CHAPTER XIV

I Return to Ireland, and Exhibit My Splendour and Generosity in That Kingdom

How were times changed with me now!

I had left my country a poor penniless boy — a private soldier in a miserable marching regiment.

I returned an accomplished man, with property to the amount of five thousand guineas in my possession, with a splendid wardrobe and jewel-case worth two thousand more; having mingled in all the scenes of life a not undistinguished actor in them; having shared in war and in love; having by my own genius and energy won my way from poverty and obscurity to competence and splendour. As I looked out from my chariot windows as it rolled along over the bleak bare roads, by the miserable cabins of the peasantry, who came out in their rags to stare as the splendid equipage passed, and huzza’d for his Lordship’s honour as they saw the magnificent stranger in the superb gilded vehicle, my huge body-servant Fritz lolling behind with curling moustaches and long queue, his green livery barred with silver lace, I could not help thinking of myself with considerable complacency, and thanking my stars that had endowed me with so many good qualities. But for my own merits I should have been a raw Irish squireen such as those I saw swaggering about the wretched towns through which my chariot passed on its road to Dublin.

I might have married Nora Brady (and though, thank Heaven, I did not, I have never thought of that girl but with kindness, and even remember the bitterness of losing her more clearly at this moment than any other incident of my life); I might have been the father of ten children by this time, or a farmer on my own account, or an agent to a squire, or a gauger, or an attorney; and here I was one of the most famous gentlemen of Europe!

I bade my fellow get a bag of copper money and throw it among the crowd as we changed horses; and I warrant me there was as much shouting set up in praise of my honour as if my Lord Townshend, the Lord Lieutenant himself, had been passing.

My second day’s journey — for the Irish roads were rough in those days, and the progress of a gentleman’s chariot terribly slow — brought me to Carlow, where I put up at the very inn which I had used eleven years back, when flying from home after the supposed murder of Quin in the duel. How well I remember every moment of the scene!

The old landlord was gone who had served me; the inn that I then thought so comfortable looked wretched and dismantled; but the claret was as good as in the old days, and I had the host to partake of a jug of it and hear the news of the country.

He was as communicative as hosts usually are: the crops and the markets, the price of beasts at last Castle Dermot fair, the last story about the vicar, and the last joke of Father Hogan the priest; how the Whiteboys had burned Squire Scanlan’s ricks, and the highwaymen had been beaten off in their attack upon Sir Thomas’s house; who was to hunt the Kilkenny hounds next season, and the wonderful run entirely they had last March; what troops were in the town, and how Miss Biddy Toole had run off with Ensign Mullins: all the news of sport, assize, and quarter-sessions were detailed by this worthy chronicler of small-beer, who wondered that my honour hadn’t heard of them in England, or in foreign parts, where he seemed to think the world was as interested as he was about the doings of Kilkenny and Carlow.

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