« PreviousContinue »
"That's thrue," said a voice at the door.
66 There wasn't one in the Barony but was gethered in it, through and fro," continued Slipper, with a quelling glance at the interrupter; "and there was tints for sellin' porther, and whisky as pliable as new milk, and boys goin' round the tints outside, feeling for heads with the big ends of their blackthorns, and all kinds of recreations, and the Sons of Liberty's piffler and dhrum band from Skebawn; though faith! there was more of thim runnin' to look at the races than what was playin' in it; not to mintion different occasions that the bandmasther was atin' his lunch within in the whisky tint."
"But what about Driscoll?" said Flurry.
"Sure it's about him I'm tellin' ye!" replied Slipper, with the practiced orator's watchful eye on his growing audience. ""T was within the same whisky tint meself was, with the bandmasther and a few of the lads, an' we buyin' a ha'porth o' crackers, when I seen me brave Driscoll landin' into the tint, and a pair o' thim long boots on him; him that hadn't a shoe nor a stocking to his foot when your honor had him picking grass out o' the stones behind in your yard. "Well," says I to meself, "we 'll knock some spoort out of Driscoll!
"Come here to me, acushla!' says I to him; 'I suppose it's some way wake in the legs y' are,' says I, 'an' the docthor put them on ye the way the people wouldn't thrample ye!'
"May the divil choke ye!' says he, pleasant enough, but I knew by the blush he had he was vexed.
"Then I suppose 't is a left-tenant colonel y' are,' says I;'yer mother must be proud out o' ye!' says I,'an' maybe ye'll lend her a loan o' thim waders when she's rinsin' yer bauneen in the river!' says I.
"There'll be work out o' this!' says he, lookin' at me both sour and bitther.
"Well indeed, I was thinkin' you were blue molded for want of a batin',' says I. He was for fightin' us then, but afther we had him pacificated with about a quarther of a naggin' o' sperrits, he told us he was goin' ridin' in a
"An' what'll ye ride?' says I. "Owld Bocock's mare,' says he.
"Knipes!' says I, sayin' a great curse; ' is it that little staggeen from the mountains? sure she's somethin' about the one age with meself,' says I. 'Many's the time Jamesy Geoghegan and meself used to be dhrivin' her to Macroom with pigs an' all soorts,' says I; 'an' is it leppin' stone walls ye want her to go now?'
Faith, there's walls and every vari'ty of obstackle in it,' says he.
"It'll be the best o' your play, so,' says I; 'to leg it away home out o' this.'
"An' who 'll ride her, so?' says he.
"Let the divil ride her,' says I."
Leigh Kelway, who had been leaning back seemingly half asleep, obeyed the hypnotism of Slipper's gaze, and opened his eyes.
"That was now all the conversation that passed between himself and meself," resumed Slipper, "and there was no great delay afther that till they said there was a race startin' and the dickens a one at all was goin' to ride only two, Driscoll, and one Clancy. With that then I seen Mr. Kinahane, the Petty Sessions clerk, goin' round clearin' the coorse, an' I gethered a few o' the neighbors, an' we walked the fields hither and over till we seen the most of th' obstackles.
"Stand aisy now by the plantation,' says I; 'if they get to come as far as this, believe me ye'll see spoort,' says I, 'an''t will be a convanient spot to encourage the mare if she's anyway wake in herself,' says I, cuttin' somethin' about five foot of an ash sapling out o' the plantation.
"That's yer sort!' says owld Bocock, that was thravelin' the racecoorse, peggin' a bit o' paper down with a thorn in front of every lep, the way Driscoll'd know the handiest place to face her at it.
"Well I hadn't barely thrimmed the ash plant-" "Have you any jam, Mary Kate?" interrupted Flurry, whose meal had been in no way interfered with by either the story or the highly scented crowd who had come to listen to it.
"We have no jam, only thraycle, sir," replied the invisible Mary Kate.
66 "I hadn't the switch barely thrimmed," repeated Slipper firmly, "when I heard the people screechin', an' I seen
Driscoll an' Clancy comin' on, leppin' all before them, an' owld Bocock's mare bellusin' an' powdherin' along, an' bedad! whatever obstackle wouldn't throw her down, faith, she'd throw it down, an' there's the thraffic they had in it.
"I declare to me sowl,' says I, if they continue on this way there's a great chance some one o' thim 'll win,' says I.
"Ye lie!' says the bandmasther, bein' a thrifle fulsome after his luncheon.
"I do not,' says I, 'in regard of seein' how soople them two boys is. Ye might observe,' says I, 'that if they have no convanient way to sit on the saddle, they'll ride the neck o' the horse till such time as they gets an occasion to lave it,' says I.
"Arrah, shut yer mouth!' says the bandmasther; 'they're puckin' out this way now, an' may the divil admire me!' says he, but Clancy has the other bet out, and the divil such leatherin' and beltin' of owld Bocock's mare ever you seen as what's in it!' says he.
"Well, when I seen them comin' to me, and Driscoll about the length of the plantation behind Clancy, I let a couple of bawls.
"Skelp her, ye big brute!' says I. 'What good's in ye that ye aren't able to skelp her?""
The yell and the histrionic flourish of his stick with which Slipper delivered this incident brought down the house. Leigh Kelway was sufficiently moved to ask me in an undertone if "skelp" was a local term.
“Well, Mr. Flurry, and gintlemen," recommenced Slipper, "I declare to ye when owld Bocock's mare heard thim roars she sthretched out her neck like a gandher, and when she passed me out she give a couple of grunts, and looked at me as ugly as a Christian.
"Hah!' says I, givin' her a couple o' dhraws o' th' ash plant across the butt o' the tail, the way I wouldn't blind her; ' I'll make ye grunt!' says I, ' I 'll nourish ye!'
"I knew well she was very frightful of th' ash plant since the winter Tommeen Sullivan had her under a sidecar. But now, in place of havin' any obligations to me, ye'd be surprised if ye heard the blaspheemious expressions of that young boy that was ridin' her; and whether
it was over-anxious he was, turnin' around the way I'd hear him cursin', or whether it was some slither or slide came to owld Bocock's mare, I dunno, but she was bet up agin the last obstackle but two, and before ye cauld say 'Shnipes,' she was standin' on her two ears beyond in th' other field! I declare to ye, on the vartue of me oath, she stood that way till she reconnoithered what side would Driscoll fall, an' she turned about then and rolled on him as cozy as if he was meadow grass!
Slipper stopped short; the people in the doorway groaned appreciatively; Mary Kate murmured "The Lord save us!"
"The blood was dhruv out through his nose and ears," continued Slipper, with a voice that indicated the cream of the narration, "and you'd hear his bones crackin' on the ground! You'd have pitied the poor boy."
"Good heavens!" said Leigh Kelway, sitting up very straight in his chair.
"Was he hurt, Slipper?" asked Flurry casually.
"Hurt is it?" echoed Slipper in high scorn; "killed on the spot!" He paused to relish the effect of the dénouement on Leigh Kelway. "Oh, divil so pleasant an afternoon ever you seen; and indeed, Mr. Flurry, it's what we were all sayin', it was a great pity your honor was not there for the likin' you had for Driscoll."
As he spoke the last word there was an outburst of sing. ing and cheering from a car-load of people who had just pulled up at the door. Flurry listened, leaned back in his chair, and began to laugh.
"It scarcely strikes one as a comic incident," said Leigh Kelway, very coldly to me; "in fact, it seems to me that the police ought"
"Show me Slipper!" bawled a voice in the shop; "show me that dirty little undherlooper till I have his blood! Hadn't I the race won only for he souring the mare on me! What's that you say? I tell ye he did! He left seven slaps on her with the handle of a hay-rake"
There was in the room in which we were sitting a second door, leading to the back yard, a door consecrated to the unobtrusive visits of so-called "Sunday travelers." Through it Slipper faded away like a dream, and, simultaneously, a tall young man, with a face like a red-hot
potato tied up in a bandage, squeezed his way from the shop into the room.
"Well, Driscoll," said Flurry, " since it wasn't the teeth of the rake he left on the mare, you needn't be talking!
Leigh Kelway looked from one to the other with a wilder expression in his eye than I had thought it capable of. I read in it a resolve to abandon Ireland to her fate.
At eight o'clock we were still waiting for the car that we had been assured should be ours directly it returned from the races. At half-past eight we had adopted the only possible course that remained, and had accepted the offers of lifts on the laden cars that were returning to Skebawn, and I presently was gratified by the spectacle of my friend Leigh Kelway wedged between a roulette table and its proprietor on one side of a car, with Driscoll and Slipper, mysteriously reconciled and excessively drunk, seated, locked in each other's arms, on the other. Flurry and I, somewhat similarly placed, followed on two other cars. I was scarcely surprised when I was informed that the melancholy white animal in the shafts of the leading car was Owld Bocock's much-enduring steeplechaser.
The night was very dark and stormy, and it is almost superfluous to say that no one carried lamps; the rain poured upon us, and through wind and wet Owld Bocock's mare set the pace at a rate that showed she knew from bitter experience what was expected from her by gentlemen who had spent the evening in a public-house; behind her the other two tired horses followed closely, incited to emulation by shouting, singing, and a liberal allowance of whip. We were a good ten miles from Skebawn, and never had the road seemed so long. For mile after mile the halfseen low walls slid past us, with occasional plunges into caverns of darkness under trees. Sometimes from a wayside cabin a dog would dash out to bark at us as we rattled by; sometimes our cavalcade swung aside to pass, with yells and counter-yells, crawling carts filled with other belated race-goers.
I was nearly wet through, even though I received considerable shelter from a Skebawn publican, who slept heavily and irrepressibly on my shoulder. Driscoll, on the leading car, had struck up an approximation to the " Wearing of the Green," when a wavering star appeared on the