Catherine: a story, by William Makepeace Thackeray

Chapter 6

Adventures of the Ambassador, Mr. Macshane.

If we had not been obliged to follow history in all respects, it is probable that we should have left out the last adventure of Mrs. Catherine and her husband, at the inn at Worcester, altogether; for, in truth, very little came of it, and it is not very romantic or striking. But we are bound to stick closely, above all, by THE TRUTH— the truth, though it be not particularly pleasant to read of or to tell. As anybody may read in the “Newgate Calendar,” Mr. and Mrs. Hayes were taken at an inn at Worcester; were confined there; were swindled by persons who pretended to impress the bridegroom for military service. What is one to do after that? Had we been writing novels instead of authentic histories, we might have carried them anywhere else we chose: and we had a great mind to make Hayes philosophising with Bolingbroke, like a certain Devereux; and Mrs. Catherine maitresse en titre to Mr. Alexander Pope, Doctor Sacheverel, Sir John Reade the oculist, Dean Swift, or Marshal Tallard; as the very commonest romancer would under such circumstances. But alas and alas! truth must be spoken, whatever else is in the wind; and the excellent “Newgate Calendar,” which contains the biographies and thanatographies of Hayes and his wife, does not say a word of their connections with any of the leading literary or military heroes of the time of Her Majesty Queen Anne. The “Calendar” says, in so many words, that Hayes was obliged to send to his father in Warwickshire for money to get him out of the scrape, and that the old gentleman came down to his aid. By this truth must we stick; and not for the sake of the most brilliant episode — no, not for a bribe of twenty extra guineas per sheet, would we depart from it.

Mr. Brock’s account of his adventure in London has given the reader some short notice of his friend, Mr Macshane. Neither the wits nor the principles of that worthy Ensign were particularly firm: for drink, poverty, and a crack on the skull at the battle of Steenkirk had served to injure the former; and the Ensign was not in his best days possessed of any share of the latter. He had really, at one period, held such a rank in the army, but pawned his half-pay for drink and play; and for many years past had lived, one of the hundred thousand miracles of our city, upon nothing that anybody knew of, or of which he himself could give any account. Who has not a catalogue of these men in his list? who can tell whence comes the occasional clean shirt, who supplies the continual means of drunkenness, who wards off the daily-impending starvation? Their life is a wonder from day to day: their breakfast a wonder; their dinner a miracle; their bed an interposition of Providence. If you and I, my dear sir, want a shilling tomorrow, who will give it us? Will OUR butchers give us mutton-chops? will OUR laundresses clothe us in clean linen? — not a bone or a rag. Standing as we do (may it be ever so) somewhat removed from want,4 is there one of us who does not shudder at the thought of descending into the lists to combat with it, and expect anything but to be utterly crushed in the encounter?

4 The author, it must be remembered, has his lodgings and food provided for him by the government of his country.

Not a bit of it, my dear sir. It takes much more than you think for to starve a man. Starvation is very little when you are used to it. Some people I know even, who live on it quite comfortably, and make their daily bread by it. It had been our friend Macshane’s sole profession for many years; and he did not fail to draw from it such a livelihood as was sufficient, and perhaps too good, for him. He managed to dine upon it a certain or rather uncertain number of days in the week, to sleep somewhere, and to get drunk at least three hundred times a year. He was known to one or two noblemen who occasionally helped him with a few pieces, and whom he helped in turn — never mind how. He had other acquaintances whom he pestered undauntedly; and from whom he occasionally extracted a dinner, or a crown, or mayhap, by mistake, a goldheaded cane, which found its way to the pawnbroker’s. When flush of cash, he would appear at the coffee-house; when low in funds, the deuce knows into what mystic caves and dens he slunk for food and lodging. He was perfectly ready with his sword, and when sober, or better still, a very little tipsy, was a complete master of it; in the art of boasting and lying he had hardly any equals; in shoes he stood six feet five inches; and here is his complete signalement. It was a fact that he had been in Spain as a volunteer, where he had shown some gallantry, had had a brain-fever, and was sent home to starve as before.

Mr. Macshane had, however, like Mr. Conrad, the Corsair, one virtue in the midst of a thousand crimes — he was faithful to his employer for the time being: and a story is told of him, which may or may not be to his credit, viz. that being hired on one occasion by a certain lord to inflict a punishment upon a roturier who had crossed his lordship in his amours, he, Macshane, did actually refuse from the person to be belaboured, and who entreated his forbearance, a larger sum of money than the nobleman gave him for the beating; which he performed punctually, as bound in honour and friendship. This tale would the Ensign himself relate, with much self-satisfaction; and when, after the sudden flight from London, he and Brock took to their roving occupation, he cheerfully submitted to the latter as his commanding officer, called him always Major, and, bating blunders and drunkenness, was perfectly true to his leader. He had a notion — and, indeed, I don’t know that it was a wrong one — that his profession was now, as before, strictly military, and according to the rules of honour. Robbing he called plundering the enemy; and hanging was, in his idea, a dastardly and cruel advantage that the latter took, and that called for the sternest reprisals.

The other gentlemen concerned were strangers to Mr. Brock, who felt little inclined to trust either of them upon such a message, or with such a large sum to bring back. They had, strange to say, a similar mistrust on their side; but Mr. Brock lugged out five guineas, which he placed in the landlady’s hand as security for his comrade’s return; and Ensign Macshane, being mounted on poor Hayes’s own horse, set off to visit the parents of that unhappy young man. It was a gallant sight to behold our thieves’ ambassador, in a faded sky-blue suit with orange facings, in a pair of huge jack-boots unconscious of blacking, with a mighty basket-hilted sword by his side, and a little shabby beaver cocked over a large tow-periwig, ride out from the inn of the “Three Rooks” on his mission to Hayes’s paternal village.

It was eighteen miles distant from Worcester; but Mr. Macshane performed the distance in safety, and in sobriety moreover (for such had been his instructions), and had no difficulty in discovering the house of old Hayes: towards which, indeed, John’s horse trotted incontinently. Mrs. Hayes, who was knitting at the house-door, was not a little surprised at the appearance of the well-known grey gelding, and of the stranger mounted upon it.

Flinging himself off the steed with much agility, Mr. Macshane, as soon as his feet reached the ground, brought them rapidly together, in order to make a profound and elegant bow to Mrs. Hayes; and slapping his greasy beaver against his heart, and poking his periwig almost into the nose of the old lady, demanded whether he had the “shooprame honour of adthressing Misthriss Hees?”

Having been answered in the affirmative, he then proceeded to ask whether there was a blackguard boy in the house who would take “the horse to the steeble;” whether “he could have a dthrink of small-beer or buthermilk, being, faith, uncommon dthry;” and whether, finally, “he could be feevored with a few minutes’ private conversation with her and Mr. Hees, on a matther of consitherable impartance.” All these preliminaries were to be complied with before Mr. Macshane would enter at all into the subject of his visit. The horse and man were cared for; Mr. Hayes was called in; and not a little anxious did Mrs. Hayes grow, in the meanwhile, with regard to the fate of her darling son. “Where is he? How is he? Is he dead?” said the old lady. “Oh yes, I’m sure he’s dead!”

“Indeed, madam, and you’re misteeken intirely: the young man is perfectly well in health.”

“Oh, praised be Heaven!”

“But mighty cast down in sperrits. To misfortunes, madam, look you, the best of us are subject; and a trifling one has fell upon your son.”

And herewith Mr. Macshane produced a letter in the handwriting of young Hayes, of which we have had the good luck to procure a copy. It ran thus:—

“HONORED FATHER AND MOTHER — The bearer of this is a kind gentleman, who has left me in a great deal of trouble. Yesterday, at this towne, I fell in with some gentlemen of the queene’s servas; after drinking with whom, I accepted her Majesty’s mony to enliste. Repenting thereof, I did endeavour to escape; and, in so doing, had the misfortune to strike my superior officer, whereby I made myself liable to Death, according to the rules of warr. If, however, I pay twenty ginnys, all will be wel. You must give the same to the barer, els I shall be shott without fail on Tewsday morning. And so no more from your loving son,

“JOHN HAYES.

“From my prison at Bristol, this unhappy Monday.”

When Mrs. Hayes read this pathetic missive, its success with her was complete, and she was for going immediately to the cupboard, and producing the money necessary for her darling son’s release. But the carpenter Hayes was much more suspicious. “I don’t know you, sir,” said he to the ambassador.

“Do you doubt my honour, sir?” said the Ensign, very fiercely.

“Why, sir,” replied Mr. Hayes “I know little about it one way or other, but shall take it for granted, if you will explain a little more of this business.”

“I sildom condescind to explean,” said Mr. Macshane, “for it’s not the custom in my rank; but I’ll explean anything in reason.”

“Pray, will you tell me in what regiment my son is enlisted?”

“In coorse. In Colonel Wood’s fut, my dear; and a gallant corps it is as any in the army.”

“And you left him?”

“On me soul, only three hours ago, having rid like a horse-jockey ever since; as in the sacred cause of humanity, curse me, every man should.”

As Hayes’s house was seventy miles from Bristol, the old gentleman thought this was marvellous quick riding, and so, cut the conversation short. “You have said quite enough, sir,” said he, “to show me there is some roguery in the matter, and that the whole story is false from beginning to end.”

At this abrupt charge the Ensign looked somewhat puzzled, and then spoke with much gravity. “Roguery,” said he, “Misthur Hees, is a sthrong term; and which, in consideration of my friendship for your family, I shall pass over. You doubt your son’s honour, as there wrote by him in black and white?”

“You have forced him to write,” said Mr. Hayes.

“The sly old divvle’s right,” muttered Mr. Macshane, aside. “Well, sir, to make a clean breast of it, he HAS been forced to write it. The story about the enlistment is a pretty fib, if you will, from beginning to end. And what then, my dear? Do you think your son’s any better off for that?”

“Oh, where is he?” screamed Mrs. Hayes, plumping down on her knees. “We WILL give him the money, won’t we, John?”

“I know you will, madam, when I tell you where he is. He is in the hands of some gentlemen of my acquaintance, who are at war with the present government, and no more care about cutting a man’s throat than they do a chicken’s. He is a prisoner, madam, of our sword and spear. If you choose to ransom him, well and good; if not, peace be with him! for never more shall you see him.”

“And how do I know you won’t come back tomorrow for more money?” asked Mr. Hayes.

“Sir, you have my honour; and I’d as lieve break my neck as my word,” said Mr. Macshane, gravely. “Twenty guineas is the bargain. Take ten minutes to talk of it — take it then, or leave it; it’s all the same to me, my dear.” And it must be said of our friend the Ensign, that he meant every word he said, and that he considered the embassy on which he had come as perfectly honourable and regular.

“And pray, what prevents us,” said Mr. Hayes, starting up in a rage, “from taking hold of you, as a surety for him?”

“You wouldn’t fire on a flag of truce, would ye, you dishonourable ould civilian?” replied Mr. Macshane. “Besides,” says he, “there’s more reasons to prevent you: the first is this,” pointing to his sword; “here are two more”— and these were pistols; “and the last and the best of all is, that you might hang me and dthraw me and quarther me, an yet never see so much as the tip of your son’s nose again. Look you, sir, we run mighty risks in our profession — it’s not all play, I can tell you. We’re obliged to be punctual, too, or it’s all up with the thrade. If I promise that your son will die as sure as fate tomorrow morning, unless I return home safe, our people MUST keep my promise; or else what chance is there for me? You would be down upon me in a moment with a posse of constables, and have me swinging before Warwick gaol. Pooh, my dear! you never would sacrifice a darling boy like John Hayes, let alone his lady, for the sake of my long carcass. One or two of our gentlemen have been taken that way already, because parents and guardians would not believe them.”

“AND WHAT BECAME OF THE POOR CHILDREN?” said Mrs. Hayes, who began to perceive the gist of the argument, and to grow dreadfully frightened.

“Don’t let’s talk of them, ma’am: humanity shudthers at the thought!” And herewith Mr. Macshane drew his finger across his throat in such a dreadful way as to make the two parents tremble. “It’s the way of war, madam, look you. The service I have the honour to belong to is not paid by the Queen; and so we’re obliged to make our prisoners pay, according to established military practice.”

No lawyer could have argued his case better than Mr. Macshane so far; and he completely succeeded in convincing Mr. and Mrs. Hayes of the necessity of ransoming their son. Promising that the young man should be restored to them next morning, along with his beautiful lady, he courteously took leave of the old couple, and made the best of his way back to Worcester again. The elder Hayes wondered who the lady could be of whom the ambassador had spoken, for their son’s elopement was altogether unknown to them; but anger or doubt about this subject was overwhelmed by their fears for their darling John’s safety. Away rode the gallant Macshane with the money necessary to effect this; and it must be mentioned, as highly to his credit, that he never once thought of appropriating the sum to himself, or of deserting his comrades in any way.

His ride from Worcester had been a long one. He had left that city at noon, but before his return thither the sun had gone down; and the landscape, which had been dressed like a prodigal, in purple and gold, now appeared like a Quaker, in dusky grey; and the trees by the road-side grew black as undertakers or physicians, and, bending their solemn heads to each other, whispered ominously among themselves; and the mists hung on the common; and the cottage lights went out one by one; and the earth and heaven grew black, but for some twinkling useless stars, which freckled the ebon countenance of the latter; and the air grew colder; and about two o’clock the moon appeared, a dismal pale-faced rake, walking solitary through the deserted sky; and about four, mayhap, the Dawn (wretched ‘prentice-boy!) opened in the east the shutters of the Day:— in other words, more than a dozen hours had passed. Corporal Brock had been relieved by Mr. Redcap, the latter by Mr. Sicklop, the one-eyed gentleman; Mrs. John Hayes, in spite of her sorrows and bashfulness, had followed the example of her husband, and fallen asleep by his side — slept for many hours — and awakened still under the guardianship of Mr. Brock’s troop; and all parties began anxiously to expect the return of the ambassador, Mr. Macshane.

That officer, who had performed the first part of his journey with such distinguished prudence and success, found the night, on his journey homewards, was growing mighty cold and dark; and as he was thirsty and hungry, had money in his purse, and saw no cause to hurry, he determined to take refuge at an alehouse for the night, and to make for Worcester by dawn the next morning. He accordingly alighted at the first inn on his road, consigned his horse to the stable, and, entering the kitchen, called for the best liquor in the house.

A small company was assembled at the inn, among whom Mr. Macshane took his place with a great deal of dignity; and, having a considerable sum of money in his pocket, felt a mighty contempt for his society, and soon let them know the contempt he felt for them. After a third flagon of ale, he discovered that the liquor was sour, and emptied, with much spluttering and grimaces, the remainder of the beer into the fire. This process so offended the parson of the parish (who in those good old times did not disdain to take the post of honour in the chimney-nook), that he left his corner, looking wrathfully at the offender; who without any more ado instantly occupied it. It was a fine thing to hear the jingling of the twenty pieces in his pocket, the oaths which he distributed between the landlord, the guests, and the liquor — to remark the sprawl of his mighty jack-boots, before the sweep of which the timid guests edged farther and farther away; and the languishing leers which he cast on the landlady, as with wide-spread arms he attempted to seize upon her.

When the ostler had done his duties in the stable, he entered the inn, and whispered the landlord that “the stranger was riding John Hayes’s horse:” of which fact the host soon convinced himself, and did not fail to have some suspicions of his guest. Had he not thought that times were unquiet, horses might be sold, and one man’s money was as good as another’s, he probably would have arrested the Ensign immediately, and so lost all the profit of the score which the latter was causing every moment to be enlarged.

In a couple of hours, with that happy facility which one may have often remarked in men of the gallant Ensign’s nation, he had managed to disgust every one of the landlord’s other guests, and scare them from the kitchen. Frightened by his addresses, the landlady too had taken flight; and the host was the only person left in the apartment; who there stayed for interest’s sake merely, and listened moodily to his tipsy guest’s conversation. In an hour more, the whole house was awakened by a violent noise of howling, curses, and pots clattering to and fro. Forth issued Mrs. Landlady in her night-gear, out came John Ostler with his pitchfork, downstairs tumbled Mrs. Cook and one or two guests, and found the landlord and ensign on the kitchen-floor — the wig of the latter lying, much singed and emitting strange odours, in the fireplace, his face hideously distorted, and a great quantity of his natural hair in the partial occupation of the landlord; who had drawn it and the head down towards him, in order that he might have the benefit of pummelling the latter more at his ease. In revenge, the landlord was undermost, and the Ensign’s arms were working up and down his face and body like the flaps of a paddle-wheel: the man of war had clearly the best of it.

The combatants were separated as soon as possible; but, as soon as the excitement of the fight was over, Ensign Macshane was found to have no further powers of speech, sense, or locomotion, and was carried by his late antagonist to bed. His sword and pistols, which had been placed at his side at the commencement of the evening, were carefully put by, and his pocket visited. Twenty guineas in gold, a large knife — used, probably, for the cutting of bread-and-cheese — some crumbs of those delicacies and a paper of tobacco found in the breeches-pockets, and in the bosom of the sky-blue coat, the leg of a cold fowl and half of a raw onion, constituted his whole property.

These articles were not very suspicious; but the beating which the landlord had received tended greatly to confirm his own and his wife’s doubts about their guest; and it was determined to send off in the early morning to Mr. Hayes, informing him how a person had lain at their inn who had ridden thither mounted upon young Hayes’s horse. Off set John Ostler at earliest dawn; but on his way he woke up Mr. Justice’s clerk, and communicated his suspicions to him; and Mr. Clerk consulted with the village baker, who was always up early; and the clerk, the baker, the butcher with his cleaver, and two gentlemen who were going to work, all adjourned to the inn.

Accordingly, when Ensign Macshane was in a truckle-bed, plunged in that deep slumber which only innocence and drunkenness enjoy in this world, and charming the ears of morn by the regular and melodious music of his nose, a vile plot was laid against him; and when about seven of the clock he woke, he found, on sitting up in his bed, three gentlemen on each side of it, armed, and looking ominous. One held a constable’s staff, and albeit unprovided with a warrant, would take upon himself the responsibility of seizing Mr. Macshane and of carrying him before his worship at the hall.

“Taranouns, man!” said the Ensign, springing up in bed, and abruptly breaking off a loud sonorous yawn, with which he had opened the business of the day, “you won’t deteen a gentleman who’s on life and death? I give ye my word, an affair of honour.”

“How came you by that there horse?” said the baker.

“How came you by these here fifteen guineas?” said the landlord, in whose hands, by some process, five of the gold pieces had disappeared.

“What is this here idolatrous string of beads?” said the clerk.

Mr. Macshane, the fact is, was a Catholic, but did not care to own it: for in those days his religion was not popular.

“Baids? Holy Mother of saints! give me back them baids,” said Mr. Macshane, clasping his hands. “They were blest, I tell you, by his holiness the po — psha! I mane they belong to a darling little daughter I had that’s in heaven now: and as for the money and the horse, I should like to know how a gentleman is to travel in this counthry without them.”

“Why, you see, he may travel in the country to GIT ’em,” here shrewdly remarked the constable; “and it’s our belief that neither horse nor money is honestly come by. If his worship is satisfied, why so, in course, shall we be; but there is highwaymen abroad, look you; and, to our notion, you have very much the cut of one.”

Further remonstrances or threats on the part of Mr. Macshane were useless. Although he vowed that he was first cousin to the Duke of Leinster, an officer in Her Majesty’s service, and the dearest friend Lord Marlborough had, his impudent captors would not believe a word of his statement (which, further, was garnished with a tremendous number of oaths); and he was, about eight o’clock, carried up to the house of Squire Ballance, the neighbouring justice of the peace.

When the worthy magistrate asked the crime of which the prisoner had been guilty, the captors looked somewhat puzzled for the moment; since, in truth, it could not be shown that the Ensign had committed any crime at all; and if he had confined himself to simple silence, and thrown upon them the onus of proving his misdemeanours, Justice Ballance must have let him loose, and soundly rated his clerk and the landlord for detaining an honest gentleman on so frivolous a charge.

But this caution was not in the Ensign’s disposition; and though his accusers produced no satisfactory charge against him, his own words were quite enough to show how suspicious his character was. When asked his name, he gave it in as Captain Geraldine, on his way to Ireland, by Bristol, on a visit to his cousin the Duke of Leinster. He swore solemnly that his friends, the Duke of Marlborough and Lord Peterborough, under both of whom he had served, should hear of the manner in which he had been treated; and when the justice — a sly old gentleman, and one that read the Gazettes, asked him at what battles he had been present, the gallant Ensign pitched on a couple in Spain and in Flanders, which had been fought within a week of each other, and vowed that he had been desperately wounded at both; so that, at the end of his examination, which had been taken down by the clerk, he had been made to acknowledge as follows:— Captain Geraldine, six feet four inches in height; thin, with a very long red nose, and red hair; grey eyes, and speaks with a strong Irish accent; is the first-cousin of the Duke of Leinster, and in constant communication with him: does not know whether his Grace has any children; does not know whereabouts he lives in London; cannot say what sort of a looking man his Grace is: is acquainted with the Duke of Marlborough, and served in the dragoons at the battle of Ramillies; at which time he was with my Lord Peterborough before Barcelona. Borrowed the horse which he rides from a friend in London, three weeks since. Peter Hobbs, ostler, swears that it was in his master’s stable four days ago, and is the property of John Hayes, carpenter. Cannot account for the fifteen guineas found on him by the landlord; says there were twenty; says he won them at cards, a fortnight since, at Edinburgh; says he is riding about the country for his amusement: afterwards says he is on a matter of life and death, and going to Bristol; declared last night, in the hearing of several witnesses, that he was going to York; says he is a man of independent property, and has large estates in Ireland, and a hundred thousand pounds in the Bank of England. Has no shirt or stockings, and the coat he wears is marked “S.S.” In his boots is written “Thomas Rodgers,” and in his hat is the name of the “Rev. Doctor Snoffler.”

Doctor Snoffler lived at Worcester, and had lately advertised in the Hue and Cry a number of articles taken from his house. Mr. Macshane said, in reply to this, that his hat had been changed at the inn, and he was ready to take his oath that he came thither in a gold-laced one. But this fact was disproved by the oaths of many persons who had seen him at the inn. And he was about to be imprisoned for the thefts which he had not committed (the fact about the hat being, that he had purchased it from a gentleman at the “Three Rooks” for two pints of beer)— he was about to be remanded, when, behold, Mrs. Hayes the elder made her appearance; and to her it was that the Ensign was indebted for his freedom.

Old Hayes had gone to work before the ostler arrived; but when his wife heard the lad’s message, she instantly caused her pillion to be placed behind the saddle, and mounting the grey horse, urged the stable-boy to gallop as hard as ever he could to the justice’s house.

She entered panting and alarmed. “Oh, what is your honour going to do to this honest gentleman?” said she. “In the name of Heaven, let him go! His time is precious — he has important business — business of life and death.”

“I tould the jidge so,” said the Ensign, “but he refused to take my word — the sacred wurrd of honour of Captain Geraldine.”

Macshane was good at a single lie, though easily flustered on an examination; and this was a very creditable stratagem to acquaint Mrs. Hayes with the name that he bore.

“What! you know Captain Geraldine?” said Mr. Ballance, who was perfectly well acquainted with the carpenter’s wife.

“In coorse she does. Hasn’t she known me these tin years? Are we not related? Didn’t she give me the very horse which I rode, and, to make belave, tould you I’d bought in London?”

“Let her tell her own story. Are you related to Captain Geraldine, Mrs. Hayes?”

“Yes — oh, yes!”

“A very elegant connection! And you gave him the horse, did you, of your own free-will?”

“Oh yes! of my own will — I would give him anything. Do, do, your honour, let him go! His child is dying,” said the old lady, bursting into tears. “It may be dead before he gets to — before he gets there. Oh, your honour, your honour, pray, pray, don’t detain him!”

The justice did not seem to understand this excessive sympathy on the part of Mrs. Hayes; nor did the father himself appear to be nearly so affected by his child’s probable fate as the honest woman who interested herself for him. On the contrary, when she made this passionate speech, Captain Geraldine only grinned, and said, “Niver mind, my dear. If his honour will keep an honest gentleman for doing nothing, why, let him — the law must settle between us; and as for the child, poor thing, the Lord deliver it!”

At this, Mrs. Hayes fell to entreating more loudly than ever; and as there was really no charge against him, Mr. Ballance was constrained to let him go.

The landlord and his friends were making off, rather confused, when Ensign Macshane called upon the former in a thundering voice to stop, and refund the five guineas which he had stolen from him. Again the host swore there were but fifteen in his pocket. But when, on the Bible, the Ensign solemnly vowed that he had twenty, and called upon Mrs. Hayes to say whether yesterday, half-an-hour before he entered the inn, she had not seen him with twenty guineas, and that lady expressed herself ready to swear that she had, Mr. Landlord looked more crestfallen than ever, and said that he had not counted the money when he took it; and though he did in his soul believe that there were only fifteen guineas, rather than be suspected of a shabby action, he would pay the five guineas out of his own pocket: which he did, and with the Ensign’s, or rather Mrs. Hayes’s, own coin.

As soon as they were out of the justice’s house, Mr. Macshane, in the fulness of his gratitude, could not help bestowing an embrace upon Mrs. Hayes. And when she implored him to let her ride behind him to her darling son, he yielded with a very good grace, and off the pair set on John Hayes’s grey.

“Who has Nosey brought with him now?” said Mr. Sicklop, Brock’s one-eyed confederate, who, about three hours after the above adventure, was lolling in the yard of the “Three Rooks.” It was our Ensign, with the mother of his captive. They had not met with any accident in their ride.

“I shall now have the shooprame bliss,” said Mr. Macshane, with much feeling, as he lifted Mrs. Hayes from the saddle ——“the shooprame bliss of intwining two harrts that are mead for one another. Ours, my dear, is a dismal profession; but ah! don’t moments like this make aminds for years of pain? This way, my dear. Turn to your right, then to your left — mind the stip — and the third door round the corner.”

All these precautions were attended to; and after giving his concerted knock, Mr. Macshane was admitted into an apartment, which he entered holding his gold pieces in the one hand, and a lady by the other.

We shall not describe the meeting which took place between mother and son. The old lady wept copiously; the young man was really glad to see his relative, for he deemed that his troubles were over. Mrs. Cat bit her lips, and stood aside, looking somewhat foolish; Mr. Brock counted the money; and Mr. Macshane took a large dose of strong waters, as a pleasing solace for his labours, dangers, and fatigue.

When the maternal feelings were somewhat calmed, the old lady had leisure to look about her, and really felt a kind of friendship and goodwill for the company of thieves in which she found herself. It seemed to her that they had conferred an actual favour on her, in robbing her of twenty guineas, threatening her son’s life, and finally letting him go.

“Who is that droll old gentleman?” said she; and being told that it was Captain Wood, she dropped him a curtsey, and said, with much respect, “Captain, your very humble servant;” which compliment Mr. Brock acknowledged by a gracious smile and bow. “And who is this pretty young lady?” continued Mrs. Hayes.

“Why — hum — oh — mother, you must give her your blessing. She is Mrs. John Hayes.” And herewith Mr. Hayes brought forward his interesting lady, to introduce her to his mamma.

The news did not at all please the old lady; who received Mrs. Catherine’s embrace with a very sour face indeed. However, the mischief was done; and she was too glad to get back her son to be, on such an occasion, very angry with him. So, after a proper rebuke, she told Mrs. John Hayes that though she never approved of her son’s attachment, and thought he married below his condition, yet as the evil was done, it was their duty to make the best of it; and she, for her part, would receive her into her house, and make her as comfortable there as she could.

“I wonder whether she has any more money in that house?” whispered Mr. Sicklop to Mr. Redcap; who, with the landlady, had come to the door of the room, and had been amusing themselves by the contemplation of this sentimental scene.

“What a fool that wild Hirishman was not to bleed her for more!” said the landlady; “but he’s a poor ignorant Papist. I’m sure my man” (this gentleman had been hanged), “wouldn’t have come away with such a beggarly sum.”

“Suppose we have some more out of ’em?” said Mr. Redcap. “What prevents us? We have got the old mare, and the colt too — ha! ha! — and the pair of ’em ought to be worth at least a hundred to us.”

This conversation was carried on sotto voce; and I don’t know whether Mr. Brock had any notion of the plot which was arranged by the three worthies. The landlady began it. “Which punch, madam, will you take?” says she. “You must have something for the good of the house, now you are in it.”

“In coorse,” said the Ensign.

“Certainly,” said the other three. But the old lady said she was anxious to leave the place; and putting down a crown-piece, requested the hostess to treat the gentlemen in her absence. “Good-bye, Captain,” said the old lady.

“Ajew!” cried the Ensign, “and long life to you, my dear. You got me out of a scrape at the justice’s yonder; and, split me! but Insign Macshane will remimber it as long as he lives.”

And now Hayes and the two ladies made for the door; but the landlady placed herself against it, and Mr. Sicklop said, “No, no, my pretty madams, you ain’t a-going off so cheap as that neither; you are not going out for a beggarly twenty guineas, look you — we must have more.”

Mr. Hayes starting back, and cursing his fate, fairly burst into tears; the two women screamed; and Mr. Brock looked as if the proposition both amused and had been expected by him: but not so Ensign Macshane.

“Major!” said he, clawing fiercely hold of Brock’s arms.

“Ensign,” said Mr. Brock, smiling.

“Arr we, or arr we not, men of honour?”

“Oh, in coorse,” said Brock, laughing, and using Macshane’s favourite expression.

“If we ARR men of honour, we are bound to stick to our word; and, hark ye, you dirty one-eyed scoundrel, if you don’t immadiately make way for these leedies, and this lily-livered young jontleman who’s crying so, the Meejor here and I will lug out and force you.” And so saying, he drew his great sword and made a pass at Mr. Sicklop; which that gentleman avoided, and which caused him and his companion to retreat from the door. The landlady still kept her position at it, and with a storm of oaths against the Ensign, and against two Englishmen who ran away from a wild Hirishman, swore she would not budge a foot, and would stand there until her dying day.

“Faith, then, needs must,” said the Ensign, and made a lunge at the hostess, which passed so near the wretch’s throat, that she screamed, sank on her knees, and at last opened the door.

Down the stairs, then, with great state, Mr. Macshane led the elder lady, the married couple following; and having seen them to the street, took an affectionate farewell of the party, whom he vowed that he would come and see. “You can walk the eighteen miles aisy, between this and nightfall,” said he.

“WALK!” exclaimed Mr. Hayes. “Why, haven’t we got Ball, and shall ride and tie all the way?”

“Madam!” cried Macshane, in a stern voice, “honour before everything. Did you not, in the presence of his worship, vow and declare that you gave me that horse, and now d’ye talk of taking it back again? Let me tell you, madam, that such paltry thricks ill become a person of your years and respectability, and ought never to be played with Insign Timothy Macshane.”

He waved his hat and strutted down the street; and Mrs. Catherine Hayes, along with her bridegroom and mother-inlaw, made the best of their way homeward on foot.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/thackeray/william_makepeace/catherine/chapter6.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 19:07