A RESIDENT magistracy in Ireland is not an easy thing to come by nowadays; neither is it a very attractive job; yet on the evening when I first propounded the idea to the young lady who had recently consented to become Mrs. Sinclair Yeates, it seemed glittering with possibilities. There was, on that occasion, a sunset, and a string band playing “The Gondoliers,” and there was also an ingenuous belief in the omnipotence of a godfather of Philippa’s (Philippa was the young lady) — who had once been a member of the Government.
I was then climbing the steep ascent of the captains toward my majority. I have no fault to find with Philippa’s godfather; he did all and more than even Philippa had expected; nevertheless, I had attained to the dignity of mud-major, and had spent a good deal on postage-stamps, and on railway fares to interview people of influence, before I found myself in the hotel at Skebawn, opening long envelopes addressed to “Major Yeates, R. M.”
My most immediate concern, as any one who has spent nine weeks at Mrs. Raverty’s hotel will readily believe, was to leave it at the earliest opportunity; but in those nine weeks I had learned, amongst other painful things, a little, a very little, of the methods of the artisan in the west of Ireland. Finding a house had been easy enough. I had had my choice of several, each with some hundreds of acres of shooting, thoroughly poached, and a considerable portion of the roof 268 intact. I had selected one; the one that had the largest extent of roof in proportion to the shooting, and had been assured by my landlord that in a fortnight or so it would be fit for occupation.
“There’s a few little odd things to be done,” he said easily; “a lick of paint here and there, and a slap of plaster ——”
I am short-sighted; I am also of Irish extraction; both facts that make for toleration — but even I thought he was understating the case. So did the contractor.
At the end of three weeks the latter reported progress, which mainly consisted of the facts that the plumber had accused the carpenter of stealing sixteen feet of his inch-pipe to run a bell-wire through, and that the carpenter had replied that he wished the divil might run the plumber through a wran’s quill. The plumber having reflected upon the carpenter’s parentage, the work of renovation had merged in battle, and at the next petty sessions I was reluctantly compelled to allot to each combatant seven days, without the option of a fine.
These and kindred difficulties extended in an unbroken chain through the summer months, until a certain wet and windy day in October, when, with my baggage, I drove over to establish myself at Shreelane. It was a tall, ugly house of three stories high, its walls faced with weather-beaten slates, its windows staring, narrow, and vacant. Round the house ran an area, in which grew some laurustinus and holly bushes among ash-heaps, and nettles, and broken bottles. I stood on the steps, waiting for the door to be opened, while the rain sluiced upon me from a broken eaveshoot that had, amongst many other things, escaped the notice of my landlord. I thought of Philippa, and of her plan, broached in to-day’s letter, of having the hall done up as a sitting-room.269
The door opened, and revealed the hall. It struck me that I had perhaps overestimated its possibilities. Among them I had certainly not included a flagged floor, sweating with damp, and a reek of cabbage from the adjacent kitchen-stairs. A large elderly woman, with a red face, and a cap worn helmet-wise on her forehead, swept me a magnificent curtsey as I crossed the threshold.
“Your honour’s welcome —” she began, and then every door in the house slammed in obedience to the gust that drove through it. With something that sounded like “Mend ye for a back door!” Mrs. Cadogan abandoned her opening speech and made for the kitchen-stairs. (Improbable as it may appear, my housekeeper was called Cadogan, a name made locally possible by being pronounced Caydogawn.)
Only those who have been through a similar experience can know what manner of afternoon I spent. I am a martyr to colds in the head, and I felt one coming on. I made a laager in front of the dining-room fire, with a tattered leather screen and the dinner-table, and gradually, with cigarettes and strong tea, baffled the smell of must and cats, and fervently trusted that the rain might avert a threatened visit from my landlord.
At about 4.30, when the room had warmed up, and my cold was yielding to treatment, Mrs. Cadogan entered and informed me that “Mr. Flurry” was in the yard, and would be thankful if I’d go out to him, for he couldn’t come in. Many are the privileges of the female sex; had I been a woman I should unhesitatingly have said that I had a cold in my head. Being a man, I huddled on a mackintosh, and went out into the yard.
My landlord was there on horseback, and with him there was a man standing at the head of a stout gray animal. I 270 recognised with despair that I was about to be compelled to buy a horse.
“Good afternoon, major,” said Mr. Knox in his slow, sing-song brogue; “it’s rather soon to be paying you a visit, but I thought you might be in a hurry to see the horse I was telling you of.”
I could have laughed. As if I were ever in a hurry to see a horse! I thanked him, and suggested that it was rather wet for horse-dealing.
“Oh, it’s nothing when you’re used to it,” replied Mr. Knox. His gloveless hands were red and wet, the rain ran down his nose, and his covert coat was soaked to a sodden brown. I thought that I did not want to become used to it. My relations with horses have been of a purely military character. I have endured the Sandhurst riding-school, I have galloped for an impetuous general, I have been steward at regimental races, but none of these feats have altered by opinion that the horse, as a means of locomotion, is obsolete. Nevertheless, the man who accepts a resident magistracy in the southwest of Ireland voluntarily retires into the prehistoric age; to institute a stable became inevitable.
“You ought to throw a leg over him,” said Mr. Knox, “and you’re welcome to take him over a fence or two if you like. He’s a nice flippant jumper.”
Even to my unexacting eye the gray horse did not seem to promise flippancy, nor did I at all desire to find that quality in him. I explained that I wanted something to drive, and not to ride.
“Well, that’s a fine raking horse in harness,” said Mr. Knox, looking at me with his serious gray eyes, “and you’d drive him with a sop of hay in his mouth. Bring him up here, Michael.”271
Michael abandoned his efforts to kick the gray horse’s forelegs into a becoming position, and led him up to me.
I regarded him from under my umbrella with a quite unreasonable disfavour. He had the dreadful beauty of a horse in a toy-shop, as chubby, as wooden, and as conscientiously dappled, but it was unreasonable to urge this as an objection, and I was incapable of finding any more technical drawback. Yielding to circumstance, I “threw my leg” over the brute, and after pacing gravely round the quadrangle that formed the yard, and jolting to my entrance-gate and back, I decided that as he had neither fallen down nor kicked me off, it was worth paying twenty-five pounds for him, if only to get in out of the rain.
Mr. Knox accompanied me into the house and had a drink. He was a fair, spare young man, who looked like a stable-boy among gentlemen, and a gentleman among stable-boys. He belonged to a clan that cropped up in every grade of society in the country, from Sir Valentine Knox of Castle Knox down to the auctioneer Knox, who bore the attractive title of Larry the Liar. So far as I could judge, Florence McCarthy of that ilk occupied a shifting position about midway in the tribe. I had met him at dinner at Sir Valentine’s, I had heard of him at an illicit auction, held by Larry the Lair, of brandy stolen from a wreck. They were “Black Protestants,” all of them, in virtue of their descent from a godly soldier of Cromwell, and all were prepared at any moment of the day or night to sell a horse.
“You’ll be apt to find this place a bit lonesome after the hotel,” remarked Mr. Flurry sympathetically, as he placed his foot in its steaming boot on the hob, “but it’s a fine sound house anyway, and lots of rooms in it, though, indeed, to tell you the truth, I never was through the whole of them 272 since the time my great-uncle, Denis McCarthy, died here. The dear knows I had enough of it that time.” He paused, and lit a cigarette — one of my best, and quite thrown away upon him. “Those top floors, now,” he resumed, “I wouldn’t make too free with them. There’s some of them would jump under you like a spring bed. Many’s the night I was in and out of those attics, following my poor uncle when he had a bad turn on him — the horrors, y’know — there were nights he never stopped walking through the house. Good Lord! will I ever forget the morning he said he saw the devil coming up the avenue! ‘Look at the two horns on him,’ says he, and he out with his gun and shot him, and, begad, it was his own donkey!”
Mr. Knox gave a couple of short laughs. He seldom laughed, having in unusual perfection the gravity of manner that is bred by horse-dealing, probably from the habitual repression of all emotions save disparagement.
The autumn evening, gray with rain, was darkening in the tall windows, and the wind was beginning to make bullying rushes among the shrubs in the area; a shower of soot rattled down the chimney and fell on the hearth-rug.
“More rain coming,” said Mr. Knox, rising composedly; “you’ll have to put a goose down these chimneys some day soon, it’s the only way in the world to clean them. Well, I’m for the road. You’ll come out on the gray next week, I hope; the hounds’ll be meeting here. Give a roar at him coming in at his jumps.” He threw his cigarette into the fire and extended a hand to me. “Good-bye, major, you’ll see plenty of me and my hounds before you’re done. There’s a power of foxes in the plantations here.”
This was scarcely reassuring for a man who hoped to shoot woodcock, and I hinted as much.273
“Oh, is it the cock?” said Mr. Flurry; “b’leeve me, there never was a woodcock yet that minded hounds, now, no more than they’d mind rabbits! The best shoots ever I had here, the hounds were in it the day before.”
When Mr, Knox had gone, I began to picture myself going across country roaring, like a man on a fire-engine, while Philippa put the goose down the chimney; but when I sat down to write to her I did not feel equal to being humourous about it. I dilated ponderously on my cold, my hard work, and my loneliness, and eventually went to bed at ten o’clock full of cold shivers and hot whisky-and-water.
I HAD not seen a boat-race since I was at Oxford, and the words still called up before my eyes a vision of smart parasols. of gorgeous barges, of snowy-clad youths, and of low slim outriggers, winged with the level flight of oars, slitting the water to the sway of the line of flat backs. Certainly undreamed-of possibilities in aquatics were revealed to me as I reined in the Quaker on the outskirts of the crowd, and saw below me the festival of the “Sons of Liberty” in full swing. Boats of all shapes and sizes, outrageously overladen, moved about the lake, with oars flourishing to the strains of concertinas. Black swarms of people seethed along the water’s edge, congesting here and there round the dingy tents and stalls of green apples; and the club’s celebrated brass band, enthroned in a waggonette, and stimulated by the presence of a barrel of porter on the box-seat, was belching forth “The 274Boys of Wexford,” under the guidance of a disreputable ex-militia drummer, in a series of crashing discords.
Almost as I arrived a pistol-shot set the echoes clattering round the lake, and three boats burst out abreast from the throng into the open water. Two of the crews were in shirt-sleeves, the third wore the green jerseys of the football club; the boats were of the heavy sea-going build, and pulled six oars apiece, oars of which the looms were scarcely narrower than the blades, and were, of the two, but a shade heavier. None the less, the rowers started dauntlessly at thirty-five strokes a minute, quickening up, incredible as it may seem, as they rounded the mark-boat in the first lap of the two-mile course. The rowing was, in general style, more akin to the action of beating up eggs with a fork than to any other form of athletic exercise; but in its unorthodox way it kicked the heavy boats along at a surprising pace. The oars squeaked and grunted against the thole-pins, the coxwains kept up an unceasing flow of oratory, and superfluous little boys in punts contrived to intervene at all the more critical turning-points of the race, only evading the flail of the oncoming oars by performing prodigies of “waggling” with a single oar at the stern. I took out my watch and counted the strokes when they were passing the mark-boat for the second time; they were pulling a fraction over forty; one of the shirt-sleeved crews was obviously in trouble, the other, with humped backs and jerking oars, was holding its own against the green jerseys amid the blended yells of friends and foes. When for the last time they rounded the green flag, there were but two boats in the race, and the foul that had been imminent throughout was at length achieved with a rattle of oars and a storm of curses. They were clear again in a moment, the shirt-sleeved crew getting away 275 with a distinct lead, and it was at about this juncture that I became aware that the coxwains had abandoned their long-handled tillers, and were standing over their respective “strokes,” shoving frantically at their oars, and maintaining the while a ceaseless bawl of encouragement and defiance. It looked like a foregone conclusion for the leaders, and the war of cheers rose to frenzy. The word “cheering,” indeed, is but an euphemism, and in no way expresses the serrated yell, composed of epithets, advice, and imprecations, that was flung like a live thing at the oncoming boats. The green jerseys answered to this stimulant with a wild spurt that drove the bow of their boat within a measurable distance of their opponents’ stroke-oar. In another second a thoroughly successful foul would have been effected, but the cox of the leading boat proved himself equal to the emergency by unshipping his tiller, and with it dealing “bow” of the green jerseys such a blow over the head as effectually dismissed him from the sphere of practical politics.
A great roar of laughter greeted this feat of arms, and a voice at my dog-cart’s wheel pierced the clamour:
“More power to ye, Larry, me owld darlin’!”
I looked down and saw Bat Callaghan, with shining eyes, and a face white with excitement, poising himself on one foot on the box of my wheel in order to get a better view of the race. Almost before I had time to recognise him, a man in a green jersey caught him round the legs and jerked him down. Callaghan fell into the throng, recovered himself in an instant, and rushed, white and dangerous, at his assailant. The Son of Liberty was no less ready for the fray, and what is known in Ireland as “the father and mother of a row” was imminent. Already, however, one of those unequalled judges of the moral temperature of a crowd, a serjeant 276 of the R.I.C., had quietly interposed his bulky person between the combatants, and the coming trouble was averted.
Elsewhere battle was raging. The race was over, and the committee-boat was hemmed in by the rival crews, supplemented by craft of all kinds. The “objection” was being lodged, and in its turn objected to, and I can only liken the process to the screaming warfare of sea-gulls round a piece of carrion. The tumult was still at its height when out of its very heart two four-oared boats broke forth, and a pistol-shot proclaimed that another race had begun, the public interest in which was specially keen, owing to the fact that the rowers were stalwart country girls, who made up in energy what they lacked in skill. It was a short race, once round the mark-boat only, and, like a successful farce, it “went with a roar” from start to finish. Foul after foul, each followed by a healing interval of calm, during which the crews, who had all caught crabs, were recovering themselves and their oars, marked its progress; and when the two boats, locked in an inextricable embrace, at length passed the winning flag, and the crews, oblivious of judges and public, fell to untrammelled personal abuse and to doing up their hair, I decided that I had seen the best of the fun, and prepared to go home.
It was, as it happened, the last race of the day, and nothing remained in the way of excitement save the greased pole with the pig slung in a bag at the end of it. My final impression of the Lough Lonen Regatta was of Callaghan’s lithe figure, sleek and dripping, against the yellow sky, as he poised on the swaying pole with the broken gold of the water beneath him. — “Some Experiences of an Irish R.M.”
THAT afternoon I was wrapped in the slumber, balmiest and most profound, that follows on a wet Sunday luncheon, when Murray, our inspector of police, drove up in uniform, and came into the house on the top of a gust that set every door banging and every picture dancing on the walls. He looked as if his eyes had been blown out of his head, and he wanted something to eat very badly.
“I’ve been down at the wreck since ten o’clock this morning,” he said, “waiting for her to break up, and once she does there’ll be trouble. She’s an American ship, and she’s full up with rum and bacon and butter and all sorts. Bosanquet is there with all his coast-guards, and there are five hundred country people on the strand at this moment, waiting for the fun to begin. I’ve got ten of my fellows there, and I wish I had as many more. You’d better come back with me, Yeates, we may want the riot act before all’s done!”
The heavy rain had ceased, but it seemed as if it had fed the wind instead of calming it, and when Murray and I drove out to Shreelane, the whole dirty sky was moving, full-sailed, in from the south-west, and the telegraph wires were hanging in a loop from the post outside the gate. Nothing except a Skebawn car-horse would have faced the whooping charges of the wind that came at us across Corran Lake; stimulated mysteriously by whistles from the driver, Murray’s yellow hireling pounded woodenly along against the blast, till the smell of the torn sea-weed was borne upon it, and we saw the Atlantic waves come towering into the bay of Tralagough.278
The ship was, or had been, a three-masted bark; two of her masts were gone, and her bows stood high out of water on the reef that forms one of the shark-like jaws of the bay. The long strand was crowded with black groups of people, from the bank of heavy shingle that had been hurled over on to the road, down to the slope where the waves pitched themselves and climbed and fought and tore the gravel back with them, as though they had dug their fingers in. The people were nearly all men, dressed solemnly and hideously in their Sunday clothes; most of them had come straight from Mass without any dinner, true to that Irish instinct that places its fun before its food. That the wreck was regarded as a spree of the largest kind was sufficiently obvious. Our car pulled up at a public-house that stood askew between the road and the shingle; it was humming with those whom Irish publicans are pleased to call “bona feeds,” and sundry of the same class were clustered round the door. Under the wall on the lee side was seated a bagpiper, droning out “The Irish Washerwoman,” with nodding head and tapping heel, and a young man was cutting a few steps of a jig for the delectation of a group of girls.
So far Murray’s constabulary had done nothing but exhibit their imposing chest measurement and spotless uniforms to the Atlantic, and Bosanquet’s coast-guards had only salvaged some spars, the débris of a boat, and a dead sheep, but their time was coming. As we stumbled down over the shingle, battered by the wind and pelted by clots of foam, some one beside me shouted, “She’s gone!” A hill of water had smothered the wreck, and when it fell from her again nothing was left but the bows, with the bowsprit hanging from them in a tangle of rigging. The clouds, bronzed by an unseen sunset, hung low over her; in that greedy pack 279 of waves, with the remorseless rocks above and below her, she seemed the most lonely and tormented of creatures.
About half an hour afterward the cargo began to come ashore on the top of the rising tide. Barrels were plunging and diving in the trough of the waves, like a school of porpoises; they were pitched up the beach in waist-deep rushes of foam; they rolled down again, and wee swung up and shouldered by the next wave, playing a kind of Tom Tiddler’s ground with the coast-guards. Some of the barrels were big and dangerous, some were small and nimble like young pigs, and the blue-jackets were up to their middles as their prey dodged and ducked, and the police lined out along the beach to keep back the people. Ten men of the Royal Irish Constabulary can do a great deal, but they cannot be in more than twenty or thirty places at the same instant; therefore they could hardly cope with a scattered and extremely active mob of four or five hundred, many of whom had taken advantage of their privileges as “bona-fide travellers,” and all of whom were determined on getting at the rum.
As the dusk fell the thing got more and more out of hand; the people had found out that the big puncheons held the rum, and had succeeded in capturing one. In the twinkling of an eye it was broached, and fifty backs were shoving round it like a football scrimmage. I have heard many rows in my time: I have seen two Irish regiments — one of them militia — at each other’s throats in Fermoy barracks; I have heard Philippa’s water-spaniel and two fox-terriers hunting a strange cat round the dairy; but never have I known such untrammelled bedlam as that which yelled round the rum-casks on Tralagough strand. For it was soon not a question of one broached cask, or even of two. The barrels were coming in fast, so fast that it was impossible for 280 the representatives of law and order to keep on any sort of terms with them. The people, shouting with laughter, stove in the casks, and drank rum at thirty-four degrees above proof, out of their hands, out of their hats, out of their boots. Women came fluttering over the hillsides through the twilight, carrying jugs, milk-pails, anything that would hold the liquor; I saw one of them, roaring with laughter, tilt a filthy zinc bucket to an old man’s lips.
With the darkness came anarchy. The rising tide brought more and yet more booty; great spars came lunging in on the lap of the waves, mixed up with cabin furniture, seamen’s chests, and the black and slippery barrels, and the country people continued to flock in, and the drinking became more and more unbridled. Murray sent for more men and a doctor, and we slaved on hopelessly in the dark; collaring half-drunken men, shoving pig-headed casks up hills of shingle, hustling in among groups of roaring drinkers — we rescued perhaps one barrel in half a dozen. I began to know that there were men there who were not drunk and were not idle; I was also aware, as the strenuous hours of darkness passed, of an occasional rumble of cart-wheels on the road. It was evident that the casks which were broached were the least part of the looting, but even they were beyond our control. The most that Bosanquet, Murray, and I could do was to concentrate our forces on the casks that had been secured, and to organise charges upon the swilling crowds in order to upset the casks that they had broached. Already men and boys were lying about, limp as leeches, motionless as the dead.
“They’ll kill themselves before morning, at this rate!” shouted Murray to me. “They’re drinking it by the quart! Here’s another barrel; come on!”281
We rallied our small forces, and after a brief but furious struggle succeeded in capsizing it. It poured away in a flood over the stones, over the prostrate figure that sprawled on them, and a howl of reproach followed.
“If ye pour away any more o’ that, major,” said an unctuous voice in my ear, “ye’ll intoxicate the stones and they’ll be getting up and knocking us down!”
I had been aware of a fat shoulder next to mine in the throng as we heaved the puncheon over, and I now recognised the ponderous wit and Falstaffian figure of Mr. James Canty, a noted member of the Skebawn board of guardians, and the owner of a large farm near at hand.
“I never saw worse work on this strand,” he went on. “I considher these dabaucheries a disgrace to the counthry.”
Mr. Canty was famous as an orator, and I presume that it was from long practice that he was able, without apparent exertion, to outshout the storm.
At this juncture the long-awaited reinforcements arrived, and along with them came Dr. Jerome Hickey, armed with a black bag. Having mentioned that the bag contained a pump — not one of the common or garden variety — and that no pump on board a foundering ship had more arduous labours to perform, I prefer to pass to other themes. The wreck, which had at first appeared to be as inexhaustible and as variously stocked as that in the “Swiss Family Robinson,” was beginning to fail in its supply. The crowd were by this time for the most part incapable from drink, and the fresh contingent of police tackled their work with some prospect of success by the light of a tar-barrel, contributed by the owner of the public-house. At about the same time I began to be aware that I was aching with fatigue, that my clothes hung heavy and soaked upon me, that my face was stiff with 282 the salt spray and the bitter wind, and that it was two hours past dinner-time. The possibility of fried salt herrings and hot whisky-and-water at the public-house rose dazzlingly before my mind, when Mr. Canty again crossed my path.
“In my opinion ye have the whole cargo under conthrol now, major,” he said, “and the police and the sailors should be able to account for it all now by the help of the light. Wasn’t I the finished fool that I didn’t think to send up to my house for a tar-barrel before now! Well — we’re all foolish sometimes! But indeed it’s time for us to give over, and that’s what I’m after saying to the captain and Mr. Murray. You’re exhausted now, the three of ye, and if I might make so bold, I’d suggest that ye’d come up to my little place and have what’d warm ye before ye’d go home. It’s only a few perches up the road.”
The tide had turned, the rain had begun again, and the tar-barrel illumined the fact that Dr. Hickey’s dreadful duties alone were pressing. We held a council and finally followed Mr. Canty, picking our way through wreckage of all kinds, including the human variety. Near the public-house I stumbled over something that was soft and had a squeak in it; it was the piper, with his head and shoulders in an over-turned rum-barrel, and the bagpipes still under his arm.
I knew the outward appearance of Mr. Canty’s house very well. It was a typical southern farm-house, with dirty white-washed walls, a slated roof, and small, hermetically sealed windows staring at the morass of manure which constituted the yard. We followed Mr. Canty up the filthy lane that led to it, picked our way round vague and squelching spurs of the manure heap, and were finally led through the kitchen into a stifling best parlour. Mrs. Canty, a vast and slatternly matron, had evidently made preparations for us; there was 283 a newly lighted fire pouring flame up the chimney from layers of bogwood, there were whisky and brandy on the table, and a plateful of biscuits sugared in white and pink. Upon our hostess was a black silk dress which indifferently concealed the fact that she was short of boot-laces, and that the boots themselves had made many excursions to the yard and none to the blacking-bottle. Her manners, however, were admirable, and while I live I shall not forget her potato-cakes. They came in hot, and hot from a pot-oven, they were speckled with caraway seeds, they swam in salt butter, and we ate them shamelessly and greedily, and washed them down with hot whisky-and-water; I knew to a nicety how ill I should be next day, and heeded not.
“Well, gentleman,” remarked Mr. Canty later on, in his best board-of-guardians’ manner, “I’ve seen many wrecks between this and the Mizen Head, but I never witnessed a scene of more disgraceful ex-cess that what was in it to-night.”
“Hear, hear!” murmured Bosanquet with unseemly levity.
“I should say,” went on Mr. Canty, “there was at one time to-night upward of one hundhred men dead dhrunk on the strand, or anyway so dhrunk that if they’d attempt to spake they’d foam at the mouth.”
“The craytures!” interjected Mrs. Canty sympathetically.
“But if they’re dhrunk to-day,” continued our host, “it’s nothing at all to what they’ll be to-morrow and afther to-morrow, and it won’t be on the strand they’ll be dhrinkin’ it.”
“Why, where will it be?” said Bosanquet, with his disconcerting English way of asking a point-blank question.
Mr. Canty passed his hand over his red cheeks.
“There’ll be plenty asking that before all’s said and done, captain,” he said, with a compassionate smile, “and there’ll 284 be plenty that could give the answer if they’ll like, but by damn I don’t think ye’ll be apt to get much out of the Yokahn boys!”
“The Lord save us, ’twould be better to keep out from the likes o’ thim!” put in Mrs. Canty, sliding a fresh avalanche of potato-cakes on to the dish; “didn’t they pull the clothes off the gauger and pour potheen down his throath till he ran screeching through the streets o’ Skebawn!”
James Canty chuckled.
“I remember there was a wreck here one time, and the undherwriters put me in charge of the cargo. Brandy it was — cases of the best Frinch brandy. The people had a song about it; what’s this the first verse was?
Mr. Canty chanted these touching lines in a tuneful if wheezy tenor. “Well, gentlemen, we’re all friends here,” he continued, “and it’s no harm to mention that this man below at the public-house came askin’ me would I let him have some of it for a consideration. ‘Sullivan,” says I to him, ‘if ye ran down gold in a cup in place of the brandy, I wouldn’t give it to you. Of coorse,” says I, ‘I’m not sayin’ but that if a bottle was to get a crack of a stick, and it to be broken, and a man to drink a glass out of it, that would be no more than an accident.’ ‘That’s no good to me,’ says 285 he, ‘but if I had twelve gallons of that brandy in Cork,’ says he, ‘by the Holy German!’ says he, saying an awful curse, ‘I’d sell twenty-five out of it! Well, indeed it was true for him; it was grand stuff. As the saying it, it would make a horse out of a cow!”
“It appears to be a handy sort of place for keeping a pub,” said Bosanquet.
“Shut-to the door, Margaret,” said Mr. Canty, with elaborate caution. “It’d be a queer place that wouldn’t be handy for Sullivan!”
A further tale of great length was in progress when Dr. Hickey’s Mephistophelian nose was poked into the best parlour.
“Hullo, Hickey! Pumped out? eh?” said Murray.
“If I am, there’s plenty more like me,” replied the doctor enigmatically, “and some of them three times over! James, did these gentlemen leave you a drop of anything that you’d offer me?”
“Maybe ye’d like a glass of rum, doctor?” said Mr. Canty with a wink at his other guests.
Dr. Hickey shuddered.
I had next morning precisely the kind of mouth that I had anticipated, and it being my duty to spend the better part of the day administering justice in Skebawn, I received from Mr. Flurry Knox and other of my brother magistrates precisely the class of condolences on my “Monday head” that I found least amusing. It was unavailing to point out the resemblance between hot potato-cakes and molten lead, or to dilate on their equal power of solidifying; the collective wisdom of the bench decided that I was suffering from contraband rum, and rejoiced over me accordingly.