Jimmy Fitzgerald by Anonymous
Jimmy Fitzgerald and the old Lieutenant had both entered the navy in
equally humble situations, at an early age: the friends of the latter,
eventually, procured his advancement; but Fitzgerald, whose relations were
poor, never had the luck to be rated on any ship's books in a higher
station than that of an able seaman. The difference of rank had not the
effect of diminishing the respect and affection which the Lieutenant and
Fitzgerald bore towards each other: in their manhood they were upon as
familiar terms, so far as naval etiquette would permit, as when in their
boyhood they had been equals. The Lieutenant had saved his friend's life,
at the risk of his own, in the Mediterranean; and, to judge from
appearances, he was, if possible, more partial to Jimmy Fitzgerald than
the Old Irish Boy was to him. The preserver frequently is found to display
more affection towards the preserved, than the preserved either exhibits
or feels towards his preserver.
No two men could be much more unlike each other than the Lieutenant and
Jimmy Fitzgerald. The former had received a tolerable education before he
went to sea; he had taken every opportunity to improve himself while in
the service; from the period of his retiring, he had read much on general
subjects; and he was, at the time of his taking possession of his nephew's
cottage, a very well informed man. Jimmy Fitzgerald, on the contrary,
scarcely knew how to read when he left his native village; he had picked
up but a slight smattering of such knowledge as is to be obtained from
books, in his progress through life; but he possessed a finer mind and
greater powers of observation than his friend; and the Old Irish Boy was,
perhaps, superior to the better educated Lieutenant, in mental riches,
discrimination, and eloquence, when they again met, after an interval of
many years' separation, under the roof of the former. Jimmy Fitzgerald's
style rose with his subject; and he occasionally found himself at such an
elevation, that it was a mystery how he had been able to attain it. The
Lieutenant was always level in his discourse: he neither descended so low,
nor rose so high as his friend; nor did he, like Fitzgerald, ever presume
to discuss any but commonplace subjects. Jimmy occasionally indulged in
such daring flights, that he toppled down headlong from an altitude which
he was unable to support; a disgrace to which the more sober and
matter-of-fact Lieutenant never subjected himself. The one sedulously
avoided the utterance of anything new; the other, if it had been in his
power, would rarely have said anything that was old. The Lieutenant was
circumspect, and the Old Boy ambitious: the former was stiff, constrained,
and rather stately in his language; the latter free, careless, and
Hibernically vernacular. Jimmy Fitzgerald was poor, almost dependant on
the exertions of a niece and her two sons for support, and so afflicted in
his nether extremities, that he could not move from his chair without
assistance; but he was always merry, and rarely complained. The Lieutenant
possessed a competency, he enjoyed a most robust state of health, his
legs, and the arm which the enemies of his country had left him, were
still in full vigour; but he frequently repined at his poverty, occasional
slight attacks of head-ache, and at being compelled to do the work of two
hands with one.
Notwithstanding the difference in their temperaments, the two friends had
rarely disagreed; and Orestes and Pylades, or Damon and Pythias, could not
have exhibited more affection towards each other, after a long separation,
than Jimmy Fitzgerald and the Lieutenant did, when the latter entered the
Old Irish Boy's cabin. My relation had, to use his own expression, been
roaming about, here and there and everywhere, for a number of years; and
so little positive inclination did he feel for passing the remainder of
his life in one place, that he would, probably, have declined his nephew's
well-meant offer, had not Jimmy Fitzgerald's cabin been within ten
minutes' walk of the cottage, and the sea been visible from two of its
four front windows. The village was principally occupied by fishermen; but
there were two or three respectable families resident in the
neighbourhood: to these the old Lieutenant had letters of introduction; so
that he felt satisfied, on entering upon his tolerably neat, but humble
abode, that he should not be at a loss for society, even if it were
possible for him ever to grow tired of that of his friend Fitzgerald.
After a great number of mutual inquiries had been answered, and many
expressions of reciprocal friendship had been uttered, Jimmy Fitzgerald
drew forth a little tub of pothien from beneath the bed, with his crutch,—which
was of no other use to him but to perform this and similar offices,—and
protested by several saints, whose names have escaped my memory, that we
should have a jovial night of it. "Many's the pitcher of good drink," he
exclaimed, "the Lieutenant and I have helped one another to empty: though,
I'll say this for him, he'd always thirty-one points and a half more love
for sobriety than ever Jimmy Fitzgerald could boast; and at that same
time, when he'd make mouths at a third can, and draw back from a fourth,
as he would from a dog that was going to snap at him, I drank, and drank,—more
shame to me for it,—as though I'd declared war against spirits, and
wished to exterminate them,—rum, in particular,—from the face
of the earth. I think I'm a better man than I was long ago: no thanks to
me, for that, though, perhaps; for I'm out of the way of temptation; and
if I'd the pay of an admiral, I couldn't enjoy myself as I did long ago.
It's wrong of us to brag of our virtue, when we've no appetite left in us
for sin:—that's a saying I stole from the priest, because it plazed
me. You'll like Father Killala mightily, Lieutenant, when you come to know
him; as you soon will, won't you? And noticing him reminds me of telling
you, that while you're here, I'll engage you'll never get reproached for
being a Protestant."
"Is it toleration?" exclaimed Fitzgerald, interrupting the Lieutenant;
"why then, in toleration, Father Killalas flock are all lambkins. I'll add
to that,—because, I know you'll like to hear it—we're as quiet
as mice in these parts: we've no fighting, nor fairs, nor wren-feasts; and
as few ghosts or goblins, Banshees, Lepreghauns, or white women on
horseback, as you'd wish: for we don't give such cattle much
encouragement. Don't that plaze you, Lieutenant?"
"It does,—it does; and I have no doubt but that I shall pass my days
peacefully and pleasantly in your village, my good old friend. Jimmy
Fitzgerald and I," continued the Lieutenant, addressing me with unusual
animation, "have fought and bled side by side; we were confined together,
for four years, in a French prison, from which we escaped in company; we
had but one tobacco-box between us, for fifteen months; and we
accidentally fell in love with the same woman. Jimmy acted most
magnanimously on that occasion: as soon as he discovered that I was his
rival, he instantly resigned his pretensions in my favour."
"And you were quite as polite to me, Lieutenant," said Jimmy, "and I don't
forget it to you to this day. You insisted, you know, as strongly as I
did: so that as each was resolute in not cutting out his friend, the
darling delight of our hearts got neither of us; and she's now living,—an
ould maid, as I'm tould,—near upon a mile and a half this side of
"Is it possible?" exclaimed the Lieutenant.
"It's as true as you're born, if Corney Carolan is to be believed on his
oath. I wouldn't take his word; but when a man swears to what he says,
it's not dacent to discredit him, is it?"
"Certainly not," replied the Lieutenant. "And so Peggy is living within a
mile and a half of Thurles, is she?—unmarried, too, you say?"
"She is; and I don't think I'd be doing my duty if I didn't tell you. I'll
just take this present opportunity of saying, too, that as you think of
settling, and as you're still well-looking, and I'm broke down
out-and-out, so that she wouldn't look upon me,—I'd sacrifice
nothing,—that is, I wouldn't intirely brake my heart if you wint and
"James Fitzgerald," said the Lieutenant, "you are still the noble fellow
you were thirty years ago. You have forestalled me on this occasion: I
assure you that I was just working myself up to say to you what you have
said to me. You are still a bachelor, Jimmy, and, as far as I am
concerned, Miss Margaret M'Carthy is quite at your service."
"Thank you kindly, and good luck to you for this and all that's past,"
said Jimmy; "but, to spake my mind,—I never cared much about Peg."
"Nor I, upon my honour!" exclaimed the Lieutenant.
"I was glad of an excuse to be rid of her," quoth Fitzgerald.
"Precisely my own case, I protest," said the Lieutenant.
"And I never cared one half so little for her, as I do just now."
"We coincide on this point to a tittle."
"Then what becomes of our mutual devotion, Lieutenant? It was all
moonshine, you see."
"Not exactly," replied the Lieutenant; "man can look back on past
occurrences, and see circumstances in their true light—"
"Better than he can when they're under his nose?" interrupted Fitzgerald.
"Is it that you mane?"
"It is: passion and prejudice, as philosophy teaches us—"
"Hould your tongue, Lieutenant," said Fitzgerald; "for I think I can find
a shorter way for us out of the bog, than your jack-o-lantern philosophy
will light us to. The truth is, we were young and foolish that time; we
thought we loved the young woman, and we didn't: so there's an end of Peg.
My blessings be on her for all that, though! She never did me harm; and
one of us, may be, was wrong in not marrying her."
"She told me to my face,—truth is a jewel, Jimmy Fitzgerald," said
the Lieutenant, "she told me, calmly and resolutely, when I informed her
that you were as deeply in love with her as myself, that we had mistaken
innocent flirting for affection; and that, were a formal proposal made to
her, she should indignantly reject it; 'for,' said she, 'I would not have
either of you, if one was a Rear Admiral, and the other a Major of
Marines.' That was her precise expression."
"Oh! Time, Time!" exclaimed Jimmy; "what a fine auld fellow you are, to be
sure! How you open our eyes, and bring things to light! If it wasn't for
you, Truth might often go hide her head."
"I think," said the Lieutenant, rather gaily, "that if I wanted a wife, I
might probably find one who would suit me better than Peggy, among your
neighbours, friend Fitzgerald. And, by-the-by, as I am coming to live
among them, I should be glad if you would afford me a little insight to
their various characters, circumstances, and histories. I am well aware of
your capability to do so:—when I found you on board the Janus, after
we had parted company for more than seven years, you did me incalculable
benefit, by giving me a descriptive portrait of every soul in the ship;
from the cook's boy up to the captain. Will you oblige me?"
"I will, in that or anything else that's in the power o' me," replied the
Old Boy. "If I devoted one half o' my life to you, since I was twenty, I'd
still be your debtor for the other half: for didn't you save the whole of
it at the risk of your own?—You did, then; and I'll never—"
"Psha, psha, Fitzgerald! you know what strong objections I have to your
dwelling on that topic."
"Go along with you, and don't be prating so, sir," said Jimmy; "I won't
put up with your taking the liberty of doing a fine thing for me, and then
bidding me not spake of it. My bits of gratitude, now and then, goes for
the interest; but I'll never be able to pay off the debt. Still, though
the one is out of my power to do, I'd not be aisy in my own mind if I
neglected the other that isn't: so that, after all, may be, when we
think we're doing great things, by acting as we should to others, we're
just egged on to it, by the fear of not being on good terms with
ourselves. You've often tould me, Lieutenant, I should be your Corporal
Trim,—the man you and I read about, long ago, in Jack Flanagan's bit
of a book, aboard the Bellerophon: and I would be so, but my legs took to
their heels and deserted me, you know; and so I couldn't, could I? Did you
ever get hould of a book, since I saw you, with the middle and both ends
of that story in it?—If you did, as we'd only the middle and a bit
o' the beginning in Jack Flanagan's greasy library, I'd be glad if you'd
tell it me."
"I will, with pleasure, Fitzgerald, when—"
"When I've described my neighbours to you, is it? Well, then, I'll do
that, I think, before we part, if the whiskey houlds out, and it don't get
much the better of us. But it sha'n't, shall it?—for we'll put
ourselves upon short allowance, and drink as we ought, to the renewal of
our acquaintance, when I'm done. I'll tell you, before I begin, that you
couldn't pick out any nine in the whole barony, knows half so much about
the people that's in it, as myself; though I'm fast moored here, like a
Trinity-house buoy on a sand-bank: but though I see little, I hear much;
and as I can't go to any body, why, every body comes to me."
"I am grieved to the heart, Jimmy Fitzgerald," said the Lieutenant, "to
behold you so fettered by your infirmities; confined, if I may use the
expression, like a pig in a coop—"
"Liberty, Lieutenant," interrupted the Old Irish Boy, "is only comparative
at the best; and none of us gets our fill of it. Going about from one
place to another isn't freedom, as I think you'll own: so why need I cry
out? If it was, nobody, as I said, while ago, has as much as he wishes of
it. I'd be delighted to be able to go get mass once a week, and to crawl a
quarter of a mile now and then; but my infirmities prevent me: so I don't
have my wish. But I'm only like the rest o' the world; and, therefore, I
ought to be contented; though, I'll own, I'm not so, exactly. One man
sighs to have a jaunt into the country, sometimes,—but his wife
won't let him leave the town he lives in; another thinks he'd be happy if
he could p'rambulate about in foreign parts,—but his pocket keeps
him at home; even that mighty conqueror, Alexander the Great, if there's
truth in the song that's made about him, found the globe itself too little
for his desires; and you know, well enough, that little Snookenhausen used
to be telling us at Malta, of an ould philosopher, in ancient times, who
fell out with his own bread and butter, like a big baby as he was, because
he couldn't have another world for a play-ground, so as he might play
trap-ball with this. There's none of us but strains the cable by which
we're moored, as tight as we well can; and many's the man tries, all his
life, to cut it, and sheer off into the main; but he can't. If you tie up
a horse in a field, he'll not care half so much about the rich grass
that's under his nose, as he will for a few dry blades, which his rope
won't let him reach; and he'll be trying for them, when he might be
filling his belly with better. If I am, as you say, shut up here like a
pig in a coop,—and it's true enough,—I've the comfort of
knowing, that be, who thinks himself free, and brags about his liberty,
has a ring in his nose, and, may be, two or three other incumbrances,
which prevent him, although he's adrift, from enjoying his freedom, or
doing as he likes, much more than I can.—But now for my neighbours—"