Lady Jane was ill then, slightly however—a mere cold; true, but she was feverish. I could not help asking myself what share had I causing that flushed cheek and anxious eye, and pictured to myself, perhaps with more vividness than reality, a thousand little traits of manner, all proofs strong as holy writ to my sanguine mind, that my affection was returned, and that I loved not in vain. Again and again I read over the entire letter; never truly did a nisi prius lawyer con over a new act of parliament with more searching ingenuity, to detect its hidden meaning, than did I to unravel through its plain phraseology the secret intention of the writer towards me.
There is an old and not less true adage, that what we wish we readily believe; and so with me—I found myself an easy convert to my own hopes and desires, and actually ended by persuading myself—no very hard task —that my Lord Callonby had not only witnessed but approved of my attachment to his beautiful daughter, and for reasons probably known to him, but concealed from me, opined that I was a suitable "parti," and gave all due encouragement to my suit. The hint about using his lordship's influence at the Horse guards I resolved to benefit by; not, however, in obtaining leave of absence, which I hoped to accomplish more easily, but with his good sanction in pushing my promotion, when I claimed him as my right honorable father-in-law—a point, on the propriety of which, I had now fully satisfied myself. What visions of rising greatness burst upon my mind, as I thought on the prospect that opened before me; but here let me do myself the justice to record, that amid all my pleasure and exultation, my proudest thought, was in the anticipation of possessing one in every way so much my superior—the very consciousness of which imparted a thrill of fear to my heart, that such good fortune was too much even to hope for.
How long I might have luxuriated in such Chateaux en Espagne, heaven knows; thick and thronging fancies came abundantly to my mind, and it was with something of the feeling of the porter in the Arabian Nights, as he surveyed the fragments of his broken ware, hurled down in a moment of glorious dreaminess, that I turned to look at the squat and unaristocratic figure of Father Malachi, as he sat reading his newspaper before the fire. How came I in such company; methinks the Dean of Windsor, or the Bishop of Durham had been a much more seemly associate for one destined as I was for the flood-tide of the world's favour.
My eye at this instant rested upon the date of the letter, which was that of the preceding morning, and immediately a thought struck me that, as the day was a louring and gloomy one, perhaps they might have deferred their journey, and I at once determined to hasten to Callonby, and, if possible, see them before their departure.
"Father Brennan," said I, at length, "I have just received a letter which compels me to reach Kilrush as soon as possible. Is there any public conveyance in the village?"
"You don't talk of leaving us, surely," said the priest, "and a haunch of mutton for dinner, and Fin says he'll be down, and your friend, too, and we'll have poor Beamish in on a sofa."
"I am sorry to say my business will not admit of delay, but, if possible, I shall return to thank you for all you kindness, in a day or two —perhaps tomorrow."
"Oh, then," said Father Brennan, "if it must be so, why you can have 'Pether,' my own pad, and a better you never laid leg over; only give him his own time, and let him keep the 'canter,' and he'll never draw up from morning till night; and now I'll just go and have him in readiness for you."
After professing my warm acknowledgments to the good father for his kindness, I hastened to take a hurried farewell of Curzon before going. I found him sitting up in bed taking his breakfast; a large strip of black plaster, extending from the corner of one eye across the nose, and terminating near the mouth, denoted the locale of a goodly wound, while the blue, purple and yellow patches into which his face was partitioned out, left you in doubt whether he now resembled the knave of clubs or a new map of the Ordnance survey; one hand was wrapped up in a bandage, and altogether a more rueful and woe-begone looking figure I have rarely looked upon; and most certainly I am of opinion that the "glorious, pious and immortal memory" would have brought pleasanter recollections to Daniel O'Connell himself, than it would on that morning to the adjutant of his majesty's 4_th.
"Ah, Harry," said he, as I entered, "what Pandemonium is this we've got into? did you ever witness such a business as last night's?"
"Why truly," said I, "I know of no one to blame but yourself; surely you must have known what a fracas your infernal song would bring on."
"I don't know now whether I knew it or not; but certainly at the moment I should have preferred anything to the confounded cross-examination I was under, and was glad to end it by any coup d'etat. One wretch was persecuting me about green crops, and another about the feeding of bullocks; about either of which I knew as much as a bear does of a ballet."
"Well, truly, you caused a diversion at some expense to your countenance, for I never beheld anything—"
"Stop there," said he, "you surely have not seen the doctor—he beats me hollow—they have scarcely left so much hair on his head as would do for an Indian's scalp lock; and, of a verity, his aspect is awful this morning; he has just been here, and by-the-bye has told me all about your affair with Beamish. It appears that somewhere you met him at dinner, and gave a very flourishing account of a relative of his who you informed him was not only selected for some very dashing service, but actually the personal friend of Picton; and, after the family having blazed the matter all over Cork, and given a great entertainment in honor of their kinsman, it turns out that, on the glorious 19th, he ran away to Brussels faster than even the French to Charleroi; for which act, however, there was no aspersion ever cast upon his courage, that quality being defended at the expense of his honesty; in a word, he was the paymaster of the company, and had what Theodore Hook calls an 'affection of his chest,' that required change of air. Looking only to the running away part of the matter, I unluckily expressed some regret that he did not belong to the North Cork, and I remarked the doctor did not seem to relish the allusion, and as I only now remember, it was his regiment, I suppose I'm in for more mischief."
I had no time to enjoy Curzon's dilemma, and had barely informed him of my intended departure, when a voice from without the room proclaimed that "Pether" was ready, and having commissioned the adjutant to say the "proper" to Mr. Beamish and the doctor, hurried away, and after a hearty shake of the hand from Father Brennan, and a faithful promise to return soon, I mounted and set off.
Peter's pace was of all others the one least likely to disturb the lucubrations of a castle-builder like myself; without any admonition from whip or spur he maintained a steady and constant canter, which, I am free to confess, was more agreeable to sit, than it was graceful to behold; for his head being much lower than his tail, he every moment appeared in the attitude of a diver about to plunge into the water, and more than once I had misgivings that I would consult my safety better if I sat with my face to the tail; however, what will not habit accomplish? before I had gone a mile or two, I was so lost in my own reveries and reflections, that I knew nothing of my mode of progression, and had only thoughts and feelings for the destiny that awaited me; sometimes I would fancy myself seated in the House of Commons, (on the ministerial benches, of course,) while some leading oppositionist was pronouncing a glowing panegyric upon the eloquent and statesmanlike speech of the gallant colonel—myself; then I thought I was making arrangements for setting out for my new appointment, and Sancho Panza never coveted the government of an island more than I did, though only a West Indian one; and, lastly, I saw myself the chosen diplomate on a difficult mission, and was actually engaged in the easy and agreeable occupation of outmaneuvering Talleyrand and Pozzo di Borgo, when Peter suddenly drew up at the door of a small cabin, and convinced me that I was still a mortal man, and a lieutenant in his Majesty's 4_th. Before I had time afforded me even to guess at the reason of this sudden halt, an old man emerged from the cabin, which I saw now was a road-side ale-house, and presented Peter with a bucket of meal and water, a species of "viaticum" that he evidently was accustomed to, at this place, whether bestrode by a priest or an ambassador. Before me lay a long straggling street of cabins, irregularly thrown, as if riddled over the ground; this I was informed was Kilkee; while my good steed, therefore, was enjoying his potation, I dismounted, to stretch my legs and look about me, and scarcely had I done so when I found half the population of the village assembled round Peter, whose claims to notoriety, I now learned, depended neither upon his owner's fame, nor even my temporary possession of him. Peter, in fact, had been a racer, once—when, the wandering Jew might perhaps have told, had he ever visited Clare—for not the oldest inhabitant knew the date of his triumphs on the turf; though they were undisputed traditions, and never did any man appear bold enough to call them in question: whether it was from his patriarchal character, or that he was the only race-horse ever known in his county I cannot say, but, of a truth, the Grand Lama could scarcely be a greater object of reverence in Thibet, than was Peter in Kilkee.
"Musha, Peter, but it's well y'r looking," cried one.
"Ah, thin, maybe ye an't fat on the ribs," cried another.
"An' cockin' his tail like a coult," said a third.
I am very certain, if I might venture to judge from the faces about, that, had the favourite for the St. Leger, passed through Kilkee at that moment, comparisons very little to his favor had been drawn from the assemblage around me. With some difficulty I was permitted to reach my much admired steed, and with a cheer, which was sustained and caught up by every denizen of the village as I passed through, I rode on my way, not a little amused at my equivocal popularity.
Being desirous to lose no time, I diverged from the straight road which leads to Kilrush, and took a cross bridle-path to Callonby; this, I afterwards discovered was a detour of a mile or two, and it was already sun-set when I reached the entrance to the park. I entered the avenue, and now my impatience became extreme, for although Peter continued to move at the same uniform pace, I could not persuade myself that he was not foundering at every step, and was quite sure we were scarcely advancing; at last I reached the wooden bridge, and ascended the steep slope, the spot where I had first met her, on whom my every thought now rested. I turned the angle of the clump of beech trees from whence the first view of the house is caught—I perceived to my inexpressible delight that gleams of light shone from many of the windows, and could trace their passing from one to the other. I now drew rein, and with a heart relieved from a load of anxiety, pulled up my good steed, and began to think of the position in which a few brief seconds would place me. I reached the small flower-garden, sacred by a thousand endearing recollections. Oh! of how very little account are the many words of passing kindness, and moments of light-hearted pleasure, when spoken or felt, compared to the memory of them when hallowed by time or distance.
"The place, the hour, the sunshine and the shade," all reminded me of the happy past, and all brought vividly before me every portion of that dream of happiness in which I was so utterly—so completely steeped—every thought of the hopelessness of my passion was lost in the intensity of it, and I did not, in the ardour of my loving, stop to think of its possible success.
It was strange enough that the extreme impatience, the hurried anxiety, I had felt and suffered from, while riding up the avenue, had now fled entirely, and in its place I felt nothing but a diffident distrust of myself, and a vague sense of awkwardness about intruding thus unexpectedly upon the family, while engaged in all the cares and preparations for a speedy departure. The hall-door lay as usual wide open, the hall itself was strewn and littered with trunks, imperials, and packing-cases, and the hundred et ceteras of travelling baggage. I hesitated a moment whether I should not ring, but at last resolved to enter unannounced, and, presuming upon my intimacy, see what effect my sudden appearance would have on Lady Jane, whose feelings towards me would be thus most unequivocally tested. I passed along the wide corridor, entered the music-room—it was still—I walked then to the door of the drawing-room—I paused—I drew a full breath—my hand trembled slightly as I turned the lock—I entered—the room was empty, but the blazing fire upon the hearth, the large arm-chairs drawn around, the scattered books upon the small tables, all told that it had been inhabited a very short time before. Ah! thought I, looking at my watch, they are at dinner, and I began at once to devise a hundred different plans to account for my late absence and present visit. I knew that a few minutes would probably bring them into the drawing-room, and I felt flurried and heated as the time drew near. At last I heard voices without—I started from the examination of a pencil drawing but partly finished, but the artist of which I could not be deceived in—I listened —the sounds drew near—I could not distinguish who were the speakers —the door-lock turned, and I rose to make my well-conned, but half-forgotten speech; and oh, confounded disappointment, Mrs. Herbert, the house-keeper, entered. She started, not expecting to see me, and immediately said,
"Oh! Mr. Lorrequer! then you've missed them."
"Missed them!" said I; "how—when—where?"
"Did you not get a note from my lord?"
"No; when was it written?"
"Oh, dear me, that is so very unfortunate. Why, sir, my lord sent off a servant this morning to Kilrush, in Lord Kilkee's tilbury, to request you would meet them all in Ennis this evening, where they had intended to stop for to-night; and they waited here till near four o'clock to-day, but when the servant came back with the intelligence that you were from home, and not expected to return soon, they were obliged to set out, and are not going to make any delay now, till they reach London. The last direction, however, my lord gave, was to forward her ladyship's letter to you as soon as possible."
What I thought, said, or felt, might be a good subject of confession to Father Malachi, for I fear it may be recorded among my sins, as I doubt not that the agony I suffered vented itself in no measured form of speech or conduct; but I have nothing to confess here on the subject, being so totally overwhelmed as not to know what I did or said. My first gleam of reason elicited itself by asking,
"Is there, then, no chance of their stopping in Ennis to-night?" As I put the question my mind reverted to Peter and his eternal canter.
"Oh, dear, no, sir; the horses are ordered to take them, since Tuesday; and they only thought of staying in Ennis, if you came time enough to meet them—and they will be so sorry."
"Do you think so, Mrs. Herbert? do you, indeed, think so?" said I, in a most insinuating tone.
"I am perfectly sure of it, sir."
"Oh, Mrs. Herbert, you are too kind to think so; but perhaps—that is —may be, Mrs. Herbert, she said something—"
"Lady Callonby, I mean; did her ladyship leave any message for me about her plants? or did she remember—"
Mrs. Herbert kept looking at me all the time, with her great wide grey eyes, while I kept stammering and blushing like a school-boy.
"No, sir; her ladyship said nothing, sir; but Lady Jane—"
"Yes; well, what of Lady Jane, my dear Mrs. Herbert?"
"Oh, sir! but you look pale; would not you like to have a little wine and water—or perhaps—"
"No, thank you, nothing whatever; I am just a little fatigued—but you were mentioning—"
"Yes, sir; I was saying that Lady Jane was mighty particular about a small plant; she ordered it to be left in her dressing-room, though Collins told her to have some of the handsome ones of the green-house, she would have nothing but this; and if you were only to hear half the directions she gave about keeping it watered, and taking off dead leaves, you'd think her heart was set on it."
Mrs. Herbert would have had no cause to prescribe for my paleness had she only looked at me this time; fortunately, however, she was engaged, housekeeper-like, in bustling among books, papers, &c. which she had come in for the purpose of arranging and packing up. She being left behind to bring up the rear, and the heavy baggage.
Very few moments' consideration were sufficient to show me that pursuit was hopeless; whatever might have been Peter's performance in the reign of "Queen Anne," he had now become like the goose so pathetically described by my friend Lover, rather "stiff in his limbs," and the odds were fearfully against his overtaking four horses, starting fresh every ten miles, not to mention their being some hours in advance already. Having declined all Mrs. Herbert's many kind offers, anent food and rest, I took a last lingering look at the beautiful pictures, which still held its place in the room lately mine, and hurried from a place so full of recollections; and, notwithstanding the many reasons I had for self-gratulation, every object around and about, filled me with sorrow and regret for hours that had passed—never, never to return.
It was very late when I reached my old quarters at Kilrush; Mrs. Healy fortunately was in bed asleep—fortunately I say, for had she selected that occasion to vent her indignation for my long absence, I greatly fear that, in my then temper I should have exhibited but little of that Job-like endurance for which I was once esteemed; I entered my little mean-looking parlour, with its three chairs and lame table, and, as I flung myself upon the wretched substitute for a sofa, and thought upon the varied events which a few weeks had brought about; it required the aid of her ladyship's letter, which I opened before me, to assure me I was not dreaming.
The entire of that night I could not sleep; my destiny seemed upon its balance; and, whether the scale inclined to this side or that, good or evil fortune seemed to betide me. How many were my plans and resolutions, and how often abandoned; again to be pondered over, and once more given up. The grey dawn of the morning was already breaking, and found me still doubting and uncertain. At last the die was thrown; I determined at once to apply for leave to my commanding officer, (which he could, if he pleased, give me, without any application to the Horse Guards,) set out for Elton, tell Sir Guy my whole adventure, and endeavour, by a more moving love story than ever graced even the Minerva Press, to induce him to make some settlement on me, and use his influence with Lord Callonby in my behalf; this done, set out for London, and then —and then—what then?—then for the Morning Post—"Cadeau de noces" —"happy couple"—"Lord Callonby's seat in Hampshire," &c. &c.
"You wished to be called at five, sir," said Stubber.
"Yes; is it five o'clock?"
"No, sir; but I heard you call out something about 'four horses,' and I thought you might be hurried, so I came a little earlier."
"Quite right, Stubber; let me have my breakfast as soon as possible, and see that chestnut horse I brought here last night, fed."
"And now for it," said I, after writing a hurried note to Curzon, requesting him to take command of my party at Kilrush, till he heard from me, and sending my kindest remembrance to my three friends; I despatched the epistle by my servant on Peter, while I hastened to acquire a place in the mail for Ennis, on the box seat of which let my kind reader suppose me seated, as wrapping my box-coat around me, I lit my cigar and turned my eyes towards Limerick.
CONGRATULATIONS—SICK LEAVE—HOW TO PASS THE BOARD.
I had scarcely seated myself to breakfast at Swinburn's hotel in Limerick, when the waiter presented me with a letter. As my first glance at the address showed it to be in Colonel Carden's handwriting, I felt not a little alarmed for the consequences of the rash step I had taken in leaving my detachment; and, while quickly thronging fancies of arrest and courtmartial flitted before me, I summoned resolution at last to break the seal, and read as follows:—
"My dear Lorrequer," ("dear Lorrequer!" dear me, thought I; cool certainly, from one I have ever regarded as an open enemy)—"My dear Lorrequer, I have just accidentally heard of your arrival here, and hasten to inform you, that, as it may not be impossible your reasons for so abruptly leaving your detachment are known to me, I shall not visit your breach of discipline very heavily. My old and worthy friend, Lord Callonby, who passed through here yesterday, has so warmly interested himself in your behalf, that I feel disposed to do all in my power to serve you; independently of my desire to do so on your own account. Come over here, then, as soon as possible, and let us talk over your plans together.
"Believe me, most truly yours, "Henry Carden. "Barracks, 10 o'clock."
However mysterious and difficult to unravel, have been some of the circumstances narrated in these "Confessions," I do not scruple to avow that the preceding letter was to me by far the most inexplicable piece of fortune I had hitherto met with. That Lord Callonby should have converted one whom I believed an implacable foe, into a most obliging friend, was intelligible enough, seeing that his lordship had through life been the patron of the colonel; but why he had so done, and what communications he could possibly have made with regard to me, that Colonel Carden should speak of "my plans" and proffer assistance in them was a perfect riddle; and the only solution, one so ridiculously flattering that I dared not think of it. I read and re-read the note; misplaced the stops; canvassed every expression; did all to detect a meaning different from the obvious one, fearful of a self-deception where so much was at stake. Yet there it stood forth, a plain straightforward proffer of services, for some object evidently known to the writer; and my only conclusion, from all, was this, that "my Lord Callonby was the gem of his order, and had a most remarkable talent for selecting a son-in-law."
I fell into a deep reverie upon my past life, and the prospects which I now felt were opening before me. Nothing seemed extravagant to hopes so well founded—to expectations so brilliant—and, in my mind's eye, I beheld myself at one moment leading my young and beautiful bride through the crowded salons of Devonshire House; and, at the next, I was contemplating the excellence and perfection of my stud arrangements at Melton, for I resolved not to give up hunting. While in this pleasurable exercise of my fancy, I was removing from before me some of the breakfast equipage, or, as I then believed it, breaking the trees into better groups upon my lawn, I was once more brought to the world and its dull reality, by the following passage which my eye fell upon in the newspaper before me—"We understand that the 4_th are daily expecting the route for Cork, from whence they are to sail, early in the ensuing month for Halifax, to relieve the 99th." While it did not take a moment's consideration to show me that though the regiment there mentioned was the one I belonged to, I could have no possible interest in the announcement; it never coming into my calculation that I should submit to such expatriation; yet it gave me a salutary warning that there was no time to be lost in making my application for leave, which, once obtained, I should have ample time to manage an exchange into another corps. The wonderful revolution a few days had effected in all my tastes and desires, did not escape me at this moment. But a week or two before and I should have regarded an order for foreign service as anything rather than unpleasant—now the thought was insupportable. Then there would have been some charm to me in the very novelty of the locale, and the indulgence of that vagrant spirit I have ever possessed; for, like Justice Woodcock, "I certainly should have been a vagabond if Providence had not made me a justice of the peace"—now, I could not even contemplate the thing as possible; and would have actually refused the command of a regiment, if the condition of its acceptance were to sail for the colonies.
Besides, I tried—and how ingenious is self-deception—I tried to find arguments in support of my determination totally different from the reasons which governed me. I affected to fear climate, and to dread the effect of the tropics upon my health. It may do very well, thought I, for men totally destitute of better prospects; with neither talent, influence or powerful connexion, to roast their cheeks at Sierra Leone, or suck a sugar-cane at St. Lucia. But that you, Harry Lorrequer, should waste your sweetness upon planters' daughters—that have only to be known, to have the world at your feet! The thing is absurd, and not to be thought of! Yes, said I half aloud—we read in the army list, that Major A. is appointed to the 50th, and Capt. B. to the 12th; but how much more near the truth would it be, to say—"That His Majesty, in consideration of the distinguished services of the one, has been graciously pleased to appoint him to—a case of blue and collapsed cholera, in India; and also, for the bravery and gallant conduct of the other, in his late affair with the 'How-dow-dallah Indians,' has promoted him to the—yellow fever now devastating and desolating Jamaica." How far my zeal for the service might have carried me on this point, I know not; for I was speedily aroused from my musings by the loud tramp of feet upon the stairs, and the sound of many well-known voices of my brother officers, who were coming to visit me.
"So, Harry, my boy," said the fat major as he entered; "is it true we are not to have the pleasure of your company to Jamaica this time?"
"He prefers a pale face, it seems, to a black one; and certainly, with thirty thousand in the same scale, the taste is excusable."
"But, Lorrequer," said a third, "we heard that you had canvassed the county on the Callonby interest. Why, man, where do you mean to pull up?"
"As for me," lisped a large-eyed, white-haired ensign of three months' standing, "I think it devilish hard, old Carden didn't send ME down there, too, for I hear there are two girls in the family. Eh, Lorrequer?"
Having with all that peculiar bashfulness such occasions are sure to elicit, disclaimed the happiness my friends so clearly ascribed to me, I yet pretty plainly let it be understood that the more brilliant they supposed my present prospects to be, the more near were they to estimate them justly. One thing certainly gratified me throughout. All seemed rejoiced at my good fortune, and even the old Scotch paymaster made no more caustic remark than that he "wad na wonder if the chiel's black whiskers wad get him made governor of Stirling Castle before he'd dee."
Should any of my most patient listeners to these my humble confessions, wonder either here, or elsewhere, upon what very slight foundations I built these my "Chateaux en Espagne," I have only one answer—"that from my boyhood I have had a taste for florid architecture, and would rather put up with any inconvenience of ground, than not build at all."
As it was growing late I hurriedly bade adieu to my friends, and hastened to Colonel Carden's quarters, where I found him waiting for me, in company with my old friend, Fitzgerald, our regimental surgeon. Our first greetings over, the colonel drew me aside into a window, and said that, from certain expressions Lord Callonby had made use of—certain hints he had dropped—he was perfectly aware of the delicate position in which I stood with respect to his lordship's family. "In fact, my dear Lorrequer," he continued, "without wishing in the least to obtrude myself upon your confidence, I must yet be permitted to say, you are the luckiest fellow in Europe, and I most sincerely congratulate you on the prospect before you."
"But, my dear Colonel, I assure you—"
"Well, well, there—not a word more; don't blush now. I know there is always a kind of secrecy thought necessary on these occasions, for the sake of other parties; so let us pass to your plans. From what I have collected, you have not yet proposed formally. But, of course you desire a leave. You'll not quit the army, I trust; no necessity for that; such influence as yours can always appoint you to an unattached commission."
"Once more let me protest, sir, that though for certain reasons most desirous to obtain a leave of absence, I have not the most remote—"
"That's right, quite right; I am sincerely gratified to hear you say so, and so will be Lord Callonby; for he likes the service."
And thus was my last effort at a disclaimer cut short by the loquacious little colonel, who regarded my unfinished sentence as a concurrence with his own opinion.
"Allah il Allah," thought I, "it is my Lord Callonby's own plot; and his friend Colonel Cardon aids and abets him."
"Now, Lorrequer," resumed the colonel, "let us proceed. You have, of course, heard that we are ordered abroad; mere newspaper report for the present; nevertheless, it is extremely difficult—almost impossible, without a sick certificate, to obtain a leave sufficiently long for your purpose."
And here he smirked, and I blushed, selon les regles..
"A sick certificate," said I in some surprise.
"The only thing for you," said Fitzgerald, taking a long pinch of snuff; "and I grieve to say you have a most villainous look of good health about you."
"I must acknowledge I have seldom felt better."
"So much the worse—so much the worse," said Fitzgerald despondingly. "Is there no family complaint; no respectable heir-loom of infirmity, you can lay claim to from your kindred?"
"None, that I know of, unless a very active performance on the several occasions of breakfast, dinner, and supper, with a tendency towards port, and an inclination to sleep ten in every twenty-four hours, be a sign of sickness; these symptoms I have known many of the family suffer for years, without the slightest alleviation, though, strange as it may appear, they occasionally had medical advice."
Fitz. took no notice of my sneer at the faculty, but proceeded to strike my chest several times, with his finger tips. "Try a short cough now," said he. "Ah, that will never do!"
"Do you ever flush. Before dinner I mean?"
"Occasionally, when I meet with a luncheon."
"I'm fairly puzzled," said poor Fitz. throwing himself into a chair; "gout is a very good thing; but, then, you see you are only a sub., and it is clearly against the articles of war, to have it before being a field officer at least. Apoplexy is the best I can do for you; and, to say the truth, any one who witnesses your performance at mess, may put faith in the likelihood of it.
"Do you think you could get up a fit for the medical board," said Fitz., gravely.
"Why, if absolutely indispensable," said I, "and with good instruction —something this way. Eh, is it not?"
"Nothing of the kind: you are quite wrong."
"Is there not always a little laughing and crying," said I.
"Oh, no, no; take the cue from the paymaster any evening after mess, and you'll make no mistake—very florid about the cheeks; rather a lazy look in one eye, the other closed up entirely; snore a little from time to time, and don't be too much disposed to talk."
"And you think I may pass muster in this way."
"Indeed you may, if old Camie, the inspector, happen to be (what he is not often) in a good humour. But I confess I'd rather you were really ill, for we've passed a great number of counterfeits latterly, and we may be all pulled up ere long."
"Not the less grateful for your kindness," said I; "but still, I'd rather matters stood as they do."
Having, at length, obtained a very formidable statement of my 'case' from the Doctor, and a strong letter from the Colonel, deploring the temporary loss of so promising a young officer, I committed myself and my portmanteau to the inside of his Majesty's mail, and started for Dublin with as light a heart and high spirits, as were consistent with so much delicacy of health, and the directions of my Doctor.
THE ROAD—TRAVELLING ACQUAINTANCES—A PACKET ADVENTURE.
I shall not stop now to narrate the particulars of my visit to the worthies of the medical board; the rather, as some of my "confessions to come" have reference to Dublin, and many of those that dwell therein. I shall therefore content myself here with stating, that without any difficulty I obtained a six months' leave, and having received much advice and more sympathy from many members of that body, took a respectful leave of them, and adjourned to Bilton's where I had ordered dinner, and (as I was advised to live low) a bottle of Sneyd's claret. My hours in Dublin were numbered; at eight o'clock on the evening of my arrival I hastened to the Pidgeon House pier, to take my berth in the packet for Liverpool; and here, gentle reader, let me implore you if you have bowels of compassion, to commiserate the condition of a sorry mortal like myself. In the days of which I now speak, steam packets were not —men knew not then, of the pleasure of going to a comfortable bed in Kingstown harbour, and waking on the morning after in the Clarence dock at Liverpool, with only the addition of a little sharper appetite for breakfast, before they set out on an excursion of forty miles per hour through the air.
In the time I have now to commemorate, the intercourse between the two countries was maintained by two sailing vessels of small tonnage, and still scantier accommodation. Of the one now in question I well recollect the name—she was called the "Alert," and certainly a more unfortunate misnomer could scarcely be conceived. Well, there was no choice; so I took my place upon the crowded deck of the little craft, and in a drizzling shower of chilly rain, and amid more noise, confusion, and bustle, than would prelude the launch of a line-of-battle ship, we "sidled," goose-fashion, from the shore, and began our voyage towards England.
It is not my intention, in the present stage of "my Confessions," to delay on the road towards an event which influenced so powerfully, and so permanently, my after life; yet I cannot refrain from chronicling a slight incident which occurred on board the packet, and which, I have no doubt, may be remembered by some of those who throw their eyes on these pages.
One of my fellow-passengers was a gentleman holding a high official appointment in the viceregal court, either comptroller of the household, master of the horse, or something else equally magnificent; however, whatever the nature of the situation, one thing is certain—one possessed of more courtly manners, and more polished address, cannot be conceived, to which he added all the attractions of a very handsome person and a most prepossessing countenance. The only thing the most scrupulous critic could possibly detect as faulty in his whole air and bearing, was a certain ultra refinement and fastidiousness, which in a man of acknowledged family and connections was somewhat unaccountable, and certainly unnecessary. The fastidiousness I speak of, extended to everything round and about him; he never eat of the wrong dish, nor spoke to the wrong man in his life, and that very consciousness gave him a kind of horror of chance acquaintances, which made him shrink within himself from persons in every respect his equals. Those who knew Sir Stewart Moore, will know I do not exaggerate in either my praise or censure, and to those who have not had that pleasure, I have only to say, theirs was the loss, and they must take my word for the facts.
The very antithesis to the person just mentioned, was another passenger then on board. She, for even in sex they were different—she was a short, squat, red-faced, vulgar-looking woman, of about fifty, possessed of a most garrulous tendency, and talking indiscriminately with every one about her, careless what reception her addresses met with, and quite indifferent to the many rebuffs she momentarily encountered. To me by what impulse driven Heaven knows this amorphous piece of womanhood seemed determined to attach herself. Whether in the smoky and almost impenetrable recesses of the cabin, or braving the cold and penetrating rain upon deck, it mattered not, she was ever at my side, and not only martyring me by the insufferable annoyance of her vulgar loquacity, but actually, from the appearance of acquaintanceship such constant association gave rise to, frightening any one else from conversing with me, and rendering me, ere many hours, a perfect Paria among the passengers. By not one were we—for, alas, we had become Siamese—so thoroughly dreaded as by the refined baronet I have mentioned; he appeared to shrink from our very approach, and avoided us as though we had the plagues of Egypt about us. I saw this—I felt it deeply, and as deeply and resolutely I vowed to be revenged, and the time was not long distant in affording me the opportunity.
The interesting Mrs. Mulrooney, for such was my fair companion called, was on the present occasion making her debut on what she was pleased to call the "says;" she was proceeding to the Liverpool market as proprietor and supercargo over some legion of swine that occupied the hold of the vessel, and whose mellifluous tones were occasionally heard in all parts of the ship. Having informed me on these, together with some circumstances of her birth and parentage, she proceeded to narrate some of the cautions given by her friends as to her safety when making such a long voyage, and also to detail some of the antiseptics to that dread scourge, sea-sickness, in the fear and terror of which she had come on board, and seemed every hour to be increasing in alarm about.
"Do you think then sir, that pork is no good agin the sickness? Mickey, that's my husband, sir, says it's the only thing in life for it, av it's toasted."
"Not the least use, I assure you."
"Nor sperits and wather?"
"Worse and worse, ma'am."
"Oh, thin, maybe oaten mail tay would do? it's a beautiful thing for the stomick, any how."
"Rank poison on the present occasion, believe me."
"Oh, then, blessed Mary, what am I to do—what is to become of me?"
"Go down at once to your berth, ma'am; lie still and without speaking till we come in sight of land; or," and here a bright thought seized me, "if you really feel very ill, call for that man there, with the fur collar on his coat; he can give you the only thing I ever knew of any efficacy; he's the steward, ma'am, Stewart Moore; but you must be on your guard too as you are a stranger, for he's a conceited fellow, and has saved a trifle, and sets up for a half gentleman; so don't be surprised at his manner; though, after all, you may find him very different; some people, I've heard, think him extremely civil."
"And he has a cure, ye say?"
"The only one I ever heard of; it is a little cordial of which you take, I don't know how much, every ten or fifteen minutes."
"And the naygur doesn't let the saycret out, bad manners to him?"
"No, ma'am; he has refused every offer on the subject.'
"May I be so bowld as to ax his name again?"
"Stewart Moore, ma'am. Moore is the name, but people always call him Stewart Moore; just say that in a loud clear voice, and you'll soon have him."
With the most profuse protestations of gratitude and promises of pork "a discretion," if I ever sojourned at Ballinasloe, my fair friend proceeded to follow my advice, and descended to the cabin.
Some hours after, I also betook myself to my rest, from which, however, towards midnight I was awoke by the heavy working and pitching of the little vessel, as she laboured in a rough sea. As I looked forth from my narrow crib, a more woe-begone picture can scarcely be imagined than that before me. Here and there through the gloomy cabin lay the victims of the fell malady, in every stage of suffering, and in every attitude of misery. Their cries and lamentings mingled with the creaking of the bulk-heads and the jarring twang of the dirty lamp, whose irregular swing told plainly how oscillatory was our present motion. I turned from the unpleasant sight, and was about again to address myself to slumber with what success I might, when I started at the sound of a voice in the very berth next to me—whose tones, once heard, there was no forgetting. The words ran as nearly as I can recollect thus:—
"Oh, then, bad luck to ye for pigs, that ever brought me into the like of this. Oh, Lord, there it is again." And here a slight interruption to eloquence took place, during which I was enabled to reflect upon the author of the complaint, who, I need not say, was Mrs. Mulrooney.
"I think a little tay would settle my stomach, if I only could get it; but what's the use of talking in this horrid place? They never mind me no more than if I was a pig. Steward, steward—oh, then, it's wishing you well I am for a steward. Steward, I say;" and this she really did say, with an energy of voice and manner that startled more than one sleeper. "Oh, you're coming at last, steward."
"Ma'am," said a little dapper and dirty personage, in a blue jacket, with a greasy napkin negligently thrown over one arm "ex officio," "Ma'am, did you call?"
"Call, is it call? No; but I'm roaring for you this half hour. Come here. Have you any of the cordial dhrops agin the sickness?—you know what I mean."
"Is it brandy, ma'am?"
"No, it isn't brandy;"
"We have got gin, ma'am, and bottled porter—cider, ma'am, if you like."
"Agh, no! sure I want the dhrops agin the sickness."
"Don't know indeed, ma'am."
"Ah, you stupid creature; maybe you're not the real steward. What's your name?"
"Ah, I thought so; go away, man, go away."
This injunction, given in a diminuendo cadence, was quickly obeyed, and all was silence for a moment or two. Once more was I dropping asleep, when the same voice as before burst out with—
"Am I to die here like a haythen, and nobody to come near me? Steward, steward, steward Moore, I say."
"Who calls me?" said a deep sonorous voice from the opposite side of the cabin, while at the same instant a tall green silk nightcap, surmounting a very aristocratic-looking forehead, appeared between the curtains of the opposite berth.
"Steward Moore," said the lady again, with her eyes straining in the direction of the door by which she expected him to enter.
"This is most strange," muttered the baronet, half aloud. "Why, madam, you are calling me!"
"And if I am," said Mrs. Mulrooney, "and if ye heerd me, have ye no manners to answer your name, eh? Are ye steward Moore?"
"Upon my soul ma'am I thought so last night, when I came on board; but you really have contrived to make me doubt my own identity."
"And is it there ye're lying on the broad of yer back, and me as sick as a dog fornent ye?"
"I concede ma'am the fact; the position is a most irksome one on every account."
"Then why don't ye come over to me?" and this Mrs. Mulrooney said with a voice of something like tenderness—wishing at all hazards to conciliate so important a functionary.
"Why, really you are the most incomprehensible person I ever met."
"I'm what?" said Mrs. Mulrooney, her blood rushing to her face and temples as she spoke—for the same reason as her fair townswoman is reported to have borne with stoical fortitude every harsh epithet of the language, until it occurred to her opponent to tell her that "the divil a bit better she was nor a pronoun;" so Mrs. Mulrooney, taking "omne ignotum pro horribili," became perfectly beside herself at the unlucky phrase. "I'm what? repate it av ye dare, and I'll tear yer eyes out? Ye dirty bla—guard, to be lying there at yer ease under the blankets, grinning at me. What's your thrade—answer me that—av it isn't to wait on the ladies, eh?"
"Oh, the woman must be mad," said Sir Stewart.
"The devil a taste mad, my dear—I'm only sick. Now just come over to me, like a decent creature, and give me the dhrop of comfort ye have. Come, avick."
"Go over to you?"
"Ay, and why not? or if it's so lazy ye are, why then I'll thry and cross over to your side."
These words being accompanied by a certain indication of change of residence on the part of Mrs. Mulrooney, Sir Stewart perceived there was no time to lose, and springing from his berth, he rushed half-dressed through the cabin, and up the companion-ladder, just as Mrs. Mulrooney had protruded a pair of enormous legs from her couch, and hung for a moment pendulous before she dropped upon the floor, and followed him to the deck. A tremendous shout of laughter from the sailors and deck passengers prevented my hearing the dialogue which ensued; nor do I yet know how Mrs. Mulrooney learned her mistake. Certain it is, she no more appeared among the passengers in the cabin, and Sir Stewart's manner the following morning at breakfast amply satisfied me that I had had my revenge.
No sooner in Liverpool, than I hastened to take my place in the earliest conveyance for London. At that time the Umpire Coach was the perfection of fast travelling; and seated behind the box, enveloped in a sufficiency of broad-cloth, I turned my face towards town with as much anxiety and as ardent expectations as most of those about me. All went on in the regular monotonous routine of such matters until we reached Northampton, passing down the steep street of which town, the near wheel-horse stumbled and fell; the coach, after a tremendous roll to one side, toppled over on the other, and with a tremendous crash, and sudden shock, sent all the outsides, myself among the number, flying through the air like sea-gulls. As for me, after describing a very respectable parabola, my angle of incidence landed me in a bonnet-maker's shop, having passed through a large plate-glass window, and destroyed more leghorns and dunstables than a year's pay would recompense. I have but light recollection of the details of that occasion, until I found myself lying in a very spacious bed at the George Inn, having been bled in both arms, and discovering by the multitude of bandages in which I was enveloped, that at least some of my bones were broken by the fall. That such fate had befallen my collar-bone and three of my ribs I soon learned; and was horror-struck at hearing from the surgeon who attended me, that four or five weeks would be the very earliest period I could bear removal with safety. Here then at once was a large deduction from my six months' leave, not to think of the misery that awaited me for such a time, confined to my bed in an inn, without books, friends, or acquaintances. However even this could be remedied by patience, and summoning up all I could command, I "bided my time," but not before I had completed a term of two months' imprisonment, and had become, from actual starvation, something very like a living transparency.
No sooner, however, did I feel myself once more on the road, than my spirits rose, and I felt myself as full of high hope and buoyant expectancy as ever. It was late at night when I arrived in London. I drove to a quiet hotel in the west-end; and the following morning proceeded to Portman-square, bursting with impatience to see my friends the Callonbys, and recount all my adventures—for as I was too ill to write from Northampton, and did not wish to entrust to a stranger the office of communicating with them, I judged that they must be exceedingly uneasy on my account, and pictured to myself the thousand emotions my appearance so indicative of illness would give rise to; and could scarcely avoid running in my impatience to be once more among them. How Lady Jane would meet me, I thought of over again and again; whether the same cautious reserve awaited me, or whether her family's approval would have wrought a change in her reception of me, I burned to ascertain. As my thoughts ran on in this way, I found myself at the door; but was much alarmed to perceive that the closed window-shutters and dismantled look of the house proclaimed them from home. I rung the bell, and soon learned from a servant, whose face I had not seen before, that the family had gone to Paris about a month before, with the intention of spending the winter there. I need not say how grievously this piece of intelligence disappointed me, and for a minute or two I could not collect my thoughts. At last the servant said:
"If you have any thing very particular, sir, that my Lord's lawyer can do, I can give you his address."
"No, thank you—nothing;" at the same time I muttered to myself, "I'll have some occupation for him though ere long. The family were all quite well, didn't you say?"
"Yes sir, perfectly well. My Lord had only a slight cold,"
"Ah—yes—and there address is 'Meurice;' very well."
So saying I turned from the door, and with slower steps than I had come, returned to my hotel.
My immediate resolve was to set out for Paris; my second was to visit my uncle, Sir Guy Lorrequer, first, and having explained to him the nature of my position, and the advantageous prospects before me, endeavour to induce him to make some settlement on Lady Jane, in the event of my obtaining her family's consent to our marriage. This, from his liking great people much, and laying great stress upon the advantages of connexion, I looked upon as a matter of no great difficulty; so that, although my hopes of happiness were delayed in their fulfilment, I believed they were only about to be the more securely realized. The same day I set out for Elton, and by ten o'clock at night reached my uncle's house. I found the old gentleman looking just as I had left him three years before, complaining a little of gout in the left foot—praising his old specific, port-wine—abusing his servants for robbing him—and drinking the Duke of Wellington's health every night after supper; which meal I had much pleasure in surprising him at on my arrival—not having eaten since my departure from London.
"Well, Harry," said my uncle, when the servants had left the room, and we drew over the spider table to the fire to discuss our wine with comfort, "what good wind has blown you down to me, my boy? for it's odd enough, five minutes before I heard the wheels on the gravel I was just wishing some good fellow would join me at the grouse—and you see I have had my wish! The old story, I suppose, 'out of cash.' Would not come down here for nothing—eh? Come, lad, tell truth; is it not so?"
"Why, not exactly, sir; but I really had rather at present talk about you, than about my own matters, which we can chat over tomorrow. How do you get on, sir, with the Scotch steward?"
"He's a rogue, sir—a cheat—a scoundrel; but it is the same with them all; and your cousin, Harry—your cousin, that I have reared from his infancy to be my heir, (pleasant topic for me!) he cares no more for me than the rest of them, and would never come near me, if it were not that, like yourself, he was hard run for money, and wanted to wheedle me out of a hundred or two."
"But you forget, sir—I told you I have not come with such an object."
"We'll see that—we'll see that in the morning," replied he, with an incredulous shake of the head.
"But Guy, sir—what has Guy done?"
"What has he not done? No sooner did he join that popinjay set of fellows, the _th hussars, than he turned out, what he calls a four-in-hand drag, which dragged nine hundred pounds out of my pocket —then he has got a yacht at Cowes—a grouse mountain in Scotland—and has actually given Tattersall an unlimited order to purchase the Wreckinton pack of harriers, which he intends to keep for the use of the corps. In a word, there is not an amusement of that villanous regiment, not a flask of champagne drank at their mess, I don't bear my share in the cost of; all through the kind offices of your worthy cousin, Guy Lorrequer."
This was an exceedingly pleasant expose for me, to hear of my cousin indulged in every excess of foolish extravagance by his rich uncle, while I, the son of an elder brother who unfortunately called me by his own name, Harry, remained the sub. in a marching regiment, with not three hundred pounds a year above my pay, and whom any extravagance, if such had been proved against me would have deprived of even that small allowance. My uncle however did not notice the chagrin with which I heard his narrative, but continued to detail various instances of wild and reckless expense the future possessor of his ample property had already launched into.
Anxious to say something without well-knowing what, I hinted that probably my good cousin would reform some of these days, and marry.
"Marry," said my uncle; "yes, that, I believe, is the best thing we can do with him; and I hope now the matter is in good train—so the latest accounts say, at least."
"Ah, indeed," said I, endeavouring to take an interest where I really felt none—for my cousin and I had never been very intimate friends, and the differences in our fortunes had not, at least to my thinking, been compensated by any advances which he, under the circumstances, might have made to me.
"Why, Harry, did you not hear of it?" said my uncle.
"No—not a word, sir."
"Very strange, indeed—a great match, Harry—a very great match, indeed."
"Some rich banker's daughter," thought I. "What will he say when he hears of my fortune?"
"A very fine young woman, too, I understand—quite the belle of London —and a splendid property left by an aunt."
I was bursting to tell him of my affair, and that he had another nephew, to whom if common justice were rendered, his fortune was as certainly made for life.
"Guy's business happened this way," continued my uncle, who was quite engrossed by the thought of his favourite's success. "The father of the young lady met him in Ireland, or Scotland, or some such place, where he was with his regiment—was greatly struck with his manner and address —found him out to be my nephew—asked him to his house—and, in fact, almost threw this lovely girl at his head before they were two months acquainted."
"As nearly as possible my own adventure," thought I, laughing to myself.
"But you have not told me who they are, sir," said I, dying to have his story finished, and to begin mine.
"I'm coming to that—I'm coming to that. Guy came down here, but did not tell me one word of his having ever met the family, but begged me to give him an introduction to them, as they were in Paris, where he was going on a short leave; and the first thing I heard of the matter was a letter from the papa, demanding from me if Guy was to be my heir, and asking 'how far his attentions in his family, met with my approval.'"
"Then how did you know sir that they were previously known to each other?"
"The family lawyer told me, who heard it all talked over."
"And why, then, did Guy get the letter of introduction from you, when he was already acquainted with them?"
"I am sure I cannot tell, except that you know he always does every thing unlike every one else, and to be sure the letter seems to have excited some amusement. I must show you his answer to my first note to know how all was going on; for I felt very anxious about matters, when I heard from some person who had met them, that Guy was everlastingly in the house, and that Lord Callonby could not live without him."
"Lord who, sir?" said I in a voice that made the old man upset his glass, and spring from his chair in horror.
"What the devil is the matter with the boy. What makes you so pale?"
"Whose name did you say at that moment, sir," said I with a slowness of speech that cost me agony.
"Lord Callonby, my old schoolfellow and fag at Eton."
"And the lady's name, sir?" said I, in scarcely an audible whisper.
"I'm sure I forget her name; but here's the letter from Guy, and I think he mentions her name in the postscript."
I snatched rudely the half-opened letter from the old man, as he was vainly endeavouring to detect the place he wanted, and read as follows:
"My adored Jane is all your fondest wishes for my happiness could picture, and longs to see her dear uncle, as she already calls you on every occasion." I read no more—my eyes swam—the paper, the candles, every thing before me, was misty and confused; and although I heard my uncle's voice still going on, I knew nothing of what he said.
For some time my mind could not take in the full extent of the base treachery I had met with, and I sat speechless and stupified. By degrees my faculties became clearer, and with one glance I read the whole business, from my first meeting with them at Kilrush to the present moment. I saw that in their attentions to me, they thought they were winning the heir of Elton, the future proprietor of fifteen thousand per annum. From this tangled web of heartless intrigue I turned my thoughts to Lady Jane herself. How had she betrayed me! for certainly she had not only received, but encouraged my addresses—and so soon, too.—To think that at the very moment when my own precipitate haste to see her had involved me in a nearly fatal accident, she was actually receiving the attentions of another! Oh, it was too, too bad.
But enough—even now I can scarcely dwell upon the memory of that moment, when the hopes and dreams of many a long day and night were destined to be thus rudely blighted. I seized the first opportunity of bidding my uncle good night; and having promised him to reveal all my plans on the morrow, hurried to my room.
My plans! alas, I had none—that one fatal paragraph had scattered them to the winds; and I threw myself upon my bed, wretched and almost heart-broken.
I have once before in these "Confessions" claimed to myself the privilege, not inconsistent with a full disclosure of the memorabilia of my life, to pass slightly over those passages, the burden of which was unhappy, and whose memory is painful. I must now, therefore, claim the "benefit of this act," and beg of the reader to let me pass from this sad portion of my history, and for the full expression of my mingled rage, contempt, disappointment, and sorrow, let me beg of him to receive instead, what a learned pope once gave as his apology for not reading a rather polysyllabic word in a Latin letter—"As for this," said he, looking at the phrase in question, "soit qui'l dit," so say I. And now —en route.
EBOOK EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A rather unlady-like fondness for snuff Amount of children which is algebraically expressed by an X And some did pray—who never prayed before Annoyance of her vulgar loquacity Brought a punishment far exceeding the merits of the case Chateaux en Espagne Ending—I never yet met the man who could tell when it ended Escaped shot and shell to fall less gloriously beneath champagne Exclaimed with Othello himself, "Chaos was come again;" Fearful of a self-deception where so much was at stake Green silk, "a little off the grass, and on the bottle" Had a most remarkable talent for selecting a son-in-law Had to hear the "proud man's contumely" Has but one fault, but that fault is a grand one How ingenious is self-deception If such be a sin, "then heaven help the wicked" Indifferent to the many rebuffs she momentarily encountered Memory of them when hallowed by time or distance No equanimity like his who acts as your second in a duel Nothing seemed extravagant to hopes so well founded Now, young ladies, come along, and learn something, if you can Oh, the distance is nothing, but it is the pace that kills Opportunely been so overpowered as to fall senseless Profuse in his legends of his own doings in love and war Respectable heir-loom of infirmity Stoicism which preludes sending your friend out of the world Suppose I have laughed at better men than ever he was That land of punch, priests, and potatoes That vanity which wine inspires That "to stand was to fall," The divil a bit better she was nor a pronoun There are unhappily impracticable people in the world Time, that 'pregnant old gentleman,' will disclose all Vagabond if Providence had not made me a justice of the peace What will not habit accomplish When you pretended to be pleased, unluckily, I believed you Whose paraphrase of the book of Job was refused Wretched, gloomy-looking picture of woe-begone poverty What we wish we readily believe