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The Black Baronet; or, The Chronicles Of Ballytrain, a novel by William Carleton

Chapter 24. An Irish Watchhouse In The Time Of The "Charlies"

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_ CHAPTER XXIV. An Irish Watchhouse in the time of the "Charlies"

Another subject which vexed the baronet not a little was the loss of his money and pistols by the robbery; but what he still felt more bitterly, was the failure of the authorities to trace or arrest the robber. The vengeance which he felt against that individual lay like a black venomous snake coiled round his heart. The loss of the money and the fire-arms he might overlook, but the man, who, in a few moments, taught him to know himself as he was--who dangled him, as it were, over the very precipice of hell--with all his iniquities upon his head, the man who made him feel the crimes of a whole life condensed into one fearful moment, and showed them to him darkened into horror by the black lightning of perdition; such a man, we say, he could never forgive. It was in vain that large rewards were subscribed and offered, it was in vain that every effort was made to discover the culprit. Not only was there no trace of him got, but other robberies had been committed by a celebrated highwayman of the day, named Finnerty, whom neither bribe nor law could reach.

Our readers may remember, with reference to the robbery of the baronet, the fact of Trailcudgel's having met the stranger on his way to disclose all the circumstances to the priest, and that he did not proceed farther on that occasion, having understood that Father M'Mahon was from home. Poor Trailcudgel, who, as the reader is aware, was not a robber either from principle or habit, and who only resorted to it when driven by the agonizing instincts of nature, felt the guilt of his crime bitterly, and could enjoy rest neither night nor day, until he had done what he conceived to be his duty as a Christian, and which was all he or any man could do: that is, repent for his crime, and return the property to him from whom he had taken it. This he did, as it is usually done, through the medium of his pastor; and on the very day after the baronet's departure both the money and pistols were deposited in Father M'Mahon's hands.

In a few days afterwards the worthy priest, finding, on inquiry, that Sir Thomas had gone to Dublin, where, it was said, he determined to reside for some time, made up his mind to follow him, in order to restore him the property he had lost. This, however, was not the sole purpose of his visit to the metropolis. The letter he had given the stranger to Corbet, or Dunphy, had not, he was sorry to find, been productive of the object for which it had been written. Perhaps it was impossible that it could; but still the good priest, who was as shrewd in many things as he was benevolent and charitable in all, felt strongly impressed with a belief that this old man was not wholly ignorant, or rather unconnected with the disappearance of either one or the other of the lost children. Be this, however, as it may, he prepared to see the baronet for the purpose already mentioned.

He accordingly took his place--an inside one--in the redoubtable "Fly," which, we may add, was the popular vehicle at the time, and wrapping himself up in a thick frieze cloak, or great coat, with standing collar that buttoned up across his face to the very eyes, and putting a shirt or two, and some other small matters, into a little bundle--tying, at the same time, a cotton kerchief over his hat and chin--he started on his visit to the metropolis, having very much the appearance of a determined character, whose dress and aspect were not, however, such as to disarm suspicion. He felt much more careful of the baronet's pocket-book than he did of his own, and contrived to place it in an inside pocket, which being rather small for it, he was obliged to rip a little in order to give it admittance. The case of pistols he slipped into the pockets of his jock, one in each, without ever having once examined them, or satisfied himself--simple man--as to whether they were loaded or not. His own pocket-book was carelessly placed in the right-hand pocket of the aforesaid jock, along with one of the pistols.

The night was agreeable, and nothing worth recording took place until they had come about five miles on the side of ------, when a loud voice ordered the coachman to stop.

"Stop the coach, sir!" said the voice, with a good deal of reckless and bitter expression in it; "stop the coach, or you are a dead man."

Several pistols were instantly leveled at both coachman and guard, and the same voice, which was thin, distinct, and wiry, proceeded--"Keep all steady now, boys, and shoot the first that attempts to move. I will see what's to be had inside."

He went immediately to the door of the "Fly," and opening it, held up a dark lantern, which, whilst it clearly showed him the dress, countenances, and condition of the passengers, thoroughly concealed his own.

The priest happened to be next him, and was consequently the first person on whom this rather cool demand was made.

"Come, sir," said the highwayman, "fork out, if you please; and be quick about it, if you're wise."

"Give a body time, if you plaise," responded the priest, who at that moment had about him all the marks and tokens of a farmer, or, at least, of a man who wished to pass for one. "I think," he added, "if you knew who you had, you'd not only pass me by, but the very coach I'm travelin' in. Don't be unaisy, man alive," he proceeded; "have patience--for patience, as everybody knows, is a virtue--do, then, have patience, or, maybe--oh! ay!--here it is--here is what you want--the very thing, I'll be bound--and you must have it, too." And the poor man, in the hurry and alarm of the moment, pulled out one of the baronet's pistols.

The robber whipped away the lantern, and instantly disappeared. "By the tarn, boys," said he, "it's Finnerty himself, disguised like a farmer. But he's mid to travel in a public coach, and the beaks on the lookout for him. Hello! all's right, coachman; drive on, we won't disturb you this night, at all events. Gee hup!--off you go; and off we go--with empty pockets."

It happened that this language, which the robber did not intend to have reached the ears of the passengers, was heard nevertheless, and from this moment until they changed horses at ------ there was a dead silence in the coach.

On that occasion one gentleman left it, and he had scarcely been half a minute gone when a person, very much in the garb and bearing of a modern detective, put in his head, and instantly withdrew it, exclaiming,

"Curse me, it's a hit--he's inside as snug as a rat in a trap. Up with you on top of the coach, and we'll pin him when we reach town. 'Gad, this is a windfall, for the reward is a heavy one.--If we could now manage the baronet's business, we were made men."

He then returned into the coach, and took his seat right opposite the priest, in order the better to watch his motions, and keep him completely under his eye.

"Dangerous traveling by night, sir," said he, addressing the priest, anxious to draw his man into conversation.

"By night or by day, the roads are not very safe at the present time," replied his reverence.

"The danger's principally by night, though," observed the other. "This Finnerty is playing the devil, they say; and is hard to be nabbed by all accounts."

The observation was received by several hums, and hems, and has, and very significant ejaculations, whilst a fat, wealthy-looking fellow, who sat beside the peace-officer--for such he was--in attempting to warn him of Finnerty's presence, by pressing on his foot, unfortunately pressed upon that of the priest in mistake, who naturally interpreted the hems and has aforesaid to apply to the new-corner instead of himself. This cannot be matter of surprise, inasmuch as the priest had his ears so completely muffled up with the collar of his jock and a thick cotton kerchief, that he heard not the allusions which the robber had made outside the coach, when he mistook him for Finnerty. He consequently peered very keenly at the last speaker, who to tell the truth, had probably in his villanous features ten times more the character and visage of a highwayman and cutthroat than the redoubtable Finnerty himself.

"It's a wonder," said the priest, "that the unfortunate man has not been taken."

"Hum!" exclaimed the officer; "unfortunate man. My good fellow, that's very mild talk when speaking of a robber. Don't you know that all robbers deserve the gallows, eh?"

"I know no such thing," replied the priest. "Many a man has lived by robbing, in his day, that now lives by catching them; and many a poor fellow, as honest as e'er an individual in this coach--"

"That's very shocking language," observed a thin, prim, red-nosed lady, with a vinegar aspect, who sat erect, and apparently fearless, in the corner of the coach--"very shocking language, indeed. Why, my good man, should you form any such wile kimparison?"

"Never mind, ma'am; never mind," said the officer, whose name was Darby; "let him proceed; from what he is about to say, I sha'n't be surprised if he justifies robbery--not a bit--but will be a good deal, if he don't. Go on, my good fellow."

"Well," proceeded the priest, "I was going to say, that many a poor wretch, as honest as e'er an individual, man or woman--"

Here there was, on the part of the lady, an indignant toss of the head, and a glance of supreme scorn leveled at the poor priest; whilst Darby, like a man who had generously undertaken the management of the whole discussion, said, with an air of conscious ability, if not something more, "nevermind him, ma'am; give him tether."

"As honest," persisted the priest, "as e'er an individual, man or woman, in this coach--and maybe, if the truth were known, a good deal honester than some of them."

"Good," observed the officer; "I agree with you in that--right enough there."

The vinegar lady, now apprehensive that her new ally had scandalously abandoned her interests, here dropped her eyes, and crossed her hands upon her breast, as if she had completely withdrawn herself from the conversation.

"I finds," said she to herself, in a contemptuous soliloquy, "as how there ain't no gentleman in this here wehicle."

"Just pay attention, ma'am," said the officer--"just pay attention, that's all."

This, however, seemed to have no effect--at least the lady remained in the same attitude, and made no reply.

"Suppose now," proceeded the priest, "that an unfortunate father, in times of scarcity and famine, should sit in his miserable cabin, and see about him six or seven of his family, some dying of fever, and others dying from want of food; and suppose that he was driven to despair by reflecting that unless he forced it from the rich who would not out of their abundance prevent his children from starving, he can procure them relief in no other way, and they must die in the agonies of hunger before his face. Suppose this, and that some wealthy man, without sympathy for his fellow-creatures, regardless of the cries of the poor-heartless, ambitious, and oppressive; and suppose besides that it was this very heartless and oppressive man of wealth who, by his pride and tyranny, and unchristian vengeance, drove that poor man and his wretched family to the state I have painted them for you, in that cold and dreary hovel; suppose all this, I say, and that that wretched poor man, his heart bursting, and his brain whirling, stimulated by affection, goaded by hunger and indescribable misery; suppose, I say, that in the madness of despair he sallies out, and happens to meet the very individual who brought him and his to such a dreadful state--do you think that he ought to let him pass--"

"I see," interrupted the officer, "without bleeding him; I knew you would come to that--go along."

"That he ought to let that wealthy oppressor pass, and allow the wife of his bosom and his gasping little ones to perish, whilst he knows that taking that assistance from him by violence which he ought to give freely would save them to society and him? Mark me, I'm not justifying robbery. Every general rule has its exception; and I'm only supposing a case where the act of robbery may be more entitled to compassion than to punishment--but, as I said, I'm not defending it."

"Ain't you, faith?" replied the officer; "it looks devilish like it, though. Don't you think so, ma'am?"

"I never listens to no nonsense like that ere," replied the lady. "All I say is, that a gentleman as I've the honor of being acquainted with, 'as been robbed the other night of a pocket-book stuffed with banknotes, and a case of Hirish pistols that he kept to shoot robbers, and sich other wulgar wretches as is to be found nowhere but in Hireland."

"Stuffed!" exclaimed the priest, disdainfully; "as much stuffed, ma'am, as you are."

The officer's very veins tingled with delight on hearing the admission which was involved in the simple priest's exclamation. He kept it, however, to himself, on account of the large reward that lay in the background.

"I stuffed!" exclaimed the indignant lady, whose thin face had for a considerable time been visible, for it was long past dawn; "I defy you, sir," she replied, "you large, nasty, Hirish farmer, as feeds upon nothing but taters. I stuffed!--no lady--you nasty farmer--goes without padding, which is well known to any man as is a gentleman. But stuffed! I defy you, nasty Paddy; I was never stuffed. Those as stuff use 'oss 'air; now I never uses 'oss 'air."

"If you weren't stuffed, then," replied the priest, who took a natural disrelish to her affectation of pride and haughtiness, knowing her as he now did--"many a better woman was. If you weren't, ma'am, it wasn't your own fault. Sir Thomas Gourlay's English cook need never be at a loss for plenty to stuff herself with."

This was an extinguisher. The heaven of her complexion was instantly concealed by a thick cloud in the shape of a veil. She laid herself back in the corner of the carriage, and maintained the silence of a vanquished woman during the remainder of the journey.

On arriving in town the passengers, as is usual, betook themselves to their respective destinations. Father M'Mahon, with his small bundle under his arm, was about to go to the Brazen Head Tavern, when he found himself tapped on the shoulder by our friend Darby, who now held a pistol in his hand, and said:

"There are eight of us, Mr. Finnerty, and it is useless to shy Abraham. You're bagged at last, so come off quietly to the office."

"I don't understand you," replied the priest, who certainly felt surprised at seeing himself surrounded by so many constables, for it was impossible any longer to mistake them. "What do you mean, my friend? or who do you suppose me to be?"

The constable gave him a knowing wink, adding with as knowing an air--"It's no go here, my lad--safe's the word. Tramp for the office, or we'll clap on the wrist-buttons. We know you're a shy cock, Mr. Finnerty, and rather modest, too--that's the cut. Simpson, keep the right arm fast, and, you, Gamble, the left, whilst we bring up the rear. In the meantime, before he proceeds a step, I, as senior, will take the liberty to--just--see--what--is--here," whilst, suiting the word to the action, he first drew a pistol from the left pocket, and immediately after another from the right, and--shades of Freney and O'Hanlon!--the redoubtable pocket-book of Sir Thomas Gourlay, each and all marked not only with his crest, but his name and title at full length.

The priest was not at a moment's loss how to act. Perceiving their mistake as to his identity, and feeling the force of appearances against him, he desired to be conducted at once to the office. There he knew he could think more calmly upon the steps necessary to his liberation than he could in a crowd which was enlarging every moment, on its being understood that Finnerty, the celebrated highwayman, had been at length taken. Not that the crowd gave expression to any feeling or ebullition that was at all unfriendly to him. So far from that, it gathered round him with strong expressions of sympathy and compassion for his unhappy fate. Many were the anecdotes reported to each other by the spectators of his humanity--his charity--his benevolence to the poor; and, above all, of his intrepidity and courage; for it may be observed here--and we leave moralists, metaphysicians, and political economists to draw whatever inferences they please from the fact--but fact it is--that in no instance is any man who has violated the law taken up publicly, on Irish ground, whether in town or country, that the people do not uniformly express the warmest sympathy for him, and a strong manifestation of enmity against his captors. Whether this may be interpreted favorably or otherwise of our countrymen, we shall not undertake to determine. As Sir Roger de Coverly said, perhaps much might be advanced on both sides.

On entering the watch-house, the heart of the humane priest was painfully oppressed at the scenes of uproar, confusion, debauchery, and shameless profligacy, of which he saw either the present exhibition or the unquestionable evidences. There was the lost and hardened female, uttering the wild screams of intoxication, or pouring forth from her dark, filthy place of confinement torrents of polluted mirth; the juvenile pickpocket, ripe in all the ribald wit and traditional slang of his profession; the ruffian burglar, with strong animal frame, dark eyebrows, low forehead, and face full of coarseness and brutality; the open robber, reckless and jocular, indifferent to consequences, and holding his life only in trust for the hangman, or for some determined opponent who may treat him to cold lead instead of pure gold; the sneaking thief, cool and cowardly, ready-witted at the extricating falsehood--for it is well known that the thief and liar are convertible terms--his eye feeble, cunning, and circumspective, and his whole appearance redolent of duplicity and fraud; the receiver of stolen goods, affecting much honest simplicity; the good creature, whether man or woman, apparently in great distress, and wondering that industrious and unsuspecting people, struggling to bring up their families in honesty and decency, should be imposed upon and taken in by people that one couldn't think of suspecting. There, too, was the servant out of place, who first a forger of discharges, next became a thief, and heroically adventuring to the dignity of a burglar for which he had neither skill nor daring, was made prisoner in the act; and there he sits, half drunk, in that corner, repenting his failure instead of his crime, forgetting his cowardice, and making moral resolutions with himself, that, should he escape now, he will execute the next burglary in a safe and virtuous state of sobriety. But we need not proceed: there was the idle and drunken mechanic, or, perhaps, the wife, whose Saturday night visits to the tap-room in order to fetch him home, or to rescue the wages of his industry from the publican, had at length corrupted herself.

Two other characters were there which we cannot overlook, both of whom had passed through the world with a strong but holy scorn for the errors and failings of their fellow-creatures. One of them was a man of gross, carnal-looking features, trained, as it seemed to the uninitiated, into a severe and sanctified expression by the sheer force of religion. His face was full of godly intolerance against everything at variance with the one thing needful, whatever that was, and against all who did not, like himself, travel on fearlessly and zealously Zionward. He did not feel himself justified in the use of common and profane language; and, consequently, his vocabulary was taken principally from the Bible, which he called "the Lord's word." Sunday was not Sunday with him, but "the Lord's day;" and he never went to church in his life, but always to "service." Like most of his class, however, he seemed to be influenced by that extraordinary anomaly which characterizes the saints--that is to say, as great a reverence for the name of the devil as for that of God himself; for in his whole life and conversation he was never known to pronounce it as we have written it. Satan--the enemy--the destroyer, were the names he applied to him: and this, we presume, lest the world might suspect that there subsisted any private familiarity between them. His great ruling principle, however, originated in what he termed a godless system of religious liberality; in other words, he attributed all the calamities and scourges of the land to the influence of Popery. and its toleration by the powers that be. He was a big-boned, coarse man, with black, greasy hair, cut short; projecting cheek-bones, that argued great cruelty; dull, but lascivious eyes; and an upper lip like a dropsical sausage. We forget now the locality in which he had committed the offence that had caused him to be brought there. But it does not much matter; it is enough to say that he was caught, about three o'clock, perambulating the streets, considerably the worse for liquor, and not in the best society. Even as it was, and in the very face of those who had detected him so circumstanced, he was railing against the ungodliness of our "rulers," the degeneracy of human nature, and the awful scourges that the existence of Popery was bringing on the land.

As it happened, however, this worthy representative of his class was not without a counterpart among the moral inmates of the watch-house. Another man, who was known among his friends as a Catholic voteen, or devotee, happened to have been brought to the game establishment, much in the same circumstances, and for some similar offence. When compared together, it was really curious to observe the extraordinary resemblance which these two men bore to each other. Each was dressed in sober clothes, for your puritan of every creed must, like his progenitors the Pharisees of old, have some peculiarity in his dress that will gain him credit for religion. Their features were marked by the same dark, sullen shade which betokens intolerance. The devotee was thinner, and not so large a man as the other; but he made up in the cunning energy which glistened from his eyes for the want of physical strength, as compared with the Protestant saint; not at all that he was deficient in it per se, for though a smaller man, he was better built and more compact than his brother. Indeed, so nearly identical was the expression of their features--the sensual Milesian mouth, and naturally amorous temperament, hypocrisized into formality, and darkened into bitterness by bigotry --that on discovering each other in the watch-house, neither could for his life determine whether the man before him belonged to idolatrous Rome on the one hand, or the arch heresy on the other.

There they stood, exact counterparts, each a thousand times more anxious to damn the other than to save himself. They were not long, however, in discovering each other, and in a moment the jargon of controversy rang loud and high amidst the uproar and confusion of the place. The Protestant saint attributed all the iniquity by which the land, he said, was overflowed, and the judgments under which it was righteously suffering, to the guilt of our rulers, who forgot God, and connived at Popery.

The Popish saint, on the other hand, asserted that so long as a fat and oppressive heresy was permitted to trample upon the people, the country could never prosper. The other one said, that idolatry--Popish idolatry--was the cause of all; and that it was the scourge by which "the Lord" was inflicting judicial punishment upon the country at large. If it were not for that he would not be in such a sink of iniquity at that moment. Popish idolatry it was that brought him there; and the abominations of the Romish harlot were desolating the land.

The other replied, that perhaps she was the only harlot of the kind he would run away from; and maintained, that until all heresy was abolished, and rooted out of the country, the curse of God would sit upon them, as the corrupt law church does now in the shape of an overgrown nightmare. What brought him, who was ready to die for his persecuted church, here? He could tell the heretic;--it was Protestant ascendancy, and he could prove it;--yes, Protestant ascendancy, and nothing else, was it that brought him to that house, its representative, in which he now stood. He maintained that it resembled a watch-house; was it not full of wickedness, noise, and blasphemy; and were there any two creeds; in it that agreed together, and did not fight like devils?

How much longer this fiery discussion might have proceeded it is difficult to say. The constable of the night, finding that the two hypocritical vagabonds were a nuisance to the whole place, had them handcuffed together, and both placed in the black hole to finish their argument.

In short, there was around the good man--vice, with all her discordant sounds and hideous aspects, clanging in his ear the multitudinous din that arose from the loud and noisy tumult of her brutal, drunken, and debauched votaries.

The priest, who respected his cloth and character, did not lay aside his jock, nor expose himself to the coarse jests and ruffianly insolence with which the vagabond minions of justice were in those days accustomed to treat their prisoners. He inquired if he could get a person to carry a message from him to a man named Corbet, living at 25 Constitution Hill; adding, that he would compensate him fairly. On this, one of those idle loungers or orderlies about such places offered himself at once, and said he would bring any message he wished, provided he forked out in the first instance.

"Go, then," said the priest, handing him a piece of silver, "to No. 25 Constitution Hill, where a man named Corbet--what am I saying--Dunphy, lives, and tell him to come to me immediately."

"Ha!" said Darby, laying his finger along; his nose, as he spoke to one of his associates, "I smell an alias there. Good; first Corbet and then Dunphy. What do you call that? That chap is one of the connection. Take the message, Skipton; mark him well, and let him be here, if possible, before we bring the prisoner to Sir Thomas Gourlay's."

The fellow winked in reply, and approaching the priest, asked,

"What message have you to send, Mr. Finnerty?"

"Tell him--but stay; oblige me with a slip of paper and a pen, I will write it down."

"Yes, that's better," said Darby. "Nothing like black and white, you know," he added, aside to Skipton.

Father M'Mahon then wrote down his office only; simply saying, "The parish priest of Ballytrain wishes to see Anthony Dunphy as soon as he can come to him."

This description of himself excited roars of laughter throughout the office; nor could the good-natured priest himself help smiling at the ludicrous contrast between his real character and that which had been affixed upon him.

"Confound me," said Darby, "but that's the best alias I have heard this many a day. It's as good as Tom Green's that was hanged, and who always stuck to his name, no matter how often he changed it. At one time it was Ivy, at another Laurel, at another Yew, and so on, poor fellow, until he swung." Skipton, the messenger, took the slip of paper with high glee, and proceeded on his embassy to Constitution Hill.

He had scarcely been gone, when a tumult reached their ears from outside, in which one voice was heard considerably louder and deeper than the rest; and almost immediately afterwards an old acquaintance of the reader's, to wit, the worthy student, Ambrose Gray, in a very respectable state of intoxication, made his appearance, charged with drunkenness, riot, and a blushing reluctance to pay his tavern reckoning. Mr. Gray was dragged in at very little expense of ceremony, it must be confessed, but with some prospective damage to his tailor, his clothes having received considerable abrasions in the scuffle, as well as his complexion, which was beautifully variegated with tints of black, blue, and yellow.

"Well, Mr. Gray," said Darby, "back once more I see? Why, you couldn't live without us, I think. What's this now?"

"A deficiency of assets, most potent," replied Gray, with a hiccough--"unable to meet a rascally tavern reckoning;" and as Mr. Gray spoke he thrust his tongue into his cheek, intimating by this significant act his high respect for Mr. Darby.

"You had better remember, sir, that you are addressing the senior officer here," said the latter, highly offended.

"Most potent, grave, and reverend senior, I don't forget it; nor that the grand senior can become a most gentlemanly ruffian whenever he chooses. No, senior, I respect your ruffianship, and your ruffianship ought to respect me; for well you wot that many a time before now I've greased that absorbing palm of yours."

"Ah," replied Darby, "the hemp is grown for you, and the rope is purchased that will soon be greased for your last tug. Why didn't you pay your bill, I say?"

"I told you before, most potent, that that fact originated in a deficiency of assets."

"I rather think, Mr. Gray," said Darby, "that it originated in a very different kind of deficiency--a deficiency of inclination, my buck."

"In both, most reverend senior, and I act on scriptural principles; for what does Job say? 'Base is the slave that patient pays.'"

"Well, my good fellow, if you don't pay, you'll be apt to receive, some fine day, that's all," and here he made a motion with his arm, as if he were administering the cat-o'-nine-tails; "however, this is not my business. Here comes Mrs. Mulroony to make her charge. I accordingly shove you over to Ned Nightcap, the officer for the night."

"Ah!" exclaimed Gray, "I see, most potent, you have operated before. Kow-de-dow-de-dow, my boy. There was a professional touch in that jerk that couldn't be mistaken: that quiver at the wrist was beautiful, and the position of the arm a perfect triangle. It must have been quite a pleasure to have suffered from such a scientific hand as yours. How do you do again, Mrs. Mulroony? Mrs. Mulroony, I hope you did not come without some refreshment. And you'll withdraw the charge, for the sake of futurity, Mrs. Mulroony."

"If you do, Mrs. Mulroony," said Darby, "I'm afraid you'll have to look to futurity for payment. I mean to that part of it commonly called 'to-morrow comenever.'--Make your charge, ma'am."

Here a pale-faced, sinister-looking old fellow, in a red woollen nightcap, with baggy protuberances hanging under his red bleared eyes, now came to a little half door, inside of which stood his office for receiving all charges against the various delinquents that the Charlies, or watchmen of the period, had conducted to him.

"Here," said he, in a hoarse, hollow voice, "what's this--what's this? Another charge against you, Mr. Gray? Garvy," said he, addressing a watchman, "tell them vagabones that if they don't keep, quiet I'll put them in irons."

This threat was received with a chorus of derision by those to whom it was addressed, and the noise was increased so furiously, that it resembled the clamor of Babel.

"Here, Garvy," said honest Ned, "tickle some of them a bit. Touch up that bullet-headed house-breaker that's drunk--Sam Stancheon, they call him--lave a nate impression of the big kay on his head; he'll undherstand it, you know; and there's Molly Brady, or Emily Howard, as she calls herself, give her a clink on the noddle to stop her jinteelity. Blast her pedigree; nothing will serve her but she must be a lady on our hands. Tell her I'll not lave a copper ring or a glass brooch on her body if she's not quiet."

The watchman named Garvy took the heavy keys, and big with the deputed authority, swept, like the destroying angel upon a small scale, through the tumultuous crew that were assembled in this villanous pandemonium, thrashing the unfortunate vagabonds on the naked head, or otherwise, as the case might be, without regard to age, sex, or condition, leaving bumps, welts, cuts, oaths, curses, and execrations, ad infinitum, behind him. Owing to this distribution of official justice a partial calm was restored, and the charge of Mrs. Mulroony was opened in form.

"Well, Mrs. Mulroony, what charge is this you have against Misther Gray?"

"Because," replied Ambrose, "I wasn't in possession of assets to pay her own. Had I met her most iniquitous charge at home, honest Ned, I should have escaped the minor one here. You know of old, Ned, how she lost her conscience one night, about ten years ago; and the poor woman, although she put it in the 'Hue and Cry,' by way of novelty, never got it since. None of the officers of justice knew of such a commodity; ergo, Ned, I suffer."

Here Mr. Ambrose winked at Ned, and touched his breeches pocket significantly, as much as to say, "the bribe is where you know."

Ned, however, was strictly impartial, and declined, with most commendable virtue, to recognize the signal, until he saw whether Mrs. Mulroony did not understand "generosity" as well as Mr. Gray.

"Misther Gray, I'll thank you to button your lip, if you plaise. It's all very right, I suppose; but in the manetime let daicent Mrs. Mulroony tell her own story. How is it, ma'am?"

"Faith, plain enough," she replied; "he came in about half past five o'clock, with three or four skips from college--"

"Scamps, Mrs. Mulroony. Be just, be correct, ma'am. We were all gentlemen scamps, Ned, from college. Everybody knows that a college scamp is a respectable character, especially if he be a divinity student, a class whom we are proud to place at our head. You are now corrected, Mrs. Mulroony--proceed."

"Well; he tould me to get a dinner for five; but first asked to see what he called 'the bill of hair.'"

"In your hands it is anything but a bill of rights, Mrs. Mulroony."

"I tould him not to trouble himself; that my dinner was as good as another's, which I thought might satisfy him; but instead o' that, he had the assurance to ask me if I could give them hair soup. I knew very well what the skip was at."

"Scamp, ma'am, and you will oblige me."

"For if grief for poor Andy (weeping), that suffered mainly for what he was as innocent of as the unborn child--if grief, an' every one knows it makes the hair to fall; an' afther all it's only a bit of a front I'm wearin';--ah, you villain, it was an ill-hearted cut, that."

"It wasn't a cut did it, Mrs. Mulroony; it fell off naturally, and by instalments--or rather it was a cut, and that was what made you feel it; that youthful old gentleman, Time, gave it a touch with a certain scythe he carries. No such croppy as old Time, Mrs. Mulroony." On concluding, he winked again at old Ned, and touched his pocket as before.

"Mr. Amby, be quiet," said Ned, rather complacently though, "an' let daicent Mrs. Mulroony go on."

"'Well, then,' says he, 'if you haven't, 'hair-soup,' which was as much as to say--makin' his own fun before the strangers--that I ought to boil my very wig to plaise him--my front, I mane, 'maybe,' says he, 'you have oxtail.' Well, flesh and blood could hardly bear that, and I said it was a scandal for him to treat an industrious, un-projected widow in such a way; 'if you want a dinner, Mr. Gray,' says I, 'I can give you and your friends a jacketful of honest corned beef and greens.' Well, my dear--"

At this insinuating expression of tenderness, old Ned, aware, for the first time, that she was a widow, and kept that most convenient of establishments, an eating-house, cocked his nightcap, with great spirit and significance, and with an attempt at a leer, which, from the force of habit, made him look upon her rather as the criminal than the accuser, he said--"It was scandalous, Mrs. Mulroony; and it is a sad thing to be unprotected, ma'am; it's a pity, too, to see sich a woman as you are without somebody to take care of her, and especially one that id undherstand swindlin'. But what happened next, ma'am?"

"Why, my dear--indeed, I owe you many thanks for your kindness--you see, my dear,"--the nightcap here seemed to move and erect itself instinctively--"this fellow turns round, and says to the other four skips--'Gentlemen,' says he, 'could you conde--condescend,' I think it was--yes--'could you condescend to dine upon corned beef and greens? They said, not unless it would oblige him; and then he said it wasn't to oblige him, but to sarve the house he did it. So, to make a long story short, they filled themselves with my victuals, drank seven tumblers of punch each, kept playin' cards the whole night, and then fell a fightin'--smashed glass, delft, and everything; and when it was mornin', slipped out, one by one, till I caught my skip here, the last of them--"

"Scamp, Mrs. Roony; a gentleman scamp, known to every one as a most respectable character on town."

"When I caught him going off without payment, he fairly laughed in my face, and offered to toss me."

"Oh, the villain!" said Ned; "I only wish I had been there, Mrs. Mulroony, and you wouldn't have wanted what I am sorry to see you do want--a protector. The villain, to go to toss such a woman--to go to take such scandalous liberties! Go on, ma'am--go on, my dear Mrs. Mulroony."

"Well, my dear, he offered, as I said, to toss me for it--double or quits--and when I wouldn't stand that, he asked me if I would allow him to kiss it in, at so many kisses a-day; but I told him that coin wouldn't pass wid me."

"He's a swindler, ma'am; no doubt of it, and you'll never be safe till you have some one to protect you that understands swindlin' and imposition. Well, ma'am--well, my dear ma'am, what next?"

"Why, he then attempted to escape; but as I happened to have a stout ladle in my hand, I thought a good basting wouldn't do him any harm, and while I was layin' on him two sailors came in, and they took him out of my hands."

"Out of the frying-pan into the fire, you ought to say, Mrs. Mulroony."

"So he and they fought, and smashed another lot of glass, and then I set out and charged him on the watch. Oh, murdher sheery--to think the way my beautiful beef and greens went!"

Here Mr. Ambrose, approaching Mrs. Mulroony, whispered--"My dear Mrs. Mulroony, remember one word--futurity; heir apparent--heir direct; so be moderate, and a short time will place you in easy circumstances. The event that's coming will be a stunner."

"What's that he's sayin' to you, my dear Mrs. Mulroony?" asked Ned; "don't listen to him, he'll only soohdher and palaver you. I'll take your charge, and lock him up."

"Darby," said Mr. Gray, now approaching that worthy, "a single word with you--we understand one another--I intended to bribe old Ned, the villain; but you shall have it."

"Very good, it's a bargain," replied the virtuous Darby; "fork out."

"Here, then, is ten shillings, and bring me out of it."

Darby privately pocketed the money, and moving toward Ned, whispered to him--"Don't take the charge for a few minutes. I'll fleece them both. Amby has given me half-a-crown; another from her, and then, half and half between us. Mrs. Mulroony, a word with you. Listen--do you wish to succeed in this business?"

"To be sure I do; why not?"

"Well, then, if you do, slip me five shillings, or you're dished, like one of your own-dinners, and that Amby Gray will slice you to pieces. Ned's his friend at heart, I tell you."

"Well, but you'll see me rightified?"

"Hand the money, ma'am; do you know who you're speaking to? The senior of the office."

On receiving the money, the honest senior whispers to the honest officer of the night--"A crown from both, that is, half from each; and now act as you like; but if you take the widow's charge, we'll have a free plate, at all events, whenever we call to see her, you know."

Honest Ned, feeling indignant that he was not himself the direct recipient of the bribes, and also anxious to win favor in the widow's eyes, took the charge against Mr. Gray, who was very soon locked up, with the "miscellanies," in the black hole, until bail could be procured.

On finding that matters had gone against him, Gray, who, although unaffected in speech, was yet rather tipsy, assumed a look of singular importance, as if to console himself for the degradation he was about to undergo; he composed his face into an expression that gave a ludicrous travesty of dignity.

"Well," said he, with a solemn swagger, nodding his head from side to side as he spoke, in order to impress what he uttered with a more mysterious emphasis--"you are all acting in ignorance, quite so; little you know who the person is that's before you; but it doesn't signify--I am somebody, at all events."

"A gentleman in disguise," said a voice from the black hole. "You'll find some of your friends here."

"You are right, my good fellow--you are perfectly right;" said Ambrose, nodding with drunken gravity, as before; "high blood runs in my veins, and time will soon tell that; I shall stand and be returned for the town of Ballytrain, as soon as there comes a dissolution; I'm bent on that."

"Bravo! hurra! a very proper member you'll make for it," from the black hole.

"And I shall have the Augean stables of these corrupt offices swept of their filth. Ned, the scoundrel, shall be sent to the right about; Mr. Darby, for his honesty, shall have each wrist embraced by a namesake."

Here he was shoved by Garvy, the watchman, head foremost into the black hole, after having received an impulse from behind, kindly intended to facilitate his ingress, which, notwithstanding his drunken ambition, the boast of his high blood, and mighty promises, was made with extraordinary want of dignity.

Although we have described this scene nearly in consecutive order, without the breaks and interruptions which took place whilst it proceeded, yet the reader should imagine to himself the outrage, the yelling, the clamor, the by-battles, and scurrilous contests in the lowest description of blackguardism with which it was garnished; thus causing it to occupy at least four times the period we have ascribed to it. The simple-minded priest, who could never have dreamt of such an exhibition, scarcely knew whether he was asleep or awake, and sometimes asked himself whether it was not some terrible phantasm by which he was startled and oppressed. The horrible impress of naked and hardened villany--the light and mirthful delirium of crime--the wanton manifestations of vice, in all its shapes, and the unblushing front of debauchery and profligacy--constituted, when brought together in one hideous group, a sight which made his heart groan for human nature on the one hand, and the corruption of human law on the other.

"The contamination of vice here," said he to himself, "is so concentrated and deadly, that innocence or virtue could not long resist its influence. Alas! alas!"

Old Dunphy now made his appearance; but he had scarcely time to shake hands with the priest, when he heard himself addressed from between the bars of Gray's limbo, with the words,

"I say, old Corbet, or Dunphy, or whatever the devil they call you; here's a relation of yours by the mother's side only, you old dog--mark that; here I am, Ambrose Gray, a gentleman in disguise, as you well know; and I want you to bail me out."

"An' a respectable way you ax it," said Dunphy, putting on his spectacles, and looking at him through the bars.

"Respect! What, to a beggarly old huckster and kidnapper! Why, you penurious slicer of musty bacon--you iniquitous dealer in light weights--what respect are you entitled to from me? You know who I am--and you must bail me. Otherwise never expect, when the time comes, that I shall recognize you as a base relative, or suffer you to show your ferret face in my presence."

"Ah!" exclaimed the old man, bitterly; "the blood is in you."

"Eight, my old potatomonger; as true as gospel, and a great deal truer. The blood is in me."

"Ay," replied the other, "the blood of the oppressor--the blood of the villain--the blood of the unjust tyrant is in you, and nothing else. If you had his power, you'd be what he is, and maybe, worse, if the thing was possible. Now, listen; I'll make the words you just said to me the bitterest and blackest to yourself that you ever spoke. That's the last information I have for you; and as I know that you're just where you ought to be, among the companions you are fit for, there I leave you."

He then turned toward the priest, and left Gray to get bail where he might.

When Skipton, the messenger, who returned with Dunphy, or Corbet, as we shall in future call him, entered the watch-house, he drew Darby aside, and held some private conversation with him, of which it was evident that Corbet was the subject, from the significant glances which each turned upon him from time to time.

In the meantime, the old man, recognizing the priest rather by his voice than his appearance, lost no time in acquainting the officers of justice that they were completely mistaken in the individual. The latter had briefly mentioned to him the circumstance and cause of his arrest.

"I want you," said the priest, "to go to Sir Thomas Gourlay directly, and tell him that I have his money and pistols quite safe, and that I was on my way up to town with them, when this unpleasant mistake took place."

"I will, your reverence," said he, "without loss of time. I see," he added, addressing Darby and the others, "that you have made a mistake here."

"What mistake, my good man?" asked Darby.

"Why, simply, that instead of a robber, you have been sharp enough to take up a most respectable Catholic clergyman from Ballytrain."

"What," said Darby, "a Popish priest! Curse me, but that's as good, if not better, than the other thing. No Papist is allowed, under the penalty of a felony, to carry arms, and here is a Popish priest travelling with pistols. The other thing, Skipton, was only for the magistrates, but this is a government affair."

"He may be Finnerty, after all," replied Skipton, aside; "this old fellow is no authority as to his identity, as you may guess from what I told you."

"At all events," replied Darby, "we shall soon know which he is--priest or robber; but I hope, for our own sakes, he'll prove a priest on our hands. At any rate the magistrates are now in the office, and it's full time to bring his reverence up."

Corbet, in the meantime, had gone to Sir Thomas Gourlay's with his reverence's message, and in a few minutes afterwards the prisoner, strongly guarded, was conducted to the police office. _

Read next: Chapter 25. The Police Office

Read previous: Chapter 23. A Lunch In Summerfield Cottage

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