Darby Doyle’s Voyage to Quebec

by Thomas Ettingsall

From “The Dublin Penny Journal,”

I tuck the road one fine morning in May, from Inchegelagh, an’ got up to the Cove safe an’ sound. There I saw many ships with big broad boords fastened to ropes, every one ov them saying “The first vessel for Quebec.” Siz I to myself, those are about to run for a wager; this one siz she’ll be first, and that one siz she’ll be first. I pitched on one that was finely painted. When I wint on boord to ax the fare, who shou’d come up out ov a hole but Ned Flinn, an ould townsman ov my own.

“Och, is it yoorself that’s there, Ned?” siz I; “are ye goin’ to Amerrykey?”

“Why, an’ to be shure,” sez he; “I’m mate ov the ship.”

“Meat! that’s yer sort, Ned,” siz I; “then we’ll only want bread. Hadn’t I betther go and pay my way?”

“You’re time enough,” siz Ned; “I’ll tell you when we’re ready for sea—leave the rest to me, Darby.”

“Och, tip us your fist,” siz I; “you were always the broath of a boy; for the sake ov ould times, Ned, we must have a dhrop ov drink, and a bite to ate.”

Many’s the squeeze Ned gave my fist, telling me to leave it all to him, and how comfortable he’d make me on the voyage. Day afther day we spint together, waitin’ for the wind, till I found my pockets begin to  grow very light. At last, siz he to me, one day afther dinner:—

“Darby, the ship will be ready for sea on the morrow—you’d betther go on boord an’ pay your way.”

“Is it jokin’ you are, Ned?” siz I; “shure you tould me to leave it all to you.”

“Ah! Darby,” siz he, “you’re for takin’ a rise out o’ me. But I’ll stick to my promise; only, Darby, you must pay your way.”

“O, Ned,” says I, “is this the way you’re goin’ to threat me after all? I’m a rooin’d man; all I cou’d scrape together I spint on you. If you don’t do something for me, I’m lost. Is there no place where you cou’d hide me from the captin?”

“Not a place,” siz Ned.

“An’ where, Ned, is the place I saw you comin’ up out ov?”

“O, Darby, that was the hould where the cargo’s stow’d.”

“An’ is there no other place?” siz I.

“Oh, yes,” siz he, “where we keep the wather casks.”

“An’ Ned,” siz I, “does anyone live down there?”

“Not a mother’s soul,” siz he.

“An’ Ned,” siz I, “can’t you cram me down there, and give me a lock ov straw an’ a bit?”

“Why, Darby,” siz he (an’ he look’d mighty pittyfull), “I must thry. But mind, Darby, you’ll have to hide all day in an empty barrel, and when it comes to my watch, I’ll bring you down some prog; but if you’re diskiver’d, it’s all over with me, an’ you’ll be put on a dissilute island to starve.”

“O Ned,” siz I, “leave it all to me.”

When night cum on I got down into the dark cellar, among the barrels; and poor Ned every night brought me down hard black cakes an’ salt meat. There I lay snug for a whole month. At last, one night, siz he to me:—

“Now, Darby, what’s to be done? we’re within three days’ sail ov Quebec; the ship will be overhauled, and all the passengers’ names call’d over.”

“An’ is that all that frets you, my jewel,” siz I; “just get me an empty meal-bag, a bottle, an’ a bare ham bone, and that’s all I’ll ax.”

So Ned got them for me, anyhow.

“Well, Ned,” siz I, “you know I’m a great shwimmer; your watch will be early in the morning; I’ll just slip down into the sea; do you cry out ‘There’s a man in the wather,’ as loud as you can, and leave all the rest to me.”

Well, to be sure, down into the sea I dropt without as much as a splash. Ned roared out with the hoarseness of a brayin’ ass—

“A man in the sea, a man in the sea!”

Every man, woman, and child came running up out of the holes, and the captain among the rest, who put a long red barrel, like a gun, to his eye—I thought he was for shootin’ me! Down I dived. When I got my head over the wather agen, what shou’d I see but a boat rowin’ to me. When it came up close, I roared out—

“Did ye hear me at last?”

The boat now run ‘pon the top ov me; I was gript by the scruff ov the neck, and dragg’d into it.

“What hard look I had to follow yees, at all at all—which ov ye is the masther?” says I.

“There he is,” siz they, pointin’ to a little yellow man in a corner of the boat.

“You yallow-lookin’ monkey, but it’s a’most time for you to think ov lettin’ me into your ship—I’m here plowin’ and plungin’ this month afther you; shure I didn’t care a thrawneen was it not that you have my best Sunday clothes in your ship, and my name in your books.”

“An’ pray, what is your name, my lad?” siz the captain.

“What’s my name! What i’d you give to know?” siz I, “ye unmannerly spalpeen, it might be what’s your name, Darby Doyle, out ov your mouth—ay, Darby Doyle, that was never afraid or ashamed to own it at home or abroad!”

“An’, Mr. Darby Doyle,” siz he, “do you mean to persuade us that you swam from Cork to this afther us?”

“This is more ov your ignorance,” siz I—“ay, an’ if you sted three days longer and not take me up, I’d be in Quebec before ye, only my purvisions were out, and the few rags of bank notes I had all melted into paste in my pocket, for I hadn’t time to get them changed. But stay, wait till I get my foot on shore; there’s ne’er a cottoner in Cork iv you don’t pay for leavin’ me to the marcy ov the waves.”

At last we came close to the ship. Everyone on board saw me at Cove but didn’t see me on the voyage; to be sure, everyone’s mouth was wide open, crying out, “Darby Doyle!”

“It’s now you call me loud enough,” siz I, “ye wouldn’t shout that way when ye saw me rowlin’ like a tub in a mill-race the other day fornenst your faces.”  When they heard me say that, some of them grew pale as a sheet. Nothin’ was tawked ov for the other three days but Darby Doyle’s great shwim from Cove to Quebec.

At last we got to Ammerykey. I was now in a quare way; the captain wouldn’t let me go till a friend of his would see me. By this time, my jewel, not only his friends came, but swarms upon swarms, starin’ at poor Darby. At last I called Ned.

“Ned, avic,” siz I, “what’s the meanin’ ov the boords acrass the stick the people walk on, and the big white boord up there?”

“Why, come over and read,” siz Ned. I saw in great big black letters:—


A Man that beats out Nicholas the Diver!
He has swum from Cork to Amerrykey!!
Proved on oath by ten of the crew and twenty passengers.
Admittance Half a Dollar.

“Ned,” siz I, “does this mean your humble sarvint?”

“Not another,” siz he.

So I makes no more ado, than with a hop, skip, and jump, gets over to the captain, who was now talkin’ to a yallow fellow that was afther starin’ me out ov countenance.

“Ye are doin’ it well,” said I. “How much money have ye gother for my shwimmin’?”

“Be quiet, Darby,” siz the captain, and he looked very much frickened. “I have plenty, an’ I’ll have more for ye iv ye do what I want ye to do.”

“An’ what is it, avic?” siz I.

“Why, Darby,” siz he, “I’m afther houldin a wager last night with this gintleman for all the worth ov my ship, that you’ll shwim against any shwimmer in the world; an’, Darby, if ye don’t do that, I’m a gone man.”

“Augh, give us your fist,” siz I; “did ye ever hear ov Paddies dishaving any man in the European world yet—barrin’ themselves?”

“Well, Darby,” siz he, “I’ll give you a hundred dollars; but, Darby, you must be to your word, and you shall have another hundred.”

So sayin’, he brought me down to the cellar.

“Now, Darby,” siz he, “here’s the dollars for ye.”

But it was only a bit of paper he was handin’ me.

“Arrah, none ov yer tricks upon thravellers,” siz I; “I had betther nor that, and many more ov them, melted in the sea; give me what won’t wash out of my pocket.”

“Well, Darby,” siz he, “you must have the real thing.”

So he reckoned me out a hundred dollars in goold. I never saw the like since the stockin’ fell out ov the chimly on my aunt and cut her forred.

“Now, Darby,” siz he, “ye are a rich man, and ye are worthy of it all.”

At last the day came that I was to stand the tug. I saw the captain lookin’ very often at me. At last—

“Darby,” siz he, “are you any way cow’d? The fellow you have to shwim agenst can shwim down watherfalls an’ catharacts.”

“Can he, avic?” siz I; “but can he shwim up agenst them?”

An’ who shou’d come up while I was tawkin’ to the captain but the chap I was to shwim with, and heard all I sed. He was so tall that he could eat bread an’ butther over my head—with a face as yallow as a kite’s foot.

“Tip us the mitten,” siz I, “mabouchal,” siz I; “Where are we going to shwim to? What id ye think if we swum to Keep Cleer or the Keep ov Good Hope?”

“I reckon neither,” siz he.

Off we set through the crowds ov ladies an’ gintlemen to the shwimmin’ place. And as I was goin’ I was thript up by a big loomp ov iron struck fast in the ground with a big ring to it.

“What d’ye call that?” siz I to the captain, who was at my elbow.

“Why, Darby,” siz he, “that’s half an anchor.”

“Have ye any use for it?” siz I.

“Not in the least,” siz he; “it’s only to fasten boats to.”

“Maybee you’d give it to a body,” siz I.

“An’ welkim, Darby,” siz he; “it’s yours.”

“God bless your honour, sir,” siz I, “it’s my poor father that will pray for you. When I left home the creather hadn’t as much as an anvil but what was sthreeled away by the agint—bad end to them. This will be jist the thing that’ll match him; he can tie the horse to the ring while he forges on the other part. Now, will ye obleege me by gettin’ a couple ov chaps to lay it on my shoulder when I get into the wather, and I won’t have to be comin’ back for it afther I shake hands with this fellow.”

Oh, the chap turned from yallow to white when he heard me say this. An’ siz he to the gintleman that was walkin’ by his side—

“I reckon I’m not fit for the shwimmin’ to-day—I don’t feel myself.”

“An’, murdher an’ Irish, if you’re yer brother, can’t you send him for yerself, an’ I’ll wait here till he comes. An’ when will ye be able for the shwim, avic?” siz I, mighty complisant.

“I reckon in another week,” siz he.

So we shook hands and parted. The poor fellow went home, took the fever, then began to rave. “Shwim up catharacts!—shwim to the Keep ov Good Hope!—shwim to St. Helena!—shwim to Keep Clear!—shwim with an anchor on his back!—oh! oh! oh!”

I now thought it best to be on the move; so I gother up my winners; and here I sit undher my own hickory threes, as independent as anny Yankee.