Page images
PDF
EPUB

nigh to which I had posted myself, and while my gaze roved from one to another, fixed them at last on a face which strongly arrested my attention, although I could not immediately recollect when I had met the body whereunto it appertained, so many countenances had flitted before me during the last few days. He (for it was a whisker-bearing face) was sitting in the driving-seat of a dashing carriage, with that sort of cool dégagé air which a man involuntarily assumes when he reposes on his own cushions. The more difficulty I found in remembering the gentleman, the more my brains racked themselves in pursuit of him, so that at length I succeeded; and as the circumstance of our first interview will have something to do with my adventure, I may as well tell it now as at any other time.

The first evening that I spent in the city, having nothing to occupy me, or keep me out of mischief, I went, as bad luck would have it, to the Quay gaming-house, with the intent of converting all the shillings in my pocket into pounds, and then returning contented to my quarters. That the result was contrary to my expectations I need hardly say; for if such a transmutation was that night performed in favour of any greenhorn, I wasn't the fortunate individual. In fact, I lost all the money I had about me; and, being naturally a little nettled at my ill success, retired sulkily from the table, and threw myself into a chair placed in the recess of one of the windows, which, on account of the heat of the weather, had been left open. The river beneath flowed quietly on, illuminated partly by the brilliant gas-lights, partly by the more placid effulgence of the summer moon; and while I was indulging in the reveries which the sight of it and the opposite shipping called up in my mind, my attention was at length caught, and my dream interrupted, by the voices of persons engaged in earnest conversation within a pace or two of where I sat, but from whom I was apparently concealed by the curtain.

'I couldn't-by Jove, I couldn't!' was the tenour of the first words I remarked. 'Don't ask me, Hall. It's more than human nature could bear to think of breaking off with such a mine of Peru in a small way. Why, man, I expect we'll knock fifty out of him to-night, and maybe as much more to-morrow.'

'D' muttered the other, 'will you never have sense? I tell you I'll give you up my share of the bond altogether, if you only sue him at once. That's the point that I'm scheming for all along-on account of which I got him to pass the bond at all; and it will be all to no purpose if you delay much longer. I must have him in my power at any cost.'

'So you shall, old boy,' returned the first speaker; but not till we suck the last penny out of him. Contrary to rule, you know, to quarrel with a man as long as he shows "tin." A day or two will make no difference to you, I am sure, and then-'

'Say to-morrow, Desmond, if you please,' rejoined the other, in a tone of entreaty. 'You don't know how important it is. She's treating me like a dog, and will until he breaks her down; and he'll do nothing to help me that way, as long as he can avoid it. But once you sue him, he must come into the terms I dictate to him as the price of my relieving him, do you see, or go to jail. Don't you see now?'

Before any reply was made to this last urgent appeal, a hurried step

approached the confederates, and a third person in a hasty whisper addressed them.

"The lad's in the room. If he sees you together, he'll smoke what you're at,' was the intimation given by the party who joined them; an intimation which had the effect of causing them to separate the moment it was uttered, but not before I was enabled to note the persons and faces of the swindlers, for such I had no doubt they were.

The one addressed as Hall was a young man of rather gentlemanly exterior, with a good deal of the buck about him, in the way of gold chains, rings, &c. The other, Desmond, was as neat a pattern of a genteel ruffian as a painter need ask for. Curiosity drove me to follow them, and see against whom were their machinations directed; and it was not long until I perceived Desmond seated at a table, and deeply immersed in the mysteries of some game that was all heathen Greek to me, being neither five-and-ten nor scobeen, beyond which my acquaintance with the flats' extended not; while opposed to him was the gentleman whom I now recognized in the driving-seat. As the latter appeared rather unskilled in the game, Mr. Hall had undertaken, with praiseworthy disinterestedness, to instruct him in its ways of pleasantness and profit, thereby sacrificing all his own private amusement for the evening. But whether Mr. Hall was or was not competent to the office, all I can say is, that a pretty kettle of fish they were making of it between them; and notwithstanding that, two heads being usually counted better than one, Mr. Desmond was fighting at a proverbial disadvantage, still he contrived to gather to himself the rather considerable funds of the new-comer with a rapidity quite unaccountable to any one who was ignorant of the terms on which he stood with that gentleman's instructor. The stranger grew pale and nervous. Mr. Hall, indignant at the unmerited losses of his friend, cursed the cards and the card-maker. But Fortune changed not her course, nevertheless; in fine, she ran in one full tide into Desmond's pockets, and soon put an end to the unequal contest.

The stranger rose to depart, and I prepared to follow him, with the intent of giving him a charitable hint or two, conveying my opinions and suspicions, and the matters whereon they were founded, which I had sense enough to abstain from doing while he continued in the house. I was a little deterred by observing Hall arrange to accompany him with an expression of the deepest sympathy; but the conduct of that worthy was so infernally ugly, that I could not in conscience conceal it; and accordingly, when they stood arm in arm in the street, after the wellwatched door closed behind them, I was there likewise, and gently touching the victim's shoulder, begged the pleasure of a moment's private conversation with him.

'Dit, sir!' exclaimed he, giving vent to all his smothered wrath, and, I suppose, utterly unconscious of what I had said, do you mean to insult me, sir? or do you want to shoulder me into the river ?'

I, of course, disclaimed having any such truculent intention; but this had only the effect of making my gentleman grow more warlike, and ultimately Hall and he began to show fight like a pair of Trojans. was afraid the former might prove a more trusty auxiliary in a row than at the gaming-table; besides that I was not a little incensed at the brutal manner in which his dupe seemed disposed to resent my well-meant in

terference, I declined the honour of being martyred on his behalf, and, leaving him to discover at his leisure the confederacy of which he was the willing victim, fled, I know not how or where, into a labyrinth of lanes and alleys, where the darkness saved me from pursuit, and also from the danger of meeting my adversaries on my way home; for there I had to stay until the daylight enabled me with difficulty to extricate myself.

Such were the circumstances under which I formed the acquaintance of the gentleman in the driving-seat, who, to do him justice, carried about him the look of a bonâ fide gentleman, and a handsome one into the bargain; and in the mood of discontent under which I laboured at the moment of recognizing him, it is not to be expected that I should take much trouble to shun his notice, or the rencontre to which such a notice would be likely to lead. Beyond this passive hostility, however, it was impossible for me to proceed, inasmuch as the carriage to which the aforesaid driving-seat was an appendage, had for its occupant a lady, who seemed, by the by, to be much more intent on philandering with her good-looking escort than in watching the manœuvres of the field; but, as her back was partly turned to me, I couldn't tell whether or not her face deserved all the attention he paid her, though I was rather inclined to think it did; for, somehow or other, a scamp, like the unlucky cavalier, generally manages to appropriate a beauty.

My curiosity was at last satisfied, and more than satisfied. The cavalry in one of their evolutions dashed by, seriously incommoding the pedestrians at the outer ring, and creating a hubbub which caused every one to turn their eyes in that direction. Mine met the lady's. Holy Saint Bridget! it was Grace Seymour herself,-as handsome,-ay, twice as handsome as ever. A thrill of joy gushed through my every nerve, and I almost jostled down half-a-dozen people in my attempt to approach her. But fancy my dismay when she withdrew her look, without affording the slightest symptom of recognition, turning away with as much coolness as if I was a mere gauger's apprentice!

Bewildered by this unaccountable slight, I still gazed, unable to recover myself; but not even a passing glance did I meet in return. Her whole attention was occupied by the man in the driving-seat, who so fully answered the description given to me of my rival! Oh! the surpassing bitterness of that moment!-bitterness which I mentally swore that I would return tenfold on the head of him whom I suspected of supplanting me, and with whom I had already such a good ground of quarrel. To watch him closely until some opportunity of exchanging cards with him should occur, was therefore my only resource, as, from the shortness of my stay, the matter would brook no postponement; and while I accordingly kept my eyes fixed on him, I observed that his were, for some reason unknown, fastened in another direction, and that too with such an expression of consternation, as left me no doubt that he saw something there more than he liked. A half-suppressed exclamation escaped him after a moment or two. He sprang to the ground from his elevated position, and crouching beside the carriage, spoke a few hurried words of explanation to the terrified girl, and, before I could recover from my surprise sufficiently to note his movements, he had retired among the crowd, leaving her to the mercy of the charitable.

The riddle was soon read. Scarce had the bystanders resumed their places, after allowing the Levanter to pass, when a new actor was added to the scene, attired in a shabby-genteel white hat, a half shabby black coat, which in its days of prosperity had owned a more corpulent inmate; a waistcoat of the same class, and unmentionables to match; within all which articles of decoration stood an individual five feet six or so in his buskins, with a decided cast in one of his eyes, and a world of rascality in the other. The moment this prepossessing personage appeared, it was impossible not to connect his entry with the desertion of Miss Seymour's protector; for the poor man, on looking up to the driving-seat, and finding it untenanted, betrayed the most unmitigated disappointment. next took a cursory view of the interior of the vehicle, but apparently without deriving any consolation from aught he saw of its contents, and then scratched his head, and proceeded to bethink him of an expe

He

dient.

It is very hard to deceive a Galway man in a bailiff. Even the dumb brutes of that lawless region are endowed with an instinctive faculty of recognizing a member of the hated fraternity. I remember one time while my father was on his keeping, and every mother's son about the premises was on the alert, watching to detect the approach of any unauthorized stranger, it was universally allowed that the most trusty sentinel in the place was a large Poland gander; his sagacity in the matter was truly miraculous; his discrimination almost infallible; accordingly, whenever this gifted bird uttered his unmusical scream, all persons concerned took the alarm forthwith, the outer doors were barred, the windowblinds drawn down, and the master bolted off to his sanctuary like a detected pickpocket. Allowing me to arrogate for my judgment the claim of similar credit-the wit of a goose, and no more I would feel inclined to pronounce the man in the white felt and shabby etceteras to be one of the proscribed, and invested with a mission fatal to the liberty of mine adversary.

No sooner had her favoured scamp retired in the extraordinary manner I have related, than my poor little faithless Grace, utterly overcome by the exceeding embarrassments of her situation, bowed her head on her bosom, and burying her face in her hands, wept with ill-subdued violence; so that, vehemently as I longed to avail myself of the opportunity of offering her my services, common decency forbade me to intrude upon her. No similar scruple, however, actuated the discomfited bailiff: after pondering for a moment or two, he suddenly advanced to the carriage, and leaning across the door, in a tone as wheedling and soft as Nature would allow one of his craft to assume, he uttered the monosyllable Miss.' At the very sound of his voice the poor girl, seemingly but too conscious of the nature of his business, crouched back, cowering in the very farthest corner, while the low moan that involuntarily escaped her, struck to my very heart, and quite eradicated whatever resentment I felt at first on experiencing the shortness of her memory.

'Miss,' repeated the bailiff; and to insure her attention the scoundrel stretched his hand towards her shoulder. It jars on one's nerves indescribably that touch on the shoulder, bestowed whether in jest or earnest by any of that ill-omened craft,-as the Connaught-man said of the gun, "Charge, or no charge, she's dangerous.' To stand neuter while such an

outrage was being perpetrated would require more coolness than I possessed, at least at that moment, even had it been any other than my inamorata who was in jeopardy; so, taking one long step, which just brought me within a convenient distance of his ear, I summoned all my strength for the blow, and floored the man of law by one judicious tip planted just where it ought to be. He did not lose a moment recovering and gathering himself up; which being achieved, he looked angrily round for his assailant, and faced me with a show of spirit not always to be found in those who wear the sheriff's livery.

"

You infernal ruffian!' exclaimed I in explanation, 'how dare you attempt to lay your ugly paw on any lady?'

The fellow made no answer, but eyed me from head to foot with a look of puzzled incredulity. I was rapidly losing my temper while undergoing his inspection, and was about repeating the assault, when in a half audible voice he ejaculated, 'Galway, by jingo!' and forthwith proved his prudence equal to his sagacity by decamping without further parley. I was now master of the field, fully entitled to enjoy all the honours therefrom accruing, and yet, albeit that bashfulness, as everybody knows, was never the besetting family failing of our house,' my heart trembled while I proceeded to the task of awakening the strangely dormant recollections of the lady.

'Miss Seymour,' said I gently, 'don't you know me?'

Slightly starting at this abrupt claim on her acquaintance, she looked up, but her eyes were dim with tears, and her memory with terror, and in a doubting sort of voice she answered me.

'Yes you.'

no; and yet something tells me I ought to remember "What!' rejoined I, 'do you forget Bob Donnellan, your partner at the Galway ball?'

'Oh, Mr. Donnellan !' exclaimed the poor little girl, and giving me one hand, she held her handkerchief to her eyes with the other, and burst again into an agony of tears.

'Perhaps,' said I, after a short pause, 'you had better let me look for your horses, and see you home; that ruffian might return, and annoy you again.'

Do-do!' she answered with difficulty, 'you are very kind,' and hastening to where a group of servants stood with their horses, quickly found her coachman, had the horses put to in a space of time truly miraculous, then sprang into the vehicle, and seated myself by her side, and away we went as fast as a willing whip and two smart greys could expedite us.

It was some time before the paroxysm of her grief abated sufficiently to let me edge in one word of consolation, although one would think that a little chat by way of salvage fees was the least that I might expect. At length I seized the opportunity of a momentary calm, and begged her to quiet her apprehensions, as we were long out of danger either of pursuit or annoyance: the only effect, however, of this intimation seemed to be that, her own personal peril being over, she deemed it now high time to lament the hard fate of her hopeful, for his name, repeated with all the fondness of pity, became the burden of her renewed tribulation. Plague on the girl! couldn't she find some other subject to lament about? I almost writhed with vexation, and would willingly have resigned

« PreviousContinue »