Chapter 8

Taking advantage of the humiliated state of mind in which the bog-trotter now was, from the late cow-skinning he had received, the Captain thought he could be drawn off from an extreme attention to the ladies, and engaged to apply to the qualifying himself for state affairs. Accordingly, continuing his address to him, he observed that though gallantry and waiting upon ladies, was very agreeable, yet prudence ought to be observed, not to create enemies, by seeming to engross their attention, so as to put a man in danger of duels, and cow-skinnings: at the same time it behooved a man not to suffer his gallantry to interfere with business; and more especially in the early stages when he was about qualifying himself for any occupation or appointment; that, as he (Teague O’Regan) was a candidate for state affairs, he ought to check his career and withdraw himself for some time from the gay circles, in order to acquire some small things which were necessary to the creditable and convenient discharge of a public function; such as learning to write his name if possible. As to learning to read, or write generally, that would be a work of years, if at all acquirable at his period of life; but he might be taught to imitate the few characters that composed his name, in such a manner as to pass for it; so that when he had to sign dispatches or commissions, or the like, he need not be under the necessity of making his mark, like an Indian at a treaty; but might do something that would pass for letters of the alphabet. So providing him with a room, and placing a table before him with an inkstand, and strewing some papers, and furnishing him with spectacles, as if he was already making out dispatches, he began to instruct him in making the letters T, E, A, G, U, E, &c.

But he had scarcely begun, when the waiter coming in, delivered a parcel of cards and billets for Major O’Regan. The Captain instantly reflecting that this correspondence with the gay world would undo all that he was doing, and draw off the bog-trotter from his lessons, as soon as the smart of the cow-skining had worn off, saw it was necessary to read the billets as from different persons, and containing language different from what was in them. The cards being chiefly from men in public employment, he read as they really were. Opening one of the largest billets, aye, said he, there is more of it. Do you know this Johnston that seems so much enraged about Miss Muslin to whom you have paid some attention? By the bye, it was a billet from Miss Muslin, to whose acquaintance it would seem he had been introduced; but the Captain read Johnston.

By de holy fathers, said Teague, I know no Johnston.

He sends you a challenge, said the Captain, to meet him on the commons this evening at six o’clock, with a brace of pistols and a second to determine whether you or he has the best right to pay attention to this lady. We shall give the billet as written by the lady, and as read by the Captain.

AS WRITTEN BY THE LADY.

Would wish to have the pleasure of Major O’Regan’s company this evening at tea. Lawyer Crabtree and Doctor Drug will be here; and you know we shall split our sides laughing at the ninnies. You’re so full of your jokes that I want you here. Dear Major, don’t be engaged, but come.

Yours sincerely,
Patty Muslin
 
 
Wednesday morning.

AS READ BY THE CAPTAIN.

SIR,

You will instantly do one of two things, either relinquish your attention to Miss Muslin, and be no more in her company; or meet me this evening precisely at six o’clock, on the commons back of the Potter’s-field, with a brace of pistols and a second, to take a shot. I shall have a coffin ready, and a grave dug, for which ever of us shall have occasion to make use of it.

Your humble servant,
Benjamin Johnston

Major Teague O’Regan.

In the same manner, he read the other billets, converting them from love letters into challenges to fight with mortal weapons, or into declarations of cudgelling, and cow-skining if he interfered any farther in his attentions to such and such ladies.

The bog-trotter began to think the devil was broke loose upon him, and very readily gave the Captain leave to write answers, declining all combats, and declaring his compliance with all that was requested of him.

The waiter was the only person, who, by receiving the billets, and handing them in the absence of the Captain, and reading them to Teague, might inflame his mind with thoughts of the fine ladies, and gay circles, from which he seemed to be just recovered: taking him aside, therefore, and accosting him, Mathew said he, for that was the name of the waiter, I do not know that I ought to find any fault with your giving your service for some time past to my Teague, in reading the billets directed to him, and in writing his answers; but I desire that there may be nothing more of this. As he is about to be closely engaged for some time to come, in acquiring some scholarship, and preparing to enter on some state appointment, I do not chuse this his mind should be taken off by affairs of compliment or love. All billets therefore directed to him, you will for the future hand to me.

The waiter promised compliance, and said it was all the same thing to him, as all he had done, was to oblige the bog-trotter, and if it was disagreeable to him (the Captain) he should do no more of it.

However, Teague continuing still to have some hankering after the company of the ladies, so as not to have his mind so much upon learning to write the characters of his name as the Captain could have wished, he found it necessary to engage the bar-keeper to assist him in personating now and then, some one who had come to demand satisfaction for the interference of the bog-trotter in affairs of love, that by keeping up the alarm on his mind, he might the better confine him to his studies. --According to the plan agreed upon, the bar-keeper knocking at the door, and the Captain opening it a little, and demanding his business; is there not a Major O’Regan here he would say (with a counterfeited voice) who has pretensions to Miss Nubbin? (one of those who had sent billets) I wish to see the gentleman, and try if I can put this sword in his body; (by the bye he had a long sword.) O love your shoul, would O’Regan say, dear Captain don’t let him in. I shall die wid fear upon de spot here; for I never fought a man in cold blood in my life.-- Here the bar-keeper as recognizing the voice of O’Regan-- yes, would he say, I find he is here, let me in, that I may put this through him; I had paid my addresses to Miss Nubbin, and was just about to espouse her, when unlike a gentleman, he has interfered and turned her head with his attention. By the New Jerusalem I shall be through his wind pipe in a second. Teague hearing this and raising the Irish howl, would redouble his entreaties to the Captain not to let him in. The Captain would say, Sir if you mean to make a pass at him you must make it through me; for I shall not stand to see a domestic run through the body, and his guts out while mine are in. --You may therefore desist, or I shall have you taken into custody as a breaker of the peace. With this he would shut the door, and the bar-keeper would go off cursing and swearing that he would have revenge for the insult that had been offered him, by the Irishman.

By these artifices, certainly innocent as the object was good; for it can be no injury to deceive a man to his own advantage; by these artifices the Captain succeeded in preventing a correspondence with the gay world, and detaching the mind of his pupil from the gallantries of love. But when any member of Congress or officer of state called upon him he was admitted. Traddle called frequently, and declared that he had no resentment on account of Teague’s proposing to be his competitor, at the election in the country; but wished him success in obtaining some appointment where his talents might be useful.