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" Had he a heavy load ?”
“Faith, he had. Mrs. Graham and seven of her children, and two nurses, and the bathin' woman, goin' and comin' to the salt wather, to say nothin' of the fish and stones and things they brings home afther bathin'."
“ I think," I replied, jumping off the car, “ that I will walk on to the next village, and send you some assistance; it is evident the horse can never achieve the hill."
“God bless you, Ma'am, dear, isn't he like ourselves, used to all manner of slavery! I ax yer pardon! but if yer ladyship would lend me a loan of the string of your cloak, it would mend this little fray in the harness, and the never å bit of harm would I do it.”
To Michael's great astonishment, I did not feel disposed to part with what he so irreverently termed the string of my cloak, but climbed up the hill until I overtook my companions. One of them, a native of the soil, only laughed at my dilemma; he was accustomed to such adventures ; and said that, within less than a quarter of a mile he would procure a capital horse from a Mr. Matty Byrne; and the poor animal, who had been previously worn out in the service of Mrs. Graham and her countless children, might fare as he best could by the road-side till the jaunting-car returned.
We posted on as fast as possible to Master Byrne's, and found his residence in good time, that is, just before the pelting of the pitiless storm commenced.
“ Had he a horse ?” “ To be sure he had-three-beauties! Would flog the country to produce three such !” “Would he lend it?” “ To Mr. Alley troth he would, and the veins of his heart with it, to one of the name;" and immediately he hallooed to a strapping youth, who popped up his head from out a potato pit, and commanded him forthwith to bring “Spanker" from the plough.
Upon this, Mrs. Byrne, the worthy man's mother, a venerable-looking old crone, withered and wrinkled, but whose jet black eyes glittered and glimmered from beneath her shaggy brows, exclaimed,
“ God bless you, Matty! lave Spanker alone and take Jude-Spanker 'ill spill ye entirely."
“Mother, hould yer whisht and mind the paytees. Sure ye know Jude's knees are broke and her hind leg splintered with kicking; barrin' that, she's the finest baste in the counthry.”
“ Take Lilly, then,” persisted the old lady.
“ I think ye might turn yer tongue and say Miss Lilly, considerin' whose daughter she is,” retorted Matty.
“ The divil fetch me before I say Miss to a horse,” continued Mrs. Byrne, "only this I will say, though you are making purty faces at me behind the door, that if you put Spanker under a jaunting-car, he'll make it jaunt, that's all."
Mother, dear, hould yer tongue, and I'll bring ye a quarter of tea from Taghmon. What do you know about Spanker? Didn't he go under a car from this to Ross and back in six hours, and never turned into a ditch or a haporth but onct, and that was when he backed off Wellington Bridge ?"
“ Why, that wasn't Spanker,” persisted the crone. “ Well, 'twas his sister,” replied Matty: "all the same--the same
flesh and blood-they're as like as two peas; only Spanker has a dale more sperit."
The old woman beckoned me aside. “ Ma'am, dear, for God's sake don't let him get down at any of the houses to have drink. He has been on the batter these ten days. Sorra a better boy in the counthry when the drink's not in him; but when it is, he's worse than a troop o’ horse, and more roaring and dangerous than a score of mad bulls.”
“ But our friend's servant will drive.”
“Och, musha, don't attempt it; Spanker wouldn't let man or baste drive him, barrin' Matty.”
An agreeable position !-the prospect of being dashed to pieces by a mad Irish horse, or upset by a wild Irish driver! There was no help for it.
The shower was over ; the valley lay smiling before us." Michael and the car had arrived; the luggage, which was piled up in what they called—just then very appropriately—the well, soaked through. Spanker, a bright bay, bony horse, with an exceedingly quick eye, stood meek and quiet enough at the door. I resumed my seat, and looked on the beautiful prospect, which, as the road was tolerably good, I was enabled to enjoy. To the right stretched St. George's Channel, blue as the heavens that overshadowed it; and sleeping calmly in its waters lay the Saltee Islands, smiling and gentle as if no treacherous rock sentinelled their shores. Nearer to the land, rich in many-tinted cornfields, and bordered by soft green meadows, stretched far and away the island of Bannowmy dear native home; and in a glen to the left rose high the arches and turrets of Tintern Abbey. So enchanting was the prospect, that we had almost passed unnoticed the pretty village of Saltmills,--a miracle of cleanliness and comfort. Roses, vying with ambitious honeysuckles, clambered to the roofs of every cottage-few pigs-no dirty children--no dunghills, -all as well ordered to the eye as in dear England, and far, far more picturesque. The handsome peasants, in bright red waistcoats, and slouched straw hats, confined beneath the chin by a broad black riband, looking animated and intelligent, and withal so polite, so truly courteous. Then the shy, modest maidensrosy, awkward, and blushing; totally deficient in that delicacy of form and self-possession which distinguishes the girls of my adopted country, and yet so Noraish (if I may be permitted to coin a word); curtseying and smiling, and exchanging glances, and even innocent jests, with the few travellers who pass their way, -and yet all with such pure modesty and genuine good-nature, that it is impossible to misunderstand either them or their motives. “Master Byrne," I inquired, “ is your landlord resident here?"
No, thank God, Ma'am !" “ Indeed: who is your agent then?”
“A born gentleman-God's fresli blessing be about him! As long as he is over us, we'll make a free present of the landlord to the English ; and much good may he do them!”
At this moment Spanker made a dead stop opposite the door of a small public-house.
“ Make the horse go on,” said our friend in a cold, determined tone, Byrne looked round at him precisely with the expression of a dog when disappointed of a long-espected bone,
“He has a laning this way," he replied.
I fear, Byrne, you go there more than once a-week.” “ Sometimes I do, my lady.” "Every day, Byrne ?) “Not always, Ma'am, dear." “ Twice a-day, Byme ?”
“Faith, Ma'am, if I do it's Spanker's fault, and not mine. When I gets on his back, thinking a trifle of exercise would do me good, as sure as fate he makes for the public-and no mistake.”
“ Believe me, it is a ruinous habit.”
“ No disputin' it, my lady; but ruin has followed ould Ireland so long, that it would be heart-breakin' to part company now." We were at the commencement of another hill. " I must trouble ye all to get off,” said Byrne. “ It would take more wit than would reach from this to Cape Clear to make Spanker go either up or down a hill with anybody behind him." We submitted to necessity, and walked.
Byrne," inquired our friend, —who thought it high time that the driver as well as the horse should be “trotted out,”—“What pretty blunder was that you made about the books Miss Caroline told you to bring from the Waterford circulating library?”
“Oh, don't thread on my corns before the English quality entirely, Masther, honey!”
“ Very well, Byrne; they will certainly hear the story in Bannow.” “ Then I
may as well tell it at onct,” said Matty: and sure the mistake was all on her side; for I'll go bail what I brought her was more value than what she wanted. Any commands, Miss, for Watherford ?' says I. Yes,' says she; 'go to the library, and bring me Hogg's Tales; I want them very much.' * To the library to fetch hog's tails !'
'that's a quare place to get them.' Not at all,' says she; ' at the English library. Where else would you get Hogg's Tales ?' Oh! very well, Miss,” says I; “ as it's the English library, I suppose they keep all sortings there.' 'To be sure they do,' says she; you won't forget.' Did I ever forget anything you bid me?' says I. When I do,' says I, 'it'll be time enough for you to be backbiting me,' says I;
which is a thing no young lady onght to do to a dacent man. And off I went in a huff. Well, the bustle of the town and one thing or another bothered me so, that I forget where she said I was to get the hog's tails; so I walked off to the shambles, and hunted every stall in the place, but never a man there would cut off the tail of his pig for me, because they all said the tail was the beauty of the baste. So, whin I couldn't get the tails, I bought two of the prettiest bacon faces you ever saw, thinking they'd do for Miss Car’line as well as the hog's tails! And to be sure the laugh they riz agin me, for it turned out that what she wanted was a story-book, written by one Mister Hogg-and sure that's a queer name for a Christian! You may get on the car now, Ma'am, dear.-Spanker, stand still, will ye ?-Up wid yez now, while he's picking Jimy Rape's barley through that hole in the hedge, for if he knowd you were getting up, all the saints in the calendar wouldn't hold him,"
Another mile or two of bad road—not powder pavement, however, but an odd jumbling together of sand and stones upon a foundation
which had never been properly levelled ; our driver commenced chattering at a great rate. The horse either could not or would not increase his speed beyond a walk; and to the oft-repeated question of “How far are we from Bannow now ??? the changes were rung as follows: “ Near upon four miles.”—“Three miles and a perch."-"Four miles good.”—“ Whatever you may think, the baste counts it four mile and a quarter.” And once, when I inquired of a smith who had left his iron cooling at the door of his forge to run and look at us, he replied, after the true Irish fashion, “ Why, thin, is it to Bannow ye're going ?”
They certainly are the most amusing and the most provoking people in the whole world. My patience began to ebb; I think- I do not mind confessing it now—but I do think I was getting out of humour; I was fatigued beyond the power of saying what fatigue was. The evening clouds were overshadowing us, and the road looking dreary, and the cabins very unlike the sweet cottages at Saltmills.
“ How far is it, as the crow flies, from Ballyhay to Bannow?"
“ One would think you delighted in making long instead of short roads."
“ So we do--that is, the County docs; the longer the road the longer the job--the longer the job the more money for the job-makers."
Our friend asked Master Byrne if he had been at the last election ?
“ Sure was I: and if the horse was in a good humour I'd make time to tell the lady how below there at Nelson's Bridge a pack of rascals wanted to bury me under it for a monument, (the bridge, I mean,) but I had my revenge out of them, (the ringleader,)-I met him whin Andy Capel was with me, and a spik-and-span new hatchet in his hand
-and I riz up a discourse with him and contradicted him twice, which he couldn't abide ; and so he gave me the lie, which was all I wanted for an excuse to knock him dead in the ditch with Andy's new hatchet.Oh, don't look frightened, lady jewel ; 'twasn't with the sharp end I hit him ; he wasn't to say hurt, only fractioned a little-he'll not give me the lie again in a hurry, that's all. But murder in Irish if there isn't a stream !"
“ Well, it is not a foot deep.”
“ Sure I know that; but Counsellor Dan himself wouldn't argufy Spanker over a running stream, though he says to the King, they say,
William, my dear, do this—and Billy, my darlint, sign tother;' yet he wouldn't get Spanker over a stream."
What was to be done ? Off jumped Matty and commenced unharnessing the abominable horse.
“ What do you intend to do ?” we inquired. “ Just then carry him over.”
Carry what over?” “ The baste, to be sure.” “ What, that vicious brute ?"
Ay, or go back to Ballyhay ?” The man was perfectly in earnest; he succeeded in assembling two or three countrymen, who fairly lifted the horse over, and then pushed the car on to the opposite side.
". And now,” says Byrne, turning to me with no gentle countenance, if you wasn't every inch a lady, i'd tell you that it was very cruel to call that sinsible baste à vicious brute-he has come aʼmost the whole road wid ye without a kick or a stumble to signify, or a stoppage, or anything but the heart's blood of good manners. Didn't I rare him from a foal, trotting at my knee with my own childre? and hasn't he the sense of a Christian? It's little I thought a lady would turn her tongue to call him a brute."
I wish M'Clise, who has already immortalized his name, while immortalizing the humours of his countrymen, had seen our good friend Byrne while pleading the merits of his horse; it was that strange mingling of the ludicrous and the pathetic which brings tears to the eyes, while the smile is on the lip. His figure, tall and erect, was drawn to its full height; he stood with his arm resting on the neck of his favourite; and the picture he drew of his reason for the affection he bore the creature was perfection—" Didn't I rare him from a foal, trotting at my knee with my own childre ?”—Spanker might have knocked me down after that, and I would not have called him a brute for the world!
“ I believe, Ma'am,” inquired Matty, after a pause occasioned by the car's jolting so loudly over a quantity of bad road that it would have been impossible for us to hear the discharge of a cannon, “I believe you
have no such convanient ways of travellin' in your country as this ? You are always shut up in coaches-and such kind of things-so that the fresh air can't get about ye, and you have no sort of exercise : the English people as well as the English carriages are mighty asy going : there's no such thing as a post-chay used this side o' the country on account of the cars.
The Irish are very cunning; one glance at my countenance convinced Matty that I was not of his opinion, and he immediately tacked about.
“But to be sure they have a mighty purty way of building their houses; and such powers of fine cattle-I had a masther onct, who had two beautiful English horses, and he wanted a careful man to drive them; - he was a mighty pleasant gintleman—the sort of master would knock a man down for the least thing in the world—and so good-hearted when the passion was over. Well, there was as many as fifteen afther the place, and the first that wint up to him, “ Well
, my man,' says he, how near the edge of a precipice would you
undertake to drive my carriage ?' So the boy considered, and he says, says he, ' Within a foot, plaze yer honor, and no harm.'_ Very well,' says he,' go down, and I'll give ye yer answer by-and-by.' So the next came up, and said he'd be bound to carry 'em within half a foot; and the next said six inches; and another-a dandyfied chap intirely-was so mighty nice, that he would drive it within' three inches and a half he'd go bail. Well, at last my turn came, and when his honour asked me how nigh I would drive his carriage to a precipice, I said, says I, Plaze yer honour, I'd keep as far off it as I could'— Very weli, Misther Byrne,' says he, 'you're my coachman,' says he. Och, the roar there was in the kitchen whin 1 wint down and tould the joke! Well, I was there better nor two years, and at the end I lost it through a little mistake. I was drowsy one night coming home, and faith the horses had a spite to me, on account of my counthry, and they took a wrong