The Two Butlers by T. C. D.
In all countries and all languages we have the story of
Il Bondocani. May I tell one from Ireland?
It is now almost a hundred years ago—certainly eighty—since
Tom—I declare to Mnemosyne I forget what his surname was, if I ever
knew it, which I doubt,—It is at least eighty years since Tom emerged
from his master's kitchen in Clonmell, to make his way on a visit to foreign countries.
If I can well recollect dates, this event must have occurred
at the end of the days of George the Second, or very close after the accession
of George the Third, because in the course of the narrative it
will be disclosed that the tale runs of a Jacobite lord living quietly
in Ireland, and that I think must have been some time between 1740
and 1760,—or say 65. Just before the year of the young Pretender's
burst, a sharp eye used to be kept upon the "honest men" in all the
three kingdoms; and in Ireland, from the peculiar power which the
surveillance attendant on the penal laws gave the government, this
sharp eye could not be surpassed in sharpness,—that is to say, if it
did not choose to wink. Truth, nevertheless, makes us acknowledge
that the authorities of Ireland were ever inclined at the bottom of
their hearts to countenance lawlessness, if at all recommended by
anything like a noble or a romantic name. And no name could be
more renowned or more romantic than that of Ormond.
It is to be found in all our histories well recorded. What
are the lines of Dryden?—and Dryden was a man who knew how to make
verses worth reading.
And the rebel rose stuck to the house of Ormond for many a
day;—but it is useless to say more. Even I who would sing "Lilla bullalero
bullen a la,"—if I could, only I can't sing,—and who give "The
glorious, pious, and immortal memory," because I can toast,—even I
do not think wrong of the house of Ormond for sticking as it did to
the house of Stuart. Of that too I have a long story to tell some time or another.
Never mind. I was mentioning all this, because I have not
a 'Peerage' by me; and I really do not know who was the Lord Ormond of
the day which I take to be the epoch of my tale. If I had a 'Peerage,'
I am sure I could settle it in a minute; but I have none. Those,
therefore, who are most interested in the affair ought to examine a
'Peerage,' to find who was the man of the time;—I can only help
them by a hint. My own particular and personal reason for recollecting
the matter is this: I am forty, or more—never mind the
quantity more; and I was told the story by my uncle at least
five-and-twenty years ago. That brings us to the year 1812,—say 1811.
My uncle—his name was Jack—told me that he had heard the
story from Tom himself fifty years before that. If my uncle Jack,
who was a very good fellow, considerably given to potation, was
precise in his computation of time, the date of his story must have
fallen in 1762—or 1763—no matter which. This brings me near
the date I have already assigned; but the reader of my essay has
before him the grounds of my chronological conjectures, and he can
form his opinions on data as sufficiently as myself.
I recur fearlessly to the fact that Tom—whatever his
surname may have been—emerged from the kitchen of his master in Clonmell,
to make his way to foreign countries.
His master was a very honest fellow—a schoolmaster of
the name of Chaytor, a Quaker, round of paunch and red of nose. I believe
that some of his progeny are now men of office in Tipperary—and
why should they not? Summer school-vacations in Ireland occur
in July; and Chaytor—by the bye, I think he was Tom Chaytor, but
if Quakers have Christian names I am not sure,—gave leave to his
man Tom to go wandering about the country. He had four, or perhaps
five, days to himself.
Tom, as he was described to me by my uncle over a jug of
punch about a quarter of a century ago, was what in his memory must have
been a smart-built fellow. Clean of limb, active of hand, light of leg,
clear of eye, bright of hair, white of tooth, and two-and-twenty; in
short, he was as handsome a lad as you would wish to look upon in a
summer's day. I mention a summer's day merely for its length; for
even on a winter's day there were few girls that could cast an eye
upon him without forgetting the frost.
So he started for the land of Kilkenny, which is what we
used to call in Ireland twenty-four miles from Clonmell. They have stretched
it now to thirty; but I do not find it the longer or shorter in walking
or chalking. However, why should we gamble at an act of "justice
to Ireland?" Tom at all events cared little for the distance; and,
going it at a slapping pace, he made Kilkenny in six hours. I pass
the itinerary. He started at six in the morning, and arrived somewhat
foot-worn, but full not only of bread, but of wine, (for wine was
to be found on country road-sides in Ireland in those days,) in the
ancient city of Saint Canice about noon.
Tom refreshed himself at the Feathers, kept in those
days by a man named Jerry Mulvany, who was supposed to be more nearly
connected with the family of Ormond than the rites of the church
could allow; and having swallowed as much of the substantial food and
the pestiferous fluid that mine host of the Feathers tendered him, the
spirit of inquisitiveness, which, according to the phrenologists, is
developed in all mankind, seized paramount hold of Tom.
Tom—? ay, Tom it must be, for I really cannot recollect his other name.
If there be a guide-book to the curiosities of Kilkenny, the
work has escaped my researches. Of the city it is recorded, however, that
it can boast of fire without smoke, air without fog, and streets paved
with marble. And there's the college, and the bridge, and the ruins
of St. John's abbey, and St. Canice, and the Nore itself, and last, not
least, the castle of the Ormonds, with its woods and its walks, and
its stables and its gallery, and all the rest of it, predominating over
the river. It is a very fine-looking thing indeed; and, if I mistake
not, John Wilson Croker, in his youth, wrote a poem to its honour,
"High on the sounding banks of Nore,"
every verse of which ended with "The castle," in the manner
of Cowper's "My Mary," or Ben Jonson's "Tom Tosspot." If I had the
poem, I should publish it here with the greatest pleasure; but I have
it not. I forget where I saw it, but I think it was in a Dublin magazine
of a good many years ago, when I was a junior sophister of T. C. D.
Let the reader, then, in the absence of this document, imagine
that the poem was infinitely fine, and that the subject was worthy of the
muse. As the castle is the most particular lion of the city, it of
course speedily attracted the attention of Tom, who, swaggering in
all the independence of an emancipated footman up the street, soon
found himself at the gate. "Rearing himself thereat," as the old ballad
has it, stood a man basking in the sun. He was somewhat declining
towards what they call the vale of years in the language of
poetry; but by the twinkle of his eye, and the purple rotundity of his
cheek, it was evident that the years of the valley, like the lads of the
valley, had gone cheerily-o! The sun shone brightly upon his silver
locks, escaping from under a somewhat tarnished cocked-hat guarded
with gold lace, the gilding of which had much deteriorated since it
departed from the shop of the artificer; and upon a scarlet waistcoat,
velvet certainly, but of reduced condition, and in the same situation
as to gilding as the hat. His plum-coloured breeches were unbuckled
at the knee, and his ungartered stockings were on a downward
progress towards his unbuckled shoes. He had his hands—their
wrists were garnished with unwashed ruffles—in his breeches pockets;
and he diverted himself with whistling "Charley over the water," in
a state of quasi-ruminant quiescence. Nothing could be plainer than
that he was a hanger-on of the castle off duty, waiting his time until
called for, when of course he was to appear before his master in a
more carefully arranged costume.
Ormond Castle was then, as I believe it is now, a show-house,
and the visitors of Kilkenny found little difficulty in the admission;
but, as in those days purposes of political intrusion might be suspected,
some shadow at least of introduction was considered necessary.
Tom, reared in the household of a schoolmaster, where the despotic
authority of the chief extends a flavour of its quality to all his ministers,
exhilarated by the walk, and cheered by the eatables and drinkables
which he had swallowed, felt that there was no necessity for
consulting any of the usual points of etiquette, if indeed he knew that
any such things were in existence.
"I say," said he, "old chap! is this castle to be seen?
I'm told it's a show; and if it is, let's have a look at it."
"It is to be seen," replied the person addressed,
"if you are properly introduced."
"That's all hum!" said Tom. "I know enough of the world,
though I've lived all my life in Clonmell, to know that a proper
introduction signifies a tester. Come, my old snouty, I'll stand all
that's right if you show me over it. Can you do it?"
"Why," said his new friend, "I think I can;
because, in fact, I am——"
"Something about the house, I suppose. Well, though you've
on a laced jacket, and I only a plain frieze coat, we are both brothers of
the shoulder-knot. I tell you who I am. Did you ever hear of
Chaytor the Quaker, the schoolmaster of Clonmell?"
"Well, he's a decent sort of fellow in the propria quæ
maribus line, and gives as good a buttock of beef to anybody that gets over
the threshold of his door as you'd wish to meet; and I am his man,—his
valley de sham, head gentleman——"
"No, not usher," responded Tom indignantly: "I have
nothing to do with ushers; they are scabby dogs of poor scholards, sizards,
half-pays, and the like; and all the young gentlemen much prefer me:—but
I am his fiddleus Achates, as master Jack Toler calls me,—that's
a purty pup who will make some fun some of these days,—his
whacktotum, head-cook, and dairy-maid, slush, and butler. What are you here?"
"Why," replied the man at the gate,
"I am a butler as well as you."
"Oh! then we're both butlers; and you could as well pass
us in. By coarse, the butler must be a great fellow here; and I see you are
rigged out in the cast clothes of my lord. Isn't that true?"
"True enough: he never gets a suit of clothes that it does not
fall to my lot to wear it; but if you wish to see the castle, I think I can
venture to show you all that it contains, even for the sake of our being
It was not much sooner said than done. Tom accompanied his
companion over the house and grounds, making sundry critical observations
on all he saw therein,—on painting, architecture, gardening,
the sublime and beautiful, the scientific and picturesque,—in a manner
which I doubt not much resembled the average style of reviewing
those matters in what we now call the best public instructors.
"Rum-looking old ruffians!" observed Tom, on casting his
eyes along the gallery containing the portraitures of the Ormondes. "Look
at that fellow there all battered up in iron; I wish to God I had as
good a church as he would rob!"
"He was one of the old earls," replied his guide, "in the
days of Henry the Eighth; and I believe he did help in robbing churches."
"I knew it by his look," said Tom; "and there's a chap there in
a wilderness of a wig. Gad! he looks as if he was like to be hanged."
"He was so," said the cicerone; "for a gentleman of the
name of Blood was about to pay him that compliment at Tyburn."
"Serve him right," observed Tom; "and this fellow with the
short stick in his hand;—what the deuce is the meaning of
that?—was he a constable?"
"No," said his friend, "he was a marshal; but he had much
to do with keeping out of the way of constables for some years. Did you
ever hear of Dean Swift?"
"Did I ever hear of the Dane? Why, my master has
twenty books of his that he's always reading, and he calls him Old
Copper-farthing; and the young gentlemen are quite wild to read them. I
read some of them wance (once); but they were all lies, about fairies
and giants. Howsoever, they say the Dane was a larned man."
"Well, he was a great friend of that man
with the short stick in his hand."
"By dad!" said Tom, "few of the Dane's friends was friends to
the Hanover succession; and I'd bet anything that that flourishing-looking
lad there was a friend to the Pretender."
"It is likely that if you laid such a bet you would win it.
He was a great friend also of Queen Anne. Have you ever heard of her?"
"Heard of Brandy Nan! To be sure I did—merry be the first
of August! But what's the use of looking at those queer old fools?—I
wonder who bothered themselves painting them?"
"I do not think you knew the people;—they
were Vandyke, Lely, Kneller."
"I never heard of them in Clonmell," remarked Tom.
"Have you anything to drink?"
"But you won't get into a scrape? Honour above all; I'd not
like to have you do it unless you were sure, for the glory of the cloth."
The pledge of security being solemnly offered, Tom followed
his companion through the intricate passages of the castle until he came
into a small apartment, where he found a most plentiful repast before
him. He had not failed to observe, that, as he was guided through
the house, their path had been wholly uncrossed, for, if anybody
accidentally appeared, he hastily withdrew. One person only was detained
for a moment, and to him the butler spoke a few words in
some unknown tongue, which Tom of course set down as part of the
Jacobite treason pervading every part of the castle.
"Gad!" said he, while beginning to lay into the round of
beef, "I am half inclined to think that the jabber you talked just now to
the powder-monkey we met in that corridor was not treason, but beef and
mustard: an't I right?"
"Fall to, then, yourself. By Gad! you appear to have those
lads under your thumb—for this is great eating. I suppose you often rob
my lord?—speak plain, for I myself rob ould Chaytor the schoolmaster;
but there's a long difference between robbing a schoolmaster
and robbing a lord. I venture to say many a pound of his you have
made away with."
"A great many indeed. I am ashamed to say it, that for one
pound he has lost by anybody else, he has lost a hundred by me."
"Ashamed, indeed! This is beautiful beef. But let us
wash it down. By the powers! is it champagne you are giving me? Well,
I never drank but one glass of it in my life, and that was from a
bottle that I stole out of a dozen which the master had when he was
giving a great dinner to the fathers of the boys just before the
Christmas holidays the year before last. My service to you. By Gor!
if you do not break the Ormonds, I can't tell who should."
"Nor I. Finish your champagne.
What else will you have to drink?"
"Have you the run of the cellar?"
"Why, then, claret is genteel; but the little I drank of
it was mortal cold. Could you find us a glass of brandy?"
"Of course:" and on the sounding of a bell there appeared
the same valet who had been addressed in the corridor; and in the same
language some intimation was communicated, which in a few moments
produced a bottle of Nantz, rare and particular, placed before
Tom with all the emollient appliances necessary for turning it into punch.
"By all that's bad," said the Clonmellian butler, "but
ye keep these fellows to their knitting. This is indeed capital stuff. Make
for yourself. When you come to Clonmell, ask for me—Tom—at old
Chaytor's, the Quaker schoolmaster, a few doors from the Globe.
This lord of yours, I am told, is a bloody Jacobite: here's the Hanover
succession! but we must not drink that here, for perhaps the
old fellow himself might hear us."
"Nothing is more probable."
"Well, then, mum's the word. I'm told he puts white roses
in his dog's ears, and drinks a certain person over the water on the tenth
of June; but, no matter, this is his house, and you and I are drinking
his drink,—so, why should we wish him bad luck? If he was hanged,
of course I'd go to see him, to be sure; would not you?"
"I should certainly be there."
By this time Tom was subdued by the champagne and the brandy,
to say nothing of the hot weather; and the spirit of hospitality rose
strong upon the spirit of cognac. His new friend gently hinted that
a retreat to his gîte at the Feathers would be prudent; but to
such a step Tom would by no means consent unless the butler of the
castle accompanied him to take a parting bowl. With some reluctance the
wish was complied with, and both the butlers sallied forth on their
way through the principal streets of Kilkenny, just as the evening
was beginning to assume somewhat of a dusky hue. Tom had, in the
course of the three or four hours passed with his new friend, informed
him of all the private history of the house of Ormond, with that same
regard to veracity which in general characterises the accounts of the
births, lives, and educations of persons of the higher classes, to be
found in fashionable novels and other works drawn from the communications
of such authorities as our friend Tom; and his companion
offered as much commentary as is usually done on similar occasions.
Proceeding in a twirling motion along, he could not but observe
that the principal persons whom they met bowed most respectfully
to the gentleman from the castle; and, on being assured that this
token of deference was paid because they were tradesmen of the
castle, who were indebted to the butler for his good word in their
business, Tom's appreciation of his friend's abilities in the art of
"improving" his situation was considerably enhanced. He calculated
that if they made money by the butler, the butler made money
by them; and he determined that on his return to Clonmell he too
would find tradesfolks ready to take hats off to him in the ratio of
pedagogue to peer.
The Kilkenny man steadied the Clonmell man to the Feathers,
where the latter most potentially ordered a bowl of the best punch.
The slipshod waiter stared; but a look from Tom's friend was enough.
They were ushered into the best apartment of the house,—Tom remarking
that it was a different room from that which he occupied on
his arrival; and in a few minutes the master of the house, Mr. Mulvany,
in his best array, made his appearance with a pair of wax candles
in his hands. He bowed to the earth as he said,
"If I had expected you, my——"
"Leave the room," was the answer.
"Not before I order my bowl of punch," said Tom.
"Shall I, my——"
"Yes," said the person addressed; "whatever he likes."
"Well," said Tom, as Mulvany left the room, "if I ever
saw anything to match that. Is he one of the tradespeople of the castle?
This does bate everything. And, by dad, he's not unlike you in the
face, neither! Och! then, what a story I'll have when I get back to
"Well, Tom," said his friend, "I may perhaps see you there;
but good-b'ye for a moment. I assure you I have had much pleasure in your company."
"He's a queer fellow that," thought Tom, "and I hope he'll
be soon back. It's a pleasant acquaintance I've made the first day I
was in Kilkenny. Sit down, Mr. Mulvany," said he, as that functionary
entered, bearing a bowl of punch, "and taste your brewing." To
which invitation Mr. Mulvany acceded, nothing loth, but still casting
an anxious eye towards the door.
"That's a mighty honest man," said Tom.
"I do not know what you mean," replied the cautious Mulvany;
(for, "honest man" was in those days another word for Jacobite.)
"I mane what I say," said Tom; "he's just showed me over the
castle, and gave me full and plenty of the best of eating and drinking.
He tells me he's the butler."
"And so he is, you idiot of a man!" cried Mulvany. "He's the
chief Butler of Ireland."
"What?" said Tom.
"Why, him that was with you just now is the Earl of Ormond."
My story is over—
"And James Fitzjames was Scotland's king."
All the potations pottle-deep, the road-side drinking, the
champagne, the cognac, the punch of the Feathers, vanished at once from
Tom's brain, to make room for the recollection of what he had been
saying for the last three hours. Waiting for no further explanation,
he threw up the window, (they were sitting on a ground-floor,) and,
leaving Mr. Mulvany to finish the bowl as he pleased, proceeded at a
hand-canter to Clonmell, not freed from the apparition of Lord Ormond
before he had left Kilcash to his north; and nothing could ever
again induce him to wander in the direction of Kilkenny, there to run
the risk of meeting with his fellow-butler, until his lordship was so
safely bestowed in the family vault as to render the chance of collision
highly improbable. Such is my Il Bondocani.