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Lavengro - The Scholar, The Gypsy, The Priest
by George Borrow
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Such was the speech of the Irish Protestant addressed to my father in the long lofty dining-room with three windows, looking upon the high street of the good town of Clonmel, as he sat at meat with his family, after saying grace like a true-hearted respectable soldier as he was.

'A bigot and an Orangeman!' Oh yes! It is easier to apply epithets of opprobrium to people than to make yourself acquainted with their history and position. He was a specimen, and a fair specimen, of a most remarkable body of men, who during two centuries have fought a good fight in Ireland in the cause of civilisation and religious truth; they were sent as colonists, few in number, into a barbarous and unhappy country, where ever since, though surrounded with difficulties of every kind, they have maintained their ground; theirs has been no easy life, nor have their lines fallen upon very pleasant places; amidst darkness they have held up a lamp, and it would be well for Ireland were all her children like these her adopted ones. 'But they are fierce and sanguinary,' it is said. Ay, ay! they have not unfrequently opposed the keen sword to the savage pike. 'But they are bigoted and narrow-minded.' Ay, ay! they do not like idolatry, and will not bow the knee before a stone! 'But their language is frequently indecorous.' Go to, my dainty one, did ye ever listen to the voice of Papist cursing?

The Irish Protestants have faults, numerous ones; but the greater number of these may be traced to the peculiar circumstances of their position: but they have virtues, numerous ones; and their virtues are their own, their industry, their energy, and their undaunted resolution are their own. They have been vilified and traduced—but what would Ireland be without them? I repeat, that it would be well for her were all her sons no worse than these much-calumniated children of her adoption.



CHAPTER X

Protestant young gentlemen—The Greek letters—Open chimney—Murtagh—Paris and Salamanca—Nothing to do—To whit, to whoo!—The pack of cards—Before Christmas.

We continued at this place for some months, during which time the soldiers performed their duties, whatever they were; and I, having no duties to perform, was sent to school. I had been to English schools, and to the celebrated one of Edinburgh; but my education, at the present day, would not be what it is—perfect, had I never had the honour of being alumnus in an Irish seminary.

'Captain,' said our kind host, 'you would, no doubt, wish that the young gentleman should enjoy every advantage which the town may afford towards helping him on in the path of genteel learning. It's a great pity that he should waste his time in idleness—doing nothing else than what he says he has been doing for the last fortnight—fishing in the river for trouts which he never catches; and wandering up the glen in the mountain, in search of the hips that grow there. Now, we have a school here, where he can learn the most elegant Latin, and get an insight into the Greek letters, which is desirable; and where, moreover, he will have an opportunity of making acquaintance with all the Protestant young gentlemen of the place, the handsome well-dressed young persons whom your honour sees in the church on the Sundays, when your honour goes there in the morning, with the rest of the Protestant military; for it is no Papist school, though there may be a Papist or two there—a few poor farmers' sons from the country, with whom there is no necessity for your honour's child to form any acquaintance at all, at all!'

And to the school I went, where I read the Latin tongue and the Greek letters, with a nice old clergyman, who sat behind a black oaken desk, with a huge Elzevir Flaccus before him, in a long gloomy kind of hall, with a broken stone floor, the roof festooned with cobwebs, the walls considerably dilapidated, and covered over with strange figures and hieroglyphics, evidently produced by the application of burnt stick; and there I made acquaintance with the Protestant young gentlemen of the place, who, with whatever eclat they might appear at church on a Sunday, did assuredly not exhibit to much advantage in the schoolroom on the week days, either with respect to clothes or looks. And there I was in the habit of sitting on a large stone, before the roaring fire in the huge open chimney, and entertaining certain of the Protestant young gentlemen of my own age, seated on similar stones, with extraordinary accounts of my own adventures, and those of the corps, with an occasional anecdote extracted from the story-books of Hickathrift and Wight Wallace, pretending to be conning the lesson all the while.

And there I made acquaintance, notwithstanding the hint of the landlord, with the Papist 'gossoons,' as they were called, the farmers' sons from the country; and of these gossoons, of whom there were three, two might be reckoned as nothing at all; in the third, however, I soon discovered that there was something extraordinary.

He was about sixteen years old, and above six feet high, dressed in a gray suit; the coat, from its size, appeared to have been made for him some ten years before. He was remarkably narrow-chested and round-shouldered, owing, perhaps as much to the tightness of his garment as to the hand of nature. His face was long, and his complexion swarthy, relieved, however, by certain freckles, with which the skin was plentifully studded. He had strange wandering eyes, gray, and somewhat unequal in size; they seldom rested on the book, but were generally wandering about the room, from one object to another. Sometimes he would fix them intently on the wall, and then suddenly starting, as if from a reverie, he would commence making certain mysterious movements with his thumbs and forefingers, as if he were shuffling something from him.

One morning, as he sat by himself on a bench, engaged in this manner, I went up to him, and said, 'Good-day, Murtagh; you do not seem to have much to do?'

'Faith, you may say that, Shorsha dear!—it is seldom much to do that I have.'

'And what are you doing with your hands?'

'Faith, then, if I must tell you, I was e'en dealing with the cards.'

'Do you play much at cards?'

'Sorra a game, Shorsha, have I played with the cards since my uncle Phelim, the thief, stole away the ould pack, when he went to settle in the county Waterford!'

'But you have other things to do?'

'Sorra anything else has Murtagh to do that he cares about and that makes me dread so going home at nights.'

'I should like to know all about you; where do you live, joy?'

'Faith, then, ye shall know all about me, and where I live. It is at a place called the Wilderness that I live, and they call it so, because it is a fearful wild place, without any house near it but my father's own; and that's where I live when at home.'

'And your father is a farmer, I suppose?'

'You may say that; and it is a farmer I should have been, like my brother Denis, had not my uncle Phelim, the thief, tould my father to send me to school, to learn Greek letters, that I might be made a saggart of, and sent to Paris and Salamanca.'

'And you would rather be a farmer than a priest?'

'You may say that!—for, were I a farmer, like the rest, I should have something to do, like the rest—something that I cared for—and I should come home tired at night, and fall asleep, as the rest do, before the fire; but when I comes home at night I am not tired, for I have been doing nothing all day that I care for; and then I sits down and stares about me, and at the fire, till I become frighted; and then I shouts to my brother Denis, or to the gossoons, "Get up, I say, and let's be doing something; tell us the tale of Finn-ma-Coul, and how he lay down in the Shannon's bed, and let the river flow down his jaws!" Arrah, Shorsha! I wish you would come and stay with us, and tell us some o' your sweet stories of your own self and the snake ye carried about wid ye. Faith, Shorsha dear! that snake bates anything about Finn-ma-Coul or Brian Boroo, the thieves two, bad luck to them!'

'And do they get up and tell you stories?'

'Sometimes they does, but oftenmost they curses me, and bids me be quiet! But I can't be quiet, either before the fire or abed; so I runs out of the house, and stares at the rocks, at the trees, and sometimes at the clouds, as they run a race across the bright moon; and, the more I stares, the more frighted I grows, till I screeches and holloas. And last night I went into the barn, and hid my face in the straw; and there, as I lay and shivered in the straw, I heard a voice above my head singing out "To whit, to whoo!" and then up I starts, and runs into the house, and falls over my brother Denis, as he lies at the fire. "What's that for?" says he. "Get up, you thief!" says I, "and be helping me. I have been out into the barn, and an owl has crow'd at me!"'

'And what has this to do with playing cards?'

'Little enough, Shorsha dear!—If there were card-playing, I should not be frighted.'

'And why do you not play at cards?'

'Did I not tell you that the thief, my uncle Phelim, stole away the pack? If we had the pack, my brother Denis and the gossoons would be ready enough to get up from their sleep before the fire, and play cards with me for ha'pence, or eggs, or nothing at all; but the pack is gone—bad luck to the thief who took it!'

'And why don't you buy another?'

'Is it of buying you are speaking? And where am I to get the money?'

'Ah! that's another thing!'

'Faith it is, honey!—And now the Christmas holidays is coming, when I shall be at home by day as well as night, and then what am I to do? Since I have been a saggarting, I have been good for nothing at all—neither for work nor Greek—only to play cards! Faith, it's going mad I will be!'

'I say, Murtagh!'

'Yes, Shorsha dear!'

'I have a pack of cards.'

'You don't say so, Shorsha ma vourneen?—you don't say that you have cards fifty-two?'

'I do, though; and they are quite new—never been once used.'

'And you'll be lending them to me, I warrant?'

'Don't think it!—But I'll sell them to you, joy, if you like.'

'Hanam mon Dioul! am I not after telling you that I have no money at all!'

'But you have as good as money, to me, at least; and I'll take it in exchange.'

'What's that, Shorsha dear?'

'Irish!'

'Irish?'

'Yes, you speak Irish; I heard you talking it the other day to the cripple. You shall teach me Irish.'

'And is it a language-master you'd be making of me?'

'To be sure!—what better can you do?—it would help you to pass your time at school. You can't learn Greek, so you must teach Irish!'

Before Christmas, Murtagh was playing at cards with his brother Denis, and I could speak a considerable quantity of broken Irish.



CHAPTER XI

Templemore—Devil's Mountain—No companion—Force of circumstance—Way of the world—Ruined castle—Grim and desolate—The donjon—Old woman—My own house.

When Christmas was over, and the new year commenced, we broke up our quarters, and marched away to Templemore. This was a large military station, situated in a wild and thinly inhabited country. Extensive bogs were in the neighbourhood, connected with the huge bog of Allen, the Palus Maeotis of Ireland. Here and there was seen a ruined castle looming through the mists of winter; whilst, at the distance of seven miles, rose a singular mountain, exhibiting in its brow a chasm, or vacuum, just, for all the world, as if a piece had been bitten out; a feat which, according to the tradition of the country, had actually been performed by his Satanic majesty, who, after flying for some leagues with the morsel in his mouth, becoming weary, dropped it in the vicinity of Cashel, where it may now be seen in the shape of a bold bluff hill, crowned with the ruins of a stately edifice, probably built by some ancient Irish king.

We had been here only a few days, when my brother, who, as I have before observed, had become one of his Majesty's officers, was sent on detachment to a village at about ten miles' distance. He was not sixteen, and, though three years older than myself, scarcely my equal in stature, for I had become tall and large-limbed for my age; but there was a spirit in him which would not have disgraced a general; and, nothing daunted at the considerable responsibility which he was about to incur, he marched sturdily out of the barrack-yard at the head of his party, consisting of twenty light-infantry men, and a tall grenadier sergeant, selected expressly by my father, for the soldier-like qualities which he possessed, to accompany his son on this his first expedition. So out of the barrack-yard, with something of an air, marched my dear brother, his single drum and fife playing the inspiring old melody,

Marlbrouk is gone to the wars, He'll never return no more!

I soon missed my brother, for I was now alone, with no being, at all assimilating in age, with whom I could exchange a word. Of late years, from being almost constantly at school, I had cast aside, in a great degree, my unsocial habits and natural reserve, but in the desolate region in which we now were there was no school; and I felt doubly the loss of my brother, whom, moreover, I tenderly loved for his own sake. Books I had none, at least such 'as I cared about'; and with respect to the old volume, the wonders of which had first beguiled me into common reading, I had so frequently pored over its pages, that I had almost got its contents by heart. I was therefore in danger of falling into the same predicament as Murtagh, becoming 'frighted' from having nothing to do! Nay, I had not even his resources; I cared not for cards, even if I possessed them and could find people disposed to play with them. However, I made the most of circumstances, and roamed about the desolate fields and bogs in the neighbourhood, sometimes entering the cabins of the peasantry, with a 'God's blessing upon you, good people!' where I would take my seat on the 'stranger's stone' at the corner of the hearth, and, looking them full in the face, would listen to the carles and carlines talking Irish.

Ah, that Irish! How frequently do circumstances, at first sight the most trivial and unimportant, exercise a mighty and permanent influence on our habits and pursuits!—how frequently is a stream turned aside from its natural course by some little rock or knoll, causing it to make an abrupt turn! On a wild road in Ireland I had heard Irish spoken for the first time; and I was seized with a desire to learn Irish, the acquisition of which, in my case, became the stepping-stone to other languages. I had previously learnt Latin, or rather Lilly; but neither Latin nor Lilly made me a philologist. I had frequently heard French and other languages, but had felt little desire to become acquainted with them; and what, it may be asked, was there connected with the Irish calculated to recommend it to my attention?

First of all, and principally, I believe, the strangeness and singularity of its tones; then there was something mysterious and uncommon associated with its use. It was not a school language, to acquire which was considered an imperative duty; no, no; nor was it a drawing-room language, drawled out occasionally, in shreds and patches, by the ladies of generals and other great dignitaries, to the ineffable dismay of poor officers' wives. Nothing of the kind; but a speech spoken in out-of-the- way desolate places, and in cut-throat kens, where thirty ruffians, at the sight of the king's minions, would spring up with brandished sticks and an 'ubbubboo like the blowing up of a powder-magazine.' Such were the points connected with the Irish, which first awakened in my mind the desire of acquiring it; and by acquiring it I became, as I have already said, enamoured of languages. Having learnt one by choice, I speedily, as the reader will perceive, learnt others, some of which were widely different from Irish.

Ah, that Irish! I am much indebted to it in more ways than one. But I am afraid I have followed the way of the world, which is very much wont to neglect original friends and benefactors. I frequently find myself, at present, turning up my nose at Irish when I hear it in the street; yet I have still a kind of regard for it, the fine old language:

A labhair Padruic n'insefail nan riogh.

One of the most peculiar features of this part of Ireland is the ruined castles, which are so thick and numerous that the face of the country appears studded with them, it being difficult to choose any situation from which one, at least, may not be descried. They are of various ages and styles of architecture, some of great antiquity, like the stately remains which crown the Crag of Cashel; others built by the early English conquerors; others, and probably the greater part, erections of the times of Elizabeth and Cromwell. The whole speaking monuments of the troubled and insecure state of the country, from the most remote periods to a comparatively modern time.

From the windows of the room where I slept I had a view of one of these old places—an indistinct one, it is true, the distance being too great to permit me to distinguish more than the general outline. I had an anxious desire to explore it. It stood to the south-east; in which direction, however, a black bog intervened, which had more than once baffled all my attempts to cross it. One morning, however, when the sun shone brightly upon the old building, it appeared so near, that I felt ashamed at not being able to accomplish a feat seemingly so easy; I determined, therefore, upon another trial. I reached the bog, and was about to venture upon its black surface, and to pick my way amongst its innumerable holes, yawning horribly, and half filled with water black as soot, when it suddenly occurred to me that there was a road to the south, by following which I might find a more convenient route to the object of my wishes. The event justified my expectations, for, after following the road for some three miles, seemingly in the direction of the Devil's Mountain, I suddenly beheld the castle on my left.

I diverged from the road, and, crossing two or three fields, came to a small grassy plain, in the midst of which stood the castle. About a gun- shot to the south was a small village, which had, probably, in ancient days, sprung up beneath its protection. A kind of awe came over me as I approached the old building. The sun no longer shone upon it, and it looked so grim, so desolate and solitary; and here was I, in that wild country, alone with that grim building before me. The village was within sight, it is true; but it might be a village of the dead for what I knew; no sound issued from it, no smoke was rising from its roofs, neither man nor beast was visible, no life, no motion—it looked as desolate as the castle itself. Yet I was bent on the adventure, and moved on towards the castle across the green plain, occasionally casting a startled glance around me; and now I was close to it.

It was surrounded by a quadrangular wall, about ten feet in height, with a square tower at each corner. At first I could discover no entrance; walking round, however, to the northern side, I found a wide and lofty gateway with a tower above it, similar to those at the angles of the wall; on this side the ground sloped gently down towards the bog, which was here skirted by an abundant growth of copse-wood and a few evergreen oaks. I passed through the gateway, and found myself within a square inclosure of about two acres. On one side rose a round and lofty keep, or donjon, with a conical roof, part of which had fallen down, strewing the square with its ruins. Close to the keep, on the other side, stood the remains of an oblong house, built something in the modern style, with various window-holes; nothing remained but the bare walls and a few projecting stumps of beams, which seemed to have been half burnt. The interior of the walls was blackened, as if by fire; fire also appeared at one time to have raged out of the window-holes, for the outside about them was black, portentously so. 'I wonder what has been going on here?' I exclaimed.

There were echoes among the walls as I walked about the court. I entered the keep by a low and frowning doorway: the lower floor consisted of a large dungeon-like room, with a vaulted roof; on the left hand was a winding staircase in the thickness of the wall; it looked anything but inviting; yet I stole softly up, my heart beating. On the top of the first flight of stairs was an arched doorway, to the left was a dark passage, to the right, stairs leading still higher. I stepped under the arch and found myself in an apartment somewhat similar to the one below, but higher. There was an object at the farther end.

An old woman, at least eighty, was seated on a stone, cowering over a few sticks burning feebly on what had once been a right noble and cheerful hearth; her side-glance was towards the doorway as I entered, for she had heard my foot-steps. I stood suddenly still, and her haggard glance rested on my face.

'Is this your house, mother?' I at length demanded, in the language which I thought she would best understand.

'Yes, my house, my own house; the house of the broken-hearted.'

'Any other person's house?' I demanded.

'My own house, the beggar's house—the accursed house of Cromwell!'



CHAPTER XII

A visit—Figure of a man—The dog of peace—The raw wound—The guardroom—Boy soldier—Person in authority—Never solitary—Clergyman and family—Still-hunting—Fairy man—Near sunset—Bagg—Left-handed hitter—Irish and supernatural—At Swanton Morley.

One morning I set out, designing to pay a visit to my brother at the place where he was detached; the distance was rather considerable, yet I hoped to be back by evening fall, for I was now a shrewd walker, thanks to constant practice. I set out early, and, directing my course towards the north, I had in less than two hours accomplished considerably more than half of the journey. The weather had at first been propitious: a slight frost had rendered the ground firm to the tread, and the skies were clear; but now a change came over the scene, the skies darkened, and a heavy snowstorm came on; the road then lay straight through a bog, and was bounded by a deep trench on both sides; I was making the best of my way, keeping as nearly as I could in the middle of the road, lest, blinded by the snow which was frequently borne into my eyes by the wind, I might fall into the dyke, when all at once I heard a shout to windward, and turning my eyes I saw the figure of a man, and what appeared to be an animal of some kind, coming across the bog with great speed, in the direction of myself; the nature of the ground seemed to offer but little impediment to these beings, both clearing the holes and abysses which lay in their way with surprising agility; the animal was, however, some slight way in advance, and, bounding over the dyke, appeared on the road just before me. It was a dog, of what species I cannot tell, never having seen the like before or since; the head was large and round; the ears so tiny as scarcely to be discernible; the eyes of a fiery red: in size it was rather small than large; and the coat, which was remarkably smooth, as white as the falling flakes. It placed itself directly in my path, and showing its teeth, and bristling its coat, appeared determined to prevent my progress. I had an ashen stick in my hand, with which I threatened it; this, however, only served to increase its fury; it rushed upon me, and I had the utmost difficulty to preserve myself from its fangs.

'What are you doing with the dog, the fairy dog?' said a man, who at this time likewise cleared the dyke at a bound.

He was a very tall man, rather well dressed as it should seem; his garments, however, were, like my own, so covered with snow that I could scarcely discern their quality.

'What are ye doing with the dog of peace?'

'I wish he would show himself one,' said I; 'I said nothing to him, but he placed himself in my road, and would not let me pass.'

'Of course he would not be letting you till he knew where ye were going.'

'He's not much of a fairy,' said I, 'or he would know that without asking; tell him that I am going to see my brother.'

'And who is your brother, little Sas?'

'What my father is, a royal soldier.'

'Oh, ye are going then to the detachment at—; by my shoul, I have a good mind to be spoiling your journey.'

'You are doing that already,' said I, 'keeping me here talking about dogs and fairies; you had better go home and get some salve to cure that place over your eye; it's catching cold you'll be, in so much snow.'

On one side of the man's forehead there was a raw and staring wound, as if from a recent and terrible blow.

'Faith, then I'll be going, but it's taking you wid me I will be.'

'And where will you take me?'

'Why, then, to Ryan's Castle, little Sas.'

'You do not speak the language very correctly,' said I; 'it is not Sas you should call me—'tis Sassannach,' and forthwith I accompanied the word with a speech full of flowers of Irish rhetoric.

The man looked upon me for a moment, fixedly, then, bending his head towards his breast, he appeared to be undergoing a kind of convulsion, which was accompanied by a sound something resembling laughter; presently he looked at me, and there was a broad grin on his features.

'By my shoul, it's a thing of peace I'm thinking ye.'

But now with a whisking sound came running down the road a hare; it was nearly upon us before it perceived us; suddenly stopping short, however, it sprang into the bog on the right-hand side; after it amain bounded the dog of peace, followed by the man, but not until he had nodded to me a farewell salutation. In a few moments I lost sight of him amidst the snowflakes.

The weather was again clear and fine before I reached the place of detachment. It was a little wooden barrack, surrounded by a wall of the same material; a sentinel stood at the gate, I passed by him, and, entering the building, found myself in a rude kind of guardroom; several soldiers were lying asleep on a wooden couch at one end, others lounged on benches by the side of a turf fire. The tall sergeant stood before the fire, holding a cooking utensil in his left hand; on seeing me, he made the military salutation.

'Is my brother here?' said I, rather timidly, dreading to hear that he was out, perhaps for the day.

'The ensign is in his room, sir,' said Bagg, 'I am now preparing his meal, which will presently be ready; you will find the ensign above stairs,' and he pointed to a broken ladder which led to some place above.

And there I found him—the boy soldier—in a kind of upper loft, so low that I could touch with my hands the sooty rafters; the floor was of rough boards, through the joints of which you could see the gleam of the soldiers' fire, and occasionally discern their figures as they moved about; in one corner was a camp bedstead, by the side of which hung the child's sword, gorget, and sash; a deal table stood in the proximity of the rusty grate, where smoked and smouldered a pile of black turf from the bog,—a deal table without a piece of baize to cover it, yet fraught with things not devoid of interest: a Bible, given by a mother; the Odyssey, the Greek Odyssey; a flute, with broad silver keys; crayons, moreover, and water-colours; and a sketch of a wild prospect near, which, though but half finished, afforded ample proof of the excellence and skill of the boyish hand now occupied upon it.

Ah! he was a sweet being, that boy soldier, a plant of early promise, bidding fair to become in after time all that is great, good, and admirable. I have read of a remarkable Welshman, of whom it was said, when the grave closed over him, that he could frame a harp, and play it; build a ship, and sail it; compose an ode, and set it to music. A brave fellow that son of Wales—but I had once a brother who could do more and better than this, but the grave has closed over him, as over the gallant Welshman of yore; there are now but two that remember him—the one who bore him, and the being who was nurtured at the same breast. He was taken, and I was left!—Truly, the ways of Providence are inscrutable.

'You seem to be very comfortable, John,' said I, looking around the room and at the various objects which I have described above: 'you have a good roof over your head, and have all your things about you.'

'Yes, I am very comfortable, George, in many respects; I am, moreover, independent, and feel myself a man for the first time in my life—independent did I say?—that's not the word, I am something much higher than that; here am I, not sixteen yet, a person in authority, like the centurion in the book there, with twenty Englishmen under me, worth a whole legion of his men, and that fine fellow Bagg to wait upon me, and take my orders. Oh! these last six weeks have passed like hours of heaven.'

'But your time must frequently hang heavy on your hands; this is a strange wild place, and you must be very solitary?'

'I am never solitary; I have, as you see, all my things about me, and there is plenty of company below stairs. Not that I mix with the soldiers; if I did, good-bye to my authority; but when I am alone I can hear all their discourse through the planks, and I often laugh to myself at the funny things they say.'

'And have you any acquaintance here?'

'The very best; much better than the Colonel and the rest, at their grand Templemore; I had never so many in my whole life before. One has just left me, a gentleman who lives at a distance across the bog; he comes to talk with me about Greek, and the Odyssey, for he is a very learned man, and understands the old Irish, and various other strange languages. He has had a dispute with Bagg. On hearing his name, he called him to him, and, after looking at him for some time with great curiosity, said that he was sure he was a Dane. Bagg, however, took the compliment in dudgeon, and said that he was no more a Dane than himself, but a true- born Englishman, and a sergeant of six years' standing.'

'And what other acquaintance have you?'

'All kinds; the whole neighbourhood can't make enough of me. Amongst others there's the clergyman of the parish and his family; such a venerable old man, such fine sons and daughters! I am treated by them like a son and a brother—I might be always with them if I pleased; there's one drawback, however, in going to see them; there's a horrible creature in the house, a kind of tutor, whom they keep more from charity than anything else; he is a Papist and, they say, a priest; you should see him scowl sometimes at my red coat, for he hates the king, and not unfrequently, when the king's health is drunk, curses him between his teeth. I once got up to strike him; but the youngest of the sisters, who is the handsomest, caught my arm and pointed to her forehead.'

'And what does your duty consist of? Have you nothing else to do than pay visits and receive them?'

'We do what is required of us, we guard this edifice, perform our evolutions, and help the excise; I am frequently called up in the dead of night to go to some wild place or other in quest of an illicit still; this last part of our duty is poor mean work, I don't like it, nor more does Bagg; though without it we should not see much active service, for the neighbourhood is quiet; save the poor creatures with their stills, not a soul is stirring. 'Tis true there's Jerry Grant.'

'And who is Jerry Grant?'

'Did you never hear of him? that's strange, the whole country is talking about him; he is a kind of outlaw, rebel, or robber, all three I daresay; there's a hundred pounds offered for his head.'

'And where does he live?'

'His proper home, they say, is in the Queen's County, where he has a band, but he is a strange fellow, fond of wandering about by himself amidst the bogs and mountains, and living in the old castles; occasionally he quarters himself in the peasants' houses, who let him do just what he pleases; he is free of his money, and often does them good turns, and can be good-humoured enough, so they don't dislike him. Then he is what they call a fairy man, a person in league with fairies and spirits, and able to work much harm by supernatural means, on which account they hold him in great awe; he is, moreover, a mighty strong and tall fellow. Bagg has seen him.'

'Has he?'

'Yes! and felt him; he too is a strange one. A few days ago he was told that Grant had been seen hovering about an old castle some two miles off in the bog; so one afternoon what does he do but, without saying a word to me—for which, by the bye, I ought to put him under arrest, though what I should do without Bagg I have no idea whatever—what does he do but walk off to the castle, intending, as I suppose, to pay a visit to Jerry. He had some difficulty in getting there on account of the turf- holes in the bog, which he was not accustomed to; however, thither at last he got and went in. It was a strange lonesome place, he says, and he did not much like the look of it; however, in he went, and searched about from the bottom to the top and down again, but could find no one; he shouted and hallooed, but nobody answered, save the rooks and choughs, which started up in great numbers. "I have lost my trouble," said Bagg, and left the castle. It was now late in the afternoon, near sunset, when about half-way over the bog he met a man—'

'And that man was—'

'Jerry Grant! there's no doubt of it. Bagg says it was the most sudden thing in the world. He was moving along, making the best of his way, thinking of nothing at all save a public-house at Swanton Morley, which he intends to take when he gets home, and the regiment is disbanded—though I hope that will not be for some time yet: he had just leaped a turf-hole, and was moving on, when, at the distance of about six yards before him, he saw a fellow coming straight towards him. Bagg says that he stopped short, as suddenly as if he had heard the word halt, when marching at double quick time. It was quite a surprise, he says, and he can't imagine how the fellow was so close upon him before he was aware. He was an immense tall fellow—Bagg thinks at least two inches taller than himself—very well dressed in a blue coat and buff breeches, for all the world like a squire when going out hunting. Bagg, however, saw at once that he had a roguish air, and he was on his guard in a moment. "Good-evening to ye, sodger," says the fellow, stepping close up to Bagg, and staring him in the face. "Good-evening to you, sir! I hope you are well," says Bagg. "You are looking after some one?" says the fellow. "Just so, sir," says Bagg, and forthwith seized him by the collar; the man laughed, Bagg says it was such a strange awkward laugh. "Do you know whom you have got hold of, sodger?" said he. "I believe I do, sir," said Bagg, "and in that belief will hold you fast in the name of King George and the quarter sessions"; the next moment he was sprawling with his heels in the air. Bagg says there was nothing remarkable in that; he was only flung by a kind of wrestling trick, which he could easily have baffled had he been aware of it. "You will not do that again, sir," said he, as he got up and put himself on his guard. The fellow laughed again more strangely and awkwardly than before; then, bending his body and moving his head from one side to the other as a cat does before she springs, and crying out, "Here's for ye, sodger!" he made a dart at Bagg, rushing in with his head foremost. "That will do, sir," says Bagg, and, drawing himself back, he put in a left-handed blow with all the force of his body and arm, just over the fellow's right eye—Bagg is a left-handed hitter, you must know—and it was a blow of that kind which won him his famous battle at Edinburgh with the big Highland sergeant. Bagg says that he was quite satisfied with the blow, more especially when he saw the fellow reel, fling out his arms, and fall to the ground. "And now, sir," said he, "I'll make bold to hand you over to the quarter sessions, and, if there is a hundred pounds for taking you, who has more right to it than myself?" So he went forward, but ere he could lay hold of his man the other was again on his legs, and was prepared to renew the combat. They grappled each other—Bagg says he had not much fear of the result, as he now felt himself the best man, the other seeming half-stunned with the blow—but just then there came on a blast, a horrible roaring wind bearing night upon its wings, snow, and sleet, and hail. Bagg says he had the fellow by the throat quite fast, as he thought, but suddenly he became bewildered, and knew not where he was; and the man seemed to melt away from his grasp, and the wind howled more and more, and the night poured down darker and darker; the snow and the sleet thicker and more blinding. "Lord have mercy upon us!" said Bagg.'

Myself. A strange adventure that; it is well that Bagg got home alive.

John. He says that the fight was a fair fight, and that the fling he got was a fair fling, the result of a common enough wrestling trick. But with respect to the storm, which rose up just in time to save the fellow, he is of opinion that it was not fair, but something Irish and supernatural.

Myself. I daresay he's right. I have read of witchcraft in the Bible.

John. He wishes much to have one more encounter with the fellow; he says that on fair ground, and in fine weather, he has no doubt that he could master him, and hand him over to the quarter sessions. He says that a hundred pounds would be no bad thing to be disbanded upon; for he wishes to take an inn at Swanton Morley, keep a cock-pit, and live respectably.

Myself. He is quite right; and now kiss me, my darling brother, for I must go back through the bog to Templemore.



CHAPTER XIII

Groom and cob—Strength and symmetry—Where's the saddle?—The first ride—No more fatigue—Love for horses—Pursuit of words—Philologist and Pegasus—The smith—What more, agrah?—Sassannach tenpence.

And it came to pass that, as I was standing by the door of the barrack stable, one of the grooms came out to me, saying, 'I say, young gentleman, I wish you would give the cob a breathing this fine morning.'

'Why do you wish me to mount him?' said I; 'you know he is dangerous. I saw him fling you off his back only a few days ago.'

'Why, that's the very thing, master. I'd rather see anybody on his back than myself; he does not like me; but, to them he does, he can be as gentle as a lamb.'

'But suppose,' said I, 'that he should not like me?'

'We shall soon see that, master,' said the groom; 'and, if so be he shows temper, I will be the first to tell you to get down. But there's no fear of that; you have never angered or insulted him, and to such as you, I say again, he'll be as gentle as a lamb.'

'And how came you to insult him,' said I, 'knowing his temper as you do?'

'Merely through forgetfulness, master: I was riding him about a month ago, and having a stick in my hand, I struck him, thinking I was on another horse, or rather thinking of nothing at all. He has never forgiven me, though before that time he was the only friend I had in the world; I should like to see you on him, master.'

'I should soon be off him; I can't ride.'

'Then you are all right, master; there's no fear. Trust him for not hurting a young gentleman, an officer's son, who can't ride. If you were a blackguard dragoon, indeed, with long spurs, 'twere another thing; as it is, he'll treat you as if he were the elder brother that loves you. Ride! He'll soon teach you to ride if you leave the matter with him. He's the best riding-master in all Ireland, and the gentlest.'

The cob was led forth; what a tremendous creature! I had frequently seen him before, and wondered at him; he was barely fifteen hands, but he had the girth of a metropolitan dray-horse; his head was small in comparison with his immense neck, which curved down nobly to his wide back: his chest was broad and fine, and his shoulders models of symmetry and strength; he stood well and powerfully upon his legs, which were somewhat short. In a word, he was a gallant specimen of the genuine Irish cob, a species at one time not uncommon, but at the present day nearly extinct.

'There!' said the groom, as he looked at him, half admiringly, half sorrowfully, 'with sixteen stone on his back, he'll trot fourteen miles in one hour, with your nine stone, some two and a half more ay, and clear a six-foot wall at the end of it.'

'I'm half afraid,' said I; 'I had rather you would ride him.'

'I'd rather so, too, if he would let me; but he remembers the blow. Now, don't be afraid, young master, he's longing to go out himself. He's been trampling with his feet these three days, and I know what that means; he'll let anybody ride him but myself, and thank them; but to me he says, "No! you struck me."'

'But,' said I, 'where's the saddle?'

'Never mind the saddle; if you are ever to be a frank rider, you must begin without a saddle; besides, if he felt a saddle, he would think you don't trust him, and leave you to yourself. Now, before you mount, make his acquaintance—see there, how he kisses you and licks your face, and see how he lifts his foot, that's to shake hands. You may trust him—now you are on his back at last; mind how you hold the bridle—gently, gently! It's not four pair of hands like yours can hold him if he wishes to be off. Mind what I tell you—leave it all to him.'

Off went the cob at a slow and gentle trot, too fast and rough, however, for so inexperienced a rider. I soon felt myself sliding off, the animal perceived it too, and instantly stood stone still till I had righted myself; and now the groom came up: 'When you feel yourself going,' said he, 'don't lay hold of the mane, that's no use; mane never yet saved man from falling, no more than straw from drowning; it's his sides you must cling to with your calves and feet, till you learn to balance yourself. That's it, now abroad with you; I'll bet my comrade a pot of beer that you'll be a regular rough-rider by the time you come back.'

And so it proved; I followed the directions of the groom, and the cob gave me every assistance. How easy is riding, after the first timidity is got over, to supple and youthful limbs; and there is no second fear. The creature soon found that the nerves of his rider were in proper tone. Turning his head half round, he made a kind of whining noise, flung out a little foam, and set off.

In less than two hours I had made the circuit of the Devil's Mountain, and was returning along the road, bathed with perspiration, but screaming with delight; the cob laughing in his equine way, scattering foam and pebbles to the left and right, and trotting at the rate of sixteen miles an hour.

Oh, that ride! that first ride!—most truly it was an epoch in my existence; and I still look back to it with feelings of longing and regret. People may talk of first love—it is a very agreeable event, I daresay—but give me the flush, and triumph, and glorious sweat of a first ride, like mine on the mighty cob! My whole frame was shaken, it is true; and during one long week I could hardly move foot or hand; but what of that? By that one trial I had become free, as I may say, of the whole equine species. No more fatigue, no more stiffness of joints, after that first ride round the Devil's Hill on the cob.

Oh, that cob! that Irish cob!—may the sod lie lightly over the bones of the strongest, speediest, and most gallant of its kind! Oh! the days when, issuing from the barrack-gate of Templemore, we commenced our hurry- skurry just as inclination led—now across the fields—direct over stone walls and running brooks—mere pastime for the cob!—sometimes along the road to Thurles and Holy Cross, even to distant Cahir!—what was distance to the cob?

It was thus that the passion for the equine race was first awakened within me—a passion which, up to the present time, has been rather on the increase than diminishing. It is no blind passion; the horse being a noble and generous creature, intended by the All-Wise to be the helper and friend of man, to whom he stands next in the order of creation. On many occasions of my life I have been much indebted to the horse, and have found in him a friend and coadjutor, when human help and sympathy were not to be obtained. It is therefore natural enough that I should love the horse; but the love which I entertain for him has always been blended with respect; for I soon perceived that, though disposed to be the friend and helper of man, he is by no means inclined to be his slave; in which respect he differs from the dog, who will crouch when beaten; whereas the horse spurns, for he is aware of his own worth and that he carries death within the horn of his heel. If, therefore, I found it easy to love the horse, I found it equally natural to respect him.

I much question whether philology, or the passion for languages, requires so little of an apology as the love for horses. It has been said, I believe, that the more languages a man speaks, the more a man is he; which is very true, provided he acquires languages as a medium for becoming acquainted with the thoughts and feelings of the various sections into which the human race is divided; but, in that case, he should rather be termed a philosopher than a philologist—between which two the difference is wide indeed! An individual may speak and read a dozen languages, and yet be an exceedingly poor creature, scarcely half a man; and the pursuit of tongues for their own sake, and the mere satisfaction of acquiring them, surely argues an intellect of a very low order; a mind disposed to be satisfied with mean and grovelling things; taking more pleasure in the trumpery casket than in the precious treasure which it contains; in the pursuit of words, than in the acquisition of ideas.

I cannot help thinking that it was fortunate for myself, who am, to a certain extent, a philologist, that with me the pursuit of languages has been always modified by the love of horses; for scarcely had I turned my mind to the former, when I also mounted the wild cob, and hurried forth in the direction of the Devil's Hill, scattering dust and flint-stones on every side; that ride, amongst other things, taught me that a lad with thews and sinews was intended by nature for something better than mere word-culling; and if I have accomplished anything in after life worthy of mentioning, I believe it may partly be attributed to the ideas which that ride, by setting my blood in a glow, infused into my brain. I might, otherwise, have become a mere philologist; one of those beings who toil night and day in culling useless words for some opus magnum which Murray will never publish, and nobody ever read; beings without enthusiasm, who, having never mounted a generous steed, cannot detect a good point in Pegasus himself; like a certain philologist, who, though acquainted with the exact value of every word in the Greek and Latin languages, could observe no particular beauty in one of the most glorious of Homer's rhapsodies. What knew he of Pegasus? he had never mounted a generous steed; the merest jockey, had the strain been interpreted to him, would have called it a brave song!—I return to the brave cob.

On a certain day I had been out on an excursion. In a cross-road, at some distance from the Satanic hill, the animal which I rode cast a shoe. By good luck a small village was at hand, at the entrance of which was a large shed, from which proceeded a most furious noise of hammering. Leading the cob by the bridle, I entered boldly. 'Shoe this horse, and do it quickly, a gough,' said I to a wild grimy figure of a man, whom I found alone, fashioning a piece of iron.

'Arrigod yuit?' said the fellow, desisting from his work, and staring at me.

'Oh yes, I have money,' said I, 'and of the best'; and I pulled out an English shilling.

'Tabhair chugam?' said the smith, stretching out his grimy hand.

'No, I shan't,' said I; 'some people are glad to get their money when their work is done.'

The fellow hammered a little longer, and then proceeded to shoe the cob, after having first surveyed it with attention. He performed his job rather roughly, and more than once appeared to give the animal unnecessary pain, frequently making use of loud and boisterous words. By the time the work was done, the creature was in a state of high excitement, and plunged and tore. The smith stood at a short distance, seeming to enjoy the irritation of the animal, and showing, in a remarkable manner, a huge fang, which projected from the under jaw of a very wry mouth.

'You deserve better handling,' said I, as I went up to the cob and fondled it; whereupon it whinnied, and attempted to touch my face with its nose.

{picture:'Arrigod yuit?' said the fellow, desisting from his work, and staring at me: page94.jpg}

'Are ye not afraid of that beast?' said the smith, showing his fang. 'Arrah, it's vicious that he looks!'

'It's at you, then!—I don't fear him'; and thereupon I passed under the horse, between its hind legs.

'And is that all you can do, agrah?' said the smith.

'No,' said I, 'I can ride him.'

'Ye can ride him, and what else, agrah?'

'I can leap him over a six-foot wall,' said I.

'Over a wall, and what more, agrah?'

'Nothing more,' said I; 'what more would you have?'

'Can you do this, agrah?' said the smith; and he uttered a word which I had never heard before, in a sharp pungent tone. The effect upon myself was somewhat extraordinary, a strange thrill ran through me; but with regard to the cob it was terrible; the animal forthwith became like one mad, and reared and kicked with the utmost desperation.

'Can you do that, agrah?' said the smith.

'What is it?' said I, retreating, 'I never saw the horse so before.'

'Go between his legs, agrah,' said the smith, 'his hinder legs'; and he again showed his fang.

'I dare not,' said I, 'he would kill me.'

'He would kill ye! and how do ye know that, agrah?'

'I feel he would,' said I, 'something tells me so.'

'And it tells ye truth, agrah; but it's a fine beast, and it's a pity to see him in such a state: Is agam an't leigeas'—and here he uttered another word in a voice singularly modified, but sweet and almost plaintive; the effect of it was as instantaneous as that of the other, but how different!—the animal lost all its fury, and became at once calm and gentle. The smith went up to it, coaxed and patted it, making use of various sounds of equine endearment; then turning to me, and holding out once more the grimy hand, he said, 'And now ye will be giving me the Sassannach tenpence, agrah?'



CHAPTER XIV

A fine old city—Norman master-work—Lollards' Hole—Good blood—The Spaniard's sword—Old retired officer—Writing to a duke—God help the child—Nothing like Jacob—Irish brigades—Old Sergeant Meredith—I have been young—Idleness—Only course open—The bookstall—A portrait—A banished priest.

From the wild scenes which I have attempted to describe in the latter pages I must now transport the reader to others of a widely different character. He must suppose himself no longer in Ireland, but in the eastern corner of merry England. Bogs, ruins, and mountains have disappeared amidst the vapours of the west: I have nothing more to say of them; the region in which we are now is not famous for objects of that kind: perhaps it flatters itself that it can produce fairer and better things, of some of which let me speak; there is a fine old city before us, and first of that let me speak.

A fine old city, truly, is that, view it from whatever side you will; but it shows best from the east, where the ground, bold and elevated, overlooks the fair and fertile valley in which it stands. Gazing from those heights, the eye beholds a scene which cannot fail to awaken, even in the least sensitive bosom, feelings of pleasure and admiration. At the foot of the heights flows a narrow and deep river, with an antique bridge communicating with a long and narrow suburb, flanked on either side by rich meadows of the brightest green, beyond which spreads the city; the fine old city, perhaps the most curious specimen at present extant of the genuine old English town. Yes, there it spreads from north to south, with its venerable houses, its numerous gardens, its thrice twelve churches, its mighty mound, which, if tradition speaks true, was raised by human hands to serve as the grave-heap of an old heathen king, who sits deep within it, with his sword in his hand, and his gold and silver treasures about him. There is a gray old castle upon the top of that mighty mound; and yonder, rising three hundred feet above the soil, from among those noble forest trees, behold that old Norman master-work, that cloud-encircled cathedral spire, around which a garrulous army of rooks and choughs continually wheel their flight. Now, who can wonder that the children of that fine old city are proud of her, and offer up prayers for her prosperity? I, myself, who was not born within her walls, offer up prayers for her prosperity, that want may never visit her cottages, vice her palaces, and that the abomination of idolatry may never pollute her temples. Ha, idolatry! the reign of idolatry has been over there for many a long year, never more, let us hope, to return; brave hearts in that old town have borne witness against it, and sealed their testimony with their hearts' blood—most precious to the Lord is the blood of His saints! we are not far from hallowed ground. Observe ye not yon chalky precipice, to the right of the Norman bridge? On this side of the stream, upon its brow, is a piece of ruined wall, the last relic of what was of old a stately pile, whilst at its foot is a place called the Lollards' Hole; and with good reason, for many a saint of God has breathed his last beneath that white precipice, bearing witness against popish idolatry, midst flame and pitch; many a grisly procession has advanced along that suburb, across the old bridge, towards the Lollards' Hole: furious priests in front, a calm pale martyr in the midst, a pitying multitude behind. It has had its martyrs, the venerable old town!

Ah! there is good blood in that old city, and in the whole circumjacent region of which it is the capital. The Angles possessed the land at an early period, which, however, they were eventually compelled to share with hordes of Danes and Northmen, who flocked thither across the sea to found hearthsteads on its fertile soil. The present race, a mixture of Angles and Danes, still preserve much which speaks strongly of their northern ancestry; amongst them ye will find the light-brown hair of the north, the strong and burly forms of the north, many a wild superstition, ay, and many a wild name connected with the ancient history of the north and its sublime mythology; the warm heart and the strong heart of the old Danes and Saxons still beats in those regions, and there ye will find, if anywhere, old northern hospitality and kindness of manner, united with energy, perseverance, and dauntless intrepidity; better soldiers or mariners never bled in their country's battles than those nurtured in those regions, and within those old walls. It was yonder, to the west, that the great naval hero of Britain first saw the light; he who annihilated the sea pride of Spain, and dragged the humbled banner of France in triumph at his stem. He was born yonder, towards the west, and of him there is a glorious relic in that old town; in its dark flint guildhouse, the roof of which you can just descry rising above that maze of buildings, in the upper hall of justice, is a species of glass shrine, in which the relic is to be seen; a sword of curious workmanship, the blade is of keen Toledan steel, the heft of ivory and mother-of-pearl. 'Tis the sword of Cordova, won in bloodiest fray off Saint Vincent's promontory, and presented by Nelson to the old capital of the much-loved land of his birth. Yes, the proud Spaniard's sword is to be seen in yonder guildhouse, in the glass case affixed to the wall: many other relics has the good old town, but none prouder than the Spaniard's sword.

Such was the place to which, when the war was over, my father retired: it was here that the old tired soldier set himself down with his little family. He had passed the greater part of his life in meritorious exertion, in the service of his country, and his chief wish now was to spend the remainder of his days in quiet and respectability; his means, it is true, were not very ample; fortunate it was that his desires corresponded with them; with a small fortune of his own, and with his half-pay as a royal soldier, he had no fears for himself or for his faithful partner and helpmate; but then his children! how was he to provide for them? how launch them upon the wide ocean of the world? This was, perhaps, the only thought which gave him uneasiness, and I believe that many an old retired officer at that time, and under similar circumstances, experienced similar anxiety; had the war continued, their children would have been, of course, provided for in the army, but peace now reigned, and the military career was closed to all save the scions of the aristocracy, or those who were in some degree connected with that privileged order, an advantage which few of these old officers could boast of; they had slight influence with the great, who gave themselves very little trouble either about them or their families.

'I have been writing to the Duke,' said my father one day to my excellent mother, after we had been at home somewhat better than a year. 'I have been writing to the Duke of York about a commission for that eldest boy of ours. He, however, affords me no hopes; he says that his list is crammed with names, and that the greater number of the candidates have better claims than my son.'

'I do not see how that can be,' said my mother.

'Nor do I,' replied my father. 'I see the sons of bankers and merchants gazetted every month, and I do not see what claims they have to urge, unless they be golden ones. However, I have not served my king fifty years to turn grumbler at this time of life. I suppose that the people at the head of affairs know what is most proper and convenient; perhaps when the lad sees how difficult, nay, how impossible it is that he should enter the army, he will turn his mind to some other profession; I wish he may!'

'I think he has already,' said my mother; 'you see how fond he is of the arts, of drawing and painting, and, as far as I can judge, what he has already done is very respectable; his mind seems quite turned that way, and I heard him say the other day that he would sooner be a Michael Angelo than a general officer. But you are always talking of him; what do you think of doing with the other child?'

'What, indeed!' said my father; 'that is a consideration which gives me no little uneasiness. I am afraid it will be much more difficult to settle him in life than his brother. What is he fitted for, even were it in my power to provide for him? God help the child! I bear him no ill will, on the contrary, all love and affection; but I cannot shut my eyes; there is something so strange about him! How he behaved in Ireland! I sent him to school to learn Greek, and he picked up Irish!'

'And Greek as well,' said my mother. 'I heard him say the other day that he could read St. John in the original tongue.'

'You will find excuses for him, I know,' said my father. 'You tell me I am always talking of my first-born; I might retort by saying you are always thinking of the other: but it is the way of women always to side with the second-born. There's what's her name in the Bible, by whose wiles the old blind man was induced to give to his second son the blessing which was the birthright of the other. I wish I had been in his place! I should not have been so easily deceived! no disguise would ever have caused me to mistake an impostor for my first-born. Though I must say for this boy that he is nothing like Jacob; he is neither smooth nor sleek, and, though my second-born, is already taller and larger than his brother.'

'Just so,' said my mother; 'his brother would make a far better Jacob than he.'

'I will hear nothing against my first-born,' said my father, 'even in the way of insinuation: he is my joy and pride; the very image of myself in my youthful days, long before I fought Big Ben; though perhaps not quite so tall or strong built. As for the other, God bless the child! I love him, I'm sure; but I must be blind not to see the difference between him and his brother. Why, he has neither my hair nor my eyes; and then his countenance! why, 'tis absolutely swarthy, God forgive me! I had almost said like that of a gypsy, but I have nothing to say against that; the boy is not to be blamed for the colour of his face, nor for his hair and eyes; but, then, his ways and manners!—I confess I do not like them, and that they give me no little uneasiness—I know that he kept very strange company when he was in Ireland; people of evil report, of whom terrible things were said—horse-witches and the like. I questioned him once or twice upon the matter, and even threatened him, but it was of no use; he put on a look as if he did not understand me, a regular Irish look, just such a one as those rascals assume when they wish to appear all innocence and simplicity, and they full of malice and deceit all the time. I don't like them; they are no friends to old England, or its old king, God bless him! They are not good subjects, and never were; always in league with foreign enemies. When I was in the Coldstream, long before the Revolution, I used to hear enough about the Irish brigades kept by the French kings, to be a thorn in the side of the English whenever opportunity served. Old Sergeant Meredith once told me that in the time of the Pretender there were always, in London alone, a dozen of fellows connected with these brigades, with the view of seducing the king's soldiers from their allegiance, and persuading them to desert to France to join the honest Irish, as they were called. One of these traitors once accosted him and proposed the matter to him, offering handfuls of gold if he could induce any of his comrades to go over. Meredith appeared to consent, but secretly gave information to his colonel; the fellow was seized, and certain traitorous papers found upon him; he was hanged before Newgate, and died exulting in his treason. His name was Michael Nowlan. That ever son of mine should have been intimate with the Papist Irish, and have learnt their language!'

'But he thinks of other things now,' said my mother.

'Other languages, you mean,' said my father. 'It is strange that he has conceived such a zest for the study of languages; no sooner did he come home than he persuaded me to send him to that old priest to learn French and Italian, and, if I remember right, you abetted him; but, as I said before, it is in the nature of women invariably to take the part of the second-born. Well, there is no harm in learning French and Italian, perhaps much good in his case, as they may drive the other tongue out of his head. Irish! why, he might go to the university but for that; but how would he look when, on being examined with respect to his attainments, it was discovered that he understood Irish? How did you learn it? they would ask him; how did you become acquainted with the language of Papists and rebels? The boy would be sent away in disgrace.'

'Be under no apprehension, I have no doubt that he has long since forgotten it.'

'I am glad to hear it,' said my father; 'for, between ourselves, I love the poor child; ay, quite as well as my first-born. I trust they will do well, and that God will be their shield and guide; I have no doubt He will, for I have read something in the Bible to that effect. What is that text about the young ravens being fed?'

'I know a better than that,' said my mother; 'one of David's own words, "I have been young and now am grown old, yet never have I seen the righteous man forsaken, or his seed begging their bread."'

I have heard talk of the pleasures of idleness, yet it is my own firm belief that no one ever yet took pleasure in it. Mere idleness is the most disagreeable state of existence, and both mind and body are continually making efforts to escape from it. It has been said that idleness is the parent of mischief, which is very true; but mischief itself is merely an attempt to escape from the dreary vacuum of idleness. There are many tasks and occupations which a man is unwilling to perform, but let no one think that he is therefore in love with idleness; he turns to something which is more agreeable to his inclination, and doubtless more suited to his nature; but he is not in love with idleness. A boy may play the truant from school because he dislikes books and study; but, depend upon it, he intends doing something the while—to go fishing, or perhaps to take a walk; and who knows but that from such excursions both his mind and body may derive more benefit than from books and school? Many people go to sleep to escape from idleness; the Spaniards do; and, according to the French account, John Bull, the 'squire, hangs himself in the month of November; but the French, who are a very sensible people, attribute the action a une grande envie de se desennuyer; he wishes to be doing something, say they, and having nothing better to do, he has recourse to the cord.

It was for want of something better to do that, shortly after my return home, I applied myself to the study of languages. By the acquisition of Irish, with the first elements of which I had become acquainted under the tuition of Murtagh, I had contracted a certain zest and inclination for the pursuit. Yet it is probable that had I been launched about this time into some agreeable career, that of arms for example, for which, being the son of a soldier, I had, as was natural, a sort of penchant, I might have thought nothing more of the acquisition of tongues of any kind; but, having nothing to do, I followed the only course suited to my genius which appeared open to me.

So it came to pass that one day, whilst wandering listlessly about the streets of the old town, I came to a small book-stall, and stopping, commenced turning over the books; I took up at least a dozen, and almost instantly flung them down. What were they to me? At last, coming to a thick volume, I opened it, and after inspecting its contents for a few minutes, I paid for it what was demanded, and forthwith carried it home.

It was a tessaraglot grammar; a strange old book, printed somewhere in Holland, which pretended to be an easy guide to the acquirement of the French, Italian, Low Dutch, and English tongues, by means of which any one conversant in any one of these languages could make himself master of the other three. I turned my attention to the French and Italian. The old book was not of much value; I derived some benefit from it, however, and, conning it intensely, at the end of a few weeks obtained some insight into the structure of these two languages. At length I had learnt all that the book was capable of informing me, yet was still far from the goal to which it had promised to conduct me. 'I wish I had a master!' I exclaimed; and the master was at hand. In an old court of the old town lived a certain elderly personage, perhaps sixty, or thereabouts; he was rather tall, and something of a robust make, with a countenance in which bluffness was singularly blended with vivacity and grimace; and with a complexion which would have been ruddy, but for a yellow hue which rather predominated. His dress consisted of a snuff- coloured coat and drab pantaloons, the former evidently seldom subjected to the annoyance of a brush, and the latter exhibiting here and there spots of something which, if not grease, bore a strong resemblance to it; add to these articles an immense frill, seldom of the purest white, but invariably of the finest French cambric, and you have some idea of his dress. He had rather a remarkable stoop, but his step was rapid and vigorous, and as he hurried along the streets, he would glance to the right and left with a pair of big eyes like plums, and on recognising any one would exalt a pair of grizzled eyebrows, and slightly kiss a tawny and ungloved hand. At certain hours of the day be might be seen entering the doors of female boarding-schools, generally with a book in his hand, and perhaps another just peering from the orifice of a capacious back pocket; and at a certain season of the year he might be seen, dressed in white, before the altar of a certain small popish chapel, chanting from the breviary in very intelligible Latin, or perhaps reading from the desk in utterly unintelligible English. Such was my preceptor in the French and Italian tongues. 'Exul sacerdos; vone banished priest. I came into England twenty-five year ago, "my dear."'



CHAPTER XV

Monsieur Dante—Condemned musket—Sporting—Sweet rivulet—The Earl's Home—The pool—The sonorous voice—What dost thou read?—Man of peace—Zohar and Mishna—Money-changers.

So I studied French and Italian under the tuition of the banished priest, to whose house I went regularly every evening to receive instruction. I made considerable progress in the acquisition of the two languages. I found the French by far the most difficult, chiefly on account of the accent, which my master himself possessed in no great purity, being a Norman by birth. The Italian was my favourite.

'Vous serez un jour un grand philologue, mon cher,' said the old man, on our arriving at the conclusion of Dante's Hell.

'I hope I shall be something better,' said I, 'before I die, or I shall have lived to little purpose.'

'That's true, my dear! philologist—one small poor dog. What would you wish to be?'

'Many things sooner than that; for example, I would rather be like him who wrote this book.'

'Quoi, Monsieur Dante? He was a vagabond, my dear, forced to fly from his country. No, my dear, if you would be like one poet, be like Monsieur Boileau; he is the poet.'

'I don't think so.'

'How, not think so? He wrote very respectable verses; lived and died much respected by everybody. T'other, one bad dog, forced to fly from his country—died with not enough to pay his undertaker.'

'Were you not forced to flee from your country?'

'That very true; but there is much difference between me and this Dante. He fled from country because he had one bad tongue which he shook at his betters. I fly because benefice gone, and head going; not on account of the badness of my tongue.'

'Well,' said I, 'you can return now; the Bourbons are restored.'

'I find myself very well here; not bad country. Il est vrai que la France sera toujours la France; but all are dead there who knew me. I find myself very well here. Preach in popish chapel, teach schismatic, that is Protestant, child tongues and literature. I find myself very well; and why? Because I know how to govern my tongue; never call people hard names. Ma foi, il y a beaucoup de difference entre moi et ce sacre de Dante.'

Under this old man, who was well versed in the southern languages, besides studying French and Italian, I acquired some knowledge of Spanish. But I did not devote my time entirely to philology; I had other pursuits. I had not forgotten the roving life I had led in former days, nor its delights; neither was I formed by Nature to be a pallid indoor student. No, no! I was fond of other and, I say it boldly, better things than study. I had an attachment to the angle, ay, and to the gun likewise. In our house was a condemned musket, bearing somewhere on its lock, in rather antique characters, 'Tower, 1746'; with this weapon I had already, in Ireland, performed some execution among the rooks and choughs, and it was now again destined to be a source of solace and amusement to me, in the winter season, especially on occasions of severe frost when birds abounded. Sallying forth with it at these times, far into the country, I seldom returned at night without a string of bullfinches, blackbirds, and linnets hanging in triumph round my neck. When I reflect on the immense quantity of powder and shot which I crammed down the muzzle of my uncouth fowling-piece, I am less surprised at the number of birds which I slaughtered than that I never blew my hands, face, and old honeycombed gun, it one and the same time, to pieces.

But the winter, alas! (I speak as a fowler) seldom lasts in England more than three or four months; so, during the rest of the year, when not occupied with my philological studies, I had to seek for other diversions. I have already given a hint that I was also addicted to the angle. Of course there is no comparison between the two pursuits, the rod and line seeming but very poor trumpery to one who has had the honour of carrying a noble firelock. There is a time, however, for all things; and we return to any favourite amusement with the greater zest, from being compelled to relinquish it for a season. So, if I shot birds in winter with my firelock, I caught fish in summer, or attempted so to do, with my angle. I was not quite so successful, it is true, with the latter as with the former; possibly because it afforded me less pleasure. It was, indeed, too much of a listless pastime to inspire me with any great interest. I not unfrequently fell into a doze, whilst sitting on the bank, and more than once let my rod drop from my hands into the water.

At some distance from the city, behind a range of hilly ground which rises towards the south-west, is a small river, the waters of which, after many meanderings, eventually enter the principal river of the district, and assist to swell the tide which it rolls down to the ocean. It is a sweet rivulet, and pleasant is it to trace its course from its spring-head, high up in the remote regions of Eastern Anglia, till it arrives in the valley behind yon rising ground; and pleasant is that valley, truly a goodly spot, but most lovely where yonder bridge crosses the little stream. Beneath its arch the waters rush garrulously into a blue pool, and are there stilled, for a time, for the pool is deep, and they appear to have sunk to sleep. Farther on, however, you hear their voice again, where they ripple gaily over yon gravelly shallow. On the left, the hill slopes gently down to the margin of the stream. On the right is a green level, a smiling meadow, grass of the richest decks the side of the slope; mighty trees also adorn it, giant elms, the nearest of which, when the sun is nigh its meridian, fling a broad shadow upon the face of the pool; through yon vista you catch a glimpse of the ancient brick of an old English hall. It has a stately look, that old building, indistinctly seen, as it is, among those umbrageous trees; you might almost suppose it an earl's home; and such it was, or rather upon its site stood an earl's home, in days of old, for there some old Kemp, some Sigurd or Thorkild, roaming in quest of a hearthstead, settled down in the gray old time, when Thor and Freya were yet gods, and Odin was a portentous name. Yon old hall is still called the Earl's Home, though the hearth of Sigurd is now no more, and the bones of the old Kemp, and of Sigrith his dame, have been mouldering for a thousand years in some neighbouring knoll; perhaps yonder, where those tall Norwegian pines shoot up so boldly into the air. It is said that the old earl's galley was once moored where is now that blue pool, for the waters of that valley were not always sweet; yon valley was once an arm of the sea, a salt lagoon, to which the war-barks of 'Sigurd, in search of a home,' found their way.

I was in the habit of spending many an hour on the banks of that rivulet, with my rod in my hand, and, when tired with angling, would stretch myself on the grass, and gaze upon the waters as they glided past, and not unfrequently, divesting myself of my dress, I would plunge into the deep pool which I have already mentioned, for I had long since learned to swim. And it came to pass that on one hot summer's day, after bathing in the pool, I passed along the meadow till I came to a shallow part, and, wading over to the opposite side, I adjusted my dress, and commenced fishing in another pool, beside which was a small clump of hazels.

And there I sat upon the bank, at the bottom of the hill which slopes down from 'the Earl's home'; my float was on the waters, and my back was towards the old hall. I drew up many fish, small and great, which I took from off the hook mechanically, and flung upon the bank, for I was almost unconscious of what I was about, for my mind was not with my fish. I was thinking of my earlier years—of the Scottish crags and the heaths of Ireland—and sometimes my mind would dwell on my studies—on the sonorous stanzas of Dante, rising and falling like the waves of the sea—or would strive to remember a couplet or two of poor Monsieur Boileau.

'Canst thou answer to thy conscience for pulling all those fish out of the water, and leaving them to gasp in the sun?' said a voice, clear and sonorous as a bell.

I started, and looked round. Close behind me stood the tall figure of a man, dressed in raiment of quaint and singular fashion, but of goodly materials. He was in the prime and vigour of manhood; his features handsome and noble, but full of calmness and benevolence; at least I thought so, though they were somewhat shaded by a hat of finest beaver, with broad drooping eaves.

'Surely that is a very cruel diversion in which thou indulgest, my young friend?' he continued.

'I am sorry for it, if it be, sir,' said I, rising; 'but I do not think it cruel to fish.'

'What are thy reasons for not thinking so?'

'Fishing is mentioned frequently in Scripture. Simon Peter was a fisherman.'

'True; and Andrew and his brother. But thou forgettest: they did not follow fishing as a diversion, as I fear thou doest.—Thou readest the Scriptures?'

'Sometimes.'

'Sometimes?—not daily?—that is to be regretted. What profession dost thou make?—I mean to what religious denomination dost thou belong, my young friend.'

'Church?'

'It is a very good profession—there is much of Scripture contained in its liturgy. Dost thou read aught besides the Scriptures?'

'Sometimes.'

'What dost thou read besides?'

'Greek, and Dante.'

'Indeed! then thou hast the advantage over myself; I can only read the former. Well, I am rejoiced to find that thou hast other pursuits beside thy fishing. Dost thou know Hebrew?'

'No.'

'Thou shouldst study it. Why dost thou not undertake the study?'

'I have no books.'

'I will lend thee books, if thou wish to undertake the study. I live yonder at the hall, as perhaps thou knowest. I have a library there, in which are many curious books, both in Greek and Hebrew, which I will show to thee, whenever thou mayest find it convenient to come and see me. Farewell! I am glad to find that thou hast pursuits more satisfactory than thy cruel fishing.'

And the man of peace departed, and left me on the bank of the stream. Whether from the effect of his words, or from want of inclination to the sport, I know not, but from that day I became less and less a practitioner of that 'cruel fishing.' I rarely flung line and angle into the water, but I not unfrequently wandered by the banks of the pleasant rivulet. It seems singular to me, on reflection, that I never availed myself of his kind invitation. I say singular, for the extraordinary, under whatever form, had long had no slight interest for me; and I had discernment enough to perceive that yon was no common man. Yet I went not near him, certainly not from bashfulness or timidity, feelings to which I had long been an entire stranger. Am I to regret this? perhaps, for I might have learned both wisdom and righteousness from those calm, quiet lips, and my after-course might have been widely different. As it was, I fell in with other guess companions, from whom I received widely different impressions than those I might have derived from him. When many years had rolled on, long after I had attained manhood, and had seen and suffered much, and when our first interview had long since been effaced from the mind of the man of peace, I visited him in his venerable hall, and partook of the hospitality of his hearth. And there I saw his gentle partner and his fair children, and on the morrow he showed me the books of which he had spoken years before by the side of the stream. In the low quiet chamber, whose one window, shaded by a gigantic elm, looks down the slope towards the pleasant stream, he took from the shelf his learned books, Zohar and Mishna, Toldoth Jesu and Abarbenel. 'I am fond of these studies,' said he, 'which, perhaps, is not to be wondered at, seeing that our people have been compared to the Jews. In one respect I confess we are similar to them; we are fond of getting money. I do not like this last author, this Abarbenel, the worse for having been a money- changer. I am a banker myself, as thou knowest.'

And would there were many like him, amidst the money-changers of princes! The hall of many an earl lacks the bounty, the palace of many a prelate the piety and learning, which adorn the quiet quaker's home!



CHAPTER XVI

Fair of horses—Looks of respect—The fast trotter—Pair of eyes—Strange men—Jasper, your pal—Force of blood—Young lady with diamonds—Not quite so beautiful.

I was standing on the castle hill in the midst of a fair of horses.

I have already had occasion to mention this castle. It is the remains of what was once a Norman stronghold, and is perched upon a round mound or monticle, in the midst of the old city. Steep is this mound and scarped, evidently by the hand of man; a deep gorge over which is flung a bridge, separates it, on the south, from a broad swell of open ground called 'the hill'; of old the scene of many a tournament and feat of Norman chivalry, but now much used as a show-place for cattle, where those who buy and sell beeves and other beasts resort at stated periods.

So it came to pass that I stood upon this hill, observing a fair of horses.

The reader is already aware that I had long since conceived a passion for the equine race; a passion in which circumstances had of late not permitted me to indulge. I had no horses to ride, but I took pleasure in looking at them; and I had already attended more than one of these fairs: the present was lively enough, indeed horse fairs are seldom dull. There was shouting and whooping, neighing and braying; there was galloping and trotting; fellows with highlows and white stockings, and with many a string dangling from the knees of their tight breeches, were running desperately, holding horses by the halter, and in some cases dragging them along; there were long-tailed steeds and dock-tailed steeds of every degree and breed; there were droves of wild ponies, and long rows of sober cart horses; there were donkeys, and even mules: the last rare things to be seen in damp, misty England, for the mule pines in mud and rain, and thrives best with a hot sun above and a burning sand below. There were—oh, the gallant creatures! I hear their neigh upon the wind; there were—goodliest sight of all—certain enormous quadrupeds only seen to perfection in our native isle, led about by dapper grooms, their manes ribanded and their tails curiously clubbed and balled. Ha! ha!—how distinctly do they say, ha! ha!

An old man draws nigh, he is mounted on a lean pony, and he leads by the bridle one of these animals; nothing very remarkable about that creature, unless in being smaller than the rest and gentle, which they are not; he is not of the sightliest look; he is almost dun, and over one eye a thick film has gathered. But stay! there is something remarkable about that horse, there is something in his action in which he differs from all the rest: as he advances, the clamour is hushed! all eyes are turned upon him—what looks of interest—of respect—and, what is this? people are taking off their hats—surely not to that steed! Yes, verily! men, especially old men, are taking off their hats to that one-eyed steed, and I hear more than one deep-drawn ah!

'What horse is that?' said I to a very old fellow, the counterpart of the old man on the pony, save that the last wore a faded suit of velveteen, and this one was dressed in a white frock.

'The best in mother England,' said the very old man, taking a knobbed stick from his mouth, and looking me in the face, at first carelessly, but presently with something like interest; 'he is old like myself, but can still trot his twenty miles an hour. You won't live long, my swain; tall and over-grown ones like thee never does; yet, if you should chance to reach my years, you may boast to thy great-grand-boys thou hast seen Marshland Shales.'

Amain I did for the horse what I would neither do for earl nor baron, doffed my hat; yes! I doffed my hat to the wondrous horse, the fast trotter, the best in mother England; and I too drew a deep ah! and repeated the words of the old fellows around. 'Such a horse as this we shall never see again; a pity that he is so old.'

Now during all this time I had a kind of consciousness that I had been the object of some person's observation; that eyes were fastened upon me from somewhere in the crowd. Sometimes I thought myself watched from before, sometimes from behind; and occasionally methought that, if I just turned my head to the right or left, I should meet a peering and inquiring glance; and indeed once or twice I did turn, expecting to see somebody whom I knew, yet always without success; though it appeared to me that I was but a moment too late, and that some one had just slipped away from the direction to which I turned, like the figure in a magic lanthorn. Once I was quite sure that there were a pair of eyes glaring over my right shoulder; my attention, however, was so fully occupied with the objects which I have attempted to describe, that I thought very little of this coming and going, this flitting and dodging of I knew not whom or what. It was, after all, a matter of sheer indifference to me who was looking at me. I could only wish whomsoever it might be to be more profitably employed; so I continued enjoying what I saw; and now there was a change in the scene, the wondrous old horse departed with his aged guardian; other objects of interest are at hand; two or three men on horseback are hurrying through the crowd, they are widely different in their appearance from the other people of the fair; not so much in dress, for they are clad something after the fashion of rustic jockeys, but in their look—no light-brown hair have they, no ruddy cheeks, no blue quiet glances belong to them; their features are dark, their locks long, black, and shining, and their eyes are wild; they are admirable horsemen, but they do not sit the saddle in the manner of common jockeys, they seem to float or hover upon it, like gulls upon the waves; two of them are mere striplings, but the third is a very tall man with a countenance heroically beautiful, but wild, wild, wild. As they rush along, the crowd give way on all sides, and now a kind of ring or circus is formed, within which the strange men exhibit their horsemanship, rushing past each other, in and out, after the manner of a reel, the tall man occasionally balancing himself upon the saddle, and standing erect on one foot. He had just regained his seat after the latter feat, and was about to push his horse to a gallop, when a figure started forward close from beside me, and laying his hand on his neck, and pulling him gently downward, appeared to whisper something into his ear; presently the tall man raised his head, and, scanning the crowd for a moment in the direction in which I was standing, fixed his eyes full upon me, and anon the countenance of the whisperer was turned, but only in part, and the side-glance of another pair of wild eyes was directed towards my face, but the entire visage of the big black man, half stooping as he was, was turned full upon mine.

{picture:A kind of ring or circus is formed, within which the strange men exhibit their horsemanship: page112.jpg}

But now, with a nod to the figure who had stopped him, and with another inquiring glance at myself, the big man once more put his steed into motion, and, after riding round the ring a few more times, darted through a lane in the crowd, and followed by his two companions disappeared, whereupon the figure who had whispered to him, and had subsequently remained in the middle of the space, came towards me, and, cracking a whip which he held in his hand so loudly that the report was nearly equal to that of a pocket pistol, he cried in a strange tone:

'What! the sap-engro? Lor! the sap-engro upon the hill!'

'I remember that word,' said I, 'and I almost think I remember you. You can't be—'

'Jasper, your pal! Truth, and no lie, brother.'

'It is strange that you should have known me,' said I. 'I am certain, but for the word you used, I should never have recognised you.'

'Not so strange as you may think, brother; there is something in your face which would prevent people from forgetting you, even though they might wish it; and your face is not much altered since the time you wot of, though you are so much grown. I thought it was you, but to make sure I dodged about, inspecting you. I believe you felt me, though I never touched you; a sign, brother, that we are akin, that we are dui palor—two relations. Your blood beat when mine was near, as mine always does at the coming of a brother; and we became brothers in that lane.'

'And where are you staying?' said I; 'in this town?'

'Not in the town; the like of us don't find it exactly wholesome to stay in towns, we keep abroad. But I have little to do here—come with me, and I'll show you where we stay.'

We descended the hill in the direction of the north, and passing along the suburb reached the old Norman bridge, which we crossed; the chalk precipice, with the ruin on its top, was now before us; but turning to the left we walked swiftly along, and presently came to some rising ground, which ascending, we found ourselves upon a wild moor or heath.

'You are one of them,' said I, 'whom people call—'

'Just so,' said Jasper; 'but never mind what people call us.'

'And that tall handsome man on the hill, whom you whispered? I suppose he's one of ye. What is his name?'

'Tawno Chikno,' said Jasper, 'which means the small one; we call him such because he is the biggest man of all our nation. You say he is handsome, that is not the word, brother; he's the beauty of the world. Women run wild at the sight of Tawno. An earl's daughter, near London—a fine young lady with diamonds round her neck—fell in love with Tawno. I have seen that lass on a heath, as this may be, kneel down to Tawno, clasp his feet, begging to be his wife—or anything else—if she might go with him. But Tawno would have nothing to do with her: "I have a wife of my own," said he, "a lawful rommany wife, whom I love better than the whole world, jealous though she sometimes be."'

'And is she very beautiful?' said I.

'Why, you know, brother, beauty is frequently a matter of taste; however, as you ask my opinion, I should say not quite so beautiful as himself.'

{picture:'There 'ere woman is Tawno Chikno's wife!': page115.jpg}

We had now arrived at a small valley between two hills, or downs, the sides of which were covered with furze; in the midst of this valley were various carts and low tents forming a rude kind of encampment; several dark children were playing about, who took no manner of notice of us. As we passed one of the tents, however, a canvas screen was lifted up, and a woman supported upon a crutch hobbled out. She was about the middle age, and, besides being lame, was bitterly ugly; she was very slovenly dressed, and on her swarthy features ill nature was most visibly stamped. She did not deign me a look, but, addressing Jasper in a tongue which I did not understand, appeared to put some eager questions to him.

'He's coming,' said Jasper, and passed on. 'Poor fellow,' said he to me, 'he has scarcely been gone an hour, and she's jealous already. Well,' he continued, 'what do you think of her? you have seen her now, and can judge for yourself—that 'ere woman is Tawno Chikno's wife!'



CHAPTER XVII

The tent—Pleasant discourse—I am Pharaoh—Shifting for one's self —Horse-shoes—This is wonderful—Bless your wisdom—A pretty manoeuvre—Ill day to the Romans—My name is Herne—Singular people—An original speech—Word-master—Speaking Romanly.

We went to the farthest of the tents, which stood at a slight distance from the rest, and which exactly resembled the one which I have described on a former occasion; we went in and sat down one on each side of a small fire, which was smouldering on the ground, there was no one else in the tent but a tall tawny woman of middle age, who was busily knitting. 'Brother,' said Jasper, 'I wish to hold some pleasant discourse with you.'

'As much as you please,' said I, 'provided you can find anything pleasant to talk about.'

'Never fear,' said Jasper; 'and first of all we will talk of yourself. Where have you been all this long time?'

'Here and there,' said I, 'and far and near, going about with the soldiers; but there is no soldiering now, so we have sat down, father and family, in the town there.'

'And do you still hunt snakes?' said Jasper.

'No,' said I, 'I have given up that long ago; I do better now: read books and learn languages.'

'Well, I am sorry you have given up your snake-hunting, many's the strange talk I have had with our people about your snake and yourself, and how you frightened my father and mother in the lane.'

'And where are your father and mother?'

'Where I shall never see them, brother; at least, I hope so.'

'Not dead?'

'No, not dead; they are bitchadey pawdel.'

'What's that?'

'Sent across—banished.'

'Ah! I understand; I am sorry for them. And so you are here alone?'

'Not quite alone, brother.'

'No, not alone; but with the rest—Tawno Chikno takes care of you.'

'Takes care of me, brother!'

'Yes, stands to you in the place of a father—keeps you out of harm's way.'

'What do you take me for, brother?'

'For about three years older than myself.'

'Perhaps; but you are of the Gorgios, and I am a Rommany Chal. Tawno Chikno take care of Jasper Petulengro!'

'Is that your name?'

'Don't you like it?'

'Very much, I never heard a sweeter; it is something like what you call me.'

'The horse-shoe master and the snake-fellow, I am the first.'

'Who gave you that name?'

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