The Quarterclift; or The Life and Advetures of Hudy McGuigan, by Hugh Harkin
originally published 1841; published in facsimile by Ballinascreen Historical
144pp, + brief introduction and notes
available from Ballinascreen Historical Society, Draperstown, Co Derry
Chapter XVII - The Ball
[edited excerpt: red letters replace blanks in the original]
Just then they were joined by an old gentleman, Mr Stevenson, of Fort William. He had been amusing himself at the card-table, and was rather uninformed with regard to the presence of our hero, who was intimately known to him, though by no means one of his favourites. Surprised as much at his dress as by his presence in the ballroom, he looked amazed, and with mixed surprise and indignation exclaimed: "In the name of wonder, Counsellor Torrens, why has this mischievous idiot been introduced here? I take the liberty of saying it is an outrage on delicacy and all gentlemanly feeling!"
The Counsellor was about to reply when the Clift, who had listened with delighted attention, took up the word: "Augh, yer sarvant, Mr Stevenson; faix it's a long time since you and me met at a ball before - maybe ye would join me an' Lady Hill in a three-reel; by my sowl, I'll be bound she'll trip it nate, and shure yerself's not too ould to shake yer foot in company wid a nice young crather!"
The old gentleman "looked unutterable things"; he had known his customer merely as a wild untameable being, delighting in mischief, and practising his tricks, without much regard to rank or age - but here he stood in a new character, and the droll diablerie that flashed from his eyes told more on the old gentleman's temper than the perpetration of one of his most reckless freaks. The party was entranced. Lady Hill thought she saw the commencement of a rich scene, and in order to precipitate it slyly said: "If Mr Stevenson please to dance, I shall be delighted to be one of the party."
Mr Stevenson stared: he thought the lady demented; and with grave dignity replied: "Does Lady Hill forget her rank and station? Or does she wish deliberately to insult a man of my years?"
"Far be it from me, my dear Sir. I think I could not act so unworthily; and I am sure on reflection your own innate politeness, and high sense of gallantry, will absolve me from all such intention."
"A home-blow, by my sowl! Augh, by the powers, Mr Stevenson, ye should keep out of short-grips wid the ladies; they're like Billy McCay of Portglenone: 'worth bein' let alone', do ye mind."
"Silence, unmannered hound!" was the bitter reply.
"There's for ye now! Manners! Well, by the powers! Faix an' it's some people have quare thoughts about them same. By my sowl, my ould buck, I'm afeard the darlin' bit of a race we had wan day sticks in yer crawpin yet, do ye mind!"
"You abominable scoundrel, do you dare to laugh at me after the wanton outrage you committed. But I shall yet punish you as you deserve."
And, in a towering passion, he was about to retire when his son, Major Stevenson, attracted by his father's high tones, came forward. "Why father," said the young man, "surely you would not resent the little piece of drollery our friend the Chevalier played off against you?"
"Yes Sir I would; and did you feel as you ought upon the occasion, you would horsewhip the rascal!"
"Why, faith, that would be an act which might have rather an unpleasant termination; besides, you must recollect that you gave some provocation."
But the old gentleman whisked off in a rage, without deigning to listen to further expostulation.
"Augh, don't bother yer father, Major; he has ould-fashioned notions, do ye mind. By my sowl, he would have ye believe men was mice; but bad luck to me if ivir I could creep into a hole at the proud look or beddy word of any man; though, in thrath, I might have passed him anyhow, and would have only for yer own four bones, Major. Divil a man in the county could help the lame dog over the stile betther nor yerself, do ye mind."
A loud laugh at the Major's expense was the natural result of this ready hit; but, anxious to continue the colloquy, "Pray Chevalier explain," said Lady Hill, "what cause of offence rankles so bitterly in Mr Stevenson's breast."
"By the powers, then, 'tis aisy tould: he was ridin' up wan day to the Six Towns - that's his own estate, do ye mind - an' there was a parcel of young fellas of us jumpin' an the road; an', well becomes himself, he ordhers us out of his way, like as many dogs, ye parsave; an' my blood was up, an' says I, 'Do ye want a ride acrass the counthry, Mr Stevenson? Because if ye do, I'm yer man,' says I; but faix the ould chap took the hint, an' he claps spurs to the horse, an' aff he goes like blazes, wid meself hot foot afther him, an' divil a single totther an my body, no more nor the hour I was born, savin' yer presence!"
Lady Hill's fan, as well as those of other ladies now congregated around the party, was brought into immediate use; while the gentlemen, witty to the very verge of propriety, showed some little inclination to amplify, or rather fill up a picture, the outlines of which had been so rapidly sketched by the Clift.
"How far did you follow Mr Stevenson?" asked the gay actuating genius of the night.
"Seven mile, by the powers! Divil a yard less! An' manys a time it was 'head an' girth' wid us; but faix the black horse cut a prime bottom, an' fairly bate me out for it, an' so I had pains for my throuble, do ye mind."
"But why did you follow him so far - I should think the chase was hopeless?"
"Whew! By my sowl, that's all ye know about it. Divil a horse in twenty I couldnae run down - but, in thrath, it was the Major egged me up to it, ye parsave."
"I wasn't aware that the Major was in company with his father," said Lady Hill.
"No more was he - but him an' young Mr Colthurst was coorsin' an the mountains an' met us; an' his father called out to him an' says he, "For the sake of marcy, William, take that madman aff me"; but, by the powers, the Major was jist as fand of the sport as I was, an' he winks at myself, an' he cocks his thum' over his shouldher afther the ould chap, as much as to say, stick it in to him, yer sowl; an' an I went - but, by the powers, he bate me out for it, an' cleverly too, do ye mind."
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