The Gridiron by Samuel Lover

A

CERTAIN old gentleman in the west of Ireland, whose love of the ridiculous quite equalled his taste for claret and fox-hunting, was wont, upon festive occasions, when opportunity offered, to amuse his friends by drawing out one of his servants, exceedingly 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, "Troth 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 reason, either from former services,—general good conduct,—or the delinquent's "wife and children," 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 extravaganza 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?"

"Troth 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 honor."

"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!" rejoined the baronet; "really, I always supposed the French to be a most accomplished people."

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

"O, 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 favorite phrase of his, which he 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 board, at last, and the pumps were choked (divil choke them for that same), and av coorse the water gained an us; and troth, to be filled with water 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 less nor ever; accordingly we prepared for the worst and put out the boat and got a sack o' bishkits and a cask o' pork, and a kag 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 sthrokes o' the oar away from her.

"Well, we dhrifted away all that night, and next mornin' we put up a blanket an the end av a pole as well as we could, and then we sailed iligant; for we darn't show a stitch o' canvas 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 uz—and oh! it was thin that starvation began to stare us in the face,—'O, murther, murther, Captain darlint,' says I, 'I wish we could 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.'

"'Och,' 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 Christians as to refuse us a bit and a sup.'

"'Whisht, whisht, Paddy,' says the captain, 'don't be talking bad of any one,' 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 made free with 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, and 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 beautifully out o' the waves, that was as bright as silver and as clear as chrystal. 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 an' 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-'em-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.

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

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

"'Tut, you fool,' says he, for he had that consaited way wid him—thinkin' himself cleverer nor any one 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 of 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, I wish we had a gridiron.'

"'Why, then,' says he, 'thunder and 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 eat a gridiron,' says he, 'barrin' you were a pelican o' the wildherness,' says he.

"'Ate a gridiron,' says I, 'och, in throth, I'm not such a gommoch all out as that, anyhow. But sure, if we had a gridiron, we could dress a beefstake,' says I.

"'Arrah! but where's the beefstake?' says he.

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

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

"'O, 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 them for to lind me the loan of a gridiron,' says I.

"'O, by gor, the butther's comin' out o' the stirabout in airnest now,' says he, 'you gommoch,' says he, 'sure I told 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 would pay him off for his bit o' consait about the Garmant 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.

"'O, 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.'

"'O, 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 wos no sooner said nor 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 illegant place for ladies to bathe in the summer; and out I got,—and it's stiff enough in the limbs I was, afther bein' cramped 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 a wood that was close to the shore, and the smoke curlin' out iv 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, ating their dinner round a table, quite convanient. And so I wint up to the door, and I thought I'd be very civil to them, as I heerd the French 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 stapt eating at wanst, and began to stare at me, and faith they almost looked me out of 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 I, 'I beg your pardon,' says I, 'for the liberty I take, but it's only bein' in disthress in regard of eating,' says I, 'that I made 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 (knowing 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 again; and myself, seeing at once dirty thoughts was in their heads, and that they tuk me for a poor beggar coming to crave charity,—with that, says I, 'O, not at all,' says I, 'by no manes,—we have plenty of mate ourselves there below, and we'll dhress it,' says I, 'if you would be plased 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 I, to a fine ould man, with a head of hair as white as silver,—'maybe I'm under 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 plase?'

"O, it was thin that they stared at me as if I had seven heads; and, faith, myself began to feel flushed 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 plase, sir,' says I, 'parly voo frongsay?'

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

"'Then would you lind me the loan of a gridiron!' says I, 'and you'll obleege me.'

"Well, sir, the ould chap began to munseer me; but the devil 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 distriss,' says I, 'and if it was to ould Ireland you kem, it's not only the gridiron they'd give you, if you axed it, but something to put an it, too, and the drop 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 sensible at last: and so says I, wanst more, quite slow, that he might understand,—'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. [D]

[D] Some mystification of Paddy's touching the French n'entends.

"'Phoo!—the divil swape 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 he shook his old 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 away they'd use you. The curse o' the crows an you, you owld sinner,' says I, 'the divil a longer I'll darken your door.'

"So he seen I was vexed, 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 one chance more,—you ould thief,—are you a Chrishthan at all? are you a furriner!' says I, 'that all the world calls so p'lite? Bad luck to you, do you understand 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 devil resave the bit of it he'd gi' me,—and so, with that, the 'curse o' the hungry an you, you ould negarly villain,' says I; 'the back o' my hand and the sowl o' my foot to you, that you may want a gridiron yourself yit,' 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."