Chapter 10

Protestant young gentlemen - The Greek letters - Open chimney - Murtagh - Paris and Salamanca - Nothing to do - To whit, to whoo! - The pack of cards - Before Christmas.

WE continued at this place for some months, during which time the soldiers performed their duties, whatever they were; and I, having no duties to perform, was sent to school. I had been to English schools, and to the celebrated one of Edinburgh; but my education, at the present day, would not be what it is - perfect, had I never had the honour of being alumnus in an Irish seminary.

‘Captain,’ said our kind host, ‘you would, no doubt, wish that the young gentleman should enjoy every advantage which the town may afford towards helping him on in the path of genteel learning. It’s a great pity that he should waste his time in idleness - doing nothing else than what he says he has been doing for the last fortnight - fishing in the river for trouts which he never catches; and wandering up the glen in the mountain, in search of the hips that grow there. Now, we have a school here, where he can learn the most elegant Latin, and get an insight into the Greek letters, which is desirable; and where, moreover, he will have an opportunity of making acquaintance with all the Protestant young gentlemen of the place, the handsome well-dressed young persons whom your honour sees in the church on the Sundays, when your honour goes there in the morning, with the rest of the Protestant military; for it is no Papist school, though there may be a Papist or two there - a few poor farmers’ sons from the country, with whom there is no necessity for your honour’s child to form any acquaintance at all, at all!’

And to the school I went, where I read the Latin tongue and the Greek letters, with a nice old clergyman, who sat behind a black oaken desk, with a huge Elzevir Flaccus before him, in a long gloomy kind of hall, with a broken stone floor, the roof festooned with cobwebs, the walls considerably dilapidated, and covered over with strange figures and hieroglyphics, evidently produced by the application of burnt stick; and there I made acquaintance with the Protestant young gentlemen of the place, who, with whatever clat they might appear at church on a Sunday, did assuredly not exhibit to much advantage in the schoolroom on the week days, either with respect to clothes or looks. And there I was in the habit of sitting on a large stone, before the roaring fire in the huge open chimney, and entertaining certain of the Protestant young gentlemen of my own age, seated on similar stones, with extraordinary accounts of my own adventures, and those of the corps, with an occasional anecdote extracted from the story-books of Hickathrift and Wight Wallace, pretending to be conning the lesson all the while.

And there I made acquaintance, notwithstanding the hint of the landlord, with the Papist ‘gossoons,’ as they were called, the farmers’ sons from the country; and of these gossoons, of whom there were three, two might be reckoned as nothing at all; in the third, however, I soon discovered that there was something extraordinary.

He was about sixteen years old, and above six feet high, dressed in a gray suit; the coat, from its size, appeared to have been made for him some ten years before. He was remarkably narrow-chested and round-shouldered, owing, perhaps as much to the tightness of his garment as to the hand of nature. His face was long, and his complexion swarthy, relieved, however, by certain freckles, with which the skin was plentifully studded. He had strange wandering eyes, gray, and somewhat unequal in size; they seldom rested on the book, but were generally wandering about the room, from one object to another. Sometimes he would fix them intently on the wall, and then suddenly starting, as if from a reverie, he would commence making certain mysterious movements with his thumbs and forefingers, as if he were shuffling something from him.

One morning, as he sat by himself on a bench, engaged in this manner, I went up to him, and said, ‘Good-day, Murtagh; you do not seem to have much to do?’

‘Faith, you may say that, Shorsha dear! - it is seldom much to do that I have.’

‘And what are you doing with your hands?’

‘Faith, then, if I must tell you, I was e’en dealing with the cards.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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