Neal Malone by William Carleton
There never was a greater souled or doughtier tailor than little Neal
Malone. Though but four feet; four in height, he paced the earth with the
courage and confidence of a giant; nay, one would have imagined that he
walked as if he feared the world itself was about to give way under him.
Lot none dare to say in future that a tailor is but the ninth part of a
man. That reproach has been gloriously taken away from the character of
the cross-legged corporation by Neal Malone. He has wiped it off like a
stain from the collar of a second-hand coat; he has pressed this wrinkle
out of the lying front of antiquity; he has drawn together this rent in
the respectability of his profession. No. By him who was breeches-maker to
the gods—that is, except, like Highlanders, they eschewed
inexpressibles—by him who cut Jupiter's frieze jocks for winter, and
eke by the bottom of his thimble, we swear, that Neal Malone was more than
the ninth part of a man!
Setting aside the Patagonians, we maintain that two-thirds of mortal
humanity were comprised in Neal; and, perhaps, we might venture to assert,
that two-thirds of Neal's humanity were equal to six-thirds of another
man's. It is right well known that Alexander the Great was a little man,
and we doubt whether, had Alexander the Great been bred to the tailoring
business, he would have exhibited so much of the hero as Neal Malone. Neal
was descended from a fighting family, who had signalized themselves in as
many battles as ever any single hero of antiquity fought. His father, his
grandfather, and his great grandfather, were all fighting men, and his
ancestors in general, up, probably, to Con of the Hundred Battles himself.
No wonder, therefore, that Neal's blood should cry out against the
cowardice of his calling; no wonder that he should be an epitome of all
that was valorous and heroic in a peaceable man, for we neglected to
inform the reader that Neal, though "bearing no base mind," never fought
any man in his own person. That, however, deducted nothing from his
courage. If he did not fight, it was simply because he found cowardice
universal. No man would engage him; his spirit blazed in vain; his thirst
for battle was doomed to remain unquenched, except by whiskey, and this
only increased it. In short, he could find no foe. He has often been known
to challenge the first cudgel-players and pugilists of the parish; to
provoke men of fourteen stone weight; and to bid mortal defiance to
faction heroes of all grades—but in vain. There was that in him
which told them that an encounter with Neal would strip them of their
laurels. Neal saw all this with a lofty indignation; he deplored the
degeneracy of the times, and thought it hard that the descendant of such a
fighting family should be doomed to pass through life peaceably, while so
many excellent rows and riots took place around him. It was a calamity to
see every man's head broken but his own; a dismal thing to observe his
neighbors go about with their bones in bandages, yet his untouched; and
his friends beat black and blue, whilst his own cuticle remained
"Blur-an'-agers!" exclaimed Neal one day, when half-tipsy in the fair, "am
I never to get a bit of fightin'? Is there no cowardly spalpeen to stand
afore Neal Malone? Be this an' be that, I'm blue-mowlded for want of a
batin'! I'm disgracin' my relations by the life I'm ladin'! Will none o'
ye fight me aither for love, money, or whiskey—frind or inimy, an'
bad luck to ye? I don't care a traneen which, only out o' pure frindship,
let us have a morsel o' the rale kick-up, 'tany rate. Frind or inimy, I
say agin, if you regard me; sure that makes no differ, only let us have
This excellent heroism was all wasted; Neal could not find a single
adversary. Except he divided himself like Hotspur, and went to buffets,
one hand against the other, there was no chance of a fight; no person to
be found sufficiently magnanimous to encounter the tailor. On the
contrary, every one of his friends—or, in other words, every man in
the parish—was ready to support him. He was clapped on the back,
until his bones were nearly dislocated in his body; and his hand shaken,
until his arm lost its cunning at the needle for half a week afterwards.
This, to be sure, was a bitter business—a state of being past
endurance. Every man was his friend—no man was his enemy. A
desperate position for any person to find himself in, but doubly
calamitous to a martial tailor.
Many a dolorous complaint did Neal make upon the misfortune of having none
to wish him ill; and what rendered this hardship doubly oppressive, was
the unlucky fact that no exertions of his, however offensive, could
procure him a single foe. In vain did lie insult, abuse, and malign all
his acquaintances. In vain did he father upon them all the rascality and
villany he could think of; he lied against them with a force and
originality that would have made many a modern novelist blush for want of
invention—but all to no purpose. The world for once became
astonishingly Christian; it paid back all his efforts to excite its
resentment with the purest of charity; when Neal struck it on the one
cheek, it meekly turned unto him the other. It could scarcely be expected
that Neal would bear this. To have the whole world in friendship with a
man is beyond doubt rather an affliction. Not to have the face of a single
enemy to look upon, would decidedly be considered a deprivation of many
agreeable sensations by most people, as well as by Neal Malone. Let who
might sustain a loss, or experience a calamity, it was a matter of
indifference to Neal. They were only his friends, and he troubled neither
his head nor his heart about them.
Heaven help us! There is no man without his trials; and Neal, the reader
perceives, was not exempt from his. What did it avail him that he carried
a cudgel ready for all hostile contingencies? or knit his brows and shook
his kipjoeen at the fiercest of his fighting friends? The moment he
appeared, they softened into downright cordiality. His presence was the
signal of peace; for, notwithstanding his unconquerable propensity to
warfare, he went abroad as the genius of unanimity, though carrying in his
bosom the redoubtable disposition the a warrior; just as the sun, though
the source of light himself, is said to be dark enough at bottom.
It could not be expected that Neal, with whatever fortitude he might bear
his other afflictions, could bear such tranquillity like a hero. To say
that he bore it as one, would be to basely surrender his character; for
what hero ever bore a state, of tranquillity with courage? It affected his
cutting out! It produced what Burton calls "a windie melancholie," which
was nothing else than an accumulation of courage that had no means of
escaping, if courage can without indignity be ever said to escape. He sat
uneasy on his lap-board. Instead of cutting out soberly, he nourished his
scissors as if he were heading a faction; he wasted much chalk by scoring
his cloth in wrong places, and even caught his hot goose without a holder.
These symptoms alarmed, his friends, who persuaded him to go to a doctor.
Neal went, to satisfy them; but he knew that no prescription could drive
the courage out of him—that he was too far gone in heroism to be
made a coward of by apothecary stuff. Nothing in the pharmacopoeia could
physic him into a pacific state. His disease was simply the want of an
enemy, and an unaccountable superabundance of friendship on the part of
his acquaintances. How could a doctor remedy this by a prescription?
Impossible. The doctor, indeed, recommended bloodletting; but to lose
blood in a peaceable manner was not only cowardly, but a bad cure for
courage. Neal declined it: he would lose no blood for any man until he
could not help it; which was giving the character of a hero at a single
touch. His blood was not to be thrown away in this manner; the only lancet
ever applied to his relations was the cudgel, and Neal scorned to abandon
the principles of his family.
His friends finding that he reserved his blood for more heroic purposes
than dastardly phlebotomy, knew not what to do with him. His perpetual
exclamation was, as we have already stated, "I'm blue-mowlded for want of
a batin'!" They did everything in their power to cheer him with the hope
of a drubbing; told him he lived in an excellent country for a man
afflicted with his malady; and promised, if it were at all possible, to
create him a private enemy or two, who, they hoped in heaven, might
trounce him to some purpose.
This sustained him for a while; but as day after day passed, and no
appearance of action presented itself, he could not choose but increase in
courage. His soul, like a sword-blade too long in the scabbard, was
beginning to get fuliginous by inactivity. He looked upon the point of his
own needle, and the bright edge of his scissors, with a bitter pang, when
he thought of the spirit rusting within him: he meditated fresh insults,
studied new plans, and hunted out cunning devices for provoking his
acquaintances to battle, until by degrees he began to confound his own
bram, and to commit more grievous oversights in his business than ever.
Sometimes he sent home to one person a coat, with the legs of a pair of
trousers attached to it for sleeves, and despatched to another the arms of
the aforesaid coat tacked together as a pair of trousers.
Sometimes the coat was made to button behind instead of before, and he
frequently placed the pockets in the lower part of the skirts, as if he
had been in league with cut-purses.
This was a melancholy situation, and his friends pitied him accordingly.
"Don't bo cast down, Neal," said they, "your friends feel for you, poor
"Divil carry my frinds," replied Neal, "sure there's not one o' yez
frindly enough to be my inimy. Tare-an'-ounze! what'll I do? I'm
blue-rhowlded for want of a batin'!"
Seeing that their consolation was thrown away upon him, they resolved to
leave him to his fate; which they had no sooner done than Neal had
thoughts of taking to the Skiomachia as a last remedy. In this mood
he looked with considerable antipathy at his own shadow for several
nights; and it is not to be questioned, but that some hard battles would
have taken place between them, were it not for the cunning of the shadow,
which declined to fight him in any other position than with its back to
the wall. This occasioned him to pause, for the wall was a fearful
antagonist, inasmuch that it knew not when it was beaten; but there was
still an alternative left. He went to the garden one clear day about noon,
and hoped to have a bout with the shade, free from interruption. Both
approached, apparently eager for the combat, and resolved to conquer or
die, when a villanous cloud happening to intercept the light, gave the
shadow an opportunity of disappearing; and Neal found himself once more
without an opponent.
"It's aisy known," said Neal, "you haven't the blood in you, or you'd come
up to the scratch like a man."
He now saw that fate was against him, and that any further hostility
towards the shadow was only a tempting of Providence. He lost his health,
spirits, and everything but his courage. His countenance became pale and
peaceful looking; the bluster departed from him; his body shrunk up like a
withered parsnip. Thrice was he compelled to take in his clothes, and
thrice did he ascertain that much of his time would be necessarily spent
in pursuing his retreating person through the solitude of his almost
God knows it is difficult to form a correct opinion upon a situation so
paradoxical as Neal's was. To be reduced to skin and bone by the downright
friendship of the world, was, as the sagacious reader will admit, next to
a miracle. We appeal to the conscience of any man who finds himself
without an enemy, whether he be not a greater skeleton than the tailor; we
will give him fifty guineas provided he can show a calf to his leg. We
know he could not; for the tailor had none, and that was because he had
not an enemy. No man in friendship with the world ever has calves to his
legs. To sum up all in a paradox of our own invention, for which we claim
the full credit of originality, we now assert, that more men have risen in
the world by the injury of their enemies, than have risen by the kindness
of their friends. You may take this, reader, in any sense; apply it to
hanging if you like, it is still immutably and immovably true.
One day Neal sat cross-legged, as tailors usually sit, in the act of
pressing a pair of breeches; his hands were placed, backs up, upon the
handle of his goose, and his chin rested upon the back of his hands. To
judge from his sorrowful complexion one would suppose that he sat rather
to be sketched as a picture of misery, or of heroism in distress, than for
the industrious purpose of pressing the seams of a garment. There was a
great deal of New Burlington-street pathos in his countenance; his face,
like the times, was rather out of joint; "the sun was just setting, and
his golden beams fell, with a saddened splendor, athwart the tailor's"——the
reader may fill up the picture.
In this position sat Neal, when Mr. O'Connor, the schoolmaster, whose
inexpressibles he was turning for the third time, entered the workshop.
Mr. O'Connor, himself, was as finished a picture of misery as the tailor.
There was a patient, subdued kind of expression in his face, which
indicated a very full-portion of calamity; his eye seemed charged with
affliction of the first water; on each side of his nose might be traced
two dry channels which, no doubt, were full enough while the tropical
rains of his countenance lasted. Altogether, to conclude from appearances,
it was a dead match in affliction between him and the tailor; both seemed
sad, fleshless, and unthriving.
"Misther O'Connor," said the tailor, when the schoolmaster entered, "won't
you be pleased to sit down?"
Mr. O'Connor sat; and, after wiping his forehead, laid his hat upon the
lap-board, put his half handkerchief in his pocket, and looked upon the
tailor. The tailor, in return, looked upon Mr. O'Connor; but neither of
them spoke for some minutes. Neal, in fact, appeared to be wrapped up in
his own misery, and Mr. O'Connor in his; or, as we often have much
gratuitous sympathy for the distresses of our friends, we question but the
tailor was wrapped up in Mr. O'Connor's misery, and Mr. O'Connor in the
Mr. O'Connor at length said—"Neal, are my inexpressibles finished?"
"I am now pressin' your inexpressibles," replied Neal; "but, be my sowl,
Mr. O'Connor, it's not your inexpressibles I'm thinkin' of. I'm not the
ninth part of what I was. I'd hardly make paddin' for a collar now."
"Are you able to carry a staff still, Neal?"
"I've a light hazel one that's handy," said the tailor; "but where's the
use of carryin' it, whin I can get no one to fight wid. Sure I'm
disgracing my relations by the life I'm leadin'. I'll go to my grave
widout ever batin' a man, or bein' bate myself; that's the vexation. Divil
the row ever I was able to kick up in my life; so that I'm fairly
blue-mowlded for want of a batin'. But if you have patience——"
"Patience!" said Mr. O'Connor, with a shake of the head, that was
perfectly disastrous even to look at; "patience, did you say, Neal?"
"Ay," said Neal, "an', be my sowl, if you deny that I said patience, I'll
break your head!"
"Ah, Neal," returned the other, "I don't deny it—for though I am
teaching philosophy, knowledge, and mathematics, every day in my life, yet
I'm learning patience myself both night and day. No, Neal; I have
forgotten to deny anything. I have not been guilty of a contradiction, out
of my own school, for the last fourteen years. I once expressed the shadow
of a doubt about twelve years ago, but ever since I have abandoned even
doubting. That doubt was the last expiring effort at maintaining my
domestic authority—but I suffered for it."
"Well," said Neal, "if you have patience, I'll tell you what afflicts me
from beginnin' to endin'."
"I will have patience," said Mr. O'Connor, and he accordingly heard a
dismal and indignant tale from the tailor.
"You have told me that fifty times over," said Mr. O'Connor, after hearing
the story. "Your spirit is too martial for a pacific life. If you follow
my advice, I will teach you how to ripple the calm current of your
existence to some purpose. Marry a wife. For twenty-five years I have
given instructions in three branches, viz.—philosophy, knowledge,
and mathematics—I am also well versed in matrimony, and I declare
that, upon my misery, and by the contents of all my afflictions, it is my
solemn and melancholy opinion, that, if you marry a wife, you will, before
three months pass over your concatenated state, not have a single
complaint to make touching a superabundance of peace and tranquillity, or
a love of fighting."
"Do you mean to say that any woman would make me afeard?" said the tailor,
deliberately rising up and getting his cudgel. "I'll thank you merely to
go over the words agin till I thrash you widin an inch o' your life.
"Neal," said the schoolmaster, meekly, "I won't fight; I have been too
often subdued ever to presume on the hope of a single victory. My spirit
is long since evaporated: I am like one, of your own shreds, a mere
selvage. Do you not know how much my habiliments have shrunk in, even
within the last five years? Hear me, Neal; and venerate my words as if
they proceeded from the lips of a prophet. If you wish to taste the luxury
of being subdued—if you are, as you say, blue-moulded for want of a
beating, and sick at heart of a peaceful existence—why, marry a
wife. Neal, send my breeches home with all haste, for they are wanted, you
Mr. O'Connor, having thus expressed himself, departed, and Neal stood,
with the cudgel in his hand, looking at the door out of which he passed,
with an expression of fierceness, contempt, and reflection, strongly
blended on the ruins of his once heroic visage.
Many a man has happiness within his reach if he but knew it. The tailor
had been, hitherto, miserable because he pursued a wrong object. The
schoolmaster, however, suggested a train of thought upon which Neal now
fastened with all the ardor of a chivalrous temperament. Nay, he wondered
that the family spirit should have so completely seized upon the fighting
side of his heart, as to preclude all thoughts of matrimony; for he could
not but remember that his relations were as ready for marriage as for
fighting. To doubt this, would have been to throw a blot upon his own
escutcheon. He, therefore, very prudently asked himself, to whom, if he
did not marry, should he transmit his courage. He was a single man, and,
dying as such, he would be the sole depository of his own valor, which,
like Junius's secret, must perish with, him. If he could have left it, as
a legacy, to such of his friends as were most remarkable for cowardice,
why, the case would be altered; but this was impossible—and he had
now no other means of preserving it to posterity than by creating a
posterity to inherit it. He saw, too, that the world was likely to become
convulsed. Wars, as everybody knew, were certainly to break out; and would
it not be an excellent opportunity for being father to a colonel, or,
perhaps, a general, that might astonish the world.
The change visible in Neal, after the schoolmaster's last visit,
absolutely thunder-struck all who knew him. The clothes, which he had
rashly taken in to fit his shrivelled limbs, were once more let out. The
tailor expanded with a new spirit; his joints ceased to be supple, as in
the days of his valor; his eye became less fiery, but more brilliant. From
being martial, he got desperately gallant; but, somehow, he could not
afford to act the hero and lover both at the same time. This, perhaps,
would be too much to expect from a tailor. His policy was better. He
resolved to bring all his available energy to bear upon the charms of
whatever fair nymph he should select for the honor of matrimony; to waste
his spirit in fighting would, therefore, be a deduction from the single
purpose in view.
The transition from war to love is by no means so remarkable as we might
at first imagine. We quote Jack Falstaff in proof of this, or, if the
reader be disposed to reject our authority, then we quote Ancient Pistol
himself—both of whom we consider as the most finished specimens of
heroism that ever carried a safe skin. Acres would have been a hero had he
won gloves to prevent the courage from oozing out at his palms, or not
felt such an unlucky antipathy to the "snug lying in the Abbey;" and as
for Captain Bobadil, he never had an opportunity of putting his plan, for
vanquishing an army, into practice. We fear, indeed, that neither his
character, nor Ben Jonson's knowledge of human nature, is properly
understood; for it certainly could not be expected that a man, whose
spirit glowed to encounter a whole host, could, without tarnishing his
dignity, if closely pressed, condescend to fight an individual. But as
these remarks on courage may be felt by the reader as an invidious
introduction of a subject disagreeable to him, we beg to hush it for the
present and return to the tailor.
No sooner had Neal begun to feel an inclination to matrimony, than his
friends knew that his principles had veered, by the change now visible in
his person and deportment. They saw he had ratted from courage, and joined
love. Heretofore his life had been all winter, darkened by storm and
hurricane. The fiercer virtues had played the devil with him; every word
was thunder, every look lightning; but now all that had passed away;—before,
he was the Jortiter in re, at present he was the suaviter in modo. His
existence was perfect spring—beautifully vernal. All the amiable and
softer qualities began to bud about his heart; a genial warmth was
diffused over him; his soul got green within him; every day was serene;
and if a cloud happened to be come visible, there was a roguish rainbow
astride of it, on which sat a beautiful Iris that laughed down at him, and
seemed to say, "why the dickens, Neal, don't you marry a wife?"
Neal could not resist the afflatus which descended on him; an ethereal
light dwelled, he thought, upon the face of nature; the color of the
cloth, which he cut out from day to day, was to his enraptured eye like
the color of Cupid's wings—all purple; his visions were worth their
weight in gold; his dreams, a credit to the bed he slept on; and his
feelings, like blind puppies, young and alive to the milk of love and
kindness which they drew from his heart. Most of this delight escaped the
observation of the world, for Neal, like your true lover, became shy and
mysterious. It is difficult to say what he resembled; no dark lantern ever
had more light shut up within itself, than Neal had in his soul, although
his friends were not aware of it. They knew, indeed, that he had turned
his back upon valor; but beyond this their knowledge did not extend.
Neal was shrewd enough to know that what he felt must be love;—nothing
else could distend him with happiness, until his soul felt light and
bladder-like, but love. As an oyster opens, when expecting the tide, so
did his soul expand at the contemplation of matrimony. Labor ceased to be
a trouble to him; he sang and sewed from morning to night; his hot goose
no longer burned him, for his heart was as hot as his goose; the
vibrations of his head, at each successive stitch, were no longer sad and
melancholy. There was a buoyant shake of exultation in them which showed
that his soul was placid and happy within him.
Endless honor be to Neal Malone for the originality with which he managed
the tender sentiment! He did not, like your commonplace lovers, first
discover a pretty girl, and afterwards become enamored of her. No such
thing, he had the passion prepared beforehand—cut out and made up as
it were, ready for any girl whom it might fit. This was falling in love in
the abstract, and let no man condemn it without a trial; for many a
long-winded argument could be urged in its defence. It is always wrong to
commence business without capital, and Neal had a good stock to begin
with. All we beg is, that the reader will not confound it with Platonism,
which never marries; but he is at full liberty to call it Socratism, which
takes unto itself a wife, and suffers accordingly.
Let no one suppose that Neal forgot the schoolmaster's kindness, or failed
to be duly grateful for it. Mr. O'Connor was the first person whom he
consulted touching his passion. With a cheerful soul—he waited on
that melancholy and gentleman-like man, and in the very luxury of his
heart told him that he was in love.
"In love, Neal!" said the schoolmaster. "May I inquire with whom?"
"Wid nobody in particular, yet," replied Neal; "but of late I'm got
divilish fond o' the girls in general."
"And do you call that being in love, Neal?" said Mr. O'Connor.
"Why, what else would I call it?" returned the tailor. "Amn't I fond of
"Then it must be what is termed the Universal Passion, Neal," observed Mr.
O'Connor, "although it is the first time I have seen such an illustration
of it as you present in your own person."
"I wish you would advise me how to act," said Neal; "I'm as happy as a
prince since I began to get fond o' them, an' to think of marriage."
The schoolmaster shook his head again, and looked rather miserable. Neal
rubbed his hands with glee, and looked perfectly happy. The schoolmaster
shook his head again, and looked more miserable than before. Neal's
happiness also increased on the second rubbing.
Now, to tell the secret at once, Mr. O'Connor would not have appeared so
miserable, were it not for Neal's happiness; nor Neal so happy, were it
not for Mr. O'Connor's misery. It was all the result of contrast; but this
you will not understand unless you be deeply read in modern novels.
Mr. O'Connor, however, was a man of sense, who knew, upon this principle,
that the longer he continued to shake his head, the more miserable he must
become, and the more also would he increase Neal's happiness; but he had
no intention of increasing Neal's happiness at his own expense—for,
upon the same hypothesis, it would have been for Neal's interest had he
remained shaking his head there, and getting miserable until the day of
judgment. He consequently declined giving the third shake, for he thought
that plain conversation was, after all, more significant and forcible than
the most eloquent nod, however ably translated.
"Neal," said he, "could you, by stretching your imagination, contrive to
rest contented with nursing your passion in solitude, and love the sex at
"How could I nurse and mind my business?" replied the tailor. I'll never
nurse so long as I'll have the wife; and as for imagination it depends
upon the grain of it, whether I can stretch it or not. I don't know that I
ever made a coat of it in my life."
"You don't understand me, Neal," said the schoolmaster. "In recommending
marriage, I was only driving one evil out of you by introducing another.
Do you think that, if you abandoned all thoughts of a wife, you would get
heroic again?—that is, would you, take once more to the love of
"There is no doubt but I would," said the tailor: "If I miss the wife,
I'll kick up such a dust as never was seen in the parish, an' you're the
first man that I'll lick. But now that I'm in love," he continued, "sure,
I ought to look out for the wife."
"Ah! Neal," said the schoolmaster, "you are tempting destiny: your
temerity be, with all its melancholy consequences, upon your own head."
"Come," said the tailor, "it wasn't to hear you groaning to the tune of
'Dhrimmind-hoo,' or 'The ould woman rockin' her cradle,' that I came; but
to know if you could help me in makin' out the wife. That's the
"Look at me, Neal," said the schoolmaster, solemnly; "I am at this moment,
and have been any time for the last fifteen years, a living caveto against
matrimony. I do not think that earth possesses such a luxury as a single
solitary life. Neal, the monks of old were happy men: they were all fat
and had double chins; and, Neal, I tell you, that all fat men are in
general happy. Care cannot come at them so readily as at a thin man;
before it gets through the strong outworks, of flesh and blood with which
they are surrounded, it becomes treacherous to its original purpose, joins
the cheerful spirits it meets in the system, and dances about the heart in
all the madness of mirth; just like a sincere ecclesiastic, who comes to
lecture a good fellow against drinking, but who forgets his lecture over
his cups, and is laid under the table with such success, that he either
never comes to finish his lecture, or comes often; to be laid under the
table, Look at me Neal, how wasted, fleshless, and miserable, I stand
before you. You know how my garments have shrunk in, and what a solid man
I was before marriage. Neal, pause, I beseech you: otherwise you stand a
strong chance of becoming a nonentity like myself."
"I don't care what I become," said the tailor; "I can't think that you'd
be so: unsonable as to expect that any of the Malones; should pass out of
the world widout either bein' bate or marrid. Have rason, Mr. O'Connor,
an' if you can help me to the wife, I promise to take in your coat the
next time—for nothin'."
"Well, then," said Mr. O'Connor, "what-would you think of the butcher's
daughter, Biddy Neil? You have always had a thirst for blood, and here you
may have it gratified in an innocent manner, should you ever become
sanguinary again. 'Tis true, Neal, she is twice your size, and possesses
three times your strength; but for that very reason, Neal, marry her if
you can. Large animals are placid; and heaven preserve those bachelors,
whom I wish well, from a small wife: 'tis such who always wield the
sceptre of domestic life, and rule their husbands with a rod of iron."
"Say no more, Mr. O'Connor," replied the tailor, "she's the very girl I'm
in love wid, an' never fear, but I'll overcome her heart if I it can be
done by man. Now, step over the way to my house, an' we'll have a sup on
the head of it. Who's that calling?"
"Ah! Neal, I know the tones—there's a shrillness in them not to be
mistaken. Farewell! I must depart; you have heard the proverb, 'those who
are bound must obey.' Young Jack, I presume, is squalling, and I must
either nurse him, rock the cradle, or sing comic tunes for him, though
heaven knows with what a disastrous heart I often sing, 'Begone dull
care,' the 'Rakes of Newcastle,' or 'Peas upon a Trencher.' Neal, I say
again, pause before you take this leap in the dark. Pause, Neal, I entreat
Neal, however, was gifted with the heart of an Irishman, and scorned
caution as the characteristic of a coward; he had, as it appeared,
abandoned all design of fighting, but the courage still adhered to him
even in making love. He consequently conducted the siege of Biddy Neil's
heart with a degree of skill and valor which would not have come amiss to
Marshal Gerald at the siege of Antwerp. Locke or Dugald Stewart, indeed,
had they been cognizant of the tailor's triumph, might have illustrated
the principle on which he succeeded—as to ourselves, we can only
conjecture it. Our own opinion is, that they were both animated with a
congenial spirit. Biddy was the very pink of pugnacity, and could throw in
a body blow, or plant a facer, with singular energy and science. Her
prowess hitherto had, we confess, been displayed only within the limited
range of domestic life; but should she ever find it necessary to exercise
it upon a larger scale, there was no doubt whatsoever, in the opinion of
her mother, brothers, and sisters, every one of whom she had successively
subdued, that she must undoubtedly distinguish herself. There was
certainly one difficulty which the tailor had not to encounter in the
progress of his courtship; the field was his own; he had not a rival to
dispute his claim. Neither was there any opposition given by her friends;
they were, on the contrary, all anxious for the match; and when the
arrangements were concluded, Neal felt his hand squeezed by them in
succession, with an expression more resembling condolence than joy. Neal,
however, had been bred to tailoring, and not to metaphysics; he could cut
out a coat very well, but we do not say that he could trace a principle—as
what tailor, except Jeremy Taylor, could?
There was nothing particular in the wedding. Mr. O'Connor was asked by
Neal to be present at it: but he shook his head, and told him that he had
not courage to attend it, or inclination to witness any man's sorrows but
his own. He met the wedding party by accident, and was heard to exclaim
with a sigh, as they flaunted past him in gay exuberance of spirits—"Ah,
poor Neal! he is going like one of her father's cattle to the shambles!
Woe is me for having suggested matrimony to the tailor! He will not
long-be under the necessity of saying that he 'is blue-moulded for want of
a beating.' The butcheress will fell him like a Kerry ox, and I may have
his blood to answer for, and his discomfiture to feel for, in addition to
my own miseries."
On the evening of the wedding-day, about the hour of ten o'clock, Neal—whose
spirits were uncommonly exalted, for his heart luxuriated within him—danced
with his bride's maid; after the dance he sat beside her, and got eloquent
in praise of her beauty; and it is said, too, that he whispered to her,
and chucked her chin with considerable gallantry. The tete-a-tete
continued for some time without exciting particular attention, with one
exception; but that exception was worth a whole chapter of general rules.
Mrs. Malone rose up, then sat down again, and took off a glass of the
native; she got up a second time—all the wife rushed upon her heart—she
approached them, and in a fit of the most exquisite sensibility, knocked
the bride's maid down, and gave the tailor a kick of affecting pathos upon
the inexpressibles. The whole scene was a touching one on both sides. The
tailor was sent on all-fours to the floor; but Mrs. Malone took him
quietly up, put him under her arm as one would a lap dog, and with stately
step marched him away to the connubial, apartment, in which everything
remained very quiet for the rest of the night.
The next morning Mr. O'Connor presented himself to congratulate the tailor
on his happiness. Neal, as his friend shook hands with him, gave the
schoolmaster's fingers a slight squeeze, such as a man gives who would
gently entreat your sympathy. The schoolmaster looked at him, and thought
he shook his head. Of this, however, he could not be certain; for, as he
shook his own during the moment of observation, he concluded that it might
be a mere mistake of the eye, or perhaps the result of a mind predisposed
to be credulous on the subject of shaking heads.
We wish it were in our power to draw a veil, or curtain, or blind of some
description, over the remnant of the tailor's narrative that is to follow;
but as it is the duty of every faithful historian to give the secret
causes of appearances which the world in general do not understand, so we
think it but honest to go on, impartially and faithfully, without
shrinking from the responsibility that is frequently annexed to truth.
For the first three days after matrimony, Neal felt like a man who had
been translated to a new and more lively state of existence. He had
expected, and flattered himself, that, the moment this event should take
place, he would once more resume his heroism, and experience the pleasure
of a drubbing. This determination he kept a profound secret—nor was
it known until a future period, when he disclosed it to Mr. O'Connor. He
intended, therefore, that marriage should be nothing more than a mere
parenthesis in his life—a kind of asterisk, pointing, in a note at
the bottom, to this single exception in his general conduct—a nota
bene to the spirit of a martial man, intimating that he had been
peaceful only for a while. In truth, he was, during the influence of love
over him, and up to the very day of his marriage, secretly as blue-moulded
as ever for want of a beating. The heroic penchant lay snugly latent in
his heart, unchecked and unmodified. He flattered himself that he was
achieving a capital imposition upon the world at large—that he was
actually hoaxing mankind in general—and that such an excellent piece
of knavish tranquillity had never been perpetrated before his time.
On the first week after his marriage, there chanced to be a fair in the
next market-town. Neal, after breakfast, brought forward a bunch of
shillelahs, in order to select the best; the wife inquired the purpose of
the selection, and Neal declared that he was resolved to have a fight that
day, if it were to be had, he said, for love or money. "The thruth is," he
exclaimed, strutting with fortitude about the house, "the thruth is, that
I've done the whole of yez—I'm as blue-mowlded as ever for
want of a batin'."
"Don't go," said the wife.
"I will go," said Neal, with vehemence; "I'll go if the whole parish was
to go to prevint me."
In about another half-hour Neal sat down quietly to his business, instead
of going to the fair!
Much ingenious speculation might be indulged in, upon this abrupt
termination to the tailor's most formidable resolution; but, for our own
part, we will prefer going on with the narrative, leaving the reader at
liberty to solve the mystery as he pleases. In the mean time, we say this
much—let those who cannot make it out, carry it to their tailor; it
is a tailor's mystery, and no one has so good a right to understand it—except,
perhaps, a tailor's wife.
At the period of his matrimony, Neal had become as plump and as stout as
he ever was known to be in his plumpest and stoutest days. He and the
schoolmaster had been very intimate about this time; but we know not how
it happened that soon afterwards he felt a modest bridelike reluctance in
meeting with that afflicted gentleman. As the eve of his union approached,
he was in the habit, during the schoolmaster's visits to his workshop, of
alluding, in rather a sarcastic tone, considering the unthriving
appearance of his friend, to the increasing lustiness of his person. Nay,
he has often leaped up from his lap-board, and, in the strong spirit of
exultation, thrust out his leg in attestation of his assertion, slapping
it, moreover, with a loud laugh of triumph, that sounded like a knell to
the happiness of his emaciated acquaintance. The schoolmaster's
philosophy, however, unlike his flesh, never departed from him; his usual
observation was, "Neal, we are both receding from the same point; you
increase in flesh, whilst I, heaven help me, am fast diminishing."
The tailor received these remarks with very boisterous mirth, whilst Mr.
O'Connor simply shook his head, and looked sadly upon his limbs, now
shrouded in a superfluity of garments, somewhat resembling a slender
thread of water in a shallow summer stream, nearly wasted away, and
surrounded by an unproportionate extent of channel.
The fourth month after the marriage arrived. Neal, one day, near its
close, began to dress himself in his best apparel. Even then, when
buttoning his waistcoat, he shook his head after the manner of Mr.
O'Connor, and made observations upon the great extent to which it
Well, thought he, with a sigh—this waistcoat certainly did fit me to
a T: but it's wondherful to think how—cloth stretches.
"Neal," said the wife, on perceiving him dressed, "where are you bound
"Faith, for life," replied Neal, with a mitigated swagger; "and I'd as
soon, if it had been the will of Provid—"
"Where are you going?" asked the wife, a second time.
"Why," he answered, "only to the dance at Jemmy Connolly's; I'll be back
"Don't go," said the wife. "I'll go," said Neal, "if the whole counthry
was to prevent me. Thunder an' lightnin,' woman, who am I?" he exclaimed,
in a loud but rather infirm voice; "arn't I Neal Malone, that never met a
man who'd fight him! Neal Malone, that was never beat by man! Why,
tare-an-ounze, woman! Whoo! I'll get enraged some time, an' play the
divil? Who's afeard, I say?"
"Don't go," added the wife a third time, giving Neal a significant look in
In about another half-hour, Neal sat down quietly to his business, instead
of going to the dance!
Neal now turned himself, like many a sage in similar circumstances, to
philosophy; that is to say—he began to shake his head upon
principle, after the manner of the schoolmaster. He would, indeed, have
preferred the bottle upon principle; but there was no getting at the
bottle, except through the wife; and it so happened that by the time it
reached him, there was little consolation left in it. Neal bore all in
silence; for silence, his friend had often told him, was a proof of
Soon after this, Neal, one evening, met Mr. O'Connor by chance upon a
plank which crossed a river. This plank was only a foot in breadth, so
that no two individuals could pass each other upon it. We cannot find
words in which to express the dismay of both, on finding that they
absolutely glided past one another without collision.
Both paused, and surveyed each other solemnly; but the astonishment was
all on the side of Mr. O'Connor.
"Neal," said the schoolmaster, "by all the household gods, I conjure you
to speak, that I may be assured you live!"
The ghost of a blush crossed the churchyard visage of the tailor.
"Oh!" he exclaimed, "why the devil did you tempt me to marry a wife."
"Neal," said his friend, "answer me in the most solemn manner possible—throw
into your countenance all the gravity you can assume; speak as if you were
under the hands of the hangman, with the rope about your neck, for the
question is, indeed, a trying-one which I am about to put. Are you still
'blue-moulded for want of beating?'"
The tailor collected himself to make a reply; he put one leg out—the
very leg which he used to show in triumph to his friend; but, alas, how
dwindled! He opened his waistcoat, and lapped it round him, until he
looked like a weasel on its hind legs. He then raised himself up on his
tip toes, and, in an awful whisper, replied, "No!!! the devil a bit I'm
blue-mowlded for want of a batin."
The schoolmaster shook his head in his own miserable manner; but, alas! he
soon perceived that the tailor was as great an adept at shaking the head
as himself. Nay, he saw that there was a calamitous refinement—a
delicacy of shake in the tailor's vibrations, which gave to his own nod a
very commonplace character.
The next day the tailor took in his clothes; and from time to time
continued to adjust them to the dimensions of his shrinking person. The
schoolmaster and he, whenever they could steal a moment, met and
sympathized together. Mr. O'Connor, however, bore up somewhat better than
Neal. The latter was subdued in heart and in spirit; thoroughly,
completely, and intensely vanquished. His features became sharpened by
misery, for a termagant wife is the whetstone on which all the calamities
of a hen-pecked husband are painted by the devil. He no longer strutted as
he was wont to do; he no longer carried a cudgel as if he wished to wage a
universal battle with mankind. He was now a married man.—Sneakingiy,
and with a cowardly crawl did he creep along as if every step brought him
nearer to the gallows. The schoolmaster's march of misery was far slower
than Neal's: the latter distanced him. Before three years passed, he had
shrunk up so much, that he could not walk abroad of a windy day without
carrying weights in his pockets to keep him firm on the earth, which he
once trod with the step of a giant. He again sought the schoolmaster, with
whom indeed he associated as much as possible. Here he felt certain of
receiving sympathy; nor was he disappointed. That worthy, but miserable,
man and Neal, often retired beyond the hearing of their respective wives,
and supported each other by every argument in their power. Often have they
been heard, in the dusk of evening, singing behind a remote hedge that
melancholy ditty, "Let us both be unhappy together;" which rose upon the
twilight breeze with a cautious quaver of sorrow truly heart-rending and
"Neal," said Mr. O'Connor, on one of those occasions, "here is a book
which I recommend to your perusal; it is called 'The Afflicted Man's
Companion;' try if you cannot glean some consolation out of it."
"Faith," said Neal, "I'm forever oblaged to you, but I don't want it. I've
had 'The Afflicted Man's Companion' too long, and divil an atom of
consolation I can get out of it. I have one o' them I tell you; but, be me
sowl, I'll not undhertake a pair o' them. The very name's enough for me."
They then separated.
The tailor's vis vitae must have been powerful, or he would have
died. In two years more his friends could not distinguish him from his own
shadow; a circumstance which was of great inconvenience to him. Several
grasped at the hand of the shadow instead of his; and one man was near,
paying it five and sixpence for making a pair of smallclothes. Neal, it is
true, undeceived him with some trouble; but candidly admitted that he was
not able to carry home the money. It was difficult, indeed, for the poor
tailor to bear what he felt; it is true he bore it as long as he could;
but at length he became suicidal, and often had thoughts of "making his
own quietus with his bare bodkin." After many deliberations and
afflictions, he ultimately made the attempt; but, alas! he found that the
blood of the Malones refused to flow upon so ignominious an occasion. So
he solved the phenomenon; although the truth was, that his blood was not
"i' the vein" for't; none was to be had. What then was to be done? He
resolved to get rid of life by some process; and the next that occurred to
him was hanging. In a solemn spirit he prepared a selvage, and suspended
himself from the rafter of his workshop; but here another disappintment
awaited him—he would not hang. Such was his want of gravity, that
his own weight proved insufficient to occasion his death by mere
suspension. His third attempt was at drowning, but he was too light to
sink; all the elements,—all his own energies joined themselves, he
thought, in a wicked conspiracy to save his life. Having thus tried every
avenue to destruction, and failed in all, he felt like a man doomed to
live for ever. Henceforward he shrunk and shrivelled by slow degrees,
until in the course of time he became so attenuated, that the grossness of
human vision could no longer reach him.
This, however, could not last always. Though still alive, he was, to all
intents and purposes, imperceptible. He could now only be heard; he was
reduced to a mere essence—the very echo of human existence, vox
el praiterea nihil. It is true the schoolmaster asserted that he
occasionally caught passing glimpses of him; but that was because he had
been himself nearly spiritualized by affliction, and his visual ray purged
in the furnace of domestic tribulation. By and by Neal's voice lessened,
got fainter and more indistinct, until at length nothing but a doubtful
murmur could be heard, which ultimately could scarcely be distinguished
from a ringing in the ears.
Such was the awful and mysterious fate of the tailor, who, as a hero,
could not of course die; he merely dissolved like an icicle, wasted into
immateriality, and finally melted away beyond the perception of mortal
sense. Mr. O'Connor is still living, and once more in the fulness of
perfect health and strength. His wife, however, we may as well hint, has
been dead more than two years.