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Legends and Stories of Ireland, by Samuel Lover, [1831, 1834], at

The Gridiron


Paddy Mullowney's Travels in France

MATHEWS, in his "Trip to America," gives a ludicrous representation of an Irishman who has left his own country on the old-fashioned speculation of "seeking his fortune," and who, after various previous failures in the pursuit, at length goes into the back settlements, with the intention of becoming interpreter-general between the Yankees and the Indian tribes; but the Indians reject his proffered service, "the poor ignorant craytures," as he himself says, "just because he did not understand the language." We are told, moreover, that Goldsmith visited the land of dykes and dams, for the purpose of teaching the Hollanders English, quite overlooking (until his arrival in the country made it obvious), that he did not know a word of Dutch himself. I have prefaced the following story thus, in the hope that the "precedent," which covers so many absurdities in law, may be considered available by the author, as well as. the suitor, and may serve a turn in the court of criticism, as well as in the common pleas.

A certain old gentleman in the west of Ireland, whose love of the ridiculous quite equalled his taste for claret and fox-bunting, was wont, upon certain festive occasions, when opportunity offered, to amuse his friends by drawing out one of his servants, who was exceeding fond of what he termed his "thravels," and in whom a good deal of whim, some queer stories, and perhaps, more than all, long and faithful services, had established a right of loquacity. He was one of those few trusty and privileged domestics who, if his master unheedingly uttered a rash thing in a fit of passion, would venture to set him right. If the Squire said: "I'll turn that rascal off" my friend Pat would say: "Throth, you won't, sir;" and Pat was always right, for if any altercation arose upon the "subject matter in hand," he was sure to throw in some good season, either from former services, general good conduct, or the delinquent's "wife and childher," that always turned the scale.

But I am digressing. On such merry meetings as I have alluded to, the master, after making certain "approaches," as a military man would say, as the preparatory steps in laying siege to some extravagansa of his servant, might, perchance, assail Pat thus: "By-the-by, Sir John" (addressing a distinguished guest), "Pat has a very curious story which something you told me to-day reminds me of. You remember, Pat" (turning to the man, evidently pleased at the notice thus paid to himself)--" you remember that queer adventure you had, in France?"

"Throth, I do, sir," grins forth Pat.

"What!" exclaims Sir John, in feigned surprise, "was Pat ever in France?"

"Indeed he was," cries mine host; and Pat adds: "Ay, and farther, plaze your honour."

"I assure you, Sir John," continues my host, "Pat told me a story once that surprised me very much, respecting the ignorance of the French."

"Indeed!" rejoins the baronet. "Really, I always supposed the French to be a most accomplished people."

"Throth, then, they're not, sir," interrupts Pat.

"Oh, by no means," adds mine host, shaking his head emphatically.

"I believe, Pat, 'twas when you were crossing the Atlantic?' says the master, turning to Pat with a seductive air, and leading into the "full and true account" (for Pat had thought fit to visit North Amerikay, for "a raison he had," In the autumn of the year 'ninety-eight).

"Yes, sir," says Pat, "the broad Atlantic," a favourite phrase of his, which be gave with a brogue as broad almost as the Atlantic itself.

"It was the time I was lost in crassin' the broad Atlantic, a-comin' home," began Pat, decoyed into the recital; "whin the winds began to blow, and the sae to rowl, that you'd think the Colleen dhas (that was her name) would not have a mast left but what would rowl out of her.

"Well, sure enough, the masts went by the boord at last, and the pumps were choak'd (divil choak them for that same), and av coorse the wather gained 'an us; and throth, to be filled with wather is neither good for man or baste; and she was sinkin' fast, settlin' down, as the sailors call it; and faith I never was good at settlin' down in my life, and I liked it then lees nor ever; accordingly, we prepared for the worst, and put out the boat, and got a sack o' bishkets, and a cashk o' pork, and a keg o' wather, and a thrifle o' rum aboord, and any other little matthers we could think iv in the mortial hurry we wor in--and faith, there was no time to be lost, for, my darlint, the Colleen dhas went down like a lump o' lead, afore we wor many strokes o' the oar away from her.

"Well, we dhrifted away all that night, and next mornin' we put up a blanket an the ind av a pole as well as we could, and then we sailed iligant; for we darn't show a stitch o' canvass the night before, bekase it was blowin' like bloody murther, savin' your presence, and sure, it's the wondher of the world we worn't swally'd alive by the ragin' sae.

"Well, away we wint, for more nor a week, and nothin' before our two good-lookin' eyes but the canophy iv heaven, and the wide ocean - the broad Atlantic - not a thing was to be seen but the sae and the sky; and though the sae and the sky is mighty purty things in themselves, throth, they're no great things when you've nothin' else to look at for a week together--and the barest rock in the world, so it was land, would be more welkim. And then, soon enough, throth, our provisions began to run low - the bishkits, and the wather, and the rum--throth, that was gone first of all, God help us!--and oh, it was thin that starvation began to stare us in the face. 'Oh, murther, maurther, captain darlint,' says l; 'I wish we could see land anywhere,' says I.

"'More power to your elbow, Paddy, my boy,' says he, 'for sitch a good wish, and throth, it's myself wishes the same.'

"'Oh,' says I, 'that it may plaze you, sweet queen iv heaven, supposing it was only a dissolute island,' says I, 'inhabited wid Turks, sure they wouldn't be such bad Christhans as to refuse us a bit and a sup.'

"'Whisht, whisht, Paddy!' says the captain, 'don't be taikin' bad of anyone,' says he; 'you don't know how soon you may want a good word put in for yourself, if you should be called to quarthers in th' other world all of a suddint,' says he.

"'Thrue for you, captain darlint,' says I--I called him darlint, and make free wid him, you see, bekase disthress makes us all equal--' thrue for you, captain jewel--God betune uz and harm, I owe no man any spite--and throth, that was only thruth. Well, the last bishkit was sarved out, ind by gor, the wather itself was all gone at last, and we passed the night mighty cowld--well, at the brake o' day, the sun riz most beautiful out o' the waves, that was as bright as silver and as clear as crysthal. But it was only the more cruel upon us, for we wor beginnin' to feel terrible hungry; when all at wanst I thought I spied the land--by gor, I thought I felt my heart up in my throat in a minit, and 'Thunder and turf, captain,' says I, 'look to leeward,' says I.

"'What for?' says he.

"'I think I see the land,' says I. So he ups with his bring-'m-near (that's what the sailors call a spy-glass, sir), and looks out, and sure enough, it was.

"'Hurra!' says he, 'we're all right now. Pull away, my boys,' says he.

"'Take care you're not mistaken,' says I; 'maybe it's only a fog-bank, captain darlint,' says I.

"'Oh, no,' says he, 'it's the land in airnest.'

"'Oh, then, whereabouts in the wide world are we, captain?' says I; 'maybe it id be in Roosia, or Proosia, or the Garman Oceant,' says I.

"'Tut, you fool!' says he--for he had that consaited way wid him, thinkin' himself cleverer than anyone else--'tut, you fool,' says he, 'that's France,' says he.

"'Tare an ouns!' says I, 'do you tell me so? And how do you know it's France it is, captain dear?' says I.

"'Bekase this is the Bay o' Bishky we're in now,' says he.

"'Throth, I was thinkin' so myself,' says I, 'by the rowl it has; for I often heerd av it in regard of that same;' and throth, the likes av it I never seen before nor since, and with the help o' God, never will.

"Well, with that my heart began to grow light; and when I seen my life was safe, I began to grow twice hungrier nor ever. 'So,' says I, 'captain jewel, wish we had a gridiron.'

"'Why, then,' says he, 'thunder an' turf,' says he, 'what puts a gridiron into your head?'

"'Bekase I'm starvin' with the hunger,' says I.

"'And sure, bad luck to you,' says he, 'you couldn't ate a gridiron,' says he, 'barrin' you wor a pelican o' the wiidherness,' says he.

"'Ate a gridiron!' says I. 'Och, in throth, I'm not sitch a gommoch all out as that, anyhow. But sure, if we had a gridiron, we could dress a beef-stake,' says I.

"'Arrah! but where's the beef-stake?' says he.

"'Sure, couldn't we cut a slice aff the pork?' says I.

"'By gor, I never thought o' that,' says the captain. 'You're a clever fellow, Paddy,' says he, laughin'.

"'Oh, there's many a thrue word said in joke,' says I.

"'Thrue for you, Paddy,' says he.

"'Well, then,' says I, 'if you put me ashore there beyant' (for we were nearin' the land all the time), 'and sure, I can ax thim for to lind me the loan of a gridiron,' says I.

"'Oh, by gor, the butther's comin' out o' the stirabout in airnest now,' says he. 'You gommoch,' says he, 'sure I towld you before that's France--and sure they're all furriners there,' says the captain.

"'Well,' says I, 'and how do you know but I'm as good a furriner myself as any o' thim?'

"'What do you mane?' says he.

"'I mane,' says I, 'what I towld you, that I'm as good a furriner myself as any o' thim?'

"'Make me sinsible,' says he.

"'By dad, maybe that's more nor me, or greater nor me, could do,' says I - and we all began to laugh at him, for I thought I'd pay him off for his bit o' consait about the Garman Oceant.

"'Lave aff your humbuggin',' says he, 'I bid you, and tell me what it is you mane, at all, at all.'

"'Parly voo frongsay,' says I.

"'Oh, your humble sarvant,' says he. 'Why, by gor, you're a scholar, Paddy.'

"'Throth, you may say that,' says I.

"'Why, you're a clever fellow, Paddy,' says the captain, jeerin' like.

"'You're not the first that said that,' says I, 'whether you joke or no.'

"'Oh, but I'm in airnest,' says the captain. 'And do you tell me, Paddy,' says he, 'that you spake Frinch?'

"'Parly voo frongsay,' says I.

"'By gor, that bangs Banagher, and all the world knows Banagher bangs the divil--I never met the likes o' you, Paddy,' says he. 'Pull away, boys, and put Paddy ashore, and maybe we won't get a good bellyful before long.'

"So with that it was no sooner said than done. They pulled away, and got close into shore in less than no time and run the boat up in a little creek--and a beautiful creek it was, with a lovely white sthrand--an iligant place for ladies to bathe in the summer; and out I got--and it's stiff enough in my limbs I was, afther bein' cramp'd up in the boat, and perished with the cowld and hunger; but I conthrived to scramble on, one way or t'other, tow'rds a little bit iv wood that was close to. the shore, and the smoke curlin' out of it, quite timptin' like.

"'By the powdhers o' war, I'm all right,' says I, 'there's a house there;' and sure enough there was, and a parcel of men, women, and childher, eating their dinner round a table, quite convaynient. And so I wint up to the door, and I thought I'd be very civil to thim, as I heerd the Frinch was always mighty p'lite intirely, and I thought I'd show them I knew what good manners was.

"So I took aff my hat, and making a low bow, says I: 'God save all here,' says I.

"Well, to be sure, they all stopt ating at wanst, and begun to stare at me, and faith, they almost look'd me out o' countenance; and I thought to myself it was not good manners at all, more betoken from furriners, which they call so mighty p'lite; but I never minded that in regard o' wantin' the gridiron; and so says l: 'I beg your pardon,' says I, 'for the liberty l take, but it's only bein' in disthress in regard of ating,' says I, 'that I make bowld to throuble yez, and if you could lind me the loan of a gridiron,' says I, 'I'd be entirely obleeged to ye.'

"By gor, they all stared at me twice worse nor before; and with that, says I, knowin' what was in their minds: 'Indeed, it's thrue for you,' says I, 'I'm tatthered to pieces, and God knows I look quare enough; but it's by raison of the storm,' says I, 'which dhruv us ashore here below, and we're all starvin',' says I.

"So then they began to look at each other agin; and myself seeing at wanst dirty thoughts was in their heads, and that they tuk me for a poor beggar, comin' to crave charity, with that, says I: 'Oh, not at all,' says I, 'by no manes; we have plenty o' mate ourselves, there below; and we'll dhress it,' says I, 'if you would be plazed to lind us the loan of a gridiron,' says I, makin' a low bow.

"Well, sir, with that, throth, they stared at me twice worse nor ever, and faith, I began to think that maybe the captain was wrong, and that it was not France, at all, at all; and so says I: 'I beg pardon, sir,' says l to a fine ould man, with a head of hair as white as silver; 'maybe I'm undher a mistake,' says I; 'but I thought I was in France, sir. Aren't you furriners?' says I--'Parly voo frongsay?"

"'We munseer,' says he.

"'Then, would you lind me the loan of a gridiron,' says I, 'if you plaze?'

"Oh, it was thin that they stared at me as if I had siven heads; and faith, myself began to feel flusthered like and onaisy, and so says I, makin' a bow and scrape agin: 'I know it's a liberty I take, sir,' says I, 'but it's only in the regard-of bein' cast away; and if you plaze, sir,' says I, 'parly voo fromsay?'

"'We munseer,' says he, mighty sharp.

"'Thou, would you lind me the loan of a gridiront' says I, 'and you'll obleege me.'

"Well, sir, the ould chap began to munseer me, but the divil a bit of a gridiron he'd gi' me; and so I began to think they wor all neygars, for all their fine manners; and throth,' my blood begun to rise, and says. I: 'By my sowl, if it was you was in disthress,' says I, 'and if it was to ould Ireland you kem, it's not only the gridiron they'd give you, if you ax'd it, but something to put an it too, and the dhrop o' dhrink into the bargain, and cead mile failte.'

"Well, the word cead mile failte seemed to sthreck his heart, and the ould chap cocked his ear, and so I thought I'd give him another offer, and make him sinaible at last; and so says I, wanst more, quite slow, that he might undherstand: 'Parly--voo--frongsay, munseer?'

"'We munseer,' says he.

"'Then lind me the loan of a gridiron,' says I, 'and bad scram to you.'

"Well, bad win to the bit of it he'd gi' me, and the ould chap begins bowin' and scrapin', and said something or other about a long tongs.

"'Phoo! the divil sweep yourself and your tongs,' says I 'I don't want a tongs, at all, at all; but can't you listen to raison,' says I, 'Parly voo frongsay?'

"'We munseer.'

"'Then lind me the loan of a gridiron,' says I, 'and howld your prate.'

"Well, what would you think but be shook his ould noddle, as much as to say he wouldn't, and so says I: 'Bad cess to the likes o' that I ever seen! Throth, if you wor in my counthry it's not that-a-way they'd use you. The curse o' the crows an you, you ould sinner,' says I; 'the divil a longer I'll darken your door.'

So he seen I was vex'd, and I thought, as I was turnin' away, I seen him begin to relint, and, that his conscience throubled him, and says I, turnin' back: 'Well, I'll give you one chance more, you ould thief! Are you a Chrishthan, at all, at all? Are you a furriner?' says I, 'that all the world calls so p'lite. Bad luck to you! Do you undherstand your own language? Parly voo frongsay?' says I.

"'We munseer,' says he.

' "Then, thunder an' turf,' says I, 'will you lind me the loan of a gridiron?'

"Well, sir, the divil resave the bit of it he'd gi' me and so with that the 'curse o' the hungry an you, you ould neygarly villian,' says I. 'The back o' my hand and the sowl o' my fut to you, that you may want a gridiron yourself yit,' says I; 'and wherever I go, high and low, rich and poor, shall hear o' you,' says I. And with that I left them there, sir, and kem away; and in throth, it's often sense that I thought that it was remarkable."

Next: Paddy the Piper