The Embarkation, Waterloo Docks, Liverpool.
The Illustrated London News
, 1850

Bessy Conway; or, The Irish Girl in America.


"Henry Herbert ! a word with you !" said the little man, raising himself on tiptoe.

"A word with me! what is it, and how do you know my name ?"

"No matter to you how I know it, but listen to what I'm agoing to tell you!"

Herbert stooped almost mechanically, and the dwarf whimpered in his ear:

"Let that girl alone, or you'll be sorry!"

"And who are you?" asked the young man haughtily, and, drawing himself up, he looked down with infinite contempt on the hunchback, "who are you that make free to tell me so? To my knowledge I never laid eyes on you before!"

"That's neither here nor there. Mind what I tell you, or you'll rue it the longest day you have to live ! do you hear me now?"

Herbert was about to reply in a scoffing and contemptuous tone, but the little man raised his finger menacingly, and there was something in his look that the other did not care to provoke farther. He would fain make a joke of the whole affair, and tried hard to force a laugh.

"Well! well! my little fellow! no need for us to quarrel! I see you're a lad!"

"I've my eyes open, anyhow! remember that, Henry Herbert! a good day to you, sir!" and the dwarf took off his glazed leather cap, and made quite a polite bow and then walked away with the air of a tragedy hero.


The young man stood eyeing him a moment with a look half curious, half malicious, then humming to himself "The Rakes of Mallow" he sauntered away through the crowd looking as unconcerned as though nothing had occurred to raffle his temper

"Bessy!" said Mrs. Walters, whilst her young attendant assisted at her toilet, "who is the young man to whom I saw you speaking just now?"

Bessy's heart sank within her as she replied, or endeavored to reply: "He's our landlord's son, ma'am, Master Henry Herbert, from near Ardfinnan, ma'am! his father isn't the head landlord, but it's to him we pay our rent; he has a long lease of the property."

" Yes, yes, but where did the family come from? are they English or what?"

"Well, I b'lieve they are, ma'am, but they're a good many years in our neighborhood. The old gentleman and lady have ne'er a child but Master Henry."

"Humph !" said Mrs. Walters thoughtfully, and the slightest possible frown gathered on her fair brow, "Yes ! they have but one nose! they had more once! ha! ha ! Bessy Conway! what brings this young fellow to America? or is he going there?"

"He says he is, ma'am."

"Yes but is wealthy, is he not?"

"Why, yes, ma'am! the people say in our place that he doesn't know the end of his own riches."

"It is not to make a living, then, that the son leaves home What is he about, Bessy?" And the lady fixed her large blue eyes on the face of her attendant with a look that was meant to read her heart.

"What is he about, Mrs. Walters?" stammered Bessy with a most painful effort;" Lord bless me, ma'am dear! how can I tell what he's about? sure I wouldn't make so free as to ask him the question!"

(Page 22 )

"Did you know he was going?"

"No more than you did, Mrs. Walters! indeed, indeed, I didn'!" Bessy spoke these words with an earnestness and sincerity that was not to be doubted. She raised her head, too, and looked her mistress full in the face, and there was truth in her eyes though her cheek was suffused with blushes.

Mrs. Walters looked at her a moment fixedly, then heaved a sigh. "You are a good girl, Bessy!" she said after a moment's pause, "but you are young and inexperienced. Take my advice and have nothing more to say to this Herbert. I know the family. There is little good in them, depend on . . . "

"Why, ma'am dear!" cried Bessy eagerly, "sure the whole country knows that. Nobody likes a bone in the ould man's body, and his lady is no great things either!"

"And the son?" demanded Mrs. Walters archly, with a sidelong glance at Bessy.

"Well! I don't know much about which may be bad or good for me."

"I'm glad to hear it, Bessy," said Mrs. Walters with a half smile, "I hope you'll never know him any better than you do now. But what's the matter, girl? sea sick already? you'd better go and lie down."

"Well, I b'lieve I will, ma'am, if it's pleasin' to you, for my head's so light I can hardly stand."

"Ha! ha!" laughed Mrs. Walters, "that is only the beginning of it-you'll be worse before you're better, my poor Bessy! I'm too old a sailor now to be seasick, but I had many a sore turn of it!go, go, now! I see you're quite sick already!"

Bessy was sick, and very sick, so much so that her kind mistress had to help her into her berth. "Now," said she, "I could give you something that would settle your stomach, but if you take my advice you will let nature take its course, for

(Page 23) a little suffering now may save you a great deal more hereafter in a strange climate."

"You know best, ma'am," said Bessy, making an effort to speak; "I'll do whatever you tell me."

"You are very bad, my poor girl," said the lady kindly, "but if it's any comfort for you to know it, I am sure you are no worse than most of the passengers by this time! we are now out in the Channel, and there is a heavy swell, so that the steamer heaves and plunges dreadfully. None but those who are, like myself, well accustomed to the sea, can escape sea sickness at such a time."

"Oh, ma'am dear! if I only knew what it was to be this way," sobbed out Bessy, "I'd never-never have left home."

"I dare say," said Mrs. Walters with a smile, "but remember this will soon be over. By tomorrow's dawn we shall reach Liverpool, and, once on land, you'll soon forget the seasickness. I must leave you now. Good night! and if you get any worse, just knock on the board at your head and I'll be with you."

"That Bessy Conway is a good girl," said Mrs. Walters to her husband that evening, " but I feel a little uneasy on her account."

"How is that?"

"Why, I find there is a young fellow on board who, I really think, has some design upon her. I saw them together in the first place, and, on questioning Bessy, I discovered, more from her manner and her looks than her words, that he has been making love to her."

"Well! and what then, Addie?" said the captain in his frank, abrupt way; "have not others made love before now, and what harm came of it?"

"Yes, yes, I know, it would be all right if the young man were of her own station..."

"Of her own station! Why, who the deuce is he?"

(Page 24)

"You would hardly guess unless I told you. He is the son of Wilson Herbert"

"What! he that swindled my father out of business in Birmingham so many years ago? You don't say so, Addie Walters!"

"But I do say so, William! because I know it is for truth. The father took refuge in Ireland to evade the fury of his injured creditors, and with his illgotten wealth he purchased a long lease of a fine property in Tipperary which he holds at a merely nominal rent."

"I rejoice to hear it," said the captain with his English coolness; "I shall come on him one of these days when he least thinks it. He shall refund our share of his plunder if there's law in England."

"Of that hereafter, William!" said his wife with a meaning smile, for she knew that Walters, good easy man! would never take the trouble of prosecuting Herbert, "but the immediate question is to keep our little Bessy out of the way of the son."

"I'll break every bone in his body," said the phlegmatic captain, "if I hear of him making any advances to her."

"I don't want to do that, either, William, so long as there are other means at our disposal. Indeed I would rather not have you interfere at all, that is, unless it is absolutely necessary."

"Well! well! Addie," returned her husband with imperturbable good humor, "I know you women are fond of managing such matters. I will leave it to you, then, as you desire it, hoping that you will let me know when moral force fails in regard to this hangdog Herbert, and I will try what physical force can do in the way of a good kicking."

"Agreed!" said the wife, "leave it to me for the present, at least," and there the matter rested.

It required very little management on the part of Mrs. Walters to keep Bessy from seeing much of Herbert during the passage. Even in Liverpool where they had to wait some days, Bessy Conway was so constantly occupied in Mrs. Walters' room, that she found not a moment to see any of her fellowpassengers, though the Murphys and Ned Finigan lodged just round the corner from the hotel where Captain Walters and his wife were staying.

(Page 25)

Mary Murphy was highly incensed at this supposed neglect on the part of Bessy. "I suppose she thinks herself mighty high in the world, because she happens to put up in a grand hotel. She wouldn't demean herself to come to see anybody in a lodging-house like this. Mary's brothers were of the same opinion, and indeed all the party, with the single exception of Ned Finigan and Ally Murphy. Ned took Bessy's part all through and would wager a trifle that it wasn't her fault."

"She's a first and second cousin of my own," said he, "and I know what's in her to the backbone. It doesn't come with her to give the cold shoulder to her friends or neighbors. Take my word for it, you're all blamin' her in the wrong."

"That's my notion, too, Ned! " observed Ally; "Bessy was always full of good nature and nobody livin' could make me believe that she left it all behind at home."

"Well, then, I declare, Ally, you're a truehearted, decent girl, and nothing else," said Ned Finigan with a look of admiration that set Ally's cheeks in a glow. "That I mayn't do an ill turn but you're a credit to them that owns you."

"We're entirely obliged to you, Mister Finigan," said Mrs. Murphy with a look of great complacency, for Ned was supposed to have a nice penny with him to America, having got something worth while for his good will of a farm he had had near Ardfinnan. "We're entirely obliged to you for your good opinions in regard to Ally . I'm her mother, and maybe I shouldn't say what I'm going to say, but it's all among friends, anyhow, so I will say it. You didn't say a word to much for Ally Murphy, for there she stands that never turned her tongue on father or mother, or never gave either of us a sore heart."

(Page 26)

Ally attempted to laugh it off, saying, "Hut, tut, mother l sure that's just the old story over again: 'Every crow thinks her own bird the whitest."'

"It's you I b'lieve, Mrs. Murphy!" said Ned, regarding her daughter with increased admiration. Mary tittered in a corner and whispered to her youngest brother, "Hasn't he the fine taste entirely!" This was in allusion to her sister's rather plain exterior, unfavorably contrasted with her own pretty face and lithe girlish figure.

Somewhat embarrassed by Ned's steadfast gaze, Ally said, as much for the sake of saying something, as anything else: "Has anybody seen that poor old Dolly Sheehan since we got in!"

"Why, to be sure," replied her father, a goodnatured, careless sort of man, who, as the saying is, took the world easy, "why, to be sure, Ally, isn't herself and that comical fellow with the hump lodgin' in the one house, somewheres near the water side. Ha! ha! ha! faith, I'm thinkin' that chap has his eyes open, anyhow! He heard the old woman tell that she had a son in America and that she sold a little place at home, and he thinks she has something by her. He sticks to her like a leech, you see!"

Every one laughed at Paul's preposterous expectations, and no one, not even Ally, dreamed of a higher and purer motive for Paul's attention to old granny Sheehan.

The last day of our party's stay in Liverpool arrived, and Mrs. Walters remarked that Bessy came up stairs to her with a flushed cheek and a nervous excitement of manner very unusual with her. She was about to inquire what it meant but seeing that the girl avoided her eye and kept away from her as much as possible, she thought it might be better to let it pass unnoticed. "Could it be possible," thought Mrs. Walters, "that she should have seen that fellow Herbert again after all my precautions? And yet, how could she. I have hardly let her out of my sight, and certainly not out of the house since we have been here. It is very strange,"she mused, "very indeed !"

The mystery was solved when, on taking her seat at the hoteltable for dinner, Mrs. Walters observed Henry Herbert on the opposite side of the table apparently quite at his ease, and looking at her, moreover, with the coolest air of indifference and selfpossession. On inquiry she learned that he had come to the house the day before

"Now what am I to do, William?" said she to her husband the first time she had seen him after making the discovery.

"What's wrong now, Addie?"

"Why, that Herbert, to be sure. What do you think but I saw him at dinner here in the hotel. That fellow has the impudence of a certain individual whom I do not choose to name "

"What sort of a fellow is he I"

Mrs. Walters described him as well as she could, and the captain said: "All right! leave him to me ! come and bear a hand at strapping this trunk! that's my girl."

"Well but, William, what can we do to get rid of this Herbert?"

"Herbert be hanged! I'll hear no more about him!" cried the captain, with more temper than he generally showed, "I'll tell you what, girl! if you want to get rid of him, send Bessy packing. That's the plan!"

"That won't do for me," replied the lady, "I expect to find Bessy a very useful servant, and I should be sorry to lose her so soon. Moreover, I have taken her from her home and friends, and I cannot but consider myself responsible to some extent for her welfare. Altogether, you see, William. "

"Altogether, you see, Addie ! you have a good heart and a good head, which no one knows better than William Walters. But, as I told you before, just leave this gentleman to me. I'd look out for him, take my word for it!"

"Many thanks, William ! I know you will when you say it.

(Page 28)

But the safest way would be not to have him on board with us, at all. Do you think we could manage that?"

"It can't be done, Addie, can't be done!" and the captain shook his head; "it would never do for me to go to the office and direct the people there to refuse a passage-ticket to this one or that one. If the fellow has a mind to keep Bessy in view, be sure he has taken his passage already in the Garrick. But make your mind easy, little wife! you shall see if we don't keep Herbert at a civil distance, after all!"

His wife shook her head doubtingly, but she said no more on the subject.

That same evening, Mrs. Walters had occasion to send Bessy downstairs, and finding that she did not return as soon as she expected, she went out on the lobby, and looking over the banister, saw the girl on a landing lower down in earnest conversation, as it appeared to her, with Henry Herbert. The angry blood rushed to the lady's cheek, and her confidence in Bessy was terribly shaken, if not altogether destroyed. There was no shadow of excuse now for this continued intercourse with Herbert, stealthy, too, and therefore the more disgraceful. She had herself, warned her against him, and that but a day or two before, what confidence, then, was to be placed in a girl who could act as she did?

What was to be done? The idea of calling out on the staircase of a public house was repugnant to Mrs. Walters' punctilious notions of refinement, and to leave Bessy in such company was still worse. All at once, she perceived that Bessy had her foot on the step above, and was evidently anxious to go, whilst Herbert laid hold of the hand that rested on the banister, and talked earnestly and vehemently, thought in suppressed accents. Bessy, on her part, grew quite excited, and her mistress smiled pleasantly as she said to herself: "I was not mistaken in her after all; it is not so bad as I feared. I will go downstairs myself," was her next thought, and she had reached the top of the stairs for that purpose, when

(Page 29)

she discovered that a third person was added to the group below. It was Paul Branigan who had stumped up from the hall, notwithstanding the determined opposition of an individual whose white jacket and apron bespoke his official capacity in the house. At first Paul would hardly vouchsafe him a word of explanation, but fearing that delay might defeat the object he had in view, he at length grumbled out:

"Bad manners to you, don't you see it's the boy and girl above there that I want a word with?" Then waited for no further parley but mounted as fast as his misshapen frame could propel itself.

"Who the mischief is that ere hump-backed fellow?" said the discomfited waiter to another who was passing at the moment. "If he an't gone up stairs in spite of me!"

"Let him go," said the other, "Captain Walters knows him. He sent me for him there a while ago, and they had a talk in the barroom. It's all right."

"It was not all right for Henry Herbert when the hunchback laid his broad hand on his shoulder, and asked him what he was about.

Herbert started and changed color at the sound of his voice, then turning towards him though not very quickly, he tried to put it off with a laugh.

"You're a second Paul Pry," said he, "'pon honor you are! There's no such thing as escaping those two keen eyes of yours! Goodbye, Bessy! I'm glad to see you so well after crossing the herring-pond."

"Come along down here!" said Paul in such a tone of authority that Bessy involuntarily lingered to hear how the other would take it.

"What did I tell you on board the boat?" demanded Paul as the two descended the broad stairs side by side.

"I know well enough what you told me," replied Herbert in a low and very soothing voice, "but, but... "

"What brings you here, I say?"

(Page 30)

"Why don't be foolish, man! why wouldn't I be here as well as another?"

"I know well what brings you," said the hunchback looking up askance at the latter with the expression of malignant elf; "I tell you, Herbert, you've no business here, and only we're to sail tomorrow, I'd have you look for lodging elsewhere."

"Well, really, my good fellow," said Herbert when they stood together on the tessellated floor of the hall, "well, really, this is too much. For a stranger, you make over free!"

"Do I, indeed? ha! ha! ha! if you don't let Bessy Conway alone, this is little to what will come after. I know what's in you. ho! ho!don't I Henry? but do you keep out of my way, and I'll keep out of yours? I see by the color of your cheek that you understand me well! a word to the wise is sufficient, you know! But I hear you're going in the Garrick, too, better for you if you didn't, for it's as hard for you to keep from your devilment as it is for me to keep from stooping. I'll be off now, but mind you behave yourself!"

Herbert was only too glad to get rid of his troublesome visitor by a ready "yes! yes! don't fear!" and then turned quickly into the barroom, whilst the hunchback made his exit by the halldoor, leaving the waiter both amused and amazed at his perfect selfpossession and the air of authority which contrasted so oddly with his shabby habiliments.

By the light of a farthing candle which burned on a table between them in a tin candlestick, Paul Brannigan and Widow Sheehan sat looking at each other in a way peculiar to each. They had been talking of the same subject nearest old Dolly's heart, and she had been trying what rhetoric she possessed to induce Paul to reveal what he knew of Philip's fate.

"Wisha, then, Paul (if it's that they call you), I can't get it out o' my head but you know more about Philip than you choose to tell. Maybe it's married the boy is, or something the way, an' sure if he is you needn't fear to tell me. It's nothing but what his father done before him."

(Page 31)

Well! now , see here, Mrs. Sheehan, ma'am!" said the hunchback very seriously, "what interest would I have in keeping it from you, in case I knew myself?"

He tried to look very frank and unembarrassed, and fixed his little black eyes on the widow's face in a way that seemed to challenge scrutiny. Still there was a sort of nervous twitching going on about the mouth, and a restlessness of the whole person that did not escape the sharp eyes of the anxious mother. She shook her head but said nothing.

"Don't you b'live me, ma'am?" asked Paul with an air of offended dignity.

"Well, that I mayn't sin but it's puzzled I am entirely," returned Dolly in a dejected tone; "I b'lieve you, honest man! why wouldn't I! but there's something in my heart that tells me you know more than you're willin' to let me know. God help me, anyhow!"

The sigh that accompanied these words brought a tear to Paul's eye, and he began winking very hard to get rid of it unseen by Dolly. He affected, moreover, to be very angry, and got up from his chair with the air of a man who felt himself injured.

"I'll tell you what it is now, Mrs. Sheehan, ma'am! since you don't believe what I say"

"And what is that, astore?" asked the old woman suddenly, and with a half stupified air; "sure myself forgets what you told me about Philip?"

"I told you," said Paul in a voice that he vainly tried to keep steady, and affecting a sternness which was foreign to his heart at the moment, "I told you that I knew your son once, some years ago, but that I know nothing of him now. I declare I wish I hadn't said anything about it. It's purty bother I have with yourself and your son! isn't it now?" "The Lord forgive me!" he muttered to himself.

(Page 32)

"Oh! then don't be vexed with me, ahagur! sure only I see you're a decent man, an' a feelin' man, too, I wouldn't make so free as I do "

"Well! feeling' here or feelin' there, I don't want to hear a word more about that son of yours, as long as we're at sea, anyhow! when we get to New York, maybe I'd go with you to see about him!"

"God reward you, honest man!" sobbed the old woman as she wiped her eyes with the corner of her blue cotton apron. "Och! och! but it's easy known where the dacent drop is, the way it is with that bit of halfsir that I seen you talkin' to aboard the boat. He hasn't a civil word for any one that's lower than himself."

"Barrin' that girl from Ardfinnan, Bessy Conway," said the hunchback with a grim smile.

"What's that you say?" cried Dolly Sheehan with a start. "Do you think he'd be havin' an eye after the colleen? God keep her out of his clutches any way, for indeed, she's a fine likely little body, an' what's more, I think she's a decent father and mother's child, and has nothing in her barrin' what's good. But sure he'd never think of the like's of her?" she added.

"Not for any good, granny, you may be sure!"

"Wisha, then, Paul, it's not safe for him to be in her way, for, give the devil his due! he's a clean, clever boy to look at. He has a face on him that 'id deceived a Saint"

"He's passable," said Paul with a surly nod, "but that's neither here nor there. Little Bessy's safe enough."

"How do you know that, Paul?"

"No matter how I know it, it's true, and that's enough, granny." And again the little man nodded, but this time with an air of great complacency and selfsatisfaction.

"Well! myself doesn't know what to make of you," observed the old woman, after studying Paul's face for a moment; "you're a mighty close man, sure enough, but anyhow! the Lord enable

(Page 33)

them, that's well indeed, an' has a care over the innocent!"

Here the door was opened suddenly, and in came a big burly man, with a fair complexion, and good-natured, open countenance. He accosted Paul a loud laugh, a propos to nothing, it would seem, and a thump of his big fist on the shoulder that made the little man stagger on his feet, putting up his hand at the same time to rub the afflicted part.

"Why, then, bad manner to you for a sprissaun!" cried Ned Finigan, for he it was, "is it here you are, an' me huntin' you up and down this hour back? I see the work you're at," throwing a humorous glance at the old woman, "well! it's only natural, but, indeed, you're a purty couple, God bless you! Ahem! hem!"

"We're as God made us," said Paul gruffly; "was that your business with me that you took so much trouble to find me?"

"Ha! ha! ha! that's good, too! isn't it granny? little more, an'd he'd bite me; he's so mad because I praised him to his face, next time I'll say he's ugly, I hope that will please him."

"What did you want with me?"

"Don't be vexed, an' I'll tell you. Did you see that purty little fairhaired colleen that's waitin' on Captain Walters' lady?"

"I did. You mean Bessy Conway."

"Sorra one else! well! she's a cousin of mine by the mother's side."

"I'm glad to hear it."

"Why so, aroon?"

"Why, because, you're big enough and strong enough to take her part when she wants a friend?"

"Then you think she's likely to want one?" said Ned anxiously. "That's jist what I meant to ask you. They tell me there's a scape-grace of a fellow here that's comin' after her to America, an' that you know all about him "

(Page 34)

"Don't be callin' hard names," said Paul with keen irony, "he's a gentleman's son, that chap!"

"If he was a king's son, and said or did that girl wrong,"- and Ned's brow darkened fearfully, and he clenched his brawny fist, "by the, I won't swear, no, I won't, but as sure as God's in heaven, and that's sure enough, I'd break every bone in his body, so I would!"

"That's rightstick to that, an' you'll do," said little Paul with an encouraging nod.

"But you said," went on Ned, " that he was a gentleman's son. I bar that. I know his father too well to my cost; he's a dirty low beggarman, that's what he is, for all the money and land he has ! No, I didn't come here to ask you who the fellow is, but what he is; that's what I wanted to hear from you -- if you know it !"

"Maybe I do, maybe I don't," said Paul raising his dwarfish form to its utmost height, " but, whether or no, the time isn't come yet to make it known. But mind you watch him well, Ned Finigan ! and nail him! do you hear ? nail him on the spot if you catch him makin' too free with Bessy. I hope, now, you're a good soldier!" he added, looking earnestly up in the other's face. "I hope you are, for I'm thinkin' that lad carries arms about him."

"What if he does?" cried the big man fiercely. "I tell you, I'd think as little of what he could do, arms an' all, as if he was a block of the same inches. Is it me a good soldier? Why, man, there never was one of the name since the days of Oliver Cromwell that hadn't the heart of a lion! Did you ever hear tell of the jolly butcher that saved Ardfinnan Castle from the Cromwellians?"

"I never heard of him !" said Paul with a careless shake of the head, winking, however, at old Dolly.

"You didn't ! well ! that's strange, anyhow ! why, I thought every one heard of him. He was a mighty great hero entirely, an' a forebearer of mine to boot. I see you hardly b'lieve me,

(Page 35)

but there's not a word o' lie in what I tell you. That very man, Jerry Fahy by name. By the same token Jerry is an old family name with my mother's people. That very man was no less than my great, great grandfather." And Ned looked first at Paul, then at old Dolly, with the air of a man who expected to receive the homage of his auditors.

"See that now !" cried Dolly holding up her hands with real or pretended wonder.

"Humph!" said Paul very shortly, "I hope you'll never disgrace him !"

"Disgrace him ! why no, man alive! I don't intend it, but wouldn't you wish to hear how it happened?"

"Some other time will do as well, Ned ! we'll all have an early start of it the morrow!" In pursuance of this hint, Ned bade the others good night, remarking that they'd have time enough to talk.

Chapter 3

Table of Contents