I gave the letter to the valet, and calling a coach drove to the office, and in less than five minutes afterwards was rolling away to Holyhead, felicitating myself upon my promptitude and decision, little imagining to what the step I had taken was to lead.
It was a very dark night in November when I started on my expedition. There were three other passengers in the mail, none of whom had yet spoken a word, although we had made several miles of our journey. Muffled up in my cloak, I indulged in my own reveries as usual, building up castles which toppled over one after another as I built and rebuilt again. At last one of the passengers blew his nose, as if to give warning that he was about to speak; and then inquired of the gentleman next him if he had seen the evening newspapers. The other replied in the negative. “It would appear that Ireland is not in a very quiet state, sir,” observed the first.
“Did you ever read the history of Ireland?” inquired the other.
“Not very particularly.”
“Then, sir, if you were to take that trouble, you will find that Ireland, since it was first peopled, never has been in a quiet state, nor perhaps ever will. It is a species of human volcano—always either smoking, burning, or breaking out into eruptions and fire.”
“Very true, sir,” replied the other. “I am told the White Boys are mustering in large numbers, and that some of the districts are quite impassable.”
“Sir, if you had travelled much in Ireland, you would have found out that many of the districts are quite impassable, without the impediment of the White Boys.”
“You have been a great deal in Ireland then, sir,” replied the other.
“Yes, sir,” said the other with a consequential air, “I believe I may venture to say that I am in charge of some of the most considerable properties in Ireland.”
“Lawyer—agent—five per cent.—and so on,” muttered the third party, who sate by me, and had not yet spoken.
There was no mistaking him—it was my former master, Mr Cophagus; and I cannot say that I was very well pleased at this intimation of his presence, as I took it for granted that he would recognise me as soon as it was daylight. The conversation continued, without any remarks being made upon this interruption on the part of Mr Cophagus. The agent, it appeared, had been called to London on business, and was returning. The other was a professor of music bound to Dublin on speculation. What called Mr Cophagus in that direction I could not comprehend; but I thought I would try and find out, I therefore, while the two others were engaged in conversation, addressed him in a low tone of voice. “Can you tell me, sir, if the College at Dublin is considered good for the instruction of surgical pupils?”
“Country good, at all events plenty of practice—broken heads—and so on.”
“Have you ever been in Ireland, sir?”