A FALSE START IN THE GENTEEL WORLD.
I rode that night as far as Carlow, where I lay at the best inn; and being asked what was my name by the landlord of the house, gave it as Mr. Redmond, according to my cousin's instructions, and said I was of the Redmonds of Waterford county, and was on my road to Trinity College, Dublin, to be educated there. Seeing my handsome appearance, silver-hiked sword, and well-filled valise, my landlord made free to send up a jug of claret without my asking; and charged, you may be sure, pretty handsomely for it in the bill. No gentleman in those good old days went to bed without a good share of liquor to set him sleeping, and on this my first day's entrance into the world, I made a point to act the fine gentleman completely; and, I assure you, succeeded in my part to admiration. The excitement of the events of the day, the quitting my home, the meeting with Captain Quin, were enough to set my brains in a whirl, without the claret; which served to finish me completely. I did not dream of the death of Quin, as some milksops, perhaps, would have done; indeed, I have never had any of that foolish remorse consequent upon any of my affairs of honour: always considering, from the first, that where a gentleman risks his own life in manly combat, he is a fool to be ashamed because he wins. I slept at Carlow as sound as man could sleep; drank a tankard of small beer and a toast to my breakfast; and exchanged the first of my gold pieces to settle the bill, not forgetting to pay all the servants liberally, and as a gentleman should. I began so the first day of my life, and so have continued. No man has been at greater straits than I, and has borne more pinching poverty and hardship; but nobody can say of me that, if I had a guinea, I was not free-handed with it, and did not spend it as well as a lord could do.
I had no doubts of the future: thinking that a man of my person, parts, and courage, could make his way anywhere. Besides, I had twenty gold guineas in my pocket; a sum which (although I was mistaken) I calculated would last me for four months at least, during which time something would be done towards the making of my fortune. So I rode on, singing to myself, or chatting with the passers-by; and all the girls along the road said God save me for a clever gentleman! As for Nora and Castle Brady, between to-day and yesterday there seemed to be a gap as of half-a-score of years. I vowed I would never re-enter the place but as a great man; and I kept my vow too, as you shall hear in due time.
There was much more liveliness and bustle on the king's highroad in those times, than in these days of stage-coaches, which carry you from one end of the kingdom to another in a few score hours. The gentry rode their own horses or drove in their own coaches, and spent three days on a journey which now occupies ten hours; so that there was no lack of company for a person travelling towards Dublin. I made part of the journey from Carlow towards Naas with a well- armed gentleman from Kilkenny, dressed in green and a gold cord, with a patch on his eye, and riding a powerful mare. He asked me the question of the day, and whither I was bound, and whether my mother was not afraid on account of the highwaymen to let one so young as myself to travel? But I said, pulling out one of them from a holster, that I had a pair of good pistols that had already done execution, and were ready to do it again; and here, a pock-marked man coming up, he put spurs into his bay mare and left me. She was a much more powerful animal than mine; and, besides, I did not wish to fatigue my horse, wishing to enter Dublin that night, and in reputable condition.
As I rode towards Kilcullen, I saw a crowd of the peasant-people assembled round a one-horse chair, and my friend in green, as I thought, making off half a mile up the hill. A footman was howling 'Stop thief!' at the top of his voice; but the country fellows were only laughing at his distress, and making all sorts of jokes at the adventure which had just befallen.
'Sure you might have kept him off with your blunderbush!' says one fellow.
'Oh, the coward! to let the Captain bait you; and he only one eye!' cries another.
'The next time my Lady travels, she'd better lave you at home!' said a third.
'What is this noise, fellows?' said I, riding up amongst them, and, seeing a lady in the carriage very pale and frightened, gave a slash of my whip, and bade the red-shanked ruffians keep off. 'What has happened, madam, to annoy your Ladyship?' I said, pulling off my hat, and bringing my mare up in a prance to the chair window.
The lady explained. She was the wife of Captain Fitzsimons, and was hastening to join the Captain at Dublin. Her chair had been stopped by a highway-man: the great oaf of a servant-man had fallen down on his knees armed as he was; and though there were thirty people in the next field working when the ruffian attacked her, not one of them would help her; but, on the contrary, wished the Captain, as they called the highwayman, good luck.
'Sure he's the friend of the poor,' said one fellow, 'and good luck to him!'
'Was it any business of ours?' asked another. And another told, grinning, that it was the famous Captain Freny, who, having bribed the jury to acquit him two days back at Kilkenny assizes, had mounted his horse at the gaol door, and the very next day had robbed two barristers who were going the circuit.
I told this pack of rascals to be off to their work, or they should taste of my thong, and proceeded, as well as I could, to comfort Mrs. Fitzsimons under her misfortunes. 'Had she lost much?' 'Everything: her purse, containing upwards of a hundred guineas; her jewels, snuff-boxes, watches, and a pair of diamond shoe-buckles of the Captain's.' These mishaps I sincerely commiserated; and knowing her by her accent to be an Englishwoman, deplored the difference that existed between the two countries, and said that in our country (meaning England) such atrocities were unknown.
'You, too, are an Englishman?' said she, with rather a tone of surprise. On which I said I was proud to be such: as, in fact, I was; and I never knew a true Tory gentleman of Ireland who did not wish he could say as much.
I rode by Mrs. Fitzsimon's chair all the way to Naas; and, as she had been robbed of her purse, asked permission to lend her a couple of pieces to pay her expenses at the inn: which sum she was graciously pleased to accept, and was, at the same time, kind enough to invite me to share her dinner. To the lady's questions regarding my birth and parentage, I replied that I was a young gentleman of large fortune (this was not true; but what is the use of crying bad fish? my dear mother instructed me early in this sort of prudence) and good family in the county of Waterford; that I was going to Dublin for my studies, and that my mother allowed me five hundred per annum. Mrs. Fitzsimons was equally communicative. She was the daughter of General Granby Somerset of Worcestershire, of whom, of course, I had heard (and though I had not, of course I was too well- bred to say so); and had made, as she must confess, a runaway match with Ensign Fitzgerald Fitzsimons. Had I been in Donegal?--No! That was a pity. The Captain's father possesses a hundred thousand acres there, and Fitzsimonsburgh Castle's the finest mansion in Ireland. Captain Fitzsimons is the eldest son; and, though he has quarrelled with his father, must inherit the vast property. She went on to tell me about the balls at Dublin, the banquets at the Castle, the horse- races at the Phoenix, the ridottos and routs, until I became quite eager to join in those pleasures; and I only felt grieved to think that my position would render secrecy necessary, and prevent me from being presented at the Court, of which the Fitzsimonses were the most elegant ornaments. How different was her lively rattle to that of the vulgar wenches at the Kilwangan assemblies! In every sentence she mentioned a lord or a person of quality. She evidently spoke French and Italian, of the former of which languages I have said I knew a few words; and, as for her English accent, why, perhaps I was no judge of that, for, to say the truth, she was the first REAL English person I had ever met. She recommended me, further, to be very cautious with regard to the company I should meet at Dublin, where rogues and adventurers of all countries abounded; and my delight and gratitude to her may be imagined, when, as our conversation grew more intimate (as we sat over our dessert), she kindly offered to accommodate me with lodgings in her own house, where her Fitzsimons, she said, would welcome with delight her gallant young preserver.
'Indeed, madam,' said I, 'I have preserved nothing for you.' Which was perfectly true; for had I not come up too late after the robbery to prevent the highwayman from carrying off her money and pearls?
'And sure, ma'am, them wasn't much,' said Sullivan, the blundering servant, who had been so frightened at Freny's approach, and was waiting on us at dinner. 'Didn't he return you the thirteenpence in copper, and the watch, saying it was only pinch-beck?'
But his lady rebuked him for a saucy varlet, and turned him out of the room at once, saying to me when he had gone, 'that the fool didn't know what was the meaning of a hundred-pound bill, which was in the pocket-book that Freny took from her.'
Perhaps had I been a little older in the world's experience, I should have begun to see that Madam Fitzsimons was not the person of fashion she pretended to be; but, as it was, I took all her stories for truth, and, when the landlord brought the bill for dinner, paid it with the air of a lord. Indeed, she made no motion to produce the two pieces I had lent to her; and so we rode on slowly towards Dublin, into which city we made our entrance at nightfall. The rattle and splendour of the coaches, the flare of the linkboys, the number and magnificence of the houses, struck me with the greatest wonder; though I was careful to disguise this feeling, according to my dear mother's directions, who told me that it was the mark of a man of fashion never to wonder at anything, and never to admit that any house, equipage, or company he saw, was more splendid or genteel than what he had been accustomed to at home.
We stopped, at length, at a house of rather mean appearance, and were let into a passage by no means so clean as that at Barryville, where there was a great smell of supper and punch. A stout red-faced man, without a periwig, and in rather a tattered nightgown and cap, made his appearance from the parlour, and embraced his lady (for it was Captain Fitzsimons) with a great deal of cordiality. Indeed, when he saw that a stranger accompanied her, he embraced her more rapturously than ever. In introducing me, she persisted in saying that I was her preserver, and complimented my gallantry as much as if I had killed Freny, instead of coming up when the robbery was over. The Captain said he knew the Redmonds of Waterford intimately well: which assertion alarmed me, as I knew nothing of the family to which I was stated to belong. But I posed him, by asking which of the Redmonds he knew, for I had never heard his name in our family. He said he knew the Redmonds of Redmondstown. 'Oh,' says I, 'mine are the Redmonds of Castle Redmond;' and so I put him off the scent. I went to see my nag put up at a livery-stable hard by, with the Captain's horse and chair, and returned to my entertainer.
Although there were the relics of some mutton-chops and onions on a cracked dish before him, the Captain said, 'My love, I wish I had known of your coming, for Bob Moriarty and I just finished the most delicious venison pasty, which his Grace the Lord Lieutenant sent us, with a flask of Sillery from his own cellar. You know the wine, my dear? But as bygones are bygones, and no help for them, what say ye to a fine lobster and a bottle of as good claret as any in Ireland? Betty, clear these things from the table, and make the mistress and our young friend welcome to our home.'
Not having small change, Mr. Fitzsimons asked me to lend him a tenpenny-piece to purchase the dish of lobsters; but his lady, handing out one of the guineas I had given her, bade the girl get the change for that, and procure the supper; which she did presently, bringing back only a very few shillings out of the guinea to her mistress, saying that the fishmonger had kept the remainder for an old account. 'And the more great big blundering fool you, for giving the gold piece to him,' roared Mr. Fitzsimons. I forget how many hundred guineas he said he had paid the fellow during the year.
Our supper was seasoned, if not by any great elegance, at least by a plentiful store of anecdotes, concerning the highest personages of the city; with whom, according to himself, the Captain lived on terms of the utmost intimacy. Not to be behindhand with him, I spoke of my own estates and property as if I was as rich as a duke. I told all the stories of the nobility I had ever heard from my mother, and some that, perhaps, I had invented; and ought to have been aware that my host was an impostor himself, as he did not find out my own blunders and misstatements. But youth is ever too confident. It was some time before I knew that I had made no very desirable acquaintance in Captain Fitzsimons and his lady; and, indeed, went to bed congratulating myself upon my wonderful good luck in having, at the outset of my adventures, fallen in with so distinguished a couple.
The appearance of the chamber I occupied might, indeed, have led me to imagine that the heir of Fitzsimonsburgh Castle, county Donegal, was not as yet reconciled with his wealthy parents; and, had I been an English lad, probably my suspicion and distrust would have been aroused instantly. But perhaps, as the reader knows, we are not so particular in Ireland on the score of neatness as people are in this precise country; hence the disorder of my bedchamber did not strike me so much. For were not all the windows broken and stuffed with rags even at Castle Brady, my uncle's superb mansion? Was there ever a lock to the doors there, or if a lock, a handle to the lock or a hasp to fasten it to? So, though my bedroom boasted of these inconveniences, and a few more; though my counterpane was evidently a greased brocade dress of Mrs. Fitzsimons's, and my cracked toilet- glass not much bigger than a half-crown, yet I was used to this sort of ways in Irish houses, and still thought myself in that of a man of fashion. There was no lock to the drawers, which, when they did open, were full of my hostess's rouge-pots, shoes, stays, and rags; so I allowed my wardrobe to remain in my valise, but set out my silver dressing-apparatus upon the ragged cloth on the drawers, where it shone to great advantage.
When Sullivan appeared in the morning, I asked him about my mare, which he informed me was doing well. I then bade him bring me hot shaving-water, in a loud dignified tone.
'Hot shaving-water!' says he, bursting out laughing (and I confess not without reason). 'Is it yourself you're going to shave?' said he. 'And maybe when I bring you up the water I'll bring you up the cat too, and you can shave her.' I flung a boot at the scoundrel's head in reply to this impertinence, and was soon with my friends in the parlour for breakfast. There was a hearty welcome, and the same cloth that had been used the night before: as I recognised by the black mark of the Irish-stew dish, and the stain left by a pot of porter at supper.
My host greeted me with great cordiality; Mrs. Fitzsimons said I was an elegant figure for the Phoenix; and indeed, without vanity, I may say of myself that there were worse-looking fellows in Dublin than I. I had not the powerful chest and muscular proportion which I have since attained (to be exchanged, alas! for gouty legs and chalk- stones in my fingers; but 'tis the way of mortality), but I had arrived at near my present growth of six feet, and with my hair in buckle, a handsome lace jabot and wristbands to my shirt, and a red plush waistcoat, barred with gold, looked the gentleman I was born. I wore my drab coat with plate buttons, that was grown too small for me, and quite agreed with Captain Fitzsimons that I must pay a visit to his tailor, in order to procure myself a coat more fitting my size.
'I needn't ask whether you had a comfortable bed,' said he. 'Young Fred Pimpleton (Lord Pimpleton's second son) slept in it for seven months, during which he did me the honour to stay with me, and if he was satisfied, I don't know who else wouldn't be.'
After breakfast we walked out to see the town, and Mr. Fitzsimons introduced me to several of his acquaintances whom we met, as his particular young friend Mr. Redmond, of Waterford county; he also presented me at his hatter's and tailor's as a gentleman of great expectations and large property; and although I told the latter that I should not pay him ready cash for more than one coat, which fitted me to a nicety, yet he insisted upon making me several, which I did not care to refuse. The Captain, also, who certainly wanted such a renewal of raiment, told the tailor to send him home a handsome military frock, which he selected.
Then we went home to Mrs. Fitzsimons, who drove out in her chair to the Phoenix Park, where a review was, and where numbers of the young gentry were round about her; to all of whom she presented me as her preserver of the day before. Indeed, such was her complimentary account of me, that before half-an-hour I had got to be considered as a young gentleman of the highest family in the land, related to all the principal nobility, a cousin of Captain Fitzsimons, and heir to L10,000 a year. Fitzsimons said he had ridden over every inch of my estate; and 'faith, as he chose to tell these stories for me, I let him have his way--indeed, was not a little pleased (as youth is) to be made much of, and to pass for a great personage. I had little notion then that I had got among a set of impostors--that Captain Fitzsimons was only an adventurer, and his lady a person of no credit; but such are the dangers to which youth is perpetually subject, and hence let young men take warning by me.
I purposely hurry over the description of my life in which the incidents were painful, of no great interest except to my unlucky self, and of which my companions were certainly not of a kind befitting my quality. The fact was, a young man could hardly have fallen into worse hands than those in which I now found myself. I have been to Donegal since, and have never seen the famous Castle of Fitzsimonsburgh, which is, likewise, unknown to the oldest inhabitants of that county; nor are the Granby Somersets much better known in Worcestershire. The couple into whose hands I had fallen were of a sort much more common then than at present, for the vast wars of later days have rendered it very difficult for noblemen's footmen or hangers-on to procure commissions; and such, in fact, had been the original station of Captain Fitzsimons. Had I known his origin, of course I would have died rather than have associated with him: but in those simple days of youth I took his tales for truth, and fancied myself in high luck at being, at my outset into life, introduced into such a family. Alas! we are the sport of destiny. When I consider upon what small circumstances all the great events of my life have turned, I can hardly believe myself to have been anything but a puppet in the hands of Fate; which has played its most fantastic tricks upon me.
The Captain had been a gentleman's gentleman, and his lady of no higher rank. The society which this worthy pair kept was at a sort of ordinary which they held, and at which their friends were always welcome on payment of a certain moderate sum for their dinner. After dinner, you may be sure that cards were not wanting, and that the company who played did not play for love merely. To these parties persons of all sorts would come: young bloods from the regiments garrisoned in Dublin: young clerks from the Castle; horse-riding, wine-tippling, watchman-beating men of fashion about town, such as existed in Dublin in that day more than in any other city with which I am acquainted in Europe. I never knew young fellows make such a show, and upon such small means. I never knew young gentlemen with what I may call such a genius for idleness; and whereas an Englishman with fifty guineas a year is not able to do much more than starve, and toil like a slave in a profession, a young Irish buck with the same sum will keep his horses, and drink his bottle, and live as lazy as a lord. Here was a doctor who never had a patient, cheek by jowl with an attorney who never had a client: neither had a guinea--each had a good horse to ride in the Park, and the best of clothes to his back. A sporting clergyman without a living; several young wine-merchants, who consumed much more liquor than they had or sold; and men of similar character, formed the society at the house into which, by ill luck, I was thrown. What could happen to a man but misfortune from associating with such company?--(I have not mentioned the ladies of the society, who were, perhaps, no better than the males)--and in a very very short time I became their prey.
As for my poor twenty guineas, in three days I saw, with terror, that they had dwindled down to eight: theatres and taverns having already made such cruel inroads in my purse. At play I had lost, it is true, a couple of pieces; but seeing that every one round about me played upon honour and gave their bills, I, of course, preferred that medium to the payment of ready money, and when I lost paid on account.
With the tailors, saddlers, and others, I employed similar means; and in so far Mr. Fitzsimons's representation did me good, for the tradesmen took him at his word regarding my fortune (I have since learned that the rascal pigeoned several other young men of property), and for a little time supplied me with any goods I might be pleased to order. At length, my cash running low, I was compelled to pawn some of the suits with which the tailor had provided me; for I did not like to part with my mare, on which I daily rode in the Park, and which I loved as the gift of my respected uncle. I raised some little money, too, on a few trinkets which I had purchased of a jeweller who pressed his credit upon me; and thus was enabled to keep up appearances for yet a little time.
I asked at the post-office repeatedly for letters for Mr. Redmond, but none such had arrived; and, indeed, I always felt rather relieved when the answer of 'No' was given to me; for I was not very anxious that my mother should know my proceedings in the extravagant life which I was leading at Dublin. It could not last very long, however; for when my cash was quite exhausted, and I paid a second visit to the tailor, requesting him to make me more clothes, the fellow hummed and ha'd, and had the impudence to ask payment for those already supplied: on which, telling him I should withdraw my custom from him, I abruptly left him. The goldsmith too (a rascal Jew) declined to let me take a gold chain to which I had a fancy; and I felt now, for the first time, in some perplexity. To add to it, one of the young gentlemen who frequented Mr. Fitzsimons's boarding-house had received from me, in the way of play, an IOU for eighteen pounds (which I lost to him at piquet), and which, owing Mr. Curbyn, the livery-stable keeper, a bill, he passed into that person's hands. Fancy my rage and astonishment, then, on going for my mare, to find that he positively refused to let me have her out of the stable, except under payment of my promissory note! It was in vain that I offered him his choice of four notes that I had in my pocket--one of Fitzsimons's for L20, one of Counsellor Mulligan's, and so forth; the dealer, who was a Yorkshireman, shook his head, and laughed at every one of them; and said, 'I tell you what, Master Redmond, you appear a young fellow of birth and fortune, and let me whisper in your ear that you have fallen into very bad hands--it's a regular gang of swindlers; and a gentleman of your rank and quality should never be seen in such company. Go home: pack up your valise, pay the little trifle to me, mount your mare, and ride back again to your parents,--it's the very best thing you can do.'
In a pretty nest of villains, indeed, was I plunged! It seemed as if all my misfortunes were to break on me at once; for, on going home and ascending to my bedroom in a disconsolate way, I found the Captain and his lady there before me, my valise open, my wardrobe lying on the ground, and my keys in the possession of the odious Fitzsimons. 'Whom have I been harbouring in my house?' roared he, as I entered the apartment. 'Who are you, sirrah?'
'Sirrah! Sir,' said I, 'I am as good a gentleman as any in Ireland.'
'You're an impostor, young man: a schemer, a deceiver!' shouted the Captain.
'Repeat the words again, and I will run you through the body,' replied I.
'Tut, tut! I can play at fencing as well as you, Mr. Redmond Barry. Ah! you change colour, do you--your secret is known, is it? You come like a viper into the bosom of innocent families; you represent yourself as the heir of my friends the Redmonds of Castle Redmond; I inthrojuice you to the nobility and genthry of this methropolis' (the Captain's brogue was large, and his words, by preference, long); 'I take you to my tradesmen, who give you credit, and what do I find? That you have pawned the goods which you took up at their houses.'
'I have given them my acceptances, sir,' said I with a dignified air.
'Under what name, unhappy boy--under what name?' screamed Mrs. Fitzsimons; and then, indeed, I remembered that I had signed the documents Barry Redmond instead of Redmond Barry: but what else could I do? Had not my mother desired me to take no other designation? After uttering a furious tirade against me, in which he spoke of the fatal discovery of my real name on my linen--of his misplaced confidence of affection, and the shame with which he should be obliged to meet his fashionable friends and confess that he had harboured a swindler, he gathered up the linen, clothes, silver toilet articles, and the rest of my gear, saying that he should step out that moment for an officer and give me up to the just revenge of the law.
During the first part of his speech, the thought of the imprudence of which I had been guilty, and the predicament in which I was plunged, had so puzzled and confounded me, that I had not uttered a word in reply to the fellow's abuse, but had stood quite dumb before him. The sense of danger, however, at once roused me to action. 'Hark ye, Mr. Fitzsimons,' said I; 'I will tell you why I was obliged to alter my name: which is Barry, and the best name in Ireland. I changed it, sir, because, on the day before I came to Dublin, I killed a man in deadly combat--an Englishman, sir, and a captain in His Majesty's service; and if you offer to let or hinder me in the slightest way, the same arm which destroyed him is ready to punish you; and by Heaven, sir, you or I don't leave this room alive!'
So saying, I drew my sword like lightning, and giving a 'ha! ha!' and a stamp with my foot, lunged within an inch of Fitzsimons's heart, who started back and turned deadly pale, while his wife, with a scream, flung herself between us.
'Dearest Redmond,' she cried, 'be pacified. Fitzsimons, you don't want the poor child's blood. Let him escape--in Heaven's name let him go.'
'He may go hang for me,' said Fitzsimons sulkily; 'and he'd better be off quickly, too, for the jeweller and the tailor have called once, and will be here again before long. It was Moses the pawnbroker that peached: I had the news from him myself.' By which I conclude that Mr. Fitzsimons had been with the new laced frock-coat which he procured from the merchant tailor on the day when the latter first gave me credit.
What was the end of our conversation? Where was now a home for the descendant of the Barrys? Home was shut to me by my misfortune in the duel. I was expelled from Dublin by a persecution occasioned, I must confess, by my own imprudence. I had no time to wait and choose: no place of refuge to fly to. Fitzsimons, after his abuse of me, left the room growling, but not hostile; his wife insisted that we should shake hands, and he promised not to molest me. Indeed, I owed the fellow nothing; and, on the contrary, had his acceptance actually in my pocket for money lost at play. As for my friend Mrs. Fitzsimons, she sat down on the bed and fairly burst out crying. She had her faults, but her heart was kind; and though she possessed but three shillings in the world, and fourpence in copper, the poor soul made me take it before I left her--to go--whither? My mind was made up: there was a score of recruiting-parties in the town beating up for men to join our gallant armies in America and Germany; I knew where to find one of these, having stood by the sergeant at a review in the Phoenix Park, where he pointed out to me characters on the field, for which I treated him to drink.
I gave one of my shillings to Sullivan the butler of the Fitzsimonses, and, running into the street, hastened to the little alehouse at which my acquaintance was quartered, and before ten minutes had accepted His Majesty's shilling. I told him frankly that I was a young gentleman in difficulties; that I had killed an officer in a duel, and was anxious to get out of the country. But I need not have troubled myself with any explanations; King George was too much in want of men then to heed from whence they came, and a fellow of my inches, the sergeant said, was always welcome. Indeed, I could not, he said, have chosen my time better. A transport was lying at Dunleary, waiting for a wind, and on board that ship, to which I marched that night, I made some surprising discoveries, which shall be told in the next chapter.