted, bang went the drum, and clang went the cymbals, the clarionet squeaked, and the fife tootled, but the trumpet—ah!—the trumpet—their great reliance—where was the trumpet? O'Grady inquired in the precise words, with a diabolical addition of his own. "Where the d—— is the trumpet?" said he; he looked over the side of the carriage as he spoke, and saw the trumpeter spitting out a mouthful of beer which had run from the instrument as he lifted it to his mouth.

"Bad luck to you, what are you wasting your time there for?" thundered O'Grady in a rage; "why didn't you spit out when you were young, and you'd be a clean old man? Blow and be d—— to you!"

The trumpeter filled his lungs for a great blast, and put the trumpet to his lips—but in vain; Andy had bottled his music for him. O'Grady, seeing the inflated cheeks and protruding eyes of the musician, whose visage was crimson with exertion, and yet no sound produced, thought the fellow was practising one of his jokes upon him, and became excessively indignant; he thundered anathemas at him, but his voice was drowned in the din of the drum and cymbals, which were plied so vigorously, that the clarionet and fife shared the same fate as O'Grady's voice. The trumpeter could judge of O'Grady's rage from the fierceness of his actions only, and answered him in pantomimic expression, holding up his trumpet and pointing into the bell, with a grin of vexation on his phiz, meant to express something was wrong; but this was all mistaken by the fierce O'Grady, who only saw in the trumpeter's grins the insolent intention of jibing him.

"Blow, you blackguard, blow!" shouted the Squire. Bang went the drum.

"Blow—or I'll break your neck!" Crash went the cymbals.

"Stop your banging there, you ruffians, and let me be heard!" roared the excited man; but as he was standing up on the seat of the carriage, and flung his arms about wildly as he spoke, the drummer thought his action was meant to stimulate him to further exertion, and he banged away louder than before.

"By the hokey, I'll murder some o' ye!" shouted the Squire, who, ordering the carriage to pull up, flung open the door and jumped out, made a rush at the drummer, seized his principal drumstick, and giving him a bang over the head with it, cursed him for a rascal for not stopping when he told him; this silenced all the instruments together, and O'Grady, seizing the trumpeter by the back of the neck, shook him violently, while he denounced with fierce imprecations his insolence in daring to practise a joke on him. The trumpeter protested his innocence, and O'Grady called him a lying rascal, finishing his abuse by clenching his fist in a menacing attitude, and telling him to play.

"I can't, yer honour!"

"You lie, you scoundrel."

"There's something in the trumpet, sir."

"Yes, there's music in it; and if you don't blow it out of it——"

"I can't blow it out of it, sir."

"Hold your prate, you ruffian; blow this minute."

"Arrah, thry it yourself, sir," said the frightened man, handing the instrument to the Squire.

"D——n your impudence, you rascal; do you think I'd blow anything that was in your dirty mouth? Blow, I tell you, or it will be worse for you."

"By the vartue o' my oath, your honour——"

"Blow, I tell you!"

"By the seven blessed candles——"

"Blow, I tell you!"

"The trumpet is choked, sir."

"There will be a trumpeter choked, soon," said O'Grady, gripping him by the neck-handkerchief, with his knuckles ready to twist into his throat. "By this and that I'll strangle you, if you don't play this minute, you humbugger."

"By the Blessed Virgin, I'm not humbiggin' your honour," stammered the trumpeter with the little breath O'Grady left him.

Scatterbrain, seeing O'Grady's fury, and fearful of its consequences, had alighted from the carriage and came to the rescue, suggesting to the infuriated Squire that what the man said might be true. O'Grady said he knew better, that the blackguard was a notorious joker, and having indulged in a jest in the first instance, was now only lying to save himself from punishment; furthermore, swearing that if he did not play that minute he'd throw him into the ditch.

With great difficulty O'Grady was prevailed upon to give up the gripe of the trumpeter's throat; and the poor breathless wretch, handing the instrument to the clarionet-player, appealed to him if it were possible to play on it. The clarionet-player said he could not tell, for he did not understand the trumpet.

"You see there!" cried O'Grady. "You see he's humbugging, and the clarionet-player is an honest man."

"An honest man!" exclaimed the trumpeter, turning fiercely on the clarionet-player. "He's the biggest villain unhanged for sthrivin' to get me murthered, and refusin' the evidence for me!" The man's eyes flashed fury as he spoke, and throwing his trumpet down, "Mooney!—by jakers, you're no man!" Clenching his fist as he spoke, he made a rush on the clarionet-player, and planted a hit on his mouth with such vigour, that he rolled in the dust; and when he rose, it was with such an upper lip that his clarionet-playing was evidently finished for the next week certainly.

Now the fifer was the clarionet-player's brother; and he, turning on the trumpeter, roared—

"Bad luck to you!—you did not sthrek him fair!"

But while in the very act of reprobating the foul blow, he let fly under the ear of the trumpeter, who was quite unprepared for it,—and he, too, measured his length on the road. On recovering his legs he rushed on the fifer for revenge, and a regular scuffle ensued among "the musicianers," to the great delight of the crowd of retainers, who were so well primed with whisky that a fight was just the thing to their taste.

In vain O'Grady swore at them, and went amongst them, striving to restore order, but they would not be quiet till several black eyes and damaged noses bore evidence of a busy five minutes having passed. In the course of "the scrimmage," Fate was unkind to the fifer, whose mouth-piece was considerably impaired; and "the boys" remarked, that the worst stick you could have in a crowd was a "whistling stick," by which name they designated the fifer's instrument.

At last, however, peace was restored, and the trumpeter again ordered to play by O'Grady.

He protested, again, it was impossible.

The fifer, in revenge, declared he was only humbugging the Squire.

Hereupon O'Grady, seizing the unfortunate trumpeter, gave him a more sublime kicking than ever fell to the lot of even piper or fiddler, whose pay[21] is proverbially oftener in that article than the coin of the realm.

[21] Fiddlers' fare, or pipers' pay—more kicks than halfpence.

Having tired himself, and considerably rubbed down the toe of his boot with his gentlemanly exercise, O'Grady dragged the trumpeter to the ditch, and rolled him into it, there to cool the fever which burned in his seat of honour.

O'Grady then re-entered the carriage with Scatterbrain, and the party proceeded; but the clarionet-player could not blow a note; the fifer was not in good playing condition, and tootled with some difficulty; the drummer was obliged now and then to relax his efforts in making a noise that he might lift his right arm to his nose, which had got damaged in the fray, and the process of wiping his face with his cuff changed the white facings of his jacket to red. The negro cymbal-player was the only one whose damages were not to be ascertained, as a black eye would not tell on him, and his lips could not be more swollen than nature had made them. On the procession went, however; but the rival mob, the Eganites, profiting by the delay caused by the row, got ahead, and entered the town first, with their pipers and fiddlers, hurrahing their way in good humour down the street, and occupying the best places in the court-house before the arrival of the opposite party, whose band, instead of being a source of triumph, was only a thing of jeering merriment to the Eganites, who received them with mockery and laughter. All this by no means sweetened O'Grady's temper, who looked thunder as he entered the court-house with his candidate, who was, though a good-humoured fellow, a little put out by the accidents of the morning; and Furlong looked more sheepish than ever, as he followed his leaders.

The business of the day was opened by the high-sheriff, and Major Dawson lost no time in rising to propose, that Edward Egan, Esquire, of Merryvale, was a fit and proper person to represent the county in parliament.

The proposition was received with cheers by "the boys" in the body of the court-house; the Major proceeded, full sail, in his speech—his course aided by being on the popular current, and the "sweet voices" of the multitude blowing in his favour. On concluding (as "the boys" thought) his address, which was straightforward and to the point, a voice in the crowd proposed "Three cheers for the owld Major." Three deafening peals followed the hint.

"And now," said the Major, "I will read a few extracts here from some documents, in support of what I have had the honour of addressing to you." And he pulled out a bundle of papers as he spoke, and laid them down before him.

The movement was not favoured by "the boys," as it indicated a tedious reference to facts by no means to their taste, and the same voice that suggested the three cheers, now sung out—

"Never mind, Major—sure we'll take your word for it!"

Cries of "Order!" and "Silence!" ensued; and were followed by murmurs, coughs, and sneezes, in the crowd, with a considerable shuffling of hobnailed shoes on the pavement.

"Order!" cried a voice in authority.

"Order anything you plaze, sir!" said the voice in the crowd.

"Whisky!" cried one.

"Porther!" cried another.

"Tabakky!" roared a third.

"I must insist on silence!" cried the sheriff, in a very husky voice. "Silence!—or I'll have the court-house cleared."

"'Faith, if you cleared your own throat it would be better," said the wag in the crowd.

A laugh followed. The sheriff felt the hit, and was silent.

The Major all this time had been adjusting his spectacles on his nose, unconscious, poor old gentleman, that Dick, according to promise, had abstracted the glasses from them that morning. He took up his documents to read, made sundry wry faces, turned the papers up to the light,—now on this side, and now on that,—but could make out nothing; while Dick gave a knowing wink at Murphy. The old gentleman took off his spectacles to wipe the glasses.

The voice in the crowd cried, "Thank you, Major."

The Major pulled out his handkerchief, and his fingers met where he expected to find a lens:—he looked very angry, cast a suspicious glance at Dick, who met it with the composure of an anchorite, and quietly asked what was the matter.

"I shall not trouble you, gentlemen, with the extracts," said the Major.

"Hear, hear," responded the genteel part of the auditory.

"I tould you we'd take your word, Major," cried the voice in the crowd.

Egan's seconder followed the Major, and the crowd shouted again. O'Grady now came forward to propose the Honourable Sackville Scatterbrain, as a fit and proper person to represent the county in parliament. He was received by his own set of vagabonds with uproarious cheers, and "O'Grady for ever!" made the walls ring. "Egan for ever!" and hurras, were returned from the Merryvalians. O'Grady thus commenced his address:—

"In coming forward to support my honourable friend, the Honourable Sackville Scatterbrain, it is from the conviction—the conviction——"

"Who got the conviction agen the potteen last sishin?" said the voice in the crowd.

Loud groans followed this allusion to the prosecution of a few little private stills, in which O'Grady had shown some unnecessary severity that made him unpopular. Cries of "Order!" and "Silence!" ensued.

"I say the conviction," repeated O'Grady fiercely, looking towards the quarter whence the interruption took place,—"and if there is any blackguard here who dares to interrupt me, I'll order him to be taken out by the ears. I say, I propose my honourable friend, the Honourable Sackville Scatterbrain, from the conviction that there is a necessity in this county——"

"'Faith, there is plenty of necessity," said the tormentor in the crowd.

"Take that man out," said the sheriff.

"Don't hurry yourself, sir," returned the delinquent, amidst the laughter of "the boys," in proportion to whose merriment rose O'Grady's ill-humour.

"I say there is a necessity for a vigorous member to represent this county in parliament, and support the laws, the constitution, the crown, and the—the—interests of the county!"

"Who made the new road?" was a question that now arose from the crowd—a laugh followed—and some groans at this allusion to a bit of jobbing on the part of O'Grady, who got a grand jury presentment to make a road which served nobody's interest but his own.

"The frequent interruptions I meet here from the lawless and disaffected show too plainly that we stand in need of men who will support the arm of the law in purging the country."

"Who killed the 'pothecary?" said a fellow, in a voice so deep as seemed fit only to issue from the jaws of death.

The question, and the extraordinary voice in which it was uttered, produced one of those roars of laughter which sometimes shake public meetings in Ireland; and O'Grady grew furious.

"If I knew who that gentleman was, I'd pay him!" said he.

"You'd better pay them you know," was the answer; and this allusion to O'Grady's notorious character of a bad payer, was relished by the crowd, and again raised the laugh against him.

"Sir," said O'Grady, addressing the sheriff, "I hold this ruffianism in contempt. I treat it, and the authors of it, those who no doubt have instructed them, with contempt." He looked over to where Egan and his friends stood, as he spoke of the crowd having had instruction to interrupt him.

"If you mean, sir," said Egan, "that I have given any such instructions, I deny, in the most unqualified terms, the truth of such an assertion."

"Keep yourself cool, Ned," said Dick Dawson, close to his ear.

"Never fear me," said Egan; "but I won't let him bully."

The two former friends now exchanged rather fierce looks at each other.

"Then why am I interrupted?" asked O'Grady.

"It is no business of mine to answer that," replied Egan; "but I repeat the unqualified denial of your assertion."

The crowd ceased its noise when the two Squires were seen engaged in exchanging smart words, in the hopes of catching what they said.

"It is a disgraceful uproar," said the sheriff.

"Then it is your business, Mister Sheriff," returned Egan, "to suppress it—not mine; they are quiet enough now."

"Yes, but they'll make a wow again," said Furlong, "when Miste' O'Gwady begins."

"You seem to know all about it," said Dick; "maybe you have instructed them."

"No, sir, I didn't instwuct them," said Furlong, very angry at being twitted by Dick.

Dick laughed in his face, and said, "Maybe that's some of your electioneering tactics—eh?"

Furlong got very angry, while Dick and Murphy shouted with laughter at him—"No, sir," said Furlong, "I don't welish the pwactice of such di'ty twicks."

"Do you apply the word 'dirty' to me, sir?" said Dick the Devil, ruffling up like a game-cock. "I'll tell you what, sir, if you make use of the word 'dirty' again, I'd think very little of kicking you—ay, or eight like you—I'll kick eight Furlongs one mile."

"Who's talking of kicking?" asked O'Grady.

"I am," said Dick, "do you want any?"

"Gentlemen! gentlemen!" cried the sheriff, "order! pray order! do proceed with the business of the day."

"I'll talk to you after about this!" said O'Grady, in a threatening tone.

"Very well," said Dick; "we've time enough, the day's young yet."

O'Grady then proceeded to find fault with Egan, censuring his politics, and endeavouring to justify his defection from the same cause. He concluded thus: "Sir, I shall pursue my course of duty; I have chalked out my own line of conduct, sir, and I am convinced no other line is the right line. Our opponents are wrong, sir—totally wrong—all wrong; and, as I have said, I have chalked out my own line, sir, and I propose the Honourable Sackville Scatterbrain as a fit and proper person to sit in parliament for the representation of this county."

The O'Gradyites shouted as their chief concluded; and the Merryvalians returned some groans, and a cry of "Go home, turncoat!"

Egan now presented himself, and was received with deafening and long-continued cheers, for he was really beloved by the people at large; his frank and easy nature, the amiable character he bore in all his social relations, the merciful and conciliatory tendency of his decisions and conduct as a magistrate, won him the solid respect as well as affection of the country.

He had been for some days in low spirits in consequence of Larry Hogan's visit and mysterious communication with him; but this, its cause, was unknown to all but himself, and therefore more difficult to support; for none but those whom sad experience has taught can tell the agony of enduring in secret and in silence the pang that gnaws a proud heart, which, Spartan like, will let the tooth destroy, without complaint or murmur.

His depression, however, was apparent, and Dick told Murphy he feared Ned would not be up to the mark at the election; but Murphy, with a better knowledge of human nature, and the excitement of such a cause, said, "Never fear him—ambition is a long spur, my boy, and will stir the blood of a thicker-skinned fellow than your brother-in-law. When he comes to stand up and assert his claims before the world, he'll be all right!"

Murphy was a true prophet, for Egan presented himself with confidence, brightness, and good-humour on his open countenance.

"The first thing I have to ask of you, boys," said Egan, addressing the assembled throng, "is a fair hearing for the other candidate."

"Hear, hear," followed from the gentlemen in the gallery.

"And, as he's a stranger amongst us, let him have the privilege of first addressing you."

With these words he bowed courteously to Scatterbrain, who thanked him very much like a gentleman, and accepting his offer, advanced to address the electors. O'Grady waved his hand in signal to his body-guard, and Scatterbrain had three cheers from the ragamuffins.

He was no great things of a speaker, but he was a good-humoured fellow, and this won on the Paddies; and although coming before them under the disadvantage of being proposed by O'Grady, they heard him with good temper:—to this, however, Egan's good word considerably contributed.

He went very much over the ground his proposer had taken, so that, bating the bad temper, the pith of his speech was much the same, quite as much deprecating the political views of his opponent, and harping on O'Grady's worn-out catch-word of "Having chalked out a line for himself," &c. &c. &c.

Egan now stood forward, and was greeted with fresh cheers. He began in a very Irish fashion; for, being an unaffected, frank, and free-hearted fellow himself, he knew how to touch the feelings of those who possess such qualities. He waited till the last echo of the uproarious greeting died away, and the first simple words he uttered were—

"Here I am, boys!"

Simple as these words were, they produced "one cheer more."

"Here I am, boys—the same I ever was."

Loud huzzas and "Long life to you!" answered the last pithy words, which were sore ones to O'Grady, who, as a renegade, felt the hit.

"Fellow-countrymen, I come forward to represent you, and, however I may be unequal to that task, at least I will never misrepresent you."

Another cheer followed.

"My past life is evidence enough on that point; God forbid I were of the mongrel breed of Irishmen who speak ill of their own country. I never did it, boys, and I never will! Some think they get on by it, and so they do, indeed;—they get on as sweeps and shoe-blacks get on—they drive a dirty trade and find employment;—but are they respected?"

Shouts of "No!—no!"

"You're right!—No!—they are not respected—even by their very employers. Your political sweep and shoe-black is no more respected than he who cleans our chimneys or cleans our shoes. The honourable gentleman who has addressed you last confesses he is a stranger amongst you; and is he, a stranger, to be your representative? You may be civil to a stranger—it is a pleasing duty,—but he is not the man to whom you would give your confidence. You might share a hearty glass with a stranger, but you would not enter into a joint lease of a farm without knowing a little more of him; and if you would not trust a single farm with a stranger, will you give a whole county into his hands? When a stranger comes to these parts, I'm sure he'll get a civil answer from every man I see here,—he will get a civil 'yes' or a civil 'no' to his questions; and if he seeks his way, you will show him his road. As to the honourable gentleman who has done you the favour to come and ask you civilly, will you give him the county, you as civilly may answer 'No,' and show him his road home again. ('So we will.') As for the gentleman who proposed him, he has chosen to make certain strictures upon my views, and opinions, and conduct. As for views—there was a certain heathen god the Romans worshipped, called Janus; he was a fellow with two heads—and by-the-bye, boys, he would have been just the fellow to live amongst us; for when one of his heads was broken he would have had the other for use. Well, this Janus was called 'double-face,' and could see before and behind him. Now, I'm no double-face, boys; and as for seeing before and behind me, I can look back on the past and forward to the future, and both the roads are straight ones. (Cheers.) I wish every one could say as much. As for my opinions, all I shall say is, I never changed mine; Mr. O'Grady can't say as much."

"Sure there's a weathercock in the family," said the voice in the crowd.

A loud laugh followed this sally, for the old dowager's eccentricity was not quite a secret. O'Grady looked as if he could have eaten the whole crowd at a mouthful.

"Much has been said," continued Egan, "about gentlemen chalking out lines for themselves;—now, the plain English of this determined chalking of their own line is rubbing out every other man's line. (Bravo.) Some of these chalking gentlemen have lines chalked up against them, and might find it difficult to pay the score if they were called to account. To such, rubbing out other men's lines, and their own too, may be convenient; but I don't like the practice. Boys, I have no more to say than this, We know and can trust each other!"

Egan's address was received with acclamation, and when silence was restored, the sheriff demanded a show of hands; and a very fine show of hands there was, and every hand had a stick in it.

The show of hands was declared to be in favour of Egan, whereupon a poll was demanded on the part of Scatterbrain, after which every one began to move from the court-house.

O'Grady, in very ill-humour, was endeavouring to shove past a herculean fellow, rather ragged and very saucy, who did not seem inclined to give place to the savage elbowing of the Squire.

"What brings such a ragged rascal as you here?" said O'Grady, brutally; "you're not an elector."

"Yis, I am!" replied the fellow, sturdily.

"Why, you can't have a lease, you beggar."

"No, but maybe I have an article."[22]

[22] A name given to a written engagement between landlord and tenant, promising to grant a lease, on which registration is allowed in Ireland.

"What is your article?"

"What is it?" retorted the fellow, with a fierce look at O'Grady. "'Faith, it's a fine brass blunderbuss; and I'd like to see the man would dispute the title."

O'Grady had met his master, and could not reply; the crowd shouted for the ragamuffin, and all parties separated, to gird up their loins for the next day's poll.



CHAPTER XIX

After the angry words exchanged at the nomination, the most peaceable reader must have anticipated the probability of a duel;—but when the inflammable stuff of which Irishmen are made is considered, together with the excitement and pugnacious spirit attendant upon elections in all places, the certainty of a hostile meeting must have been apparent. The sheriff might have put the gentlemen under arrest, it is true, but that officer was a weak, thoughtless, irresolute person, and took no such precaution; though, to do the poor man justice, it is only fair to say that such an intervention of authority at such a time and place would be considered on all hands as a very impertinent, unjustifiable, and discourteous interference with the private pleasures and privileges of gentlemen.

Dick Dawson had a message conveyed to him from O'Grady, requesting the honour of his company the next morning to "grass before breakfast!" to which, of course, Dick returned an answer expressive of the utmost readiness to oblige the Squire with his presence; and, as the business of the election was of importance, it was agreed they should meet at a given spot on the way to the town, and so lose as little time as possible.

The next morning, accordingly, the parties met at the appointed place, Dick attended by Edward O'Connor and Egan—the former in capacity of his friend; and O'Grady, with Scatterbrain for his second, and Furlong a looker-on: there were some straggling spectators besides, to witness the affair.

"O'Grady looks savage, Dick," said Edward.

"Yes," answered Dick, with a smile of as much unconcern as if he were going to lead off a country dance. "He looks as pleasant as a bull in a pound."

"Take care of yourself, my dear Dick," said Edward seriously.

"My dear boy, don't make yourself uneasy," replied Dick, laughing. "I'll bet you two to one he misses me."

Edward made no reply, but, to his sensitive and more thoughtful nature, betting at such a moment savoured too much of levity, so, leaving his friend, he advanced to Scatterbrain, and they commenced making the preliminary preparations.

During the period which this required O'Grady was looking down sulkily or looking up fiercely, and striking his heel with vehemence into the sod, while Dick Dawson was whistling a planxty and eyeing his man.

The arrangements were soon made, the men placed on their ground, and Dick saw by the intent look with which O'Grady marked him, that he meant mischief; they were handed their pistols—the seconds retired—the word was given, and as O'Grady raised his pistol, Dick saw he was completely covered, and suddenly exclaimed, throwing up his arm, "I beg your pardon for a moment."

O'Grady involuntarily lowered his weapon, and seeing Dick standing perfectly erect, and nothing following his sudden request for this suspension of hostilities, asked, in a very angry tone, why he had interrupted him. "Because I saw you had me covered," said Dick, "and you'd have hit me if you had fired that time: now fire away as soon as you like!" added he, at the same moment rapidly bringing up his own pistol to the level.

O'Grady was taken by surprise, and fancying Dick was going to blaze at him, fired hastily, and missed his adversary.

Dick made him a low bow, and fired in the air.

O'Grady wanted another shot, saying Dawson had tricked him, but Scatterbrain felt the propriety of Edward O'Connor's objection to further fighting, after Dawson receiving O'Grady's fire; so the gentlemen were removed from the ground and the affair terminated.

O'Grady, having fully intended to pink Dick, was excessively savage at being overreached, and went off to the election with a temper by no means sweetened by the morning's adventure, while Dick roared with laughing, exclaiming at intervals to Edward O'Connor, as he was putting up his pistols, "Did not I do him neatly?"

Off they cantered gaily to the high road, exchanging merry and cheering salutations with the electors, who were thronging towards the town in great numbers and all variety of manner, group, and costume, some on foot, some on horseback, and some on cars; the gayest show of holiday attire contrasting with the every-day rags of wretchedness; the fresh cheek of health and beauty making gaunt misery look more appalling, and the elastic step of vigorous youth outstripping the tardy pace of feeble age. Pedestrians were hurrying on in detachments of five or six—the equestrians in companies less numerous; sometimes the cavalier who could boast a saddle carrying a woman on a pillion behind him. But saddle or pillion were not an indispensable accompaniment to this equestrian duo, for many a "bare-back" garran carried his couple, his only harness being a halter made of a hay-rope, which in time of need sometimes proves a substitute for "rack and manger," for it is not uncommon in Ireland to see the garran nibbling the end of his bridle when opportunity offers. The cars were in great variety; some bore small kishes,[23] in which a woman and some children might be seen; others had a shake-down of clean straw to serve for cushions; while the better sort spread a feather-bed for greater comfort, covered by a patchwork quilt, the work of the "good woman" herself, whose own quilted petticoat vied in brightness with the calico roses on which she was sitting. The most luxurious indulged still further in some arched branches of hazel, which, bent above the car in the fashion of a booth, bore another coverlid, by way of awning, and served for protection against the weather; but few there were who could indulge in such a luxury as this of the "chaise marine," which is the name the contrivance bears, but why, Heaven only knows.

[23] A large basket of coarse wicker-work, used mostly for carrying turf—Anglice, peat.

The street of the town had its centre occupied at the broadest place with a long row of cars, covered in a similar manner to the chaise marine, a door or a shutter laid across underneath the awning, after the fashion of a counter, on which various articles were displayed for sale; for the occasion of the election was as good as a fair to the small dealers, and the public were therefore favoured with the usual opportunity of purchasing uneatable gingerbread, knives that would not cut, spectacles to increase blindness, and other articles of equal usefulness.

While the dealers here displayed their ware, and were vociferous in declaring its excellence, noisy groups passed up and down on either side of these ambulatory shops, discussing the merits of the candidates, predicting the result of the election, or giving an occasional cheer for their respective parties, with the twirl of a stick or the throwing up of a hat; while from the houses on both sides of the street the scraping of fiddles, and the lilting of pipes, increased the mingled din.

But the crowd was thickest and the uproar greatest in front of the inn where Scatterbrain's committee sat, and before the house of Murphy, who gave up all his establishment to the service of the election, and whose stable-yard made a capital place of mustering for the tallies of Egan's electors to assemble ere they marched to the poll. At last the hour for opening the poll struck, the inn poured forth the Scatterbrains, and Murphy's stable-yard the Eganites, the two bodies of electors uttering thundering shouts of defiance, as, with rival banners flying, they joined in one common stream, rushing to give their votes—for as for their voices, they were giving them most liberally and strenuously already. The dense crowd soon surrounded the hustings in front of the court-house, and the throes and heavings of this living mass resembled a turbulent sea lashed by a tempest:—but what sea is more unruly than an excited crowd?—what tempest fiercer than the breath of political excitement?

Conspicuous amongst those on the hustings were both the candidates, and their aiders and abettors on either side—O'Grady and Furlong, Dick Dawson and Tom Durfy for work, and Growling to laugh at them all. Edward O'Connor was addressing the populace in a spirit-stirring appeal to their pride and affections, stimulating them to support their tried and trusty friend, and not yield the honour of their county either to fears or favours of a stranger, nor copy the bad example which some (who ought to blush) had set them, of betraying old friends and abandoning old principles. Edward's address was cheered by those who heard it:—but being heard is not essential to the applause attendant on political addresses, for those who do not hear cheer quite as much as those who do. The old adage hath it, "Show me your company, and I'll tell you who you are;"—and in the spirit of the adage one might say, "Let me see the speech-maker, an' I'll tell you what he says." So when Edward O'Connor spoke, the boys welcomed him with a shout of "Ned of the Hill for ever!"—and knowing to what tune his mouth would be opened, they cheered accordingly when he concluded. O'Grady, on evincing a desire to address them, was not so successful;—the moment he showed himself, taunts were flung at him: but spite of this, attempting to frown down their dissatisfaction, he began to speak; but he had not uttered six words when his voice was drowned in the discordant yells of a trumpet. It is scarcely necessary to tell the reader that the performer was the identical trumpeter of the preceding day, whom O'Grady had kicked so unmercifully, who, in indignation at his wrongs, had gone over to the enemy; and having, after a night's hard work, disengaged the cork which Andy had crammed into his trumpet, appeared in the crowd ready to do battle in the popular cause.—"Wait," he cried, "till that savage of a baste of a Squire dares for to go for to spake!—won't I smother him!" Then he would put his instrument of vengeance to his lips, and produce a yell that made his auditors put their hands to their ears. Thus armed, he waited near the platform for O'Grady's speech, and put his threat effectually into execution. O'Grady saw whence the annoyance proceeded, and shook his fist at the delinquent, with protestations that the police should drag him from the crowd, if he dared to continue; but every threat was blighted in the bud by the withering blast of a trumpet, which was regularly followed by a peal of laughter from the crowd. O'Grady stamped and swore with rage, and calling Furlong, sent him to inform the sheriff how riotous the crowd were, and requested him to have the trumpeter seized.

Furlong hurried off on his mission, and after a long search for the potential functionary, saw him in a distant corner, engaged in what appeared to be an urgent discussion between him and Murtough Murphy, who was talking in the most jocular manner to the sheriff, who seemed anything but amused with his argumentative merriment. The fact was, Murphy, while pushing the interests of Egan with an energy unsurpassed, did it with all the utmost cheerfulness, and gave his opponents a laugh in exchange for the point gained against them, and while he defeated, amused them. Furlong, after shoving and elbowing his way through the crowd, suffering from heat and exertion, came fussing up to the sheriff, wiping his face with a scented cambric pocket-handkerchief. The sheriff and Murphy were standing close beside one of the polling-desks, and on Furlong's lisping out "Miste' Shewiff," Murphy, recognising the voice and manner, turned suddenly round, and with the most provoking cordiality addressed him thus, with a smile and a nod, "Ah! Mister Furlong, how d'ye do?—delighted to see you; here we are at it, sir, hammer and tongs—of course you are come to vote for Egan?"

Furlong, who intended to annihilate Murphy with an indignant repetition of the provoking question put to him, threw as much of defiance as he could in his namby-pamby manner, and exclaimed, "I vote for Egan!"

"Thank you, sir," said Murphy. "Record the vote," added he to the clerk.

There was loud laughter on one side, and anger as loud on the other, at the way in which Murphy had entrapped Furlong, and cheated him into voting against his own party. In vain the poor gull protested he never meant to vote for Egan.

"But you did it," cried Murphy.

"What the deuce have you done?" cried Scatterbrain's agent, in a rage.

"Of course, they know I wouldn't vote that way," said Furlong. "I couldn't vote that way—it's a mistake, and I pwotest against the twick."

"We've got the trick, and we'll keep it, however," said Murphy.

Scatterbrain's agent said 't was unfair, and desired the polling-clerk not to record the vote.

"Didn't every one hear him say, 'I vote for Egan'?" asked Murphy.

"But he didn't mean it, sir," said the agent.

"I don't care what he meant, but I know he said it," retorted Murphy; "and every one round knows he said it; and as I mean what I say myself, I suppose every other gentleman does the same—down with the vote, Mister Polling-clerk."

A regular wrangle now took place between the two agents, amidst the laughter of the bystanders, whose merriment was increased by Furlong's vehement assurances he did not mean to vote as Murphy wanted to make it appear he had; but the more he protested, the more the people laughed. This increased his energy in fighting out the point, until Scatterbrain's agent recommended him to desist, for that he was only interrupting their own voters from coming up. "Never mind now, sir," said the agent, "I'll appeal to the assessor about that vote."

"Appeal as much as you like," said Murtough; "that vote is as dead as a herring to you."

Furlong, finding further remonstrance unavailing, as regarded his vote, delivered to the sheriff the message of O'Grady, who was boiling over with impatience, in the meantime, at the delay of his messenger, and anxiously expecting the arrival of sheriff and police to coerce the villainous trumpeter and chastise the applauding crowd, which became worse and worse every minute.

They exhibited a new source of provocation to O'Grady, by exposing a rat-trap hung at the end of a pole, with the caged vermin within, and vociferated "Rat, rat," in the pauses of the trumpet. Scatterbrain, remembering the hearing they gave him the previous day, hoped to silence them, and begged O'Grady to permit him to address them; but the whim of the mob was up, and could not be easily diverted, and Scatterbrain himself was hailed with the name of "Rat-catcher."

"You cotch him—and I wish you joy of him!" cried one.

"How much did you give for him?" shouted another.

"What did you bait your thrap with?" roared a third.

"A bit o' threasury bacon," was the answer from a stentorian voice amidst the multitude, who shouted with laughter at the apt rejoinder, which they reiterated from one end of the crowd to the other, and the cry of "threasury bacon" rang far and wide.

Scatterbrain and O'Grady consulted together on the hustings what was to be done, while Dick the Devil was throwing jokes to the crowd, and inflaming their mischievous merriment, and Growling looking on with an expression of internal delight at the fun, uproar, and vexation around him. It was just a dish to his taste and he devoured it with silent satisfaction.

"What the deuce keeps that sneaking dandy?" cried O'Grady to Scatterbrain. "He should have returned long ago." Oh! could he have only known at that moment, that his sweet son-in-law elect was voting against them, what would have been the consequence?

Another exhibition, insulting to O'Grady, now appeared in the crowd—a chimney-pot and weathercock, after the fashion of his mother's, was stuck on a pole, and underneath was suspended an old coat, turned inside out; this double indication of his change, so peculiarly insulting, was elevated before the hustings, amidst the jeers and laughter of the people. O'Grady was nearly frantic—he rushed to the front of the platform, he shook his fist at the mockery, poured every abusive epithet on its perpetrators, and swore he would head the police himself and clear the crowd. In reply, the crowd hooted, the rat-trap and weathercock were danced together after the fashion of Punch and Judy, to the music of the trumpet; and another pole made its appearance, with a piece of bacon on it, and a placard bearing the inscription of "Treasury bacon," all which Tom Durfy had run off to procure at a huckster's shop the moment he heard the waggish answer, which he thus turned to account.

"The military must be called out!" said O'Grady; and with these words he left the platform to seek the sheriff.

Edward O'Connor, the moment he heard O'Grady's threat, quitted the hustings also, in company with old Growling. "What a savage and dangerous temper that man has!" said Edward; "calling for the military when the people have committed no outrage to require such interference."

"They have poked up the bear with their poles, sir, and it is likely he'll give them a hug before he's done with them," answered the doctor.

"But what need of military?" indignantly exclaimed Edward. "The people are only going on with the noise and disturbance common to any election, and the chances are, that savage man may influence the sheriff to provoke the people, by the presence of soldiers, to some act which would not have taken place but for their interference; and thus they themselves originate the offence which they are forearmed with power to chastise. In England such extreme measures are never resorted to until necessity compels them. How I have envied Englishmen, when, on the occasion of assizes, every soldier is marched from the town while the judge is sitting; in Ireland the place of trial bristles with bayonets! How much more must a people respect and love the laws, whose own purity and justice are their best safeguard—whose inherent majesty is sufficient for their own protection! The sword of justice should never need the assistance of the swords of dragoons; and in the election of their representatives, as well as at judicial sittings, a people should be free from military despotism."

"But, as an historian, my dear young friend," said the doctor, "I need not remind you, that dragoons have been considered 'good lookers-on' in Ireland since the days of Strafford."

"Ay!" said Edward; "and scandalous it is, that the abuses of the seventeenth century should be perpetuated in the nineteenth.[24] While those who govern show, by the means they adopt for supporting their authority, that their rule requires undue force to uphold it, they tacitly teach resistance to the people, and their practices imply that the resistance is righteous."

[24] When Strafford's infamous project of the wholesale robbery of Connaught was put in practice, not being quite certain of his juries, he writes that he will send three hundred horse to the province during the proceedings, as "good lookers-on."

"My dear Master Ned," said the doctor, "you're a patriot, and I'm sorry for you; you inherit the free opinions of your namesake 'of the hill,' of blessed memory; with such sentiments you may make a very good Irish barrister, but you'll never be an Irish judge—and as for a silk gown, 'faith you may leave the wearing of that to your wife, for stuff is all that will ever adorn your shoulders."

"Well, I would rather have stuff there than in my head," answered Edward.

"Very epigrammatic, indeed, Master Ned," said the doctor. "Let us make a distich of it," added he, with a chuckle; "for, of a verity, some of the K. C.'s of our times are but dunces. Let's see—how will it go?"

Edward dashed off this couplet in a moment—

"Of modern king's counsel this truth may be said, They have silk on their shoulders, and stuff in their head."

"Neat enough," said the doctor; "but you might contrive more sting in it—something to the tune of the impossibility of making 'a silk purse out of a sow's ear,' but the facility of manufacturing silk gowns out of bores' heads."

"That's out of your bitter pill-box, Doctor," said Ned, smiling.

"Put it into rhyme, Ned—and set it to music—and dedicate it to the bar mess, and see how you'll rise in your profession! Good bye—I will be back again to see the fun as soon as I can, but I must go now and visit an old woman who is in doubt whether she stands most in need of me or the priest. It's wonderful, how little people think of the other world till they are going to leave this; and, with all their praises of heaven, how very anxious they are to stay out of it as long as they can."

With this bit of characteristic sarcasm, the doctor and Edward separated.

Edward had hardly left the hustings, when Murphy hurried on the platform and asked for him.

"He left a few minutes ago," said Tom Durfy.

"Well, I dare say he's doing good wherever he is," said Murtough; "I wanted to speak to him, but when he comes back send him to me. In the meantime, Tom, run down and bring up a batch of voters—we're getting a little ahead, I think, with the bothering I'm giving them up there, and now I want to push them with good strong tallies—run down to the yard, like a good fellow, and march them up."

Off posted Tom Durfy on his mission, and Murphy returned to the court-house.

Tom, on reaching Murphy's house, found a strange posse of O'Grady's party hanging round the place, and one of the fellows had backed a car against the yard gate which opened on the street, and was the outlet for Egan's voters. By way of excuse for this, the car was piled with cabbages for sale, and a couple of very unruly pigs were tethered to the shafts, and the strapping fellow who owned all kept guard over them. Tom immediately told him he should leave that place, and an altercation commenced; but even an electioneering dispute could not but savour of fun and repartee, between Paddies.

"Be off!" said Tom.

"Sure I can't be off till the market's over," was the answer.

"Well, you must take your car out o' this."

"Indeed now, you'll let me stay, Misther Durfy."

"Indeed I won't."

"Arrah! what harm?"

"You're stopping up the gate on purpose, and you must go."

"Sure your honour wouldn't spile my stand!"

"'Faith, I'll spoil more than your stand, if you don't leave that."

"Not finer cabbage in the world."

"Go out o' that now, 'while your shoes are good,'"[25] said Tom, seeing he had none; for, in speaking of shoes, Tom had no intention of alluding to the word choux, and thus making a French pun upon the cabbage—for Tom did not understand French, but rather despised it as a jack-a-dandy acquirement.

[25] A saying among the Irish peasantry—meaning there is danger in delay.

"Sure, you wouldn't ruin my market, Misther Durfy."

"None of your humbugging—but be off at once," said Tom, whose tone indicated he was very much in earnest.

"Not a nicer slip of a pig in the market than the same pigs—I'm expectin' thirty shillin's apiece for them."

"'Faith, you'll get more than thirty shillings," cried Tom, "in less than thirty seconds, if you don't take your dirty cabbage and blackguard pigs out o' that!"

"Dirty cabbages!" cried the fellow, in a tone of surprise.

The order to depart was renewed.

"Blackguard pigs!" cried Paddy, in affected wonder. "Ah, Masther Tom, one would think it was afther dinner you wor."

"What do you mean, you rap?—do you intend to say I'm drunk?"

"Oh no, sir! But if it's not afther dinner wid you, I think you wouldn't turn up your nose at bacon and greens."

"Oh, with all your joking," said Tom, laughing, "you won't find me a chicken to pluck for your bacon and greens, my boy; so, start!—vanish!—disperse!—my bacon-merchant."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse