Page images

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 Corney 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 roues 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 Mr. 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 sarve 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; 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 frail. 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 fêtes ;-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

cences would be worthy the attention of the readers of Bentley's Miscel lany. We recommend him to their notice, as a link of some value in the glorious chain of modern enlightenment. On issuing from the Operahouse on Saturday next, let them shout aloud the henceforward immortalized name of-CORNEY CREGAN!'—


(FROM MISS COSTELLO'S FORTHCOMING ROMANCE,) THE QUEEN'S POISONER.' In the old mill of Pouldu, not far from the point of rock which seems to cleave the roaring waves at its feet, lived the miller Trevihan, who was more than a hundred years old, and had lived in that mill as long as any man could remember. He had witnessed as many shipwrecks as there are nights in the year; he had seen as many steeples stricken with lightning as there are weeks; and no one could say how many times he had beheld the Doll-men with dancing dwarfs circling round its huge stones. He had visited the Tourigans in their caves; and he knew all things past and to come.

He was dwarfish in stature, and his large bragaw-bras, like great floursacks, seemed to bury him in their folds. His long thin legs were finished by huge long feet. His big head rested on his breast, which was prominent and pointed; his mouth was wide and grinning, and his two eyes unlike each other. When he sat at night in his mill, smoking his short pipe, he looked like a fiend risen up amidst the darkness; yet this frightful monster dared to love one of the prettiest girls in the parish. Her name was Francique, and she was betrothed to the young sailor, Kerias, who had been out for several weeks at sea; and during his absence her father, who was very avaricious, lent an ear to the proposals of the dwarf.

But Trevihan is old and hideous,' said the pretty maiden, and Kerias is so handsome and young; besides, I gave him my promise, and I will wed none but him.'

When Trevihan heard this, he said to himself, 'It is true I look aged, but I have the power to renew my youth; and why should I not again have recourse to the Tourigan, who will aid me?'

Accordingly he went into the pine-wood of Kérisonet, and there, in the midst of the trees, by the side of a little fountain, he saw the fairy combing her hair.

What would you with me?' said she. Fifty years ago, and ten before that, you came to me for youth; if I grant it you again, you must give me up your bride to nurse my little changeling, as you have done all your brides before.'

'She shall be yours a year and a day after I have married her,' said the miller. He drew his knife, and spilled three drops of his blood in the fountain; a cloud rose out of it, and covered him all round; when it cleared away there stood in his place a handsome young mariner, gay and sprightly, who took his way back to the village, and stopped at the gate of Francique.

* Culottes.

Open, open, Francique,' said he; I am Kerias, come back from sea to claim your promise.'

Very happy was the pretty maiden when she saw her lover, and she welcomed him with embraces; but she bade him hasten away, for her father had forbidden her to hold discourse with him, as she was to marry the dwarf of the mill of Pouldu.

[ocr errors]

'Fear not,' said her lover, he is no longer here to trouble you; no one has seen him at his mill, and it is said he has fallen over the cliff into the sea. I am rich now, and your father will not refuse me your hand.' The father of Francique loved gold, and as Kerias had plenty, and the dwarf appeared no more, he gave his consent, and the wedding-day was fixed by Francique. But Francique was always unhappy: she did not feel her first love for Kerias; she shuddered when he came near her, and always wished him away; and at last she could endure her feelings no longer, and resolved to make a pilgrimage to the chapel of Ste. Ninoc'h, on the borders of the wood of Kérisonet. She got up one morning by daybreak, and pursued her way; she had not gone far when a little white fawn suddenly started out of a brake, and began to play round her. She was much alarmed, and walked on, saying her paternoster all the way; for she knew whoever sees the white fawn of Ste. Ninoc'h will lose her husband on the day of her marriage. The fawn kept gamboling before her, and she thought the whole time of all she had heard of that mysterious animal. A thousand years ago, this fawn was pursued by hunters, and took refuge in the oratory of Ste. Ninoc'h, whose hermitage was in this wood. Ever since then the fawn haunted these glades, and, though constantly hunted and attacked, it remained unhurt. When she got to the chapel it vanished, and there she said her prayers devoutly, and laid her distaff and flax on the altar with pious care. After some time she left the place to return home, her heart much lightened, and as she reached the edge of the wood she met Kerias coming to meet her, and, to her surprise, felt towards him the same affection as ever. She told him she had now no regrets, and would no longer delay naming the wedding-day. Kerias smiled, and replied that he had that morning only returned from sea, and was rejoiced to find such happiness awaited him.

[ocr errors]

'I am,' he said, as poor as ever; and will your father consent?'

'What can you mean?' replied the maiden; is not everything ready, and my consent alone wanting, not my father's, for that he has given? As for being poor, that is a joke, as we know, and he thinks it a very good one. For myself, it is you I love, not your gold; and to-morrow I will be your wife."

Everything was ready next morning; the bride-maids, and men with their flowers and ribands; plenty of crêpes on the board, and the basvalan* full of merriment. She was taken to church by her father and her friends; but as she alighted from her little white horse at the door, to the surprise of all, two trains approached from opposite roads, and preceding them appeared two young men in sailors' dress, both so like each other that it was impossible to pronounce which was or was not Kerias. The bride shrieked with astonishment, but ran immediately to the one whom her heart told her was the true; but her father insisted on the other being the real bridegroom, and a great contention ensued. While this was going

*Negotiator of weddings.

« PreviousContinue »