Peg Plunkett's Memoirs - CHAP. XXI.

Memoirs of Mrs. Margaret Leeson

CHAP. XXI.

 

There have been Knights, and Lords, and Gentlemen, with their coaches; I warrant you, coach after coach, letter after letter, gift after gift, smelling so sweetly, all musk, and so rustling, I warrant you in silk and gold; and in such elegant terms, and such wine and sugar of the best, and the fairest, that would have won any woman's heart.
SHAKESPEARE

I HAVE already mentioned my having entertained a Mr. Cunynghame as a dangler. He was indeed, a likely young fellow; and having obtained the commission in the sixty-seventh regiment, which he expected, became a more respectable attendant on me. His regiment coming to Dublin Barracks, he was obliged to live there; and furnishing his apartments in an elegant style to accommodate me, requested me to come and live there with him. But to do that entirely did not suit my disposition. However, I compromised the matter with him, and used to pass four days with him, and three days at my own house, where I could see what friends I pleased.

Through my connection with this gentleman, I became acquainted with a Lieutenant W, of the navy. He, like many other gay sparks, frequently visited me. One day in particular, he came about one o'clock in the forenoon. I was then under the hair-dresser's hands in the dining-parlour, and sat before a very large looking-glass. My side-board was directly opposite to the glass and behind my back, but I could see distinctly all around. To my great surprise and confusion I beheld in the glass, the Lieutenant go to the side-board, and take two silver table spoons, and some tea-spoons, and put them into his coat pocket: thinking doubtless, as my back was towards him that he was not observed. I was so amazed at such an action, by a gentleman and an officer, that I really had not power to utter a word; but as he came round to the middle of the room to speak to me, I looked at him steadfastly, and my hair being finished, went with him into the other parlour. Still I could not tell him what I had seen, and in a short time he departed. I then called to Sally Hayes, told her what had happened. My gentleman had gone to sell them at a shop in College-green, where the master knew them to be mine; and having said so, the lieutenant said I had given them to sell as I wanted money. He then bought them, but not having sufficient change desired he would call again. In the meantime, notice being sent around to the shops, it came out that they were stolen. The shop-keeper then declared he would stop the officer, when he came for the change; and could not be mistaken in the man if he even did not call, as he should know him wherever he met him, being in a uniform totally different from any in Dublin, and would lodge him in Newgate. Of course, if he had I must have appeared and prosecuted him. I directly sent my compliments to the shop-keeper, and requested him not to stop the officer, for it would cost me much trouble, as I must inevitably hang him; but not receiving a satisfactory answer, I went myself to the shop-keeper; told him I had given the spoons, and would much rather drop the affair, were they even worth ten times what they were, than hang or transport any man. Indeed, had I been inclined to prosecute those who robbed me, I might have sent a hundred of them over the Atlantic long since;here the business ended, and I saw my new acquaintance no more.

Whilst I was connected with Mr. Cunynghame, Sally Hayes and I were invited to dine with a friend of hers in French-street, and we took Cunynghame with us. We passed the day very cheerfully, but there happened a great fall of snow, and when it was time to come home, there was no carriage to be got. However, as we felt no cold, being tolerably warmed with good wine, we resolved to walk home. It was pretty late, and we came on kicking the snow before us, as if we cared for nobody. We had come down about half the length of the street, when we were met by Counsellor By and another; who said to Cunynghame, you have two ladies, and one is sufficient for you, you may therefore give me the other. On this a dispute arose, and they knocked each other down. The officer had neither sword nor cane, but the counsellor had a sword, which he drew, and made a push at Cunynghame, which passed a-slant through his cloth waiscoat, and slightly grazed his breast, but did no other damage. The captain being enraged, wrenched the sword out of the counsellor's hand, and broke it in two; and then, with the assistance of me and Sally Hayes, gave them both a very sufficient beating. The counsellor called the watch, and I bid Cunynghame set off for home, and leave us, as by that time we knew each other. The watch came, and they charged us, and we them. We all stood above half an hour in the snow, scolding and abusing each other; till being heartily tired, and growing very cold, we let each off, and shook hands. Indeed, to give the little counsellor his due, he behaved in a spirited manner, and called upon me several times to obtain the captain's address, which I declined giving, as I knew a duel must have ensued.

When the year expired that kept the regiment on Dublin duty, my poor Cunynghame was obliged to go to Country Quarters, and was cantoned about Tralee and Clare Castle. This put an end to my barrack engagement. He wanted me very much to go with him; but as his finances were but middling, and nothing but interest, could have induced me to such a ramble; though he was a fine showy fellow, I had much rather remain in Dublin, where I knew every wish could be gratified. I endeavoured to weep, but the tears, disobedient to my call, refused to come into my eyes. However, I made some semblance, and he departed fully persuaded of my ardent affection. He kept up a correspondence with me all that year, from Tralee or Clare Castle. The next year he came to Cork, to embark with his regiment for the West-Indies; and I was prevailed upon to pay him a visit, for about ten days before he sailed. I heard from him from Barbadoes and St Kitt's, also from London on his return; and, about seven years since, from Tullamore, where our epistolary intercourse dropt.

 

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