« 上一頁繼續 »
is difficult to decide whether to the churchman or the commander, this fortunate event caused the greater satisfaction. At the first summons, father Dominic abandoned his wild charge, and resumed the official duties in our establishment ;-said mass for my mother, confessed the maids, aided and assisted the Colonel in the diurnal demolition of three bottles of antiquated port, and endeavoured into the bargain, to knock Latin into me, and “the fear of God,” as he called it, into the heart of my foster-brother. How far either attempt proved successful, it is not for me to say. As to myself, Dominic occasionally declared that I should try the temper of a saint; and as to Marc Antony, he rather hoped than expected that he might not “ spoil a market;" meaning thereby, that the aforesaid Marc Antony would be hanged.
But, alas ! from the pupilage of that worthy churchman, Marc and I were fated to be delivered. Father Dominic caught fever at the bedside of a sick tenant; and to the universal regret of the whole household, he went the way which all, priest and levite, are doomed to go. At the time, his loss was severely felt, and after-experience did not tend to lessen it. Father Grady, who in spiritual matters became his successor, was ill fitted to step into poor Dominic's shoes.
Ile was a low-born, illiterate, intermeddling priest, of forbidding exterior and repulsive manners. His gaucheries disgusted my mother, and my father fired at his vulgar arrogance. Except professionally, the visits of the priest became infrequent; and when the maids returned from confession with a route made out for the Reek,* they would call to memory the gentle penances of father Dominic,- offer a tear as a tribute to his memory,-and murmur a “Heaven be merciful to his soul.” The first consequence of the death of Father Dominic was my being transmitted to the school of Enniskillen, while my foster-brother finished his education under the instruction of the village pedagogue. As to the latter, a more unpromising disciple never figured on a slate ; but, to give the devil his due, Marc Antony was even as his enemies allowed, the best boxer of his inches in the parish.
How quickly years roll on! Six passed rapidly away.-I grew fast-manhood came on apace-every day the thrall of school-discipline became more irksome, and made me long to be emancipated. I had indeed sprung up with marvellous rapidity, and I looked with impatience to the moment when I should make my entrée on the world. Nor was I kept much longer in suspense, for a mandate from my father unexpectedly arrived, commanding my return to Kilcullen, and acquainting me that I had been gazetted to a second lieutenancy in the Twenty-first fusileers. With a joyous heart I took leave of my companions; exchanged forgiveness with the ushers; flung boyhood to the winds; and, ignorant of the world as an infant, at eighteen years, deemed myself in pride of heart a man.
It was singular enough that the day of my return also proved to be the anniversary of my birth ; and of this I was duly apprized by Sergeant Brady, as he unclosed the gate to let me in. Having returned the honest squeeze with which the non-commissioned officer
* A lofty mountain in the west of Ireland. where Roman Catholic penances are performed.
bade me welcome, I gave my horse to one of the eternal hangers-on whom I overtook lounging slowly home from the village tobacco-shop,. and passed through a sort of pleasure-ground that led directly to the house. Turning the hedge, I came suddenly on Susan, my mother's maid. She was spreading caps and muslins on the bushes—and, never before, did her eyes look so black, or her cheeks half so rosy. She uttered a faint scream.
“Holy Virgin! Master Hector, is it you?'
“ Arrah, Susan, my beauty, to be sure it is.” And with Hibernian affection we flew into each other's arms—and down went the basket with my mother's finery. I never reckoned the kisses I inflicted on the Abigail ; but, poor soul, to do her justice, she bore them patiently.
Go, Hector, dear,” she muttered poutingly, 6 there are holes in the hedge, and some one might tell the mistress. Then, as if the recent contact of our lips had for the first time exhibited its sinful impropriety, she crossed herself like a true catholic, and continued, as I
“Blessed Mary! had the priest seen us, I were undone. Lord! but he 's grown! Hark! I hear a foot. Hurry in, Master Hector. Your mother is dying to see you; and dinner has been waiting half an hour.”
My reception by my parents was as warm as it was characteristic. Both were in the drawing-room when I entered it; and in a moment I was locked in my mother's arms. 66 How handsome !” said she, as tears rolled down her cheeks. 66 Alas! that he should be devoted to that horrible profession, Denis, and that his name should some fatal day be recorded in that list of bloodshed which always damps the joy of victory;" and she pointed to the official account of a Peninsular battle which had that morning reached Kilcullen.
My father's was a very different reception. Moulded of sterner stuff, he eyed me as a crimp sergeant scrutinizes a doubtful recruit ; then shaking me by the hand, he proceeded regularly with his examination.
“ By the Lord! a finer lad never tapped a cartouch-box. Five feet eleven and a quarter at eighteen! He'll be size enough for the Lifeguards in a twelvemonth. Zounds! what is the woman snivelling about? Is it because her son comes home figure for a flanker, instead of growing a sneaking, shambling, round-shouldered, flat-footed, fish-eater, that the devil couldn't drill ? But here comes the summons to dinner.”
When the cloth had been removed, and my mother had retired, the Colonel reverted to the first grand movement in my life, on which he descanted most learnedly; and, a little military pedantry apart, his advice and opinions were sound and soldierly. He reprobated play-gave serious warnings against debt-discouraged gallantry, and inculcated the necessity of duelling. He lamented, in the course of his harangue, the loss of my ancient preceptor Father Dominic; to himself, he stated, that the loss was irreparable—he could not, unfortunately, drink the left hand against the right, nor uncork a bottle without being bothered by a d--d servant. He complained that he felt a twinge in his infirm shoulder-well, that was rheumatism ; he had also an obnubilation in his eyes, but that was bile; it could not be what
he drank :-by the way, he had two bottles of Page's best in.--He should go to bed-exhorted me to be up at cock-crow-gave me some parting admonitions—an order on a Dublin tailor for an outtit-a bundle of country bank-notes--his blessing into the bargain-shook my handand, with the assistance of Sergeant Brady, toddled off to his apartment.
The Commander was scarcely gone, when Susan's black eye peered into the room cautiously, to ascertain that all was quiet.
“ Hist! Master Hector ! Is the Colonel gone to bed ?”
“He's safe for the night, my fair Susan. The house is all our own. Come in-shut the door, for I want to confess you”.
“ And finish the godly exercise you commenced in the flower-garden! No, no, Master Hector; no more of that. Come, your mother wants to see you alone—I'll light you to her dressing-room.”
I attended the demoiselle immediately, and was inducted to her lady's chamber. When the door opened I found her seated at a work-table, with a book of religious exercises and a huge rosary before her. Bursting into tears, she clasped me to her bosom, and muttered in an under voice, “Sit down, Hector-many months have elapsed since we met, and many more may probably pass over before we meet again. And so they have destined you for that horrible profession--and you are going to-morrow ?”
“ Yes, madam, by peep of day.”
“Well, Hector, will you in one thing oblige me, and grant your mother a request ?”
“Undoubtedly, madam.” She placed a purse in my hand-and taking from the leaves of her Missal a small silken bag, opened my shirt collar, and bound it round my neck. I smiled at the ceremony, and submitted. It was, of course, some charm or reliquary; and though the one-armed commander would have laughed, at what he would have considered on my part a symptom of apostasy, I thought it was no crime to carry an inch or two of silk upon my person, when my compliance would render happy a mother who loved me so tenderly.
“Hector," said she, after investing me with this important amulet, “promise, for my sake, that you will wear it night and day ; and, until misfortune overtakes, and all other hope fails—which Heaven grant may never happen !--that you will not unclose the cover, or read the writing of the Gospel."*
I gave the pledge she required ; took an affectionate leave ; and, lighted by Susan, returned to the parlour.
Lobbies, like flower-knots, are dangerous places for adieux ! Poor Susan was faintly remonstrating against a second kiss, when a third actor popped upon the stage unexpectedly, and terminated at once the contest. The intruder was my foster-brother. All parties evinced annoyance'; Marc Antony looked very silly, and the demoiselle, bounding up the stairs, leaned over the balustrades, and spoke a hurried farewell.
* Gospels are worn in Ireland as a protection against diseases and " diablerie.”
“ Heaven bless you, Master Hector-mind your poor mother's parting words, and all prosperity attend you.” Then, turning a wrathful look at the “fosterer,"* she continued, “Don't mind what that false villain says. Ah, you wicked wretch ! are you not afraid the roof will fall ?” and, shaking her clenched hand at him, vanished.
What could have roused the anger of the dark-eyed Abigail was to me a puzzle : I entered the parlour, and the crest-fallen fosterer followed, and closed the door.
Why, Marc, what's the matter? Your old friend, Susan, seems in but indifferent temper with you.”
Mr. O'Toole fiddled with his hat, picked the wool off by pinches, and appeared wofully confused.
“Did you want me, Marc? or was it Susan you were looking for?”
“I just wanted to speak to you,” said my foster-brother, “ for fear I should miss you in the morning.'
“ Well, Marc, here I am.”
“ I'm going, Master Hector, to try my fortune either in England, or the North." “What! and quit my father's service ? Think well of this, Marc.”
Why, troth, I can't hold the place, and all on account of an accident."
“ Indeed! what happened you ?”
Marc picked the hat anew. “ I'm in the middle of trouble, and the sooner I'm off, the better."
“ Broken heads or broken vows ; or, probably, a mixture of both ?”
“ Devil a head I broke since the fair of Carrick, and the Carneys brought it on themselves; and in honesty I'm at every man's defiance," returned the fosterer.
“ Then what would you do in England, may I ask ?”
“What would I do in England ?” he repeated, like an echo. “Can't I do anything ?- shear, mow, wisp a horse, whip hounds, jump two-and-twenty feet, throw stone and sledge—and take my own part in fair and pattern ?”
“Friend Marc, most of these accomplishments would only secure you a lodging in the cage, or a settlement in the stocks. But, in a word, what brings you away
“ Just Biddy O'Dwyer, the dairymaid—the devil's luck attend her!” “Phew! Go on, Marc.” “ She wants me to marry her !” And, I suppose,
has pressing reasons for making the request ?” “ The devil a reason, only she took me to a cake.”+ “I comprehend the rest."
“ Feaks! it was all her own fault-she would keep dancing to the last. The night was dark, and we were hearty.f I lost my way—and she her character.”
* Anglicè, foster-brother.
+ Cakes are nightly assemblies common in the west of Ireland, and holden for the purposes of dancing, drinking, and courting. In returning from these festive meetings, ladies' reputations and gentlemen's skulls are occasionally severely damaged.
* Anglicè, nearly drunk.
“ Well! and why not repair the damage, Marc ?”
“ Is it me! and she four years older ? By this book”-and he kissed his hat religiously — " for all the ladies and priests that ever wore cap or vestment, I would not marry ye, Kitty O'Dwyer!”
“Well, Marc, you are upon this point the best judge."
“ There's no use in concealing anything, and you, my foster-brother, Master Hector. Kitty’s a great Catholic, and a Carmelite to boot—and my lady and Father Grady will fairly banish me the country, when they hear that it was through me she got the blast.”
“Rebel, Marc ! Refuse, point-blank. HIold out manfully-and neither priest, nor bishop, can make you marry,
don't like it." “ And then I'll be made a world's wonder of !” and Marc Antony groaned at the very thought. “ Called out in the chapel-cursed from the altar—bundled off to Ball— trotted up Croagh Patrick-ay, and as Father Grady will stick to Kitty like a burr, I may be despatched to Lough Dharg * with gravel in my shoes.”
“ Bad enough, Marc. And pray what is to be done?” “ The devil a choice have I left," said the fosterer, with a groan, good, bad, nor indifferent, but list or turn Protestant." “ Awkward alternatives."
Marc smiled. “ And would I not have an elegant life of it afterwards in the servants'-hall ? Sorra two men in the house that I can't lick; but what could I do with the women? No, no, Master Hector! -I'll list.” “ Think of it, Marc.”
“I have thought of it already. The priest and my lady will hear all in the morning, and, faith, I'll give them leg-bail in the meantiine. Are you not going to Dublin, Master Hector." “ I am.”
Then, by the blessin' of God, there will be two of us there soon. “ Marc, have you any money ?”
“Not a rap—but plenty for the taking it. I never go to Boyle upon a message, but there are half-a-dozen crimps at my and every recruiting party that
, eyes me as if I had the cockade already mounted."
“ If you are determined, Marc, I shall say nothing more ; but before you choose your regiment, let me know, and probably the Colonel may stand your
friend.” “ That I will, Master Hector. But, Holy Virgin, what an uproar the house will be in when they miss me in the morning! The priest roaring here—my lady sending there—Kitty singing wirrestruet in the dairy—and the ould Colonel delighted at the rookawn, and shouting Devil mend her!”
I laughed heartily at Marc's fanciful description of a scene, which his absence would so certainly occasion.
“ I must be off,” continued the fosterer, “and mind, Master Hector, we'll meet when you least expect it.”
I slipped a bank-note into the fosterer's hands—Marc disappeared* A holy lake in the north of Ireland. †“Och wirrestrue,” an Irish lamentation.