Bat Boroo by Anonymous

IF you're passing at early morning, above there, beyond The Claugh, you may see Bat, with his back leaning against Mick Maguire's door,—'tis there where he lodges,—smoking his pipe, and looking out under his eye-brows at you, as fierce as a grenadier at a Frenchman. There's nothing warlike about Bat but braggadocio, and a cut across his chin,—barring that he's wasted and worn, you'd think; for his broad shoulders seem to have been better covered with flesh one day than they now are. When he condescends to spake to any of us, Bat talks of the wars, as though he'd been in them; and says he has wounds besides that one on his chin, but they're under his clothes; and then he gives a bit of a cough, and says he's asthmatic, and might catch harm if he stripped himself to shew them. So that nobody has seen Bat's wounds but himself; but no doubt he has many of them: though, to be sure, that on his chin looks as though it was done by the blunt razor of a barber, rather than a grenadier's baggonet, or a dragoon's sabre. However, all's one for that.

Bat's too high and mighty to be much liked by the people about; and a boy says he peeped in at a hole in the cabin one day, and saw something on Bat's back, that looked as if the military cat had been scratching it. But doesn't the boy play the rogue now and then?—Faith! he does; and, may be, Bat is belied by him. How the blade lives, nobody knows; nor why he came here to this place, which is at the very back of God's speed, we can't say. May be, he's a pensioner:—why not?—And, may be too, as some think, he's a native of these parts, and one of the sons of that same ould Dick Boroo, who lived in a cabin on the very same spot where Mick Maguire's now stands. Dick wint to the dogs, long ago, and he and the whole seed and breed of him run the country; and nobody has seen a ha'p'orth of them since; except this is one o' them, come here after the wars, to bluster away, where he used to be beaten; and die one day where he first drew breath.

Bat won't own he's a Boroo; but we all call him that name in the face of him; and when he goes off,—what will they write on the stone by his grave, if he gets one, think you?—Why, then, "Here lies Bat Boroo, who died of doing nothing."

And, faith! it's nothing he does, but walk about like a half-sir as he is,—smoking his pipe the whole blessed morning, for the sake, he says, of getting himself an appetite for dinner. But he needn't take the trouble; for it's just as needless, in my mind, as whistling to the sea, when the tide's coming in; and come it will, like Bat's appetite, whether you whistle or no, devouring almost everything in its way. Without a word of a lie, Bat's the biggest eater in all the barony, and the biggest brag,—that is, he was,—to the tail o' that. But, poor fellow! he don't know his infirmity; and thinks his appetite a sign of weakness, instead of sound health: it's the only living thing he takes on about. "There's nothing, Jimmy Fitzgerald," says he, to me, one day; "there's nothing, in the universal world, I can keep on my stomach,—bad luck to the bit!—for if I ate half a rack of mutton, with peeathees and milk, or a pound of pig's face, or eight or ten red herrings, for my breakfast,—it's hungry I am, in an hour or two again, as though nothing had happened to me that day in the way of provision."—What think you of that for digestion?

There's three things Bat thinks about, and that's all first, his belly;—secondly, making believe he's not to be frightened, by man or beast, nor even the good people that lives in the moats, and frolics away all night on the heath, and goes to bed in the butter-cups and daisies—it's a wonder to some they've played no tricks with him yet and lastly, that he has much better blood in his body than the people about him.

Now I'll tell you what happened Bat. 'While ago,—three or four years back,—we'd a cunning woman came here,—and it's but little she got,—how would she, when there was little to give?—it was going to a goat's house to look for wool: and plenty of bad luck she prophesied, for nobody had enough to pay for better. Some of it came true enough; and if she spoke truth, there's more mischief behind. She said to me, I'd have my roof down; but it's safe yet, for I trusted in Providence, and put a new beam across it the week after she wint. At last, when she'd tould a power of ill-tidings to many, and no one would go near her for fear, and she'd stood by the abbey-wall for a long hour, waiting for customers, with the people,—men, women, and children,—making a circle about her, who should come up but Misther Bat Boroo, just after taking a good dinner with Paddy Doolan?—"What's the murther here?" says he. So they up and tould him, that nobody dared to have their fates from the cunning-woman.

This was a windfall for Bat,—a glorious occasion for making much of himself. Up he marched to the woman, as though he was going to attack an entrenchment, and crossing her ould yellow hand with the copper,—the best his pocket could afford,—he desired she'd say what would happen him. "Speak bouldly," says he, "for Bat Muggleburgh isn't the man that's to be frightened by a bulrush."

"Man," says she, looking up to him, "you've been a soldier."

"What then?" says he.

"Here's a line in your hand,"—says she, "a line which tells me, that before another year has gone over your head, you'll be more frightened by a bulrush than ever you was by a baggonet;—and that's saying much."

Bat bullied her, but bit his lip for vexation; and, by-and-by, you'll hear how he got on, and what came of the cunning-woman's foreboding. But wait a little, for I'm before my story, and must go back.—You heard me say, Bat called himself by the name of Bat Muggleburgh, awhile ago; and so he did: for, as I tould you, he denied the name of Boroo, because he said he'd no call to it; and that Muggleburgh was what he'd a right to,—and he'd own to it, and nothing else. Now, all this may be true enough; Bat's name may be Muggleburgh, and he Dick Boroo's son for all that:—for did any one ever know, or take the trouble to inquire, what was ould Dick's rale name—if he had one—besides Dick?—Boroo was a nick-name he got for some saying or prank, that was past by and forgotten entirely in my time, though the name still stuck to him. He wasn't an Irishman; but where he came from,—except he was a bit of a Dutch smuggler or something in his young days,—myself neither knows nor cares.

It's often he brags,—Bat does,—of the brave coat of arms that belongs to him, if he had his rights; and what great men the Muggleburghs was in times gone by. But that's no matter at all:—there's a regular descendant of the honourable kings of Meath sells butter at Cashel, and is as big a rogue as one here and there. I myself came from a fine family by my mother's side; but what's all the famous blood of her ancestors now?—One of the grandfathers of the worm you trod on o' Monday, had some of the best of it; and for my own part, I don't value that of great Bryan himself a rush and a half: but my mother didn't think so, poor thing,—rest her soul!

Well, by this time, you must be pretty well acquainted with Bat,—and, may be, tired of him; but wait till you hear what happened him.—Many months, but not a year, after Bat had his fortune tould in the manner I mentioned, we'd a poor scholar—a stripling of sixteen or so—with us here, for two, or it might be, three days, at the most. Good luck follow him! He was a lad we all loved, high and low,—and it's not very high the best of us is, sure enough,—for the boy behaved beautifully, though he'd a spice of the wag in him—And why not?—wasn't he young?—and isn't young days the best of days with us? And if we ar'n't merry then, when will we, I'd like to know?

Bat didn't like the poor scholar, and used to abuse him, because he convinced us all he knew more of the geography of foreign parts than Bat, who had been among them, as he said. And the night before the lad left us, Bat threatened to baste him, for smiling while he was preaching about the Muggleburgh arms, and bewailing the state of his digestive organs: and he would too, if it was not for this crutch of mine, and Mick Maguire's gun, and the piper of Drogheda's wooden leg, and one or two other impediments;—not to mention a feeling of goodness that came over him then in the poor scholar's favour;—for if Bat's a bully and a cormorant, he hasn't a bad heart, when all comes to all:—but the poor scholar didn't forget it to him.

The next morning, those who were up, and passed by Bat's door before he was awake, saw as fine a coat of arms figured out with chalk upon it, as the best of the Muggleburghs, in the height of their glory,—if ever they had any,—could well wish to look upon. And could any one thing suit Bat better?—Faith! then, nothing in the wide world. In the middle, was a dish instead of a shield, with a fat goose—Bat's favourite food—quartered upon it; and each side of the dish, what do you think there was, but a knife and fork for supporters; and, to crown all, perched upon the top was a swallow, for a crest! Then, at the foot, there was a table-cloth finely festooned, and words written upon it, by way of motto, which ran thus:—"Boroo edax rerum?" I remember them very well: first, there was Boroo; then came the name of my lady's steward, Misther Dax, with a little e before it;—then, after a blank, followed a re; and it ended, like a slave-driver's dinner, with rum:—Boroo edax rerum;—signifying, as the worthy coadjutor informed us, that Bat, like ould father Time, who takes a tower for his lunch, and a city for his supper, was a devourer of all things. The hand that can draw could make its master understood, where the tongue that spakes seven languages couldn't do a ha'p'orth; or so thinks Jimmy Fitzgerald,—that's me. Now, though we couldn't make out the motto, all of us down to the boys themselves knew what the figures of the goose, and the swallow, and so forth, stood for; and great was the shouting but Bat had a glass in his head, and didn't wake.

By-and-by, down he came with the pipe in his mouth; and, suspecting nothing at all, shut the door after him, and leaned his back against it as usual. When his backy was smoked, he threw away his pipe with an air, and strutted off through the place; and, behold! there was the chalk from the door on him, and he, not knowing it, bearing his arms on his own coat. Will I tell you how many boys and girls he had at his tail in ten minutes?—

I couldn't, without reckoning every living soul of them, within half-a-mile of this, or I would. For a long time, Bat didn't know what it was all about, and looked before and both sides of him to find out where the fun was, but he couldn't. "Look behind you!" says somebody. Bat looked, and there was the boys and girls laughing, and that was all: so he wint on again.

This couldn't last long though. After awhile Bat found out what made the boys follow him, as the little birds do the cuckoo; and then his rage wasn't little:—describe it I won't, for I can't; but I'll tell you what he did:—he suspected the scholar had played him that trick,—which was the truth,—and he found out which road he took; and you'll be sorry to hear he soon came within sight of his satchel.

Whether the boy heard Bat blowing and blustering I don't know, but he luckily glanced behind him, and seeing Bat and his big stick, did what any one in his place would, if he could,—put a hedge between him and his enemy. Bat followed him, vowing vengeance in the shape of a great basting, from one field to another; until, in the end,—he didn't know how,—he found he'd lost the boy, and discovered the prudence of taking to his heels himself; for there he was, in the midst of a meadow, and a fine, fierce-looking bull making up to him at a fast trot. Seeing this, Bat began to make calculations, and perfectly satisfied himself that before he could reach the hedge he came over, the bull would come up with him, and, in all probability, attack his rear. Bat couldn't very well like this: there wasn't much time for pros and cons with him; so he threw his stick at the beast, and away he wint, at a great rate towards a gate he saw in the nearest corner of the field. Though the bull wasn't far behind him, he contrived to reach and climb up the gate-post without being harmed but, musha!—what did he see, think you, when he got there?—

If ever man was in a dilemma, it was Bat. The gate led into the yard before young Pierce Veogh's kennel, and just below Bat, was a brace of as promising dogs for a bull-bait as you'd like to see, trying all they could to get a snap at Bat's leg, that was hanging their side of the gate-post. The dogs looked, and really were, more furious than usual,—which was needless for it happened to be just at the time when Pierce was away in the safe custody of Timberleg the bailiff, and they weren't fed in his absence quite so regularly as they'd wish. Bat knew this; and, thinks he, they'd make but little bones of a man of my weight, if they had me;—so that it wouldn't have been wise in him to have ventured into the yard. The gate wint close up to the garden-wall. But there was three impediments to Bat's going that way first, the gate was well spiked; next, if he didn't mind that, one of the dogs could reach him aisily from the top of their kennel as he passed; thirdly and lastly, if he defied the spikes, and escaped with a bite or two, and got to the garden-wall, there was a board, with "steel-traps" and so forth, staring in the face of him. And what other way had he of getting off?—Divil a one but two. One was, by dropping into the meadow again and that he might do well enough, but for the bull, who was bellowing below to get a rush at him;—the other, I think, was jumping off the post into the stream, upon the edge of which it was planted. The water wasn't wide, but it was deep, and Bat couldn't swim: and there he was, depend upon it, in as nice a dilemma as man had need be.—If you don't credit what I say, draw a map of his position as he sat on the post with the beasts on both sides, the spikes behind, and the water before him, and then tell me what you think.

Bat bellowed, and so did the bull, and the noises wint for one, and the dogs barked, but nobody came. By-and-by Bat saw a figure walking along the opposite bank, and who should it be but the ould cunning-woman! "Is that yourself, Bat?" says she.

"I think it is;—worse luck!" says he.

"That post of yours isn't the pleasantest post in the world I think," says she.

"I think not," says he.

"Didn't I tell you, Bat—"

"Bad luck to every bit of you!" says he, interrupting her; "bad luck to you and your bull-rushes too, and all them that plays upon words! I know well enough of what you're going to remind me."

"Bat," says she, "it isn't a year since I—"

"Ah! now go away," says he; "go away, now you've had your ends, and make up for the mischief, by calling some one to tie up the dogs,—or drive away the bull,—or bring a boat,—why can't you?"

The ould woman sat down, and smoked her pipe, and she and Bat had a little more confab this way across the stream; but, at last and in long run, he persuaded her to come to us here, and tell us how matters stood with Bat, and to beg us to help him off: not,—do you mind?—as I think, out of any humanity to the man, but to shew us how truly she'd foretould what was to happen him. I don't like her, so I'll say no good of her,—but this, namely,—she gave a poor boy who was upon the shaughran, without father or mother, house or home to his head, a penny and a blessing, when it's my belief, she'd little more to give. I say that,—for I'd like to give even a certain elderly gentleman, whose name I won't mention, his due,—much more a poor ould cunning-woman, that's weak flesh and blood, after all's said and done (though not a bit too good), like one's ownself.

Down came the woman, but she found few at home besides Mick Maguire, for a'most every mother's son that could move, had gone away to get Bat off his predicament before. Mick wouldn't go at all; for, he said, sure he was the bull bore a grudge against him, because he threw stones at his head, and bullied him once.

"Ah! but," says somebody, "may be, he wouldn't notice you, Mick."

"May be, he would though," says Mick; "so it's go I won't."

"But sure we'll all be wid you, Mick."

"That matters not," says he; "for the bull might be ripping up ould grievances, and select meeself, out of all of ye, to butt and abuse."

"But couldn't you bring your gun, man?"

"I could then, but I won't," says Mick; "for I'm inclined to suspect it wasn't to shoot his bull, that Misther Pierce Veogh gave it me."

You'll wonder how they came to know where Bat was,—won't you!—'Twas the poor scholar then, that ducked down in a ditch, from the bull on one side, and Bat on the other; and after that, saw how Bat got on with the bull, and came to tell us. So some of them wint to Pierce Veogh's people, and got the dogs called off, and down came Bat amongst them, swearing that if he'd his big stick,—which, he said, he'd dropped he didn't know how,—he'd baste the bull any day.