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
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
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
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
"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.