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I AM MISTAKEN FOR A GAUGER-IN IRELAND, A GREAT MISTAKE.
“ It was a wild and strange retreat
As ere was trod by outlaws' feet."-SCOTT.
As I had no ambition to make a Turkish exit, and cause a vacancy in the Twenty-first Fusileers, to use a bull
, “ even before it was filled,” I submitted with Christian fortitude, and held my peace accordingly, Unresisted, the captors bore me across a shingly beach; for I heard the loose stones rattle as their hurried steps displaced them. In a few minutes they reached a boat, and bundled me in with scanty ceremony,
“ honest Jack” was ejected into Datchet Mead. Directly, several men jumped across the thwarts—the keel grated on the gravel—the oars fell rapidly on the water-and away we went, Heaven knew whither!
On leaving the beach, my captors appeared to consider a longer silence unnecessary; for they laughed and jested with each other, although what seemed marvellous good fun to them, was death to me.
“Good night, Tom,”—said a pleasant gentleman from the shore,“God bless the venture! sure it's the first ye carried of the kind !”
“Don't,” observed a second,“ make mistakes; men are not malt; and be sure ye don't give the contents of yonder sack a steeping.”
“I have done worse however, before now," returned a rough voice beside me, “and on my poor conscience, I think a few stones in the bottom of the bag would make all right, and save both time and trouble.”
Supposing it no harm to share a conversation in which I was so essentially concerned, I muttered an indistinct dissent.
“ What's that he's mumbling about ?" inquired a person in the boat's bow.
“ And what's that to you?” was politely responded by my next neighbour, as he applied knuckles, hard as ebony, to my ribs, I presume to enforce his admonition. “ Badda-hurst,* or I'll slip you across the gunnel before you have time to bless yourself. Pull, will ye? Hurry to the island; for before this time I should have been half way to Carrick Beg, instead of ferrying blackguard gaugers to Innisteagles.”
Ferrying blackguard gaugers! What did the fellow mean? It was a singular observation, and I ventured to remark it.
“What-muttering again!” replied the voice. “ Can you swim, friend?”
I managed to answer, that “I had never tried it, tied neck and heels together."
* Hold your tongue.
« Then by
rejoined my agreeable companion, with a second application of his fist, “ if you open your lips before we part company, over you go!”
There was no mistaking him. We were on a deep lake, and I had a determined gentleman to deal with ; so I resolved accordingly to remain still as a mouse, and preserve a dignified silence.
I suspect that my decision was a wise one. From broken observations which I overheard, I soon found that the voyage was about to terminate. I felt in mortal tribulation. Suspense, however, was quickly ended. The keel grated on the sand—strange voices welcomed my guard of honour, and told that my island was not,“ like Crusoe’s,” uninhabited. The sack being lifted out and laid upon the sward, a parting glass was emptied to my better health amidst uproarious peals of merriment. Presently, the parties bade each other good night; and those who had brought me re-embarked, rowed merrily away, and left me in a pleasant uncertainty on a very.important point, and that was whether I should be sunk or smothered.
And yet, from the jocular demeanour of the islanders and the immediate departure of my abductors, I felt half assured that no truculent design upon my life was meditated after all. This was consolatory, certainly; although an interrupted journey,—imprisonment in a sack,a lost mare, and a despoiled portmanteau,—all these were bad enough. Short space for sombre communings was allowed. Two pair of lusty arms lifted me from the ground, bore me through a narrow and difficult pass, placed me on my legs, and untied the bag, when down dropped the canvass,—and when I could see distinctly, a strange scene presented itself.
I had felt a glow of increasing heat, and could perceive a stream of light strengthen gradually as we penetrated the thick brush-wood. At first, dazzled by the blaze, objects were more like a confused vision than reality ; but presently my eyes became accustomed to the glare, and I found myself surrounded by several huge fires, at which nearly a score of men were busily engaged in illicit distillation. In my mountain walks, I had frequently discovered in some secluded valley a smuggler engaged in this lawless vocation ; but the hovel and apparatus were so slightly constructed and so easily removed, that at the first intimation of danger the still was carried off, the fire extinguished, the sheeling torn down, and nothing left but a heap of sods and rubbish to console the gauger on his arrival, by proving that his information had been most correct, and the distillers far too watchful. But here, every thing was constructed on a permanent and extensive scale, which evinced a perfect feeling of security, or the determination, at all risks, of continuing this lawless and demoralizing trade. On furnaces of solid masonry three large stills were working, -numerous wooden vessels were filled with potale,--and sacks of malt and barley, kegs containing spirits, and an abundant supply of peat-fuel, everywhere met the eye. Contiguous to the fires, sundry hovels were erected; the walls of turf, and roofs of heather-designed, it would appear, for the accommodation of a number of swine and their proprietors ; and both, in point of comfort, seemed to be on a precise equality. The brute and the biped were indeed happily associated ; for the ragged clothes, haggard looks, bleared eyes, and that halfdrunken stupidity, which an endless tasting of ardent spirits always produces, showed, as they flitted back and forward in the red and Iurid atmosphere, a group of beings that might be safely classed as low even in the lowest grade of civilized society.
My supporters left me, and retired to a cabin apart from the other hovels; while I underwent a careless examination by some swart figures, who occasionally passed me bearing turf to the furnaces. Relieved from a most annoying species of restraint, I felt little apprehension for the future, although the cause for which I had been kidnapped remained as much a mystery as ever. In a few minutes, a man tapped me on the shoulder, and bade me “ follow and fear nothing.” I obeyed. He led me to the retired hut whither my quondam friends had gone before ; and there I found them quite at their ease, refreshing themselves most liberally after their successful exertions in my arrest and deportation.
It was a rude, but not uncomfortable hovel; cribs and sleepingplaces occupying one end, and a fire of charred turf blazing in the other. In the centre stood a rough bench, on which were spread plates of the coarsest delft, an earthen greybeard containing undiluted whisky, a jug of water, and a couple of horn drinking cups; while a tallow candle, stuck in an iron trivet, lighted this uninviting board.
Other objects, and of a very different description, met the eye. In a remote corner of the cabin a score of rusted firelocks were loosely piled; and, on the couples of the rafters, sundry fishing-rods and gaffs, a draft-net, and an eel-spear, were deposited. All indicated a lawless community and wild existence ; while a forbidding-looking hag, broiling steaks upon the coals,—which operation a rough and brindled lurcher was contemplating with fixed attention,-completed a strange, but interesting picture of savage life.
“ Are you hungry?” inquired one of my abductors, with tolerable civility.
“ Not particularly," I replied ; 66 confinement in a sack does not generally improve the appetite."
“ Were you hurt by the fall ?”
“ Not much; although I fancy it would have been to you a matter of small consideration whether I broke my neck or scratched my finger.” Why, then,” responded the second ruffian; “
upon my soul, I should have regretted it; for, to give the devil his due, you took the brook and bridge in sporting style. She's a sweet mare, that. There was a day I could have ridden her to fortune. I began life, sir, a whipper to Lord Longford.”
Then, friend, I must in candour tell you, that you have not changed for the better.”
“ I fear I have not”-and the fellow sighed heavily.
“ But, may I inquire, wherefore I am deprived of liberty, after having been waylaid, robbed, and nearly murdered ?” The whipper shook his head, while his companion roughly desired
me to ask no impertinent questions; then, pointing to the table, on which the hag had placed a quantity of broiled mutton-apparently sufficient for a dozen persons instead of three—he added, in a more encouraging tone, “ Take a seat, neighbour; there are few in our trade would treat a gauger so civilly.”.
“ What do you mean?” I exclaimed. “ Fellow, I am no gauger." “ And pray what do you call yourself ?” he added, with a smile. “ An officer.”
Well, it's all the same—a gauger and a revenue officer are brothers' children.”
“ I am not in the revenue, but the army-I am a lieutenant in the Twenty-first Fusileers."
“ The devil you are !” ejaculated the whipper, with marked surprise. Pray, sir, are you not Mr. Parker ?” “ No, my name is O'Halloran.” “ Of what family?” said the other ruffian. “ The family of Kilcullen.”
“ Hell and furies !” exclaimed both together. “What is the meaning of all this? I fancy we are in the centre of a hobble. Are you, sir, son of Colonel O'Halloran ?”
“ I am.”
-the left he lost in Holland.”
The quondam whipper gave a long and significant whistle; while his companion started up and left the hut abruptly, although the Leonora of the smugglers' hovel called loudly after him, that “the steaks were cooling."
He was but a brief space absent; and returned accompanied by an old grey-headed, blear-eyed, and besotted wretch, who instantly commenced a rigid scrutiny of my
features. From the first moment, he expressed doubt and disappointment. “ What the devil !” said the ruffian who had brought him to examine
-“ what are you shaking your head at, old boy?”
Nothing ; but you have bagged the wrong fox,” replied the stranger. “A nice job you have made of it, Murty Doolan!”
“ Why, is'nt that Parker the gauger ?”
“ Parker, the devil !” rejoined the old man. “ It's as much Parker as it is my grandmother. Ye blind beggar, this chap has a straight eye, and Parker could squint through a bugle horn. He ! he ! he !" and he chuckled at his own wit ; "wait till somebody hears it. Ah, this comes of not taking my advice—this comes of employing strangers."
“ Well,” said the whipper, “there's no help for spilt milk. What's to be done, Gaffer? Can't we grab the right one yet?”