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Poor Corney's heart was ready to break. All this was much worse than starving in Ireland. In Ireland people are used to starve, till, like the eels, they think nothing of it! But to starve in goodly streets abounding in cooks' shops, amid men and women who looked as if_fed to compete for Smithfield prizes, was a realization of the pains of Tantalus! As he passed by the areas of the fashionable squares, and imbibed the aroma of stews and ragoûts issuing from the offices, it was not wonderful that he should conceive some mistrust concerning the text which talks of 'filling the hungry with good things, and sending the rich empty away.'
One summer afternoon, about the time when London sends forth its brightest equipages, adorned with the brightest human faces, to disport in the brightest sunshine of Hyde Park, poor Corney tottered his way from the miserable cellar in St. Giles's, where he rented a bed at the price of twopence a night, and the succeeding day's worth of rheumatism, towards the fashionable quarter of the town; leaning against the railings, the better to support his exhausted frame, and feeling that, if hunger could eat through stone walls, it was a shame that Providence had sent him only brick ones to devour. The strong man was now a weakling,—the cheerful one a misanthrope. Vainly had he addressed himself to the fair inmates of more than one showy carriage for the sorry dole of a halfpenny. Though something in the picturesque wildness of his appearance for a moment captivated their attention, no sooner did his extended hand convince them that he was in need of charity, than they became shocked and frightened, -muttered something about “wild Irishman," or "horrid Irishman,”—and desired the laced footman in attendance to drive him away.
Sorrow take thim thin, for hearts as black as the faces iv 'em is fair !" was the only ejaculation of poor Corney as he turned doggedly away; and lo! when he applied in the same pitiful terms to passers-by of his own sex, he found himself threatened with the Mendicity Society, or affronted with mention of a constable. If the poor man had only had strength enough to be indignant, he would have fired up at all the insults put upon his country in his person.
Sauntering onward and onward, with a vague hope, proceeding from the increasing purity of the atmosphere, that he should reach green fields and blue skies at last, Corney traversed the brilliant tumults of Bond Street, crossed Berkeley Square, and at length took refuge on the doorstep of a handsome house in a street somewhat more secluded than the rest. Though it was Seamore Place, poor Corney Cregan knew not that only a row of houses divided him from the pleasant pastures of Hyde Park. Resting his head upon his hands to relieve the dizziness arising from weakness and want, he began to indulge in visions of a brighter kind; soothing his pangs in England by hopes of heaven, just as in old Ireland he had assuaged them by hopes of England, prosperity, and peace. In the extremity of his woe he still pursued the instincts of a sanguine nature, and looked forward :
He was roused from his reverie by the approach of a horse entering the quiet street. All Irishmen are born with a weakness for horseflesh. Miserable as he was, he could not look without a feeling of satisfaction at the fine animal and its handsome young rider so well-fitted for each other, who appeared before him,
A stately apparition, sent
to the barren waste of his prospects. Poor Corney started up, and fixed his eyes upon them with such a beaming and undisguised admiration, that something of the poetry of enthusiasm imparting itself to his gaunt person, attracted in its turn the notice of the young equestrian.
He was in the act of dismounting to pay a visit in the very house upon whose doorstep Corney had been resting.
"Can I trust you to hold my horse ?"-said he, addressing the poor fellow; who forthwith uttered in such uncouth accents his promise to. have a care of the 'baste as though 'twere his own,' as might have intimidated a less confiding nature, lest he should so far treat it as his own as to ride off with it, and be heard of no more.
The young man, however, who was most characteristically a young gentleman, as well as an officer in the Guards, possessed a sufficient insight into the mysteries of human physiognomy to intrust his property to the hands of Corney Cregan. After a word or two of instruction as to the mouth of the horse, and the best mode of holding the bridle, Captain Wrottesley entered the house, after declining the civil offer of one of the servants by whom the door was opened to officiate as his groom during his visit.
The first ten minutes were very long to Corney; for his mind was intent upon the few pence which he expected as the guerdon of his office. But by the time a quarter of an hour had elapsed, he was beginning to feel an interest in the fine animal under his charge ; and when, at the close of an hour, Captain Wrottesley reappeared, his poor heart was actually cheered by such intimate companionship with a beast so much more cared for, and so much better fed than himself.
The young soldier, on the other hand, was pleased to find that, instead of his horse being harassed, as is often the case when intrusted to the care of some casual guardian, his orders had been strictly attended to. His visit had been a delightful one. His own spirit was as much the lighter for it, as Corney's; so that, instead of the shilling wherewith it was his custom to repay an hour's attendance, he bestowed a whole halfcrown upon his tattered esquire. Little did he suspect the opulence contained in that single coin, to the imagination of Corney Cregan! Within another hour, he had appeased the gnawing pangs of hunger, and taken out of pawn the jacket which had obtained him a shilling to keep him from starving the preceding week.—That night he slept like an emperor !
The following day, about the same hour, but more from the desire to renew an agreeable reminiscence than from any expectation of encounter. ing his benefactor again, Corney rambled to the same spot. Judge of his delight when, as he entered the secluded street, he saw the “iligant baste of a chisnut horse, and his darlin' of a rider,' entering it at the further extremity, and to his utter amazement found his services again in request. The handsome young officer and his Bucephalus seemed expressly sent by Providence as a blessing upon poor Corney !
· Harkye, my good fellow !' said Captain Wrottesley, at the close of his second visit, “you seem to be out of work, and living hereabouts. If you choose to try your luck every day at this hour, 'tis most likely I shall find you employment. I can't afford to give you halfcrowns every day. A shilling is my stint for such jobs, and a shilling you shall havē. Be here io-morrow. So long as I find I can rely upon you, you may rely upon me.'
No need to record the countless benedictions lavished by poor Corney in the exuberance of his gratitude, upon Providence, the young officer, and the chestnut horse ! It was as much as he could do to preserve a decent sobriety of deportment on his way home to St. Giles'; and when a week's official life had enabled him to lay by a sufficient sum, he felt it due to Captain Wrottesley to change his sleeping quarters to a mews in May Fair, in order to realize his patron's opinion that he was a denizen of the neighbourhood of Seamore Place.
It so happened that the daily visits which brought so bright a flush to the cheeks of the young guardsman, and imparted such brilliant vivacity to his eyes, were addressed to one with whose servants he was not willing to place his own groom in communication. It suited him to ride thither unattended ; and it was consequently most satisfactory to him to have secured a trustworthy fellow to take charge of his favourite horse during the happy lapse of time he was devoting to one still dearer to his affections than the horse.
Week after week, were the services of Corney retained. Already, he was becoming attached to his employer. There was something so fascinating in the open countenance of young Wrottesley, that Cregan would willingly have served him for nothing, had it been needful. But the captain seemed to take as much pleasure in paying as the poor Irishman in being paid. The shilling thrown to Čorney was but a trifling token of the joy thrilling in the young man's heart as he issued from those doors, in peace and charity with all the world-grateful to the enchanting friend he had left-grateful to the sun for shining on him-grateful to the noble horse he was about to ride-grateful even to the poor ragged fellow who had taken such good care of it during his absence.
By degrees, the ragged henchman assumed a more respectable appearance. Well-fed and well-clothed, he tried to appear more deserving the trust of the young soldier who had risked his property in his hands. Wrottesley, on the other hand, took pride in his protégé's well-doing. In the course of three months' daily intercommunion, he had become so much interested in Corney's prospects, and so much touched by the gratitude of the warm-hearted fellow, as to recommend his services to his brother officers. Corney became the messenger of the Guards, as Mercury of the gods : and, as a quaint mythologist has asserted that Hermes is represented with wings to his cap, as a token that the hat of a lackey ought to fly off to all mankind, the Irish peasant became courteous and humble in proportion as he rose in the world. He was applauded for his civility almost as much as for his probity and address. Corney Cregan was pronounced to be a fellow whom anybody might trust with anything, and who might be trusted to deliver anything to anybody. He could not give offence. All the morning he held horses at the door of Captain Wrottesley's club, or went confidential errands, or carried parcels of trust. He was at once the lightest light porter in St. James' Street, and the lightest hearted fellow in Great Britain !
As Corney became a man of substance, following the adage that it is a poor heart that never rejoices,' he allowed himself a little pleasure in addition to his multiplicity of toils. Addicted to theatrical amusements, he often favoured himself with a half-price entrance into the gal
lery which enables a certain portion of the public to enjoy a view and hearing of the play, much such as might be enjoyed out of an air-balloon. But if it scarcely enabled Corney to obtain much insight into what was passing on the stage, at least it introduced him to the acquaintance, at the doors of the theatre, of that worshipful confraternity, the Linkocracy of the London world. They were his countrymen, although he knew them not; and, after a due process of eating and drinking, swearing and singing, in their society, Corney Cregan was eventually induced to enlist in their regiment. He purchased his first link, and became one of the Illuminati of the western world !
On this occasion, the high patronage enjoyed by the poor Irishman proved of material service to him. The first time Corney officiated at Almacks', he obtained so much custom from his old patrons, and such civil notice from old Townshend to whom they recommended him, that already he was accounted among his Luciferian brethren as their grand link with the nobility of the realm. The dandies of the day knew him by name, as well as sight; and Juliet was a ninny to inquire • What's in a name?'—or rather, Romeo was a blockhead not to reply, ' Everything !_Corney, I want my carriage;' “Corney, call my cab;' «Corney, fetch my fellow ;' Corney, a coach, distinguished the popular Linkman above his fellows. In vain did the more officious interpose at play or opera; “No-no!—I want Corney Cregan,'—was all the reply vouchsafed to their envious interference.
Corney was now at the top of his profession ; Corney had put money in his purse; Corney was a man well to do in the world. It came to be known among the roués that Corney had always a five-pound note or two in his pocket-book, at the Fives-Court, or Epsom, or Ascot, to lend to a customer whose funds might run short; and such little obligations were sure to be handsomely acknowledged on payment of the debt. Let it not be inferred that the Linkman was guilty of usurious practices. So far from it, that he is recorded to have been as mild and gentlemanly a creditor, as Duval a highwayman. But his amiable forbearance brought its own reward. Here are a couple of guineas for you, Corney, because you did not plague me !' was by no means an uncommon mode of doing business with the only banker who ever made light of an obligation.
Amid all this flush of prosperity, Cregan considered it his duty to posterity to take a wife. He even asked the opinion and advice of Captain Wrottesley on the subject, a week after he had become the happy husband of little Katty O'Callaghan. But, if somewhat late in the day for his counsels to be useful, his assistance was not wanting to the poor fellow to whose fortunes his notice had been so providential. Being intimately acquainted with the kind-hearted man at that period lessee of the King's Theatre, the young patron obtained for Corney the situation of porter to the Opera ; and thenceforward, the eyes of Katty and admiring London saluted lir. Cregan arrayed in a handsome darkblue livery, and a dignity of deportment suitable to so responsible an office.
* Bless your kind heart, Captain Wrottesley, sir !' - said he, addressing his patron at the close of his first season, 'only till me how I can sarre ye!' I ben't proud, sir!-Order me as you plase. For you, sir, I shall always be Corney Cragan !
Under these happy auspices were a little Katty and a little Corney born
to the thriving couple. Corney had his salary and his quarter-day, like other ministers of state. But unluckily, like other ministers of state, he ran the hazard of a downfall. Managers, like captains, are casual things. The Opera was more brilliant than ever ; the theatre constantly crammed i and the result was, the Gazette and Basinghall Street for the first lord of its treasury, and consequent loss of office
to one whose letters were now occasionally directed, Cornelius Cregan, Esq. There was nothing left for it but to give up the cottage at Hampstead, pigsty, strawberry-bed and all, and re-enter the modest ranks of private life. Cornelius gazed wistfully upon the miniature Katty and Corney adorning his fireside, and, with a spirit of magnanimity worthy of Coriolanus, became Corney again. It was as though Louis Philippe were to secede from the throne of France, and become once more Duke of Orleans for the benefit of his interesting family!
That was a trying moment--the first night on which Corney took his station once more among his quondam confraternity, his humble link in his hand! Flesh is trail. Linkmen, though enlightened men, are but mortals; and it must be admitted that certain among them, jealous of his recent dignities, wagged their heads, saying, Behold, this is our brother, who exalted himself, but who, being abased, is come to take the bread from our mouths, and the mouths of our children !
It was not till he had made them fully understand that he was a ruined man,-a beggar like themselves,-one who, like Dogberry, had had losses,'—his whole amount of savings having been invested in the hazardous speculation which had just engulphed his place and his profits,—that they forgave him his elevation, and forgave him his downfall, -welcoming him cordially again to the world of flambeaux.
Such is the history of Corney Cregan,—the tulip of links, of whom as many bon-mots are on record as of Alvanley or Brummell
, and who may be regarded as the Dr. Johnson of the vernacular of slang. Corney is now a veteran. He can no longer call a coach in the brilliant and original style that was wont to excite the plaudits of the stand, when Hughes Ball was a dandy and Theodore a wit. He is considered, however, the father of the links. His testimony has been more than once invoked in perplexing cases by the sitting magistrates, as the most trustworthy witness in cases of carriage-breaking, or footman-slaying, amid the crush of fashionable fètes ;-for Corney is known to be a man of honour, the Bayard of the kennel, as well as its admirable Crichton.
It is astonishing the reverence shown him by the rising generation. Whenever a linkboy picks up a diamond cross in the mud, or receives a sovereign in place of a shilling from some reeling swell, it is in the hands of Corney Cregan the treasure is deposited till the question of property can be established. Corney is king of the elective monarchy of Links. Though not pensioned as an ex-porter, like others as ex-chancellors
, he retains out of place almost all the consideration he enjoyed in his darkblue livery. There is something imposing in the bassoon-like tone of his voice when gratuitously vociferating such names as those of the Duke of Wellington,' or the Countess of Jersey,' whenever their footmen are missing at some gay entertainment. The intonation of Corney hath a character as classically distinct from that of inferior links, as the enunciation of Kemble from that of the lisping romantic school of modern tragedians. -Corney is the noblest Roman of them all!-Corney's reminis