Графични страници
PDF файл

which he is sailing. He is entirely at the mercy of the wind in its circuits, and they are innumerable. The problem of aerial navigation can indeed never be solved until a balloon be invented of sufficient power to sustain a steamengine or some form of caloric-engendering contrivance. Then, steering the balloon will be perfectly practical.

As it happened, the editor of the journal I have hinted at was too much occupied just then with the French crisis, or the Regulation of Public Worship Bill, or the Decoration of St. Paul's Cathedral, or the Report of the Aldulteration of Food Committee, to pay any attention to my suggestions. Probably if I had written to M. de Groof to warn him that he would be killed, he would have bidden me mind my own business; or, in more courteous mood, he might have demonstrated to me, in elaborate diagrams, the thorough feasibility of his invention, and his capacity for flying in forty-eight hours from Battersea Bridge to the Straits of Malacca. Possibly had I called the attention of Mr. Baum to the matter, he might have threatened me with an action for libel, for hinting that anything of a nature likely to be perilous to life and limb was about to take place at his popular establishment. So I held my tongue; but just nine days after I had put on paper my conviction that the man would be killed, he and his machine came to grief in Robert Street, Chelsea, and he was, under circumstances of extreme horror, killed outright.

I should be the merest jackass that ever brayed, if I attempted to show that in predicting that this man would be killed, and that speedily, I possessed any but the most obvious means for assuming that the conclusion of his enterprise was proximate and, humanly speaking, must be certainly fatal. I have not the slightest claim to be a prophet; I have known too many prophets to be anxious to vatici nate on my own account. I am not so superstitious, I hope, as to have deprecated De Groof's attempt on the ground that it was "tempting Providence" to try to fly. One might as well say that the steam-engine and the electric telegraph, that printing and photography, were so many temptations of Providence. De Groof's leading errors were that he tempted Nature by wrestling with inadequate means against ascertained forces; that his process of mechanical reasoning was not inductive from successful experiments, but deductive from numerous failures; and that there was not really one atom of novelty in his so-called invention. Abating the wax, his wings were Icarian, and nothing more. Why I was led to conclude that he would perish was simply for these reasons: first, that during many years I had attentively studied the economy of all constructions of the parachute order, and had arrived at a sufficiently mathematical persuasion that the chances of your coming down sately in one of these machines were slighter than those of the precise number coming up on which you have put a stake at roulette (I do not speak of rouge et noir- therein the chances are frequently and strongly in favor of the player); and secondly, because I had once come down in a parachute myself, and that the fact of my having accomplished the feat (as involuntary as that of the cat in Hogarth's picture of which I spoke anon) without having been dashed to pieces, had rather strengthened than enfeebled my convictions as to the untrustworthiness of parachutes generally. The poor Belgian only fell eighty or a hundred feet or so into the street at Chelsea; it was my lot to fall five thousand two hundred and eighty feet- - that is to say, a mile. Half of the distance was accomplished in a balloon, the other half in a parachute, yet I am alive to tell the tale; and we had but one machine between us in which to do" the entire distance.

The thing happened in this wise, just three-and-twenty years ago. At that period — it was the year of the Great Exhibition the site of the Albert Hall at Kensington Gore was occupied by a very curious establishment called the "Symposium," a huge restaurant devoted to the practical illustration of the Cookery of All Nations, and conducted by the late Alexis Soyer, who had gained considerable celebrity as chef to the Reform Club, as the inventor of a variety of sauces and culinary appliances (he may be considered as the father of gas-stoves and "kitcheners," and

did an immense deal more than he was ever thanked for in teaching the poor to make that soup which they still refuse to eat, because it is associated in their prejudiced minds with the work house and the jail); and a very ingenious, versatile, facile, and upright man, who was not in reality a quark (any more than was Doctor Kitchener), although he dressed and talked and wrote in a quack-like manner. This, so far as style and manner are concerned, was likewise the failing of the amiable and erudite Kitchener. I have had cooks in my time who (wonderful to relate) were without prejudice, and who were quite willing to be taught; but I never could find one who could learn anything out of the "Cook's Oracle." They broadly stigmatized it as "rubbidge," or as "a lot of talk about nothing at all." The same objections, in other terms, have been urged against Soyer's "Gastronomic Regenerator" and his other works on cookery and domestic economy. Yet both the Doctor and Alexis were thoroughly practical cooks, and their works contain a vast number of really excellent recipes the utility of which is unhappily, in a multitude of cases, absolutely marred by the verbiage and the flim-flam of jocosity with which they are overlaid. You may be as funny as you like over a plum-pudding after it is cooked; but until you have got it well out of the pot it should be treated in a very serious manner. And in this connection I may remark that Mrs. Glasse (or rather the Scottish physician who wrote the cook-book attributed to that good lady) never perpetrated the bald witticism about "first catch your hare." Mrs. Glasse's instructions as to roasting puss commence thus: "First take your hare when it is cased," that is drawn and jointed, and ready for trussing.

Poor dear old Alexis was a very good friend of mine, with whom I had had many pleasant business transactions of a literary and artistic nature; and one brilliant afternoon in the summer of 1851 I went up to Gore House to see how he was going on, symposiacally. He was not progressing very prosperously. Gore House (it had once been the residence of William Wilberforce, and afterwards that of the Countess of Blessington and of Count d'Orsay) was just a hundred yards on the wrong side of the Exhibition building, the visitors to which, when they were sated with the marvels of the Indian court, and Osler's crystal fountain, and the wonderful creatures from Würtemberg, were generally more anxious to proceed in an easterly than in a westerly direction; that is to say, towards London proper than towards Kensington, Hammersmith, and Turnham Green. Had the Symposium been situated at Knightsbridge or at Hyde Park Corner, it would probably have become a great financial success; as it was, it was only visited for the sake of its quaint decorations by curiosity-hunters who did not come again; and it was out of the way of the general public. The poor chef and his partners, they are all dead, so that I am making no indiscreet revelations, who had invested many thousands of pounds in an unremunerative enterprise, were fain to do their best to render the place more attractive by converting it into a kind of Cremorne. There were illuminations, fire-works, fêtes de nuit at a shilling a head admittance, and so forth; and these junketings aroused the ire of those very punctilious censors of metropolitan morals, the Middlesex magistrates, so as to imperil the tavern license of the Symposium altogether.

On the afternoon of my arrival, in the company of a brother long since dead, at the Symposium, a balloon ascent was on the point of being made from a large meadow at the rear of Gore House, to which Soyer had given the whimsical name of "Le Pré d'Orsay." The machine, projected by some inventor whose name I cannot recall, - I think he was a surgeon,-presented some novel features in shape, but none in its machinery. It was cy lindrical rather than spheroidal in form; that is to say, it resembled a huge horizontally sailing sausage, instead of a vertically directed pear with the stalk undermost. Still, this sausage was incased in the ordinary net-work and dependent shrouds, encircled by the ordinary hoop, and sustained the ordinary car a big circular basket capable of containing four persons comfortably. I am not, at this length of time, quite certain as to whether the body of the " sau

[ocr errors]

sage" balloon was provided with two valves, one at each end of the cylinder, or whether there was but a solitary trap for the emission of gas at the convexity of the summit. However, this valve or valves had the common shape of two flaps opening inwards; the cords by which they were governed passing through the belly and coming through the neck of the balloon. What purpose the inventor conceived that he could serve by fashioning his machine as a cylinder in lieu of a spheroid, I am quite unable to say. However, like most inventors under similar circumstances, he was very proud of his big ugly windbag, and asserted his ability to do all kinds of grand things in her. A balloon is always "she."

[ocr errors]

When I came into the midst of the Pré d'Orsay, I found the aerial ship "Sausage" in process of inflation, with her car prone to the ground, and a score or so of men holding her down by means of ropes, while she was being slowly filled with ambient air by the officials from the gas works. There was a crowd of curious spectators surrounding the machine; but I did not hear that any adventurous gentlemen of the genus "swell" had proposed to invest five guineas apiece for deck passages on board, or rather on basket, the "Sausage." A lord had half promised to come, but he did n't show. A cornet and sub-lieutenant in the Life Guards had actually disbursed an instalment of the passage-money; but he sent word from Knightsbridge barracks to say that he was detained by the calls of duty, and paid forfeit. A little French actress, cajoled by the facetious blandishments of Soyer, had declared "Vlà! je me risque dans ce machin-là," and had half stepped into the car, when her heart failed her. The inventor himself, who was present, rapt in admiration of his queer contrivance, did not propose to travel in the air this time. Nobody, indeed, seemed to be going save the professional aeronaut

a little wiry old man with a white beard, who looked as though he had been a sailor and his assistant, who might have been a gasfitter, or a journeyman carpenter, or a check-taker, or anything you please to mention. I don't think that he knew much about ballooning. But the machine itself had become by this time (six in the afternoon) fully inflated; the big sausage-body was "joggulating," as the Americans have it, in the air, and straining at the cords, and making the wicker-work of the car creak as though impatient to be free; and the crowd both inside and outside the gates (whence the Sausage was plainly visible) of the Symposium were growing eager for the start. At this conjuncture, Soyer asked me if I would like to go up. Now it happened that although I had never yet made an ascent, I was acquainted with most of the foremost aeronauts of the day, Charles Green, Mrs. Graham, Hampton, Gale, and others, and that I had long since acquired a considerable knowledge, practical as well as theoretical, of the construction of balloons. In particular, for poor Mr. Gale who had formerly been a lieutenant in the Coastguard, who had been before that an actor in the United States, where he had acquired considerable celebrity by his performance of Mazeppa, and who was one of the bravest and most unfortunate men I ever met with 1-I had not only written a series of lectures on aerostation, but had gone about the provinces with him, helping him to deliver them. The lectures were most brilliant failures. Moreover, I had drawn some hundreds of diagrams, proving to demonstration (our own; although I am afraid that the late Professor Euclid would not have indorsed our conclusions) that aerial navigation was as easy as lying, and that an aerial machine (it had wings and a tail) capable of taking up a regiment of grenadiers was simply a question of cap

ital. Finally, I had concocted with Gale a scheme for fitting up a Greenland whaler with a gas apparatus, and a couple of balloons well greased with mercurial ointment to obviate their freezing, and making "captive" ascents in the Arctic regions, for the purpose of descrying whether Sir John Franklin's expedition might not be concealed behind some intervening iceberg. For many months did we pester the British government, the nobility and gentry, and the conductors of the public press, with the details of this scheme with letters, prospectuses, and petitions. Of course the unhappy lieutenant was pooh-poohed by the Board of Admirality, civilly dropped by the press, and derided by Punch. The only personage, I remember, who deigned to take any serious notice of the proposal was the late Prince Consort. To his sagacious and reflective mind it probably occurred that the plan was not quite so insane a one as it seemed on cursory examination to be. At all events, Prince Albert asked for "additional plans and particulars; " but I am afraid we rather overdid things in the way of reply, by launching on his Royal Highness about half a hundredweight of printed and written matter, and diagrams executed in flaming colors on the stoutest cartridge-paper. I wonder where those works of art are now. Be it as it may, we heard no more from Buckingham Pal


1 IIe had eleven children, and all that he derived from his employment as an aeronaut was a salary of a pound a week from the speculative proprietors of the balloon, in which he was expected to risk his life as many times in the course of every season as occasion required. Ultimately he got a little money; crossed the Channel in a balloon; made several ascents from the neighborhood of Paris on his own account; accepted an engagement at Bordeaux: went thither, and ascended. He appears to have been seized while in the car with a fit of apoplexy, or he may have overbala ced himself while striving to arrange some of the outlying gear. At all events he tumbled out from no very great height. His ball on drifted away, to be picked up, a mere sopped, ruined rag, in the river Garonne ; but two or three days el psed before the body of the poor lieutenant himself was found, in a wood near Bordeaux, his face half eaten away by dogs or wolves. A sorry end!

Nevertheless, although I might have pleaded two or three reasons, or rather excuses, for committing myself to an act of pure foolhardiness, there were many more reasons which, had I been superstitiously minded, might have impelled me to leave the clouds unexplored. Poor Gale, as I have mentioned in a note, had met with a horrible death in France in 1850. During the early part of 1851 there had been quite an epidemic of balloon accidents. Two young aeronauts whom I knew had been smashed within a fortnight; and Albert Smith, whom I greatly loved and esteemed, had been within an ace of losing his life in falling from the car of a balloon on some scaffold-poles. Thus on my mental line of railway the "danger" signal was displayed very plainly indeed; but I was young and foolish, and endowed neither with superstition nor with common-sense. (The first is very often an excellent substitute for the last.) So I said I would go. My brother, who was accustomed to my having my own way, let me have it. Soyer was unable to grant me a free pass for the skyey realms, since the balloon was worked as the inventor's own speculation, and ascending and descending what with charges for gas and manual labor, carting the dead body of the machine, when its gaseous soul has expired, to the nearest railway station, and the contingencies of damages to property — are somewhat expensive matters. Withal the inventor, in consideration of my being "connected with the press " (with which I had at the time about as much connection as a call-boy on board a penny steamer has with an ironclad man-of-war), agreed to take me up at "cost price" which he opined, barring accidents, would not exceed a couple of pounds. A minute afterwards I had shaken hands with half a dozen friends, and had clambered into the car. Then there was a cry of "Let go! the crowd cheered - they would have been pleasurably excited had we been going to be hanged - the band in an adjacent pavilion struck up, "See, the conquering hero comes (a slightly inappropriate melody, seeing that we were departing, and not arriving), and up we went.


So many ladies and gentlemen have made "captive" and "free" balloon ascents within the last few years, that it would simply be an act of impertinence on my part to describe minutely the phenomena of an ascent from the neighborhood of London: how you do not at first appear to be rising, but stationary, while the earth, on the other hand, seems to be sinking beneath you; how, if there are any clouds in your part of the sky, when you have passed through the lowermost banks of vapor, and look down on the fleecy, floating masses beneath you, you experience a momentary feeling of pride- sheer asinine pride; or how, being free from clouds, you look down and see stretching around you the great green earth, and immediately below, London, diminished to the size of a model in a museum,

[ocr errors]

St. Paul's seeming no bigger than a pea, and the Monument looking no longer than a pin, while the smoke of London seems stationary over it, a thin, sleazy, blue blanket in two strips, one for the Middlesex and one for the Surrey side, and cut precisely to the shape of the city and suburbs, through the whole running the glinting river, like a skein of quicksilver. I must mention that my view of the wondrous panorama around and beneath was somewhat impeded by the fact that we were top-hampered by a quantity of toy-balloons, mere inflated linen bags, fashioned as lions, dragons, fish, and other preposterous forms, and all emblazoned with the cognizance of the Symposium. These wretched little trifles were indirectly the cause of our un⚫ doing. The aeronaut had instructions to cut the windbags adrift when he ascended a short distance, in order that they might amuse the gobemouches of Brompton and the Fulham Road, and scatter advertisements of the Symposium far and wide. Thus the little old man, during the first five minutes of his ascent, had been so busy with his pocketknife, loosing these ridiculous impedimenta, that he had forgotten a precaution very necessary to our safety. While the balloon is on the ground it is customary to close the neck of the machine by means of a handkerchief tied in a slip-knot, in order to prevent the admixture of the heavy lower stratum of atmospheric air with the more buoyant carburetted hydrogen inside the balloon. Directly the balloon ascends the prudent aeronaut slips off the handkerchief. Our aeronaut, busied with his trumpery windbags, did no such thing. The assistant may have been unaware that the thing ought to be done. He cried out gleefully that we had risen to the altitude of one mile- that we were just over Fulham Church, and that we were about to cross the Thames. Just then I heard a sharp crackling report, precisely like that of a musket-shot, above my head. The balloon had burst. It could scarcely, under the circumstances, have done any thing but burst. The gas in the machine had become rarefied, and bad rapidly expanded. It could not escape from above, the valve was closed; it could not escape from below, the neck was closed. So it went to smash, just as an inflated and air-tight bag of paper goes to smash between the palms of a schoolboy's

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


So we fell, as a stone falls, half a mile. When we ascended, it had appeared to me that the earth was sinking beneath us. Now the globe - fields, houses, lamp-posts, chimney-pots-seemed to be rushing up to us with literally inconceivable rapidity. There was in particular one tall church-steeple, which by the celerity of its approach appeared to be horribly anxious that I should be impaled on its apex. It could not have been Fulham Church; but whatever and wherever was the edifice, it was there rushing up at me; and I declare that the grotesqueness of the position of impalement all legs and wings, like a cockchafer distinctly and visibly occurred to me. I declare also, sans phrases, that there arose before me no 66 panorama" of my early life or of my bygone acts and deeds, as such panoramas are said to have arisen before the eyes of persons rescued at the very last instant from hanging or drowning. Yet I do plainly and literally remember several things: that I heard a voice cry with an oath, "Let go!" and "Cut! cut!" and that a knife was thrust into my hand; and it seemed afterwards that the assistant and I had pitched out all the ballast in the balloon - bags and all — and that I had cut away the grapnel or anchor from

1 I do not know whether it can be called on any but an Irish principle a coincidence; but it is still curious to remember that about ten years afterwards I was on the verge of losing my life in consequence of an accident closely analogous to that which made an end of the Sausage Balloon. I was on board the Great Eastern on her first trial trip from Long Reach to Portland. The portion of one of the funnels passing through the ladies' Baloon was encircled by a thin casing of iron, called a "steam jacket," and this was filled with cold water to prevent the heat of the funnel ecoming uncomfortable to the passengers. But either there was no safety-valve to this external cylinder, or the engineer in charge of it had omitted to keep it open. As it was, substituting steam for gas, the disaster of the" sausage was reenacted. The water in the jacket became heated, steam was generated, the vapor rapidly expanded, there was no escape for it, the cylinder burst, and thirteen men were scalded to death or horribly mutilated. My state-room was blown to pieces by the force of the explosion, and two minutes before that explosion took place I had been down to my berth in quest of a book.


the side of the car. That I had done so was plain from two of my fingers being jagged across by the knife. What became of the grapnel we never knew; but if it had fallen in a populous street it would in all probability have killed somebody. The heavy bags of ballast too must have fallen like stones. The final thing I remember during our descent was droll enough. Just before the balloon left the Pré d'Orsay, my dear, kind brother had thrown over my shoulders a light paletot, observing with a laugh that I might feel it rather cold "up there." I donned this garment as we ascended, and I remember saying as we came thundering down, "Charley's coat will be torn to ribbons." So much for panoramic effects when the jaws of death seem to be yawning for us. To the possession of what is ordinarily termed "presence of mind" on the occasion, I disdainfully decline to lay claim. What I did in the matter of the grapnel and the ballast was done mechanically and wellnigh unconsciously; and I was desperately and mortally terrifi d. A few days after the accident I met the aeronaut's assistant, and I had the curiosity to sound him as to my demeanor during the fall "Sir," he very candidly replied, "you kept your mouth wide open, and you were as blue as your breeches." I had been clad at the time in light summer attire. "And you?" I continued. "Well out of it," quoth the aeronaut's assistant, who was seemingly a philosopher; and so went his way.

Meanwhile the term is well-nigh inappropriate, since there was scarcely any "while " to be "mean" - the aeronaut, who looked like a sailor, had not lost his presence of mind, and had not been idle. He saw at a glance, this brave little old man, - although he had been forgetful in the matter of the slip-knotted handkerchief, - wherein our single chance of safety lay. He jumped up into the shrouds of the balloon, cut the cords which attached the neck of the machine to the hoop, and away to the very top of the netting flew the whole of the exhausted silk body of the sausage. Then it formed a cupola of the approved umbrella pattern - it formed a parachute! It steadied instantly. There was no collapse, and down we came swiftly but easily, in a slanting direction, alighting among the cabbages in a market garden, Fulham Fields. The car struck the elastic earth with violence, and rebounded, clearing a hedge, a distance of some twenty feet. Then the silk and the netting and the hoop and the car itself fell atop of us among the cabbages. We were dragged forth from the ruins of the Sausage, only to be hustled and robbed of all the money in our pockets by a ruffianly crew of working market-gardeners; and the proprietor of the light cart who consented to drive me from Fulham to Kensington Gore demanded a guinea as his fare, on the ground that "balloons did n't fall every day." He was far from complimentary too about the accident itself, remarking ironically that this "wos cum of carryin' up a lot of dogs and monkeys." This ingenuous but mercenary person had mistaken our windbag dragons and fishes swaling through the air, when we ascended, for living animals.

I will omit any account of the congratulations which were indulged in on our return to Gore House; yet I cannot conclude this paper without noting a pregnant but somewhat strongly-worded remark made by the little old aeronaut. While everybody was grasping his hands and paying him well-deserved compliments on his intrepidity, he suddenly drew on one side, folded his arms, and sternly inquired, "Who the will say now that you can't come down in a parachute!" The manner of putting the query was irreverent, but the matter thereof was cogent. Threeand-twenty years after the event I have narrated, I find myself forcibly imbued with the conviction that it is possible to descend in safety from any height by means of a parachute, but that there are ten thousand chances to one against the man who tries the venture surviving to tell the tale. And please to remember that I had no intention of coming down in a Parachute. I contracted to come down in a Sausage Balloon; but I will do the inventor the justice to mention that he never asked me for my share of the expenses.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]


-the smoking-room of

ertion of passing

2e Western High

amorous complexion." The best ase-the best man to flirt and the fastna to disconcert Materfamilias, and to ei interview with Paterfamilias. Fifty Lied for paying one-tenth less attention daughter than Mr. Geoffry Greville. love, but the idea of matrimony never r across his brain. "Pshaw! I sha n't atty; all the old fellows get all the young ...s invariable reply when remonstrated with et of his dilly-dallying.

iary circumstances I should have allowed my
eve Kinsman to wriggle out of his mess as best
Jut the Chetwodes, with whom I invariably
mas-tide had elected to remain in Rome, and
on the bleak shore of London, alone. Conse-
..& was rather a relief than otherwise to receive the
La — a telegram that bespoke a most agreeable mys-
use the word "agreeable" advisedly, on the well-
principle that there is something not utterly dis-
in the misfortunes of even our best friends.
ig consulted Bradshaw, I found that the 8.25 from
on would place me fairly en chemin; so ordering a nice
e dinner, for which the chef at the Marathon is so
anous, and a pint of Moet-dry-I gave myself up to
vering upon the situation, and the rôle I was destined to
ay in the forthcoming sensation scene.

, ad boy," cried one.
ce office which holds

wede suicides," exclaimed

* 1880, we will ask a
exploring expedition,"

ignon in the business,"

Se es went flying round my
de contents of the follow-
ced during the day:

overcoat: you'll run a
than in your ordinary


Marathon Club,
London, W.
whee receipt of this as possible. I am in a

That there was a daughter of Eve not the slightest particle of doubt, umma was a source of wondermen Geoffry had not long been gah. He had joined his regiment at sical locality, until the receipt of his erde delusive impression that he was


On the evening of the 24th day of December, 187
about five o'clock, a traveller might have been descried
sanding upon the steps of Daly's Hotel, in the town of
Westport. The traveller was enveloped in a massive
Ulster coat, and the Ulster coat which surrounded the
Caveller was itself surrounded by a motley crowd, consist-

a group of mendicants in every conceivable stage of
ity, each of whom was engaged in jostling and villify
- neighbor, but all of whom were actuated by a com-
tive, that of delivering the frieze-coated traveller of


as much current coin of the realm as the generosity of his disposition, and the exigencies of the occasion, might move him to dispossess himself of.

The traveller was Harry Greville, and "he did n't see it."

"How long will it take us to reach Carrig na Golliogue?" I asked as I lighted my cigar, preparatory to mounting the rickety-looking outside car which stood in readiness to convey me to my destination.


The roads is very heavy, yer anner," was the evasive reply of the charioteer, who was also engaged in the process

of igniting a "bit o' baccy," concealed within the depths

of a very short and very black "dhudheen.”

"Divil resave the sight av Eriff Bridge ye 'll see, let alone Carrig na Golliogue," observed one of my constituents in a solemn and prophetic manner.

"That the snow may swally up all naygurs is me prayer,” added another.

"Av I wor Micky Delany, I wud n't face that road this blessed an' holy night for less nor a goolden guinea an' a pint o' sperrits," cried a ragged little old fellow, with a view to improving the financial prospects of the driver, even at the expense of his own.

"Guinea, indeed! Troth, he'd be a poor-hearted crayture that wud put a dacent boy off wud the likes av a guinea, such a murdherin' cowld night as this."

It was,

in good sooth, a bad night for a journey out into the mountains. The snow was descending slowly and steadily, falling noiselessly on every available object, enveloping all in a seamless shroud. The bitter blast was whistling through the gaunt and leafless trees, and the river plashed onwards with a dreary, chilling monotony. Hastily looking to the safety of my pocket-flask, as travellers in the olden time were wont to examine the condition of their fire-arms, jerking the collar of my Ulster up into my hair, and pulling my hat over my ears, I sprang upon the car, and wrapping a rug over my knees as closely as though it was sticking-plaster, I quitted Westport amid the jeers, execrations, howls, curses, and snowballs of the baffled and disappointed mendicants.


Our progress was necessarily very slow, but it did not require much power of observation to discern that the horse was of that description known as a addition to constitutional weakness it was endowed with a garron," and that in considerable amount of the well-known characteristics of the mule. It also possessed a peculiar habit of stopping unpleasing effect of sending me forward with a jerk that without any premonitory symptoms, which produced the threatened to fling me head-foremost into the snow, as though I were about to take a header into a foaming plungebath.

"It's conthrairy he is," observed Mr. Michael Delany, upon being remonstrated with; "it's conthrairy; divil a ha'porth else."


Contrary! What do you mean?"

"He has quare ways, yer anner. a baste that wud do the likes av this? Wan day he What wud ye think av swallied a half a soverin, an' all we cud get him to give up was sivin-an'-six, all through conthrairiness."

"Do you ever give him a drop of whiskey, Micky?" "I did wanst, and mebbe I did n't suffer for it!" was uttered with so much unction that my curiosity was This awakened, and I asked him to enlighten me.

"Story-tellin' is dhry work, sir.”

"Did you have a drink before you left Westport? "

"I will, sir, an' its plazin' to ye," was the prompt re


Having mutually partaken of a modest quencher, Mr. Delany proceeded


Well, sir, there was wan night last winther, and a murtherin' wet night it was, when wan o' the militia sint for me, for to drive him beyant Leenawn, this very road, for to go to a party given be a gintleman's family. I did n't care for the job, but as all quollity was goin', there was n't a yoke for love or money but the very car yer sittin' on. gintleman, an' shure enough just all as wan as yerself, sir, So we kem to terms aisy enough, for I never fall out wud a

he had a sup in a flask, an' bestowed it wud an open an' divartin' hand. Well, yer anner, just as we got about half-ways th' axle gev, and left us roarin' murther in the middle o' the road.


"What am I to do now, ye villyan?' says he. "Sorra a bit I know,' says I, barrin' ye walk,' says I. "I'm bet,' says he, 'be raisin av my dhress boots,' says he.

"True for ye,' says I.

"But there was luck in store for him, for up comes a shay bound for the same party, that gev him a sate. He ped me honest, and it was only whin he was a mile off that I found the flask on the sate that you're sittin' on now. I dhrank his helth, and made the baste drink it too; and somehow or another, begorra, the next thing I remimber was me dhraggin' the car, an' that baste there sittin' up in me sate as unconsarned as the Chief Baron chargin' for murther, an' beltin' me wud the whip as hard as he cud lick." "And what then, Micky?"

"I never giv him a taste o' sperrits from that night to this, yer anner."

"I'm greatly afraid that you were drunk, Micky." "I was n't drunk."

"Were you sober?'

"I was n't sober."

"Well, if you were neither drunk nor sober, what were you?"

He pulled up the too willing steed in order to give emphasis to his reply "I was upon the difinsive, yer anner."

[ocr errors]

This happy condition between the Scylla of intoxication and the Charybdis of sobriety was one which struck me as being so exceedingly novel, from the fact of its being delivered with the gravity of conviction, that I burst out laughing.




Troth, thin, I was much the same way the night I went for to ketch the salmon for Father Myles Donovan, may the heavens be his bed this blessed an' holy night - here Micky crossed himself most devoutly "an' if your anner has a sketch o' sperrits contagious, I'd tell ye all about it." Having promptly complied with Mr. Delany's request, and politely asked him if he would like another sketch, he replied

"No, I'm thankful to ye, sir; that's hapes, as Mrs. Murphy remarked whin she swallied the crab.

"Well, sir," he continued, after a ringing smack of the lips, like the crack of a whip, "when I was a likely lump av a gossoon, I lived over at Leenawn, was a powerful fisher. There was nothin' to bate me. I med me own flies, and invinted the choicest av bait, an' sorra a fish that ever lept could take the consait out o' me. Well, sir, th' ould ancient Martins was dhruv out o' Ballenabinch be raisin av the hard times, and a set of naygurs, called the Great Life Assurance - the curse o' Crumwell on thim! tuk the roof from over the heads of the lawful owners. Troth, we had plinty av law, plinty av assurance, but dickens a bit av life in the counthry sence they kem in it. I was put out o' me sheelin' an' sint over to live on a bog that was half the year undher water and th' other half sthrugglin' to dry. No Christian at all at all cud live in it, barrin' he was a say-gull or a dispinsary dhocthor; the very snipes was bet up wud the newralgy. Well, sir, poor Father Myles Donovan, rest his sowl, come to me wan evenin' at th' ind o' Siptember, an' says he

"Are you there, Mick?' says he.


"I am, yer rivirence,' says


"I want to spake to ye particular an' private,' says

he. "Troth, you 're welkim, yer rivirence,' says I, an' out we walked up the bog. "Me Lord the Bishop is coming to Derrymalooney tomorrow,' says he.

"Och, murther, but that 'll be a great day for yer rivirence an' the Holy Church av Room!' says I.

66 6

'Murther, an' shure it is,' says I; 'what's to be done at all at all?'

"Father Myles looked very hard at me, an' says he, 'Mick,' says he, 'you 're a good fisher.'

66 6

Divil a finer in Ireland,' says I, for I was proud o' me talent in that way, don't ye see.

"Av I don't get a salmon for me Lord the Bishop for to-morrow, Micky,' says he, hooking me wud his eye, 'I'm bet up intirely.'

"It will,' says he, but he has tuk me short,' says he. 'I only get his letther tin minutes ago,' says he,' an' tomorrow is a black fast,' says he.

"I seen what he mint while ye'd be winkin' at a leprachaun.


'Keep up yer sperrits, Father Myles,' says I, 'for av there's a salmon in that lake now, he 'll be smoking undher his lordship's nose, or I'll be contint fur to lose me stick.' "Yer a dutiful son av the Church,' says Father Myles, and away wud him acrass the bog like a young deer.

"The night was murtherin' dark, an' rainin' that powful that I was as wet as a gauger whin I got to the edge o' the lake. I was afeard to thry for the fish in daylight, for the Great Life bad cess to thim, had their keepers as plinty as blackberries, and these villyans wor always lookin' out to get a dacent boy into throuble. Well, sir, I got out me tools, and havin' swallied a good tent o' poteen, I set my nit, and down I sot. It was the lonesomest night I ever spint, only the water splashin' and the sheep-dogs yelpin'. I kep me hand on the sthring reddy for a haul, but dickens av a fish stirrin' at all at all. This won't do,' says I; 'av the Bishop does n't get a taste o' fish, poor Father Myles will never get a parish.' Well, sir, I sot there, wud the stbring in me hand, takin' an odd scoop at the bottle, an' me heart was very fretful all for the sake of Father Myles, whin all of a suddint the sthring was pulled wud a jerk that nigh dhragged me into the wather, and begorra, I had an illigant salmon. Hurroo!' says I, 'I'm not bet yet,' and I hauled in the nit and now, yer anner, comes the quare part of the story, and mind ye, it's as thrue as you're sittin' foreninst me on that sate. I tuk the fish out av the nit (he was about eighteen pound) an' was goin' to give him a rap to lave him aisy, whin he stud up on the ind av his tail, threw out his fins, and med for to wrastle me. I thought I'd humor him, for there was n't a boy in the barony cud stand foreninst me, an' I ketched him be the fins. Sorra a word aither av us sed, but we set to and -ye'd hardly credit it' but he curled his tail round my right leg, and givin' a jolt wud his body, tuk a fall out o'



"Well, sir, it was very hurtful to me feelin's to be thrown be a fish, an' I was resolved to give him no quarther, whether he axed for it or not, but whin I scrambled to me feet the thief av a salmon was gone. Well, sir, I was so bet up be me disgrace, an' a, daylight was comin', I picked up me tools, and I ups to Father Myles's house for to tell him av me misfortune. It was fair light be the time I got there; an' jist as I was comin' up to the house, the sight left me eyes, for there was me salmon knockin' at the halldure, as bowld as brass. Ye won't escape me now, anyhow,' says I, and I med at him; but the dure opened, anʼ I fell into the hall."


Here Micky Delany paused.

"Well, what became of the salmon, Micky?"
"The Bishop et him," was the sententious reply.
"And did Father Myles get a parish?"
"Shure enough, yer anner.
"And what did you get, Micky?"


"Och, I got his blessin', and sorra much good it done


I did not proceed with the investigation, as I perceived that Delany did not wish to prolong it.

It had ceased to snow, and the moon evinced a decided anxiety to have a peep at Micky Delany and myself. She pushed away two or three troublesome clouds from before her face, and at length took a dull watery stare at us as if she had been suddenly awakened from her slumbers. This little feminine curiosity on her part enabled us to perceive a dark object some hundred yards in advance, lying right across our path.

(To be continued.)

« ПредишнаНапред »