John_Pilkington - CHAPTER VIII.

CHAPTER VIII.

My Stay in Shane's Castle

            The roads all through Ireland are extremely good, which makes travelling there very pleasant; but I observed, that the farther North we went, the worse our accommodations at the inns were; but this was amply recompensed by the ingenious conversation of our fellow traveller, who had something peculiarly good to say upon every subject, and would make even his talk to the landlord, or the ostler, a scene of humour and entertainment. The second day we were upon the road, I made choice to go in a one-horse Dutch chaise with Mr. Hill's steward, to enjoy the fine air and prospect. We had a footman to lead the chaise, as the horse who carried us was an old offender, and apt to do mischief when he conveniently could; but Mr. Hill's steward, just as we came to the top of a very steep mountain, ordered the footman to fall back, and undertook to manage the chaise himself. The moment the horse found himself free from restraint, he set out in a full gallop down the hill, so that nothing could stop him till he had dragged the carriage after him for a mile and a half; and at last leaping over a large ditch of water, left the chaise behind him in it, with one of the shafts above a foot driven into the opposite bank, within a few inches of where my body fell, almost without life. The servants, who had all pursued us, by this time came and found me in a most disastrous plight, up to my waist in water and mud, pale and trembling.

            As soon as the two gentlemen came up, they said and did everything to comfort me; but as there was no inn for some miles, I was put into the chariot with Mr. Hill, and Mr. O'Neill rode on horseback, till we came to Hillsborough, and there stopped at Lord Hillsborough's house. The gentlemen would have persuaded me to go to bed, but as I found that after taking a glass or two of wine I was as well as ever; I just comforted myself with a change of clothes, and was fit to travel. I enquired several times what became of the steward who was with me, and how he had escaped; but received such ambiguous answers, as gave me reason to conclude his brains were dashed out.

            Certainly no person living had ever two more extraordinary escapes from sudden death than I, in this, and the Ballycotton affair before-mentioned; and yet there are two subsequent ones equally wonderful, the reflecting on which is sometimes the most cordial antidote against despair.

            For surely, as inconsiderable an atom as I am in the work of creation, I am, nevertheless, under the special protection of an Almighty God, the sole disposer of all events; and I can't help persuading myself, that unless he designed me for some better fate than I have hitherto enjoyed, it would have been more consistent with his mercy and justice to have then let me find mortality, than to prolong a life of pain, sickness and adversity. Perhaps the divines may cavil at this manner of arguing, if they do I cannot possibly help it.

            From Hillsborough, we went directly to Mr. Hill's country seat, where we continued some days; and where painting, sculpture, architecture, books, music, conversation, with the most hospitable treatment, conspired to show the greatness of the gentleman whole guest we had the honour to be.

            From hence, without meeting anything remarkable, we came to Shane's Castle, a most dreary old mansion, situated on the banks of Lough Neagh. [Note: To explain the word Lough to my readers, I believe it signifies a lake, or large body of standing water, without any communication with the sea. This Lough is remarkable for its petrifying qualities, and will turn wood into hard stone, as I have been told, but never saw a proof of it]  The town or village about it is composed of miserable little cottages, chiefly inhabited by fishermen, who make a livelihood of the salmon, which is taken here in great plenty. In the inside of this castle, which formerly belonged to the famous Shane O'Neill, and which might in those days have been a strongly fortified place, the rooms are mostly hung with old fashioned tapestry, and the stairs and floors built of black Irish oak, which the servants keep clean by rubbing with beeswax and a hard brush; so that it reflects a gloomy gloss, and is not altogether safe to walk upon: in short, the whole scene brought Mr. Pope's lines to my memory.

 

She went to rivers, and to purling brooks,
Old fashioned halls, dull aunts, and croaking rooks.

            Shane's Castle might inspire veneration, like Henry the VIIth's chapel in Westminster Abbey, but was by no means calculated to inspire delight. Upon our coming here, we were visited by the Earl of Antrim and Lord Masserene, with their ladies; and whether the compliment of their approving me, and my singing, was paid to Mr. O'Neill's judgment, or to any real merit they found in it, I know not, but certainly I had great encomiums.

            Mr. O'Neill had been at considerable expense to have a pleasure boat built to sail upon the Lough; which, though it is all fresh water, is as rough a sea at sometimes as the Bay of Biscay, being near fifty miles in circumference, interspersed with many small uninhabited islands. I am to inform my readers, that, from my infancy, I have been of a timid temper and delicate constitution, unfitted by form or abilities for any athletic undertakings; and the dread I had of sea-sickness, from my former experience of it, made me have no gout for maritime expeditions. Notwithstanding the boat, as she lay at anchor opposite to Mr. O'Neill's dressing room window, with her streamers flying, looked very pretty, yet I saw no necessity for trusting the precarious element of water, more than I did for mounting one of Mr. O'Neill's running horses. Therefore when a considerable party was made to go and take a few days recreation on the Lough, I heartily begged I might not be of the number, and gave my reasons why I objected to it; but these had so little weight with the polite Mr. O'Neill, that he absolutely used force to bring me, and completely to pull of the mask of good manners, so long worn with constraint. As soon as the small boat brought us on board, he obliged a contrivance to be made to haul me up to the top of the mast, while four and twenty patteraroes were discharged: 'tis true, I sustained no damage by it, but the horror of my danger, and the vexation of being so contemptuously treated, joined to my being extremely sick the moment the boat was unmoored, were sufficient to take from any pleasure I could possibly afterwards enjoy. When we cast anchor before a beautiful island, and went ashore, where there were tents pitched for us, and we had several salmon taken, and roasted whole on wooden spits before a large fire of wood, besides all sorts of cold provisions and wine; to complete this entertainment, Mr. O'Neill would have had me fang, but I absolutely refused to do it; telling him, that if he brought me here for a buffoon and a laughing-stock, he should never have made me his companion. He then passed a good many ironical sneers on my greatness and dignity, which he was sorry to have offended. 'Tis true, Sir, said I, I am neither great, nor dignified by title or estate, but I am the son of a gentleman, whose distresses have brought him under your protection. Every instance of your friendship to me is gratefully registered on my heart, but a few instances of this kind would be sufficient to erase them from it. Whether Mr O'Neill was really ashamed of what he had done, or only affected to be so, is hard to say; but I had reason to believe he was, from his very seriously asking my pardon, and assuring me if I was his son, he would have done the same, since nothing was so unbecoming in a:young gentleman as cowardice; and as you know, Jack, I have ever behaved to you like a father; and ever mean to do so, it is my duty, when I see a weakness in you, to endeavour to remove it. After I had given ease to my heart by a few tears, I accepted the treaty of peace, sincerely forgot what had passed, and voluntarily offered to sing. Upon this occasion Mr. O'Neill expressed great satisfaction; for, said he, Jack, I find you have a proper degree of resentment, and a superlative degree of good-nature.

            Mr. O'Neill is a gentleman of what the world calls extreme good sense: he has learning enough to give him an insight into all things requisite for a man of five thousand pounds a year to know; and prudence enough to manage both his fortune and knowledge, in such a manner, as never to suffer either to be called in question or impaired: for instance, when he is in company, where topics arise, that seem difficult to him, he either acknowledges his deficiency, and desires information, or else is entirely silent. Upon the other hand, with regard to his fortune, he pays all his tradesmen himself; and as he constantly pays ready money for every article the moment it comes home, he has things considerably cheaper than most other gentlemen, and has besides an unblemished reputation. I observed, that, whilst I was at Shane's Cattle, no man ever more zealously strove to make his company drink too much than Mr. O'Neill, yet no man living was more careful to avoid doing so himself; for this reason, he always took care to have variety of bottles and glasses on the table, and perhaps, while the company were drinking deep of claret, he, under pretence of drinking champagne, had a bottle of Bristol water. He frequently endeavoured to fasten an extraordinary glass upon me, but without the least success; as I not only was averse to all sorts of liquor, but likewise knew the remarks he had made on others, who had suffered themselves to be over-persuaded in that respect. From this and what I have formerly said, I fancy the general character of this gentleman may be guessed at by the discerning part of my readers. Mr. O'Neill is rather a sportsman, than a man of talk; rather a just, than a generous man; and rather a man of sense, than a man of letters. There is one thing I am highly emulous to do in the course of my descriptions, and that is, to take my reader by the hand, and introduce him into the company and intimate conversation of the person I would have him acquainted with. There are some authors who have wrote volumes, called, The lives of the poets: The only information we receive from whom, is, that they were born at such a time, wrote at another, and died at last; all which common reason lets us know, and as Shakespeare observes,

 

"There needs no ghost come from the grave to tell us this."

            I would, rather hear one hour of a great man's unreserved conversation with a friend, and be more capable to form an idea of him from thence, than fifty pages penned in the ordinary of Newgate's style, about his life, parentage and education. Without a compliment to the memory of my mother, I think her bringing her readers to dinner with Dean Swift, has made them more intimate with the cast of that great man's temper, than other noble efforts that have been made to give him to the world in a proper light.—As I never disguised any part of my story from Mr. O'Neill, I was one afternoon giving him a humorous description of Captain Poekrich, the glass projector, and likewise what hardships I had undergone with him; Mr. O'Neill knew the man, and told me, that if he was to come down to Shane's Castle he would get him a large benefit at Antrim, entertain him at his own house, and withal that he would be glad if I wrote to him to him that effect. [Note: This unhappy person was burnt in the late fire, near the Royal-Exchange, Cornhill, Saturday, Nov., 10, 1759.] Though I had no regard for the Captain, I was fond of his performances, and as I knew his coming would occasion a public meeting, and likewise show the Captain the influence I had here. I wrote him word what Mr. O'Neill mentioned,  but did not receive an answer, as we the next day set out for Dawson's bridge, in the county of Derry, the seat of Arthur Dawson, Esq. one of the Barons of the Court of Exchequer, and brother-in-law to Mr. O'Neill. On our way hither we stayed one night at a place, called the ferry, where there is a small river, and where fine large eels are in such plenty, that any quantity of them may be caught at half an hour's warning: as the place afforded nothing but this fish and some coarse bread, we had some taken for us; as they were very delicate in their kind, we made a hearty supper of them, drinking some whiskey punch to wash it down, the only liquor that could be had.

            I found my condition at Dawson's bridge much happier than it had been at Shane's Castle; not only as both the Baron and his lady received me with the tenderest regard, but likewise, because they had a son about my age, whom I found a very agreeable companion in. The Baron's mansion house was then out of repair, and going to be rebuilt; but his discourse was a perpetual feast of nectared sweets, through which were conveyed to his auditors, with modesty, affability and manly grace, the abstract of all human knowledge. The Baron had known my mother and her family in happier hours; and was so kind to represent her and them in such an amiable light to Mr: O'Neill, and to express so much regret for the injuries had been done her in fortune and fame, that Mr. O'Neill, who only knew her story from general report, which is seldom partial to the unhappy, began to look on me in a different light from what he had heretofore done; and to complete the whole, he assured Mr. O'Neill that my mother was descended from as noble a family as any in Ireland; but the adherence of her ancestor, Patrick Sarsfield (Lord Lucan, son to the Earl of Kilmallock) to King James the second, whose General he was during the wars in Ireland, and who accompanied him to France, and afterwards lost his life in Flanders, had impaired the fortune of the family, but not in such a manner as to deprive those who conformed to the present establishment of estate and dignity.

            The Baron was a gentleman of a grave, reserved and penetrating aspect, though extremely handsome both in his person and countenance; but he had such an unbounded flow of real wit and true humour, that he said more good things in half an hour, and forgot them the next, than half the comic writers in the world have introduced into their plays; and what added to the delight such an entertainment must afford, was, that it was all genuine, unstudied and concise; so that while he set,

 

Laughter holding both her sides

            He appeared himself with the same steadfastness that accompanied him on the bench as a judge; and so happy was this great man in the talent of unbending his mind, that he could even make companions of his son and myself, though both so young and giddy; nay, he would adapt his discourse exactly to our degree of comprehension, and by that means become master of our minutest thoughts. He has wandered with us for hours through his wide domains, leaped over ditches, looked for birds' nests, flown a kite, and played at marbles: he might in this respect be compared to that great Roman, who, when called on to serve the senate, was found toying amongst his children.

            I remember one day after dinner, when the company were inclined to be grave, he looked very earnestly at me, and then addressed himself to Mr. O'Neill: "I'm sorry, dear brother, that my skill in astrology, has led me into one secret of the events of time; and that is, that Jack Pilkington will come before me to be tried for his life, the particular fact I am not acquainted with, but it will probably be for sheep-stealing; very well, Sir, said he, to me, when you hold up your hand at the bar, hold two fingers up and two down, in token of the promise I now make you, in regard to your family and Mr. O'Neill; though the proof should be ever so home against you, such as your having sold the skin, made broth of the head, and candles of the tallow, yet have a good heart, I'll bring you safely off for this time. Since ever I was a judge, I never saved a criminal at one assize, that I had not the trouble to condemn the next; and as you seem of an aspiring temper, 'tis most likely the second effort of your genius will be made in horse-stealing; very, well, Sir, hold upon this occasion but one finger up, and I'll save you: but the third time hold up your whole hand, for I cannot wrong my conscience any further; hanged you must be, till you are dead; dead; dead! and the Lord have mercy on your soul.

            I returned the Baron many thanks, and told him, the only person I would wish to rob, would be himself.—Hold there, Sir, said he, I am exempted; what, rob a judge! if you begin that way I'll take you up on suspicion. I mean only to take that from you, Sir, which you can spare without even missing, learning, taste and eloquence. Upon my word, said Mr. O'Neill, I never heard Jack make such a speech before. I'll tell you, Sir, said the Baron, he's flattering for a reprieve the third time; but he must use your interest for that, I have done for him all I can do.

            The Baron told us, that when he was a templer in London, he used sometimes, to dine at an ordinary, whereto a Scotsman frequently came, who wore very dirty linen. He was one day, after dinner, leaning on his elbow, and informing a French barber, who sat next him, of what an illustrious pedigree he was descended: in the meantime, said the Baron, a great black louse frequently sauntered out of the wrist of his shirt along his hand and the Scotsman, slyly looking round to see that none observed him, instead of throwing it away, or destroying it, as I expected, put it with his finger and thumb very tenderly up again. The barber, who had observed him, cried, le diable! mon ami, why you not kill de lousee, who plague you so? D—n your saul, said the Caledonian, he's the heed of a clon, and if I molest him, they'll come down by ten thousands for revenge. I thought, said the Baron, it was full time for me now to make my escape, and took care how dined with a Scotsman ever after.

            Talking of the Scots brought another story on the tapis, but by whom related I don't remember. The bishop of Cork, a great virtuoso, a learned and hospitable man, used whenever he saw a stranger at church, in the appearance of a gentleman, to invite him home to dinner, There happened a regiment to be quartered in Cork, several of whom were of that nation. An English gentleman, who was likewise an officer, but extremely fond of a jest, asked a North British commander to go to church with him one Sunday morning, well knowing the Bishop would invite them both; They accordingly went, and as they came out, the Bishop, who knew the English gentleman, sent his compliments to him, and if he and his friend were not engaged, should be glad of their company to dinner. The Englishman pressed the other to go, though he made several objections; at last he prevailed by telling him the Bishop was a person of great interest, and might be very serviceable to him. When arrived within a quarter of a mile of the house, Gads so! said the Englishman, I forgot to ask you one very material question, and that is, whether you have your catechism by heart? for it is his Lordship's custom after dinner to examine the company round. "Deel rive my saul, quo he, gin I kin a word ont." Well, well, returned his friend, he always begins with the greatest stranger, and if you can answer the first question, it will hardly come to your turn again. Upon examining the prayer-book, he found it was only to tell his Christian name; but to make sure work of it, he got the second also, and was conning it in his mind till they arrived at the house; where his Lordship received them with all imaginable politeness, showing them his study, his cabinet of curiosities, his gardens, improvements, and, in short, everything that could manifest his own judgment and give them pleasure. At length the bell rung for dinner; and after it was over the ladies retired, and bottles and glasses were placed on the table. The Bishop, who had a mind to drink the stranger's health, said, Captain, may I crave your name? The Scotsman instantly stood up, and answered, "William, my Lord;" and, without giving the Bishop time to say any more, ran on with "my godfathers and godmothers, in my baptism, where in I was made a member of Chreest, a cheeld of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heeaven," &e. The bishop, who had not a grain of fanaticism in him, stood amazed, and said, Sir, I hope you think I'm too much a gentleman to catechise any anyone at my own table. The Englishman and the rest of the company laughed immoderately, which completely put the captain out of countenance. The other, who, was known to be a wag, honestly owned he had done it for a joke; but the Scot told him he forgot the motto of the thistle, when he attempted to play upon him; however, there was no more said about it, the evening was spent in great harmony, and the two officers went home together: But the Scotsman was so far from forgiving his acquaintance, that he challenged him to fight the next day, in spite of all the concessions a man of honour could make, and terminated his revenge by running him through the body, of which he died, leaving a distressed family behind him.

            This, said the Baron, is a comi-tragedy, and would have made a good story, but for the catastrophe. I wish the Scot had adhered to his motto, and only pricked him, instead of running him through the guts; but the true meaning of the Scots motto is, Touch me not, lest I infect you.

            Some days after this, to the great surprise of the Baron and all the family, who never suspected I had the least itch for scribbling, I produced at breakfast the following paraphrase on Mr. Dawson's story, called

 

The Cautious Caledonian.

 

A Scotsman once in conversation
Was in a dreadful consternation
A louse that browsed about his neck,
Travelled abroad in search of peck;
Down his gigantic arm he strayed,
And from his wrist appearance made.
The prudent Scot, though filled with shame,
Still pulled him back from whence he came;
And talked as careless, gay and free,
Of his illustrious pedigree,
As if no sorrow could invade
The brawny Caledonian blade.
A French monsieur, who next him sat,
Presumed to give his friend a pat;
And said, mon bien ami, pray kill
A louse that bears you such ill will.
The wary Scot, cried, silence mon,
He is the chieftain of a clon,
Wha in ten thousands would descend,
Should I destroy their foremost friend.

            The undeserved applauses this essay obtained from one of the most competent judges of poetry in Europe, was, perhaps, the most unfortunate circumstance could have befallen me, as it has set me rhyming from that day to this. The compliment Mr. Dawson paid me on it was: It's a wise son, boy, that knows his own father, nor could I myself swear you were Matt. Pilkington's; but anyone who saw even this, would declare you the son of Letty Pilkington, which is, by the by, a much greater honour to you. It was customary in this family, instead of pushing the bottle about after dinner, which is indeed too much practiced in Ireland, so that a man, without keeping himself in a perpetual fever, by drinking to oblige his friends, is not thought a tolerable companion for them; instead of so destructive a method of at once killing time, reason, and ourselves, we found the agreeable scheme of storytelling, in a rainy afternoon, as high an entertainment as Bacchus in the house, or Ceres and Pomona in the groves, could possibly have afforded to us.

            Though I never was capable of being more than an humble auditor, yet, by firm observance, and a good memory, I have brought off one, besides what has already been said, which, though generally known to my noble Hibernian subscribers, may not be so to my illustrious English ones; so down it goes, and, as Falstaff says, 'twill fill a page as well as better matter; that it is authentically true, may be depended on by all.

            The late Earl of Ross was, in character and disposition, like the humorous Earl of Rochester; he had an infinite fund of wit, great spirits, and a liberal heart; was fond of all the vices which the beau monde call pleasures, and by those means first impaired his fortune, as much as he possibly could do; and finally, his health beyond repair. To recite any part of his wit here is impossible, though I have heard much of it, but as it either tended to blasphemy, or at best obscenity, its better where it is. A nobleman could not, in so censorious a place as Dublin, lead a life of rackets, brawls, and midnight confusion, without being a general topic for reproach, and having fifty thousand faults invented to complete the number of those he had: nay, some asserted, that he dealt avec le diable; established a hell-fire club at the Eagle tavern on Cork hill; and that one W——, a mighty innocent facetious painter, who was indeed only the agent of his gallantry, was a party concerned; but what won't malicious folks say? Be it as it will, his Lordship's character was torn to pieces everywhere, except at the groom porter, where he was a man of honour; and at the taverns, where none surpassed him for generosity. Having led this life till it brought him to death's door, his neighbour, the Reverend Dean Madden, a man, of exemplary piety and virtue, having heard his Lordship was given over, thought it his duty to write him a very pathetic letter, to remind him of his past life; the particulars of which he mentioned, such as whoring, gaming, drinking, rioting, turning day into night, blaspheming his maker, and, in short, all manner of wickedness; and exhorting him in the tenderest manner to employ the few moments that remained to him, in penitently confessing his manifold transgressions, and soliciting his pardon from an offended deity, before whom he was shortly to appear.

            It is necessary to acquaint the reader, that the late Earl of Kildare was one of the most pious noblemen of the age; and in every respect a contrast in character to Lord Ross.

            When Lord Ross, who retained his senses to the last moment, and died rather for want of breath than want of spirits, read over the dean's letter (which came to him under cover) he ordered it to be put in another paper, sealed up, and directed to the Earl of Kildare: he likewise prevailed on the Dean's servant to carry it, and to say it came from his master, which he was encouraged to do by a couple of guineas, and his knowing nothing of its contents. Lord Kildare was an effeminate, puny, little man, extremely formal and delicate, insomuch, that when he was married to Lady Mary O'Brien, one of the most shining beauties then in the world, he would not take his wedding gloves off when he went to bed. From this single instance may be judged, with what surprise and indignation he read over the Dean's letter, containing so many accusations for crimes he knew himself entirely innocent of. He first ran to his lady, and informed her that Dean Madden was actually mad; to prove which, he delivered her the epistle he had just received. Her ladyship was as much confounded and amazed at it as he could possibly be, but withal, observed the letter was not written in the style of a mad man, and advised him to go to the Archbishop of Dublin about it. Accordingly, his Lordship ordered his coach, and went to the episcopal palace, where he found his Grace at home and immediately accosted him in this manner: Pray, my Lord, did you ever hear that I was a blasphemer,a whore-monger, a gamester, a rioter, and everything that's base and infamous? You, my Lord, said the Bishop, everyone knows you are the pattern of humility, godliness and virtue. Well, my Lord, what satisfaction can I have of a learned and reverend Divine, who, under his own hand, lays all this to my charge. Surely, answered his Grace, no man in his senses, that knew your Lordship, would presume to do it; and if any clergyman has done it, your Lordship will have ample satisfaction from the spiritual court. Upon this Lord Kildare delivered to his Grace the Dean's letter, which he told him was that morning given to his porter, by the Dean's servant, and which both the Archbishop and the Earl knew to be Dean Madden's handwriting. The Archbishop immediately sent for the Dean, who happening to be at home, instantly obeyed the summons. Before he entered the room, his Grace advised Lord Kildare to walk into another apartment, while he discoursed the Doctor about it, which his Lordship accordingly did. When the Dean entered, his Grace looking very sternly, demanded if he had wrote that letter? The Dean answered, I did, my Lord. Mr. Dean, I always thought you a man of sense and prudence, but this unguarded action must lessen you in the esteem of all good men; to throw out so many causeless invectives against the mot unblemished nobleman in Europe, and accuse him of crimes to which he and his ancestors have ever been strangers, must be the effect either of a distempered brain or a corroded heart: besides, Mr. Dean, you have by this means laid yourself open to a prosecution in the ecclesiastical court, which will either oblige you publicly to recant what you have said, or to give up your possessions in the church. My Lord, answered the Dean, I never either think, act, or write anything, for which I am afraid to be called to an account, before any tribunal upon earth; and if I am to be prosecuted for discharging the duties of my function, I will suffer patiently the severest penalties in justification of it. Upon this the Dean retired with some emotion, and left the two noblemen as much in the dark as ever. Lord Kildare went home and sent for a proctor of the spiritual court, to whom he committed the Dean's letter, and ordered a citation to be sent to him as soon as possible. In the meantime the Archbishop, who knew the Dean had a family to provide for, and foresaw that ruin must attend his entering into a suit with so powerful a peer, went to his house, and recommended to him to ask my Lord's pardon, before the matter became public. Ask his pardon, said the Dean, why the man is dead. What Lord Kildare? No, Lord Ross. Good God, said the Bishop, did not you send a letter yesterday to Lord Kildare by your own servant? No truly, my Lord, the man can witness I sent it to the unhappy Earl of Ross, who was then given over, and I thought it my duty so to do. Upon examining the footman the whole mistake was rectified, and the Dean saw with real regret that Lord Ross died as he lived; nor did he continue in this life above four hours after he sent off the letter. The poor footman lost his place by the jest, and was indeed the only sufferer for my Lord's last piece of humour. But to return.

            Some strange gentlemen arriving at Dawson's bridge, there was a hunting match proposed, to which we all repaired by daybreak the next morning, and very shortly started a hare: when it was almost run down. Mr. O'Neill, who had a fowling piece charged with bullets in his hand, and who perceived by the course the hare took that it would come within shot of him, asked me if he should let fly at her? I advised him to do it by all means. He therefore stood cocked and primed, and just as madam puss came near enough for her approaching fate, I run across the piece at the instant it went off, and only had a little breach made in my coat at the hip, and a slight graze of a ball. Mr. O'Neill, who knew the danger I had exposed myself to much better than I did myself, was very much frighted, and protested I should, never run any more risks of my life with him, in pursuit of pleasure. This was the first of the escapes from death I formerly mentioned, the other is rather more surprising.

            At our return to Shane's-Castle I found a very thankful letter from Captain Poekrich, with a promise that he would immediately set out for this place. When I showed it to Mr. O'Neill he seemed surprised, and asked me by what authority I had given such an invitation? I reminded him of our conversation on that head, and said I should never have taken such a liberty without it had been an absolute request of Mr. O'Neill. He protested he remembered nothing of it, and he thought one encumbrance sufficient. This was an unexpected stab, which I plainly understood, and warmly replied to, by telling him, his present encumbrance, if he meant me, was easily got rid of; that my misfortunes had not got the better of that decent degree of pride which every rational creature ought to have:—but the truth was this; my voice now began to break into a hoarse disagreeable tenor, and I being no longer the object of amusement, was likely to become the object of contempt. All the fine promises formerly made to me were entirely forgotten, and young as I was, I could not but feel resentment at this behaviour, and penetrate into its causes. However, Mr. O'Neill, who had so recently recommended me to all his acquaintances, and told them his intentions were to provide handsomely for me, wanted a more plausible pretext for an open breach than had hitherto preferred itself from the course of my behaviour.

            As a mutual coolness from this day took place in us both, we seldom met, except at mealtimes, and then discoursed of nothing but the weather; and, in short, began as politely to detest one another, as any well-bred Lord and Lady in the world do; and that is speaking largely, in an age where every refined passion of the soul, every beauteous idea of the mind, every generous sentiment of the heart, are shuffled up in a pack of cards; where the dupe who loses, or the sharper who wins, is the only respected creature in society. Tell a fine lady that Shakespeare wrote like an angel; she answers, how did he play at whist? Nay, the name of Pope would have been insipid, only that the Rape of the Lock shows how eminent a master of gaming he was. In short, I take it for granted, that no subject will now please, but cards, cards, cards; and therefore I humbly propose to write a paraphrase upon Hoyle, as soon as I have finished this; which, neatly bound in Turkey, a lady may read at church instead of her prayer book; and it will prove of more service to her in the business of the afternoon, namely, cards, than getting a whole sermon by rote. The next push I intend to make for public favour, is to write the pedigree of all the running horses that ever existed, and their peculiar qualities, in heroic verse, which will not make a larger volume than the profound Blackmore's Prince Arthur. 'Tis with the sincerest regret I confess, that I am at present unequal to so glorious, useful, and profitable an undertaking; though I might have had sufficient knowledge of it, could I have relished the company of grooms and postilions at Shane's Castle, or indeed given a proper attention to the Squire himself, whose favourite subjects those things were; but I don't despair, by drinking a butt or two of porter, and exhaling the aromatic flavour of a pound or two of tobacco, at some livery stable, to be an accomplished master of the subject in a year or two: if then I can close the whole with an elegant essay on cock-fighting, I shall at least be esteemed the master-piece of the present age, though I fail to transmit my fame to future ones. If I should not succeed in these laudable attempts as a writer, my familiarity with those important affairs, will enable me to get my livelihood as a Sharper; many of whom are admitted into the best companies, and regaled on Ortolans and Champagne, while the sons of Apollo are left to drink the Helicon stream, or ditch water if they please. After modestly asking, "are not these things so?" I'll return from this digression to finish my adventures at Shane's Castle, wherein I shall be very concise, being already tired of the subject, and fearing my readers are so too. My life here began to be very insipid, I had no company or books; for though Mr. O'Neill had promised access to his library, which in all probability was in Monde de la Lune, yet I never even saw a book in the house, and therefore have some cause to suspect there were none.

            One very calm serene morning I got up sooner than any of the family, and taking a solitary walk by the Lough, that now appeared like a looking-glass, in which the fair face of the rising day was reflected with bewitching loveliness, I took the small boat that lay near the shore, and thought to have paddled myself on board the large one, about a quarter of a mile off.  The boat was no sooner adrift than I perceived my own want of skill to pilot her, and began to endeavour to get on shore, but these efforts were unsuccessful: a small breeze from the land arising, the boat drove before it, in spite of all my attempts, the wind increased, and the water beginning to swell, I was obliged to relinquish my oar, and leave myself to the mercy of the waves, expecting every moment to meet that fate that so apparently threatened me. I continued in this dreadful suspense till about ten o'clock, when Mr. O'Neill was going to breakfast, and made enquiry after me; every place was searched, but poor Jack was not to be found: On some of the servants going to the pier, whereto the boat had been fastened, they discovered it was gone: Mr. O'Neill immediately went to his study, which commanded an extensive prospect of the water, and with a telescope discovered something just discernible, a considerable distance from land. He immediately ordered all the fishing boats out, and promised a handsome reward to the first who found the boat, though he was not sure I was in it. Accordingly six or seven boats set sail, but it was past three in the afternoon before they overtook me, being by that time in the middle of the Lough: they found me lying flat at the bottom of the vessel, almost dead with fear, wet, cold and hunger. The sight of returning life to one on the brink of mortality, soon cheered my spirits, nor could crowns, sceptres, or all the riches of the East, inspire a greater transport in my breast, than the sight of these honest fishermen. I embraced them with ecstasy, and besought them, for heaven's sake, to put me anywhere on shore; if it was fifty miles from Shane's Castle, I cared not. The fellows tugged loftily at their oars, and by the time it was near dark brought me safely to the pier, where Mr. O'Neill and all the family were assembled to meet us. The rapture I was in at finding myself once more on terra firma, prevented my taking much notice of the reproaches thrown on me by Mr. O'Neill, for my indiscretion. I made the best of my way to the kitchen fire, where I had some comfortable things given me, and immediately went to bed. The next morning, when I came to breakfast, Mr. O'Neill told me, that this was the fourth escape I had had from a sudden death within twelve months; and that, as my family might impute any accident that happened me to his negligence, he thought it was high time to resign his charge, and send me home to my father. As this was a stroke I had for some time expected, it did not much alarm me; nor did I indeed take any methods to evade it, being heartily tired of an indolent, inactive, and unimproving life; I therefore told him, that as I always had been ready to obey him in every respect, he would find me so in this, except that I absolutely would not return to my father, let my fate be what it would. I thought Jack, said he, you would have expressed more concern for parting with me? In short, Sir, said I, it has long been beyond a doubt, that you will feel no concern for parting with me, otherwise this declaration of your intention to send me home, would have been more dreadful than yesterday to me. There is not a man in the world I love, honour, or esteem, half so much as Mr. O'Neill, and consequently I cannot wish to make him uneasy for the sake of a dependent subsistence: betides, Sir, as you never saw anything immoral or indecent in my conduct, I can't but know, that if you had the smallest esteem for me, this accident would rather excite your pity than resentment, because it was such as might have befallen a person of more years and discretion than myself, and that I have suffered severely for it.

            As my arguments did not tend to promote my longer continuance here, but rather to show that this separation, was more his will than my fault, he told me, that as he found I was weary of him, the stage-coach would leave Belfast in a day or two, and I might take my passage in it to Dublin, if I chose; but, said he, Jack, if you have a mind to stay, you are still welcome, provided you will be a little more careful of yourself. I told him a hint to me was sufficient, and, without prolonging the discourse, went and packed up all my things, which his valet, a most insinuating deceitful fellow, took care to give him speedy information of. When I came to dinner Mr. O'Neill again acquainted me, that what he spoke of my going away was rather done to sound my inclination, than with any serious intention that I should quit him; but he could not upon mature deliberation but express his wonder at my forwardness to do it, when my own sense must acquaint me how destitute I was of friends, and picture to me the distresses such a step might involve me into; for believe me Jack, said he, I will vindicate myself, by assuring everybody, your going, if you do go, was the result of  your own pride and obstinacy; and that when I only gently chid you for exposing your life to danger, and my mind to a whole day's pain and anxiety, you went and prepared for a journey, instead of endeavouring to palliate your fault, and promising a future amendment. I told him I could not look on it as a crime, nor through the fear of any distress descend to be a beggar for a maintenance. Well Jack, said he, this spirit may be brought down, and you may again wish you had continued with me at any rate: I shall not further oppose your desire of going, and hope you may never find cause to repent it; so, said he, I'll order a footman and, a couple of horses to convey you to Belfast to-morrow, from whence you may take the stage home; and if it will not be too great a piece of condescension, pray write to me when you get there, and let me know what you further propose to do. I told him he did me much honour in permitting me to be his correspondent, which I was too sensible of to omit doing.

 

Prev   Next