I shall pass over the circumstances of the Captains dining, and Teague, reconciled with the hostler, taking his mess in the kitchen; and go on to what befel afterwards, when, having saddled the horse, they set out on their further perigrination....
Towards evening, when the shadows of the trees began to be long, the Captain bidding Teague trot along side, addressed him in the following words:.... Teague, said he, it is true I am none of your knight-errants, who used to ride about the world relieving fair damsels, and killing giants, and lying out in woods, and forests, without a house, or even tent-cloth over their heads, to protect them from the night air. Nevertheless, as in some respects my equipment, and sallying forth, resembles a knight-errant and you a squire, would it be amiss, just for a frolick to lie out a night or two, that it might be said that we have done the like? There is no great danger of wolves or bears, for while there are sheep or pigs to be got at, they will shun human flesh. It will make a good chapter in our journal, to describe you lying at the foot of an oak, and me, with my head upon my saddle, under another; the horse, in the mean time, feeding at a small distance.
Teague thought it would be an easier matter to write down the chapter in the journal, than lie under the trees to beget it.
It is true, said the Captain, navigators and travellers make many a fiction; and those who have been in battle have killed many that were killed by others, or have not been killed at all.... But it would ill become a limb of Chivalry to deviate from the truth. It will be about twelve hour's service lying on our backs and looking up to the stars, hearing the howling of wolves, and observing the great Bear in the heavens, the means by which the Chaldeans, the first astronomers, laid the foundation of the science.
Fait, and I tink, said Teague, it would be better to be in a good house, wid a shoulder of mutton to ate, before we go to slape, than to have our own shoulders tarn by the bears, or bruised by lying under great oaks. Of what use is this astranomy? did any of dese astranomers ever shoot down a bear in de firmament, to get a joint of mate for a sick person; and what good comes of lying in de woods, to be ate up by de snakes; but fevers, and agues, and sore throats, to get a long cough and die in a ditch like a dead horse, and be nothing tho't of, but be trown into ridicule like a block-head dat has no sense. It is better to go to a house and get a bed to slape in, and warm shates about us, dan be lying in de dew like a frag, croacking de next day like one of dase, and get no good by it.
The Captain had made the proposition merely to amuse himself with Teague, and so did not insist upon it.
Riding one or two miles, the sun was setting, and a house appeared in view a little off the road. A lane led up to it, with a meadow on one side, and a pasture field on the other. On this last, there were cattle of cows and sheep grazing. The house in front was a frame building, respectable in appearance, from the height and dimensions; but ancient. There was a considerable extent of clear ground around it, and an orchard hard by, with at least five hundred apple trees.
Having lodged chiefly at inns since his first setting out, the Captain had the curiosity to diversify his travels, by lodging at a private house this evening. Accordingly riding up to the door, and calling out halloa, which is the note of interrogation which is used when a man wishes the master or mistress of a family, or some one of the servants to come forth, to know what he wants,--It happened that the mistress herself came to the door, and seeing a good looking man, in a green old age, sitting on horseback, with his servant ready to take care of his steed should he think proper to dismount, she made a low courtsey, as much as to say, Sir, I should be happy to know in what manner I can serve you.
Madam, said the Captain, to tell you the truth, the night is drawing on, and I have been reflecting with myself, whether it were better to lodge in the woods or take a house. All things considered, I have thought it most adviseable to take a house: and the only question that now remains is, whether I can get one?
The lady smiling with much complacency, and inclining her head forward, and her middle back, replied, I should be happy, sir, if this small mansion could afford you an accommodation worthy of your suite. Madam, said the Captain, I shall be happy if the guest can be worthy of the accommodation. Alight, sir, said the lady, we shall be happy to receive you.
Having alighted, he was introduced to a very decent apartment, where the lady, seating herself in a large cushioned chair, and pulling out her box, took a pinch of snuff, and laid the box upon the cushion. She was a good looking woman, being about fifty-seven years of age, with grey hairs, but a green fillet on her left eye-brow, as it seems the eye on that side was subject to a defluxion of rheum, which made it expedient to cover it. It could not be said that her teeth were bad, because she had none. If she wanted the rose on her cheek, she had it on her nose, so that it all came to the same thing. Nothing could be said against her chin, but it used her mouth ill in getting above it. She could not be said to be very tall, but what she wanted in height, she made up in breadth; so that multiplying one dimension with the other, she might be considered as a very sizeable woman.
After conversing a little while, the lady withdrew, to give directions in the kitchen what to provide for supper. The Captain, in the mean time, taking up a pipe, which he saw on the mantle-piece, amused himself with a whiff.
The old lady, in the mean time was in the kitchen, and the first thing she observed was Teague, reclining in an angle of the chimney fast asleep. Presuming that he had been inattentive to his masters horse, which had been sent to the stable, she desired a servant to give him a jog and wake. Teague awaking, saw the old lady and addressed her; Dear madam, what a great happiness it is for poor sharvants to have gentle folks about them; God bless your anour''s ladyship: you are just for all de world like my cousin Shala Shagney, the handsomest woman in all Ireland, and was married to Shan Crossan, who had a great estate, and a flock of shape into the bargain. She used to say to me when I was aslape, Teague, are you awake; and when I was awake, Teague, are you aslape my dear honey?
There is something in an Irishman which has an admirable effect upon the fair; whether it is owing to that love-creating lustiness of person and freshness of complexion which they usually possess; or the delicacy and quantum of the flattery of which they are not niggardly: nor need they be so, no persons having a greater stock to come and go upon.
For so it was, that the language of the bog-trotter had gained the good will of this same Hecuba, and she ordered him a tankard of metheglin, to make himself merry with the servants.
Returning to the parlour she continued her conversation with the Captain; but her mind running upon Teague, she could not avoid introducing his name, with a view to learn some particulars of his history. This is a civil young man, said she, that came with you, and of a conversation above ordinary persons. The Captain being an observer of the passions of the mind, as they express themselves in the eye and aspect, saw that Teague had made some impression on the affections of this goodly old maiden gentlewoman: Nor was he displeased with it; for his first alarm was, that she would have fastened upon himself; but her passion taking this course would be less troublesome. Framing his answers therefore to her questions, with a view to favour what she had so fortunately commenced, he gave her to understand that, though in the disguise of a servant, Teague was no inconsiderable personage; that he had been a member of Congress one or two years; though, by the bye, this was stretching the matter a little, as he had only had it in his power to be one. But if it is allowable to strain a point at all, it is in the recommendation of one who stands well enough already; for not being taken on the recommendation, there is no deception; and it is but civility to make one more pleased with their choice, than they already are.
The Captain said nothing of his having preached, or being about to preach; for the idea of sermons and catechisms, impressing the mind with religious awe, is unfavourable to love. As to his being a member of the philosophical society, it could be neither here nor there with a lady, and therefore he was silent with respect to this also.
Supper being brought in, they sat down; but little conversation passed; the mind of the enamorata being more in the kitchen than in the parlour. After supper, the Captain sitting sometime, and seeming drowsy, was asked by his hostess, if he chose to go to bed: Answering in the affirmative, a servant waited with a candle; and bidding her good night, he was lighted to his chamber.
No sooner had he withdrawn, but the old lady sent her compliments to Teague, to take a seat in the parlour; where sitting down to a roasted duck, just brought in, a few slices of gammon on a plate, a piece of veal, and a couple of roasted potatoes, he was desired to partake: the old lady casting amorous looks at him, in the mean time. I say looks, for though she had but one eye to look with, yet looking often, she might be said to cast looks. It was a new thing to the Irishman to be at a table with a servant at his back; and he began now to think that fortune meant to do him justice: and with an ease and self-possession, which some would call effrontery, he did the honours of the table; helping himself, and talking as fast as consisted with his disposition to satisfy his appetite. May it please your ladyship, said he, I am a poor sharvant now, but I have seen de time, when I have ate at as good a table as de Captain my master, though he rides upon a horse, and I trot on foot. My uncle, by the mothers side Shan OGan, had a deer park, and kept race-horses, to go to de fair, and de city of Cork; and my fathers brother, Phelim ORegan, was a justice of pace, and hung paple for staleing shape. I might have been a member of parliament, if I had staid at home and went to school; but sending a challenge, and fighting wid my own dear cousin, Denis OConnelly, I had to fly de kingdom, and brought nothing wid me but my brogues, and ten guineas in my purse; and am now noting but a poor sharvant, unless your ladyship would take pity upon me, and marry me; for I am wary of this way of tratting after a crazy Captain, dat has no sense to curry his own harse; and I have to fight duels for him, and keep him from being knocked down like a brute baste; for dis very day, when he had a quarrel wid a hastler, and was trown upon his back, I lifted him up, and said, Dear honey, are you dead? took de hastler by de troat, and choaked him, and he could not spake, but said, Dear shentlemen, spare my life! so dat if your ladyship will take me to yourself, I will stay wid you, and take care of de harses, and cows, and de shape, and plant pirates, and slape wid you, and ask not a farthing, but your own sweet self into de bargain; for you are de beauty of de world! and fasting er slaping, I could take you to my arms, dear crature, and be happy wid you.
The lady was by this time entirely won, and gave him to understand, that in the morning, after consulting a friend or two, the marriage might be celebrated.
I give only a sketch of the courtship that took place, for a great deal was said: and it was near midnight before the lovers could prevail upon themselves to part; when Teague was lighted to his bed, and had as good as that in which the Captain slept, which was a new thing to him, being accustomed to pig in with hostlers and servants, at the places where they lodged.
The Captain was up early in the morning, and astonished not to find Teague stirring, but enquiring of the servants where Teague slept, he was shown up a pair of stairs, which he ascended, thinking he had one or two more to ascend before he reached the garret. But what was his astonishment when he was shown into a room on the second floor, where he found Teague snoring on a feather bed with curtains! Waking him, Teague, said he, this goes beyond all your former impudence; to crawl up out of the kitchen and get into a feather bed. --Please your anour, said Teague, to ring a bell, and call up a sharvant, to bring boots and slippers, for I am to be married dis marning.
The Captain was thunder-struck; and comprehending the whole of what had taken place, saw his faux pas in recommending him to the hostess; and now it only remained, to cure the blunder he had made, if it was at all curable.
We are short sighted mortals; and while we stop one leak, the water rushes in at another. The very means that we use to save ourselves from one evil, leads us to a worse. The Captain had need on this occasion of all his address. Composing himself, he dissembled, and spoke as follows:
Teague, said he, will you that are a young man, and have great prospects before you, consign yourself to the arms of an old woman? Her breath will kill you in the course of a fortnight. The fact is, she is a witch, and enchantress; she made the same proposition to me last night, of marrying me, but I declined it. The world is full of these sort of cattle. There was one Shagnesa Circe, in old times, that used to gather all she could in her net, and transform them into hogs. Ulysses was the only one that had the sense to keep clear of her music, and avoid her. Did you see that drove of hogs before the door, when we rode up last evening? They are nothing more than stragglers which she has transformed into swine. I did not sleep a wink last night, thinking of the danger to which you were exposed, and indeed I expected nothing less, than a barrow, fattened up for a feast, a day or two hence. Did you think such an old haridan as this can have any natural concupiscence for a man; or if she has it is for a few days only, until she can make him fit for slaughter. Then by throwing a little water on him, or by the bare blowing of her breath, she makes a beef-cow, or hog-meat of him, and he finds the knife at his throat, and scalding water taking off his bristles, and his guts out, and is into the pickling tub before he knows what he is about. Do you think, Teague, that I have read books for nothing? Have you not seen me in my study, morning and night, looking over Greek and Hebrew letters, like partridge-tracks? All this to find out what was going up and down the world. Many a history of witches and conjurers, I have read, and know them when I see them, just as I would my own sheep, when I am at home: Better indeed, for unless my sheep are marked, I could not know them; but marked or not marked, I know witches; and if I cam not mistaken, this is the greatest witch that ever run. She was all night in my room, in the shape of a cat. It is a great mercy, that she had not changed herself into an alligator, and eat you up before the morning. When I came into the room I expected to find nothing else but bones, and particles of hair, the remnant of her repast; but it seems she has thought you not fat enough, and has given you a day or two to run, to improve your flesh and take the salt better. The worst thing, after transformation, is the having you cut, in order to make you fatter and better pork, which is generally done the first day; and castration is a painful operation, besides the loss of the part. I have had several of my acquaintances treated in this manner, falling in with old women whom they took for fortunes; but were in reality witches, and had dealings with the devil.
Teague by this time was out of bed, and had dressed himself in his overalls and short coat, and was ready for a march. Indeed he wished to escape as soon as possible; and descending the stairs, going to the stable, and saddling the horse, they both set out without taking leave. It was in this manner Eneas quitted Dido, and got a ship-board, before she was awake; and the only difference was, that Teague had left no little Iulus in the hall, to put her in mind of the father.
Travelling along, the Captain could not but observe to Teague, the injudicious choice he was about to make, even had the woman not been a necromancer. --For the man who surrenders himself to the arms of a superannuated female, for the sake of fortune, acts a part not less unworthy and disgraceful, than the prostitute who does the same for half a crown. While a man has the use of his limbs and arms, he ought to be above such mercenary motives; and true happiness can be found only in congruity, and what is natural.
Teague seemed still
to have some hankering after the ducks, and the feather bed, but as they
proceeded, the recollection became more faint, for distance and time,
is the cure of all passions.