« ПредишнаНапред »
and straining at the peak halliards with all their might. Another, dressed in a tattered blue jacket and trowsers, and red waistcoat, sat upon one of the corn-bags, swinging his leg to and fro, and looking up at the clouds; and at the helm was the identical Tony Taafe, but not one-third of the size he was formerly, when Brian knew him, though even then not considered a tall man. Amidst all his amazement, however, nothing appeared so extraordinary to him, as to see his master's favourite gray mare stuck in the midst of the oat-bags, and her new saddle and bridle on. What it takes minutes to describe, is seen in a twinkling. The outer half of his right eye had hardly risen above the edge of the hatchway, in view of these marvels, when he was spied by the little man at the foresheet, and almost as instantly tumbled back into the cabin, by a kick on the forehead, which, though from a limb little stouter than the shank of a curlew, came as weighty and effective as if it had been achieved by the strongest horse in the county...
It would have been all tolerably well, if the business had ended there, but in the turning of a hand, and before Brian had well recovered the stunning effects of the salutation he had received, down hopped five or six of them, with Tony and the forecastle man at their head, screeching and screaming after him. He now began seriously to entertain suspicions that his last hour was at hand, and stretching over his arm, made a last effort, by pinching and nudging, to awaken Darby, but he lay as sound as the seven sleepers, indifferent or insensible to all his attempts. Brian, at length, went so far as to whisper his name in his ear, when another blow of the same tiny foot by which he had before suffered, stretched him as helpless, though not quite as unconscious as his comrade.
He now found 'twas better to take things quietly, and, lying as motionless and almost as breathless as a corpse, contented himself with observing, from beneath his depressed eyelids, in what manner they intended to dispose of him. It soon appeared that they had either forgotten him altogether, or, perhaps, fancied he had already been put beyond the pale of interference, for they at once gathered round the hearth, as if there was no one in the cabin but themselves, and placing two or three sods of turf upright in the centre of the ashes, had them a-blaze in a moment; a circumstance the more remarkable, as the last spark of fire had gone out two or three hours before, A gray-headed, crabbed-looking old crone, with her hair combed back, and a three-cornered handkerchief tied close over it, whom Brian had not noticed hitherto, now threw down a wallet off her shoulders, and, dragging out dead rabbits, hens, chickens, with several animals of a rarer description, not included in Brian's zoological table, cast them, one by one, into a small iron pot, till she had as many, one would swear, as might fill a moderate sized washing tub, and yet they scarcely occupied one-half of the little iron receptacle. She then uncorked a bottle, which was slung in a belt at her left breast, like a little ink-horn, and emptied it among the above-mentioned fare. It was new wonder to Brian to see it keep pouring, pouring, without apparent exhaus tion, until at least a gallon of a redish kind of liquor, not unlike wine, was obtained, which she stirred up carefully by means of a long rod, with the rest, while the turf blazed up merrily about the vessel, and very soon set it boiling.
As the light now began to penetrate the thick volumes of smoke that floated about the circle, sometimes envelop ing it in dense clouds, sometimes rising towards the deck above, and unveiling only indistinct and misty forms, it fell in quivering and uncertain gleams on the faces and garments of the company. Brian gradually caught in the momentary lighting up, looks and features not wholly new to him. The greater part, however, were perfect stran. gers, and formed the busiest and most talkative part of the group. No one could think of half what they said,
they spoke so fast, and there was so great an uproar; but such points of the dialogue as more directly appertained to himself, made too deep an impression on Brian's mind to be forgotten.
" Aren't you the droll boy, then, Tommy Meehan,” observed the little red-vested man, of whom, before, honourable mention has been made, “and to set Jem Driscoll's boat adrift, off Sod Island ? ” “ May be 'twasn't of his own airning, why," replied a hoarse voice, from the centre of a column of smoke to windward.“ Wasn't I listening to him, at Mrs. Quinlivan's, on Saturday night last, and the crowd about, and he making his fun of us; over his noggin ?”
“ Begannies, 'tis paying the reckoning he is now, any way,” observed the man of the foresheet. “ Struck upon the Beeves, I'll be bail, with a plank or two driven in."
“ You ought to hold your tongue about that same, at any rate, Paddy,” rejoined the voice; “'tis little help to your foot awhile ago, that would have made Brian Kena nedy a dish for the porpoises.”
“ There's reason in every thing,” retorted Paddy, “ for what did the blackguard prisume to be spying and obsarting us ? 'tisn't to that traitment ho'll be trusting, if I comes acrass him again." .
Brian here shut his eyes so close, that he could get but very indistinct glimpses of the speakers.
“ Shasthone!” ejaculated the withered little huntsman on the left, in a tone that partook half of surprise, and half of disapproval, “ 'tis well you have the mending hand, any how, if 'twas at the murthering itself; but I'm thinking there's better employment than to be talking at all of it, and the master's gray mare, all in a lather, in the hold. Who's to take her home, eroo ?”
Who but them that brought her, and had the riding of her?” cried Tony Taafe, now turning round, and joining in the conversation for the first time," who but Tommy Meehan?"
“ E'then, bad 'cess to her for a garron,” ejaculated Tom, assenting, “ 'tis little divarsion I had out of her; but (jogging the old woman's elbow) come, Granny, give us a taste o' your cooken, av we are to be on the trot.”
The pot was immediately drawn out to the edge of the hearth, and the crone, rousing herself up, commenced serving them in turn with a cup of steaming liquor. They all seemed to drink with great relish, and got very merry, especially honest Tony, who became so good-humoured, that Brian had a strong inclination to speak to him, and, indeed, eventually took an opportunity, when he was leaning back in a fit of laughter, to whisper in his ear, “ Erah, Tony, is it you in earnest, that's there?” But Tony stopped laughing, and looked at him in astonishment, never saying a word for some time. At last, stooping over when nobody was looking, he muttered in a low tone, “ Brian Kennedy, if you value the life that's in you, ?tisn't for the likes of you to spake to us.". Just at the same' moment, Paddy of the foresheet, who had drunk more than the rest, in the height of his good-humour, and perhaps somewhat repentant of his late harsh treatment of Brian, demanded a cup of the beverage for him, a piece of generosity which was hailed with acclaim' by the whole party, and nothing was heard all around, but astounding shouts of “ A cup for Brian Kennedy !” “A cup for Brian Kennedy !” Meantime he was roused up by his neighbour Tony, that he might be aware of the honour intended him.
Brian, who had often heard of the danger of partaking fairy food, and how irrecoverably unsuspicious poor fellows had been kidnapped away in that manner, rose up like a man about to swallow poison. He stared around the circle again and again, with a dubious, inquisitive look, as it were to catch some friendly hint, or to question the risk, by diving into the eyes of the company. They were all sparkling with delight, and at length, half assured, he was raising the cup to his lips, when the sedate face of
his old friend, Shamus Rhue, caught his attention in the corner. He thought he saw him wink at him, once or twice, and, only that he had at the same moment stirred up the ashes in his pipe with his finger, to which it might possibly be an accompaniment, Brian could not mistake the hint. A shake of the head, the next minute, decided the matter, and so terrified was he at the warning, that he instantly let fall the vessel, inadvertantly ejaculating a loud “Lord save us !” as it went to pieces. There was an instant clear decks among the gentlemen, as is usual when any pious invocation is made use of in their presence; a circumstance which never fails to excite their eternal enmity. A whirring noise announced their dispersion in all directions, and before it had done vibrating in his ears, Brian found himself in utter darkness, by the side of Darby Whelan.
He did not venture to stir, scarce to breathe, for a little ,while, but every thing being still and lonesome about him, he at last gradually lifted up the lid of one eye, and then of another, and, looking round, was highly delighted to see the gray of the morning peeping in at the hatchway. Full of apprehension lest Tom Meehan should have got hold of the helm in the night-voyage, and put the boat up on some shoal, or reef of rocks, he stole silently on deck, and glanced, tremblingly, to the land and water about her. 'Twould be difficult to say whether his joy or his astonishment was greatest, to find the Coobah just beginning to float, in the very spot where they had run her on the mud on the previous evening. He instantly fell dancing on the forecastle, swinging his arms, snapping his fingers, and kicking the sheets and oars about, until Darby, awakened by so tremendous a noise, poked his head up, wrapped in its greasy cloth nightcap, and opened his eyes, as if Brian had fallen out of the moon. The latter continued his extravagance, nevertheless, but, after putting Darby's patience a little to the test, and enjoying his perplexed stare, he conde