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“Paris,” said she, in a whisper, “far be it from me even to give the remotest hint where or on whom you should bestow the fruit. I would not for the world attempt to influence the decision of one so wise, so just, so discriminative; but, I must say, the fame and admiration of your wisdom long since induced me to regard you with an eye of favour. You understand me?”
She retired, and Minerva, following her example, advanced with becoming dignity to the bench, and thus “ ear-wigged” the puzzled arbitrator.
“ Wisdom is light !” said she.
“ And has great weight with me,” replied Paris, bowing; “ and I admire the sage Minerva, from the beak of her owl to the toe of her blue-stocking.”
“ I have no doubt,” continued the goddess," that that minx, Juno, with her great staring eyes, has endeavoured to dazzle your judgment with great promises. But remember, most upright judge, that knowledge alone is power, and without any wish to bias your verdict (for I heartily despise so mean and unwarrantable a tampering), I promise you-provided my expectations of your intellectual discrimination and probity are confirmed-to bestow on you the best quarto edition of the
Statutes at Large' and 'Burns' Justice.' Pauca verba, you know rerbum sap. :"-and, winking significantly, she made way for the enchanting Venus, who, in her turn, tripped with the most winning grace to the side of Paris.
“Really, Paris,” said she, smiling archly, “ 'tis a thousand pities so charming a youth should disguise himself in that odious gown and wig. They may do very well to conceal the wrinkles and deformities of all those babbling old fools whom yonder 'blue' is so fond of patronising; but on a proper man like you they are truly absurd. I know one of the prettiest women in the world, who, entre nous, would soon laugh you out of this masquerading, and make you the happiest man alive. She has charms enough to set all Troy in fames—she is morcover over head and ears in love with you already: but I shall have the pleasure of introducing you, for, as a matter of course, you will adjudge the golden prize to me; justice no less than gallantry demands this at your hands. Why, a single glance at her bewitching countenance is worth a bushel of pippins.
Withdraw !” said Paris, sternly, as if indignant at being so entreated; and then slowly rising, he again regarded for a few moments the three goddesses, who were drawn up in a line before him for his judicial review.
“Would I had three pippins," said he, “ that I might grant to each of these fair ladies the desire of their hearts. When I look upon the noble and majestic beauty of the imperial Juno, and the sweet face of Minerva, beaming bright with the fire of immortal intellect, the scales of justice waver in my trembling hand. Their charms are balanced equally; but when I turn my eyes upon Venus, I feel that I am mortal -her beauty is less majestic, less intellectual, but more earthly-and, as a man, I bow to her influence, and adjudge her the golden pippin." And bending lowly upon his knee, he presented the fruit to the delighted Venus.
“ He's no judge !” said Minerva, turning away in a pet.
“ He's a fool!” said Juno, her fair complexion growing scarlet with vexation and disappointment.
The bride and bridegroom had stolen away during the discussion, and the meeting presently broke up in most admired disorder, to the infinite pleasure of the envious Discord.
As they paired off, Momus said to Apollo, “ What a precious dessert to a wedding-feast! First, a meddler, unknown, provides an apple of contention, which Venus carries away, making my sweet mistress Juno and Minerva a melancholy pair-and then comes the judgment of Master Paris, which I have no hesitation in saying is nuts to Jupiter !"
A SPORTING BET.
The Gordon Highlanders, the Limerick county militia, and a brigade of Artillery, constituted, in the year 1811, the garrison of Athlone. Its central situation, and the extensive works which had been constructed on its north-west side, required, at least, as large a military force as the above for the various guards daily mounted over the barracks, ordnance stores, and the lines.
The best possible feeling existed between the officers of these regiments, although the gallant Highlanders maintained, on all occasions, an air of conscious superiority over their militia friends.
It was my good fortune to be on terms of friendship with both corps. That worthy son of Caledonia, Lamont of Lamont, would greet me with a hearty shake of the hand, and “Hoo's a' wi' ye the day ?” whilst the courtly old peer, Lord Muskerry, had a kind word to say, in the blandest brogue. So much for the colonels. Majors, captains, and subs were all known to me, many of the two latter grades my companions in divers choice pieces of mischief; but I am not going to relate any adventure of my own, and have only made the above remarks, as my good feeling towards both nations is in a measure of consequence to the story I now venture to relate.
I was lounging one morning at the door of the 92nd mess-room, with a bevy of kilted cronies, when our attention was attracted by an arrival in the barrack-square. A fine lad, who had joined the Limerick only a few days, rode through the gates. He was not a native of the county to which his regiment belonged, but boasted of high Milesian blood, doubtless with abundant right to such a distinction, his father being an apothecary in Newtownlimavaddy, and withal most celebrated for the wondrous cures which he had wrought on quadrupedal patients ; not that I mean to insinuate this “ physicianer" was nothing better than a " cow-doctor ;" but the district in which he resided was remarkable for the salubrity of its air, ae affecting the “humane species," and for a variety of diseases among hoofed and horned cattle.
But to the son and heir of this Irish farrier-surgeon and bulls' apothecary. No sooner was he aware that our gaze was upon him than he insidiously applied the spur, promoting various capers and caracoles, " to
witch the world with noble horsemanship;" nor did he cease to display his proficiency in the mysteries of the manège, as he approached the barracks; on the contrary, he caused his steed to rear, kick, and plunge so violently, and so very near the mess-room door, that it was a service of danger any longer to watch the evolutions of this Connaught Centaur.
“ Ech, my man, be carefu’; d'ye no ken the stanes are het and slippery ? ye may get a fa’ before ye’r aware o't,” considerately remurked the good-hearted old Major
Och, the devil a fear, Mejur! I'd like to see the horse that could spill me,” replied the youngster. “ It's only the feed he gets that makes him so full of spirit; he's been used to’t in my father's stables, who has as ilegant a stud of hunters and racers as ever you seen.”
“ And which, Sir, may I ask,” continued the Major, “ do you denominate your chesnut ?”
“Why, he's aqual to aither ; I'd hunt him in Roscommon, or match him at the Curragh, for any sum under a thousand.”
The poor half-starved, ewe-necked hack had, during this dialogue, stood perfectly quiescent, so we descended from our place of vantage, and, much to the surprise of the lad, took a regular survey of this “ high charactered” animal, determined to derive entertainment from man and horse.
As pretty a pair of broken knees as I ever beheld,” remarked one. “ You're a mighty big judge of horse-flesh,” replied the rider, colouring up to the eyes at the unlucky discovery; a mere graze the crature got, topping a six-foot dyke.”
“How wad he come on his knees, in crossing a dyke, Sir? the thing's no possible! Certes, ye may baith have stuck in the mud; but supposing that the dyke were perfectly dry, the banks woudna be that hard as to cause sic an awfu' disfigurement as yon.”
“ It would be mighty well, Sir, for you when you talk about anything to know what you're talking about," retorted the vexed equestrian. “ Them as knows their mother tongue can tell you that in Ireland the English for dyke means stone wall. And if any of ye has a fancy to go out schooling * with me, I'll engage to show you some sporting leaps, that ye'll not be in any kind of hurry to take yourselves."
" That's a tolerably good imitation of a string halt,” observed another
“Now, you're out; it's only the remains of a strain he got the day he won the cup at Ballyswillyhooleystown; but I'm not going to stand here to have my horse-beiter naver was crossed--pulled to paces by them as don't wear the convayniances for riding. I wonder where that lazy vagybone of a groom of mine is ? I must send the Bar’ny boy to stable and get ready for the afternoon drill. The devil ride a-hunting with our serjeant-major that has the impertinence to say I'll not be fit for duty this month!”
“ Couldn't you prevail on Lord Muskerry to let you fall in on horse back ?" asked Captain R— with a somewhat malicious expression.
“Nabochlish !" returned the Milesian. “I know 'tis funning me ye are, but I'm not so 'aisily hated’as poor Larry in the song was ; so onc't for all, if you are for a match,”—and again the armed heel of the speaker made the poor beast curvet,—" I'll run against any of yez !"
* The game of “ Follow the leader” ou horseback,
of the party.
“ Hoot, man! don't run against me!” cried little Wallis the quartermaster, who was at the moment trying to make his way through the group to the colonel's rooms. “ Ye micht keep your garron still, I think ; it's just sinfu' to be digging them great butchers' spurs into the ribs of the beast, for the Lord kens there's nae flesh on the back of it to cover him.' her" Come, come, Wallis," cried Captain R-,“ don't disparage the noble animal ; it's a racer, man, and has won a cup.”
the likes o' that skaleton a racer? I'd wager a year's pay that I'd find a beast to beat him in a month."
“ There's a sporting bet for you, Sir,” said Captain M‘P;" will you take it ?"
“Let's hear what it is,” replied the equestrian, dismounting from his steed, and handing him over to the charge of a soldier in a fatigue jacket, who had previously been named with the brevet rank of groom.
“ It's this just,” answered Wallis. “I'll undertake to race a beast o' mine against that poor, miserable, herrin’-gutted animal o'yours, within a month from this very day, on condition, d'ye perceive, that fourand-twenty hours' nottis o' time and place be deemed good and sufficient on my part, and that the choice of the ground to be run over,
the coorse, ye ken, be left entirely to me; and the stakes shall amount to the vally of a month's pay, and no the twelve I was fule-like eneuch to name the noo."
As there was a numerous clan of little Wallis's running about in the worthy Quarter-master's quarters, I took the liberty of saying
“ Excuse me, my good Sir, but recollect you will have all the expense of training, &c.; supposing we make up a purse of ten guineas amongst us, and let the officers of the Limerick know that a day's sport is intended, they will join in the fun with pleasure, and back the Barony boy,' for such is the name of this high-mettled racer !"
“ I'll back the Bar'ny boy meself entirely, without being beholden to any one,” was the spirited remark of the owner of the animal.
“ Barney boy or Blarney boy, is it a bet ?” asked Wallis, drily.
“ It is, for tin guineas-that's eleven pounds seven and six-pence Irish,-done!”
“And noo, gentlemen,” said Wallis, “ I think we cou'dna do better than appoint Maister Hell the umpire, for ye see its a sort of a- -kind of a naational competetion ; the lad's Irish, and sa are a’ his freends ; we're frae the land o' cakes, Hell's an Englisher, and sae ye see he'll no be prejudeeced on ane side or tither.”
“Bravo, Wallis! ye're a canny chiel, and your choice is accellent," said the Major: “ will you take the office, my freend ?” he added, turning to me.
“Willingly, if the other party consents."
The young Hibernian, his handsome face beaming with good humour, and by no means displeased at his having thus suddenly become an object of interest to “ the Regulars,” advanced towards me, saying
“I'll be right glad, Sir, to have you for my umpire; I was promised to be made known to you by Major Spread the next time you dined at our mess."
“Let us waive ceremony, Sir," I replied ; “I shall be glad to cultivate your acquaintance, and you may be sure that I will exercise what
judgment I may possess most impartially in the responsible situation Mr. Wallis and yourself have been pleased to confer on me.”
The beat of drum broke up our meeting, my friends hastening to their rooms to put on belt, sword, and sash for the coming parade.
I shall not trespass on the patience of my reader by describing what passed during the month allowed for training, but content myself with saying that the frequent questions put to Wallis were invariably answered by,
“ Wait and ye'll see just. I'll win the race, ye may depend on’t, though I've hard that they Lim’rick lads are offering awfu’odds against me.'
This confidence on the part of the Quarter-master seemed to me well founded, as two or three times, whilst visiting the lines, I encountered him, with a smiling face, and a look of anticipated triumph. Why he should choose this particular locale for his daily walk I could not guess, as no stable existed nearer than the long range within the high walls of the barrack-square ; it was possible that he loved to promenade where, unobserved, he might calm his aspiring thoughts and elegant ideas, after visiting the Flying Childers he had chosen to humble the pride of the Barony boy's master.
It was within the time allowed, by a day or two, when I received notice that “ the match would come off” the next afternoon at three, and I was requested to attend at the spot selected by Wallis for the trial of speed and skill. It appeared to me a somewhat extraordinary place for the purpose, being no other than the interior of the works already mentioned ; and I must here apprise my reader that this irregular fortification consisted of two or three spacious bastions, connected by long walls, technically called curtains, presenting a formidable altitude on the exterior, but having broad ramparts within, on which the ordnance were placed, and where infantry could act if occasion required: the hollow space between these high banks of earth was not sufficiently capacious to allow of a ring or a straight course upon it, being incumbered with store-houses and piles of shot and shell.
Time would, however, bring truth to light; I should be sure to know all ere twenty-four hours had passed, and therefore awaited the event with patience. At an early hour of the day
“ The important day, Big with the fate of Wallis and his bel—" an unusual bustle was observable in the barrack-yard ; nor was the stir confined to the male part of its inhabitants ; it was evident that this wager had excited the most lively interest among the fair sex.
“ Ye'll gang and see the race, na doubt, Mestress M‘Alister ?” asked an old woman, whose grey hairs and decrepit figure ill accorded with the vivacious tone of her question.
“ I canna preceesly say whether or no I shall be able, Mem,” answered her friend; “ for I've nearly a'the hose and sarks o'twa companies—my gude man’s and ane the Adjetent ga' me-in the suds the noo, so I'll ha' to stick to my tub, I'm thinking, and lose the sight that I may na’ lose the siller, ye ken."