The Gridiron by
A certain old gentleman in the west of Ireland, whose love of the
ridiculous quite equalled his taste for claret and fox-hunting, was
wont, upon festive occasions, when opportunity offered, to amuse
his friends by DRAWING OUT one of his servants, exceedingly fond
of what he termed, his "thravels," and in whom a good deal of whim,
some queer stories, and, perhaps more than all, long and faithful
services had established a right of loquacity. He was one of those
few trusty and privileged domestics who, if his master unheedingly
uttered a rash thing in a fit of passion, would venture to set him
right. If the squire said, "I'll turn that rascal off," my friend
Pat would say, "Throth you won't, sir;" and Pat was always right,
for if any altercation arose upon the "subject-matter in hand,"
he was sure to throw in some good reason, either from former
services—general good conduct—or the delinquent's "wife and
children," that always turned the scale.
But I am digressing. On such merry meetings as I have alluded
to, the master, after making certain "approaches," as a military
man would say, as the preparatory steps in laying siege to some
extravaganza of his servant, might, perchance, assail Pat thus:
"By the by, Sir John" (addressing a distinguished guest), "Pat has
a very curious story, which something you told me to-day reminds
me of. You remember, Pat" (turning to the man, evidently pleased
at the notice thus paid to himself)—"you remember that queer
adventure you had in France?"
"Throth I do, sir," grins forth Pat.
"What!" exclaims Sir John, in feigned surprise, "was Pat ever in
"Indeed he was," cries mine host; and Pat adds, "Ay, and farther,
plase your honour."
"I assure you, Sir John," continues mine host, "Pat told me a story
once that surprised me very much, respecting the ignorance of the
"Indeed!" rejoined the baronet; "really, I always supposed the
French to be a most accomplished people."
"Throth, then, they're not, sir," interrupts Pat.
"Oh, by no means," adds mine host, shaking his head emphatically.
"I believe, Pat, 'twas when you were crossing the Atlantic?" says
the master, turning to Pat with a seductive air, and leading into
the "full and true account" (for Pat had thought fit to visit
North Amerikay, for "a raison he had," in the autumn of the year
"Yes, sir," says Pat, "the broad Atlantic"—a favourite phrase of
his, which he gave with a brogue as broad, almost, as the Atlantic
"It was the time I was lost in crassin' the broad Atlantic, a-comin'
home," began Pat, decoyed into the recital; "whin the winds began
to blow, and the saw to rowl, that you'd think the Colleen Dhas
(that was her name) would not have a mast left but what would rowl
out of her.
"Well, sure enough, the masts went by the hoard, at last, and the
pumps were choked (divil choke them for that same), and av coorse
the wather gained an us; and, throth, to be filled with wather is
neither good for man or baste; and she was sinkin' fast, settlin'
down, as the sailors call it; and, faith, I never was good at settlin'
down in my life, and I liked it then less nor ever. Accordingly
we prepared for the worst, and put out the boot, and got a sack o'
bishkits and a cask o' pork and a kag o' wather and a thrifle o'
rum aboord, and any other little matthers we could think iv in the
mortial hurry we wor in—and, faith, there was no time to be lost,
for, my darlint, the Colleen Dhas went down like a lump o' lead
afore we wor many sthrokes o' the oar away from her.
"Well, we dhrifted away all that night, and next mornin' we put
up a blanket an the end av a pole as well as we could, and then we
sailed illegant; for we darn't show a stitch o' canvas the night
before, bekase it was blowin' like bloody murther, savin' your
presence, and sure it's the wondher of the worid we worn't swally'd
alive by the ragin' sae.
"Well, away we wint, for more nor a week, and nothin' before our two
good-lookin' eyes but the canophy iv heaven and the wide ocean—the
broad Atlantic; not a thing was to be seen but the sae and the sky;
and though the sae and the sky is mighty purty things in themselves,
throth, they're no great things when you've nothin' else to look
at for a week together; and the barest rock in the world, so it
was land, would be more welkim. And then, soon enough, throth, our
provisions began to run low, the bishkits and the wather and the
rum—throth, THAT was gone first of all—God help uz!—and oh! it
was thin that starvation began to stare us in the face. 'O murther,
murther, Captain darlint,' says I, 'I wish we could land anywhere,'
"'More power to your elbow, Paddy, my boy,' says he, 'for sitch a
good wish, and, throth, it's myself wishes the same.'
"'Och,' says I, 'that it may plase you, sweet queen iv heaven,
supposing it was only a DISSOLUTE island,' says I, 'inhabited wid
Turks, sure they wouldn't be such bad Chrishthans as to refuse us
a bit and a sup.'
"'Whisht, whisht, Paddy,' says the captain, 'don't be talking bad
of any one,' says he; 'you don't know how soon you may want a good
word put in for yourself, if you should be called to quarthers in
th' other world all of a suddint," says he.
"'Thrue for you, Captain darlint,' says I—I called him darlint,
and made free with him, you see, bekase disthress makes us
all equal—'thrue for you, Captain jewel—God betune uz and harm,
I own no man any spite'—and, throth, that was only thruth. Well,
the last bishkit was sarved out, and, by gor, the WATHER ITSELF
was all gone at last, and we passed the night mighty cowld. Well,
at the brake o' day the sun riz most beautifully out o' the waves,
that was as bright as silver and as clear as chrystal. But it was
only the more cruel upon us, for we wor beginnin' to feel TERRIBLE
hungry; when all at wanst I thought I spied the land. By gor, I
thought I felt my heart up in my throat in a minit, and 'Thunder
an' turf, Captain,' says I, 'look to leeward,' says I.
"'What for?' says he.
"'I think I see the land,' says I.
"So hes ups with his bring-'em-near (that's what the sailors call
a spy-glass, sir), and looks out, and, sure enough, it was.
"'Hurrah!' says he, 'we're all right now; pull away, my boys,' says
"'Take care you're not mistaken,' says I; 'maybe it's only a
fog-bank, Captain darlint,' says I.
"'Oh no,' says he; 'it's the land in airnest.'
"'Oh, then, whereaboats in the wide world are we, Captain?' says
I; 'maybe it id be in ROOSIA, or PROOSIA, the Garmant Oceant,' says
"'Tut, you fool,' says he, for he had that consaited way wid him,
thinkin' himself cleverer nor any one else—'tut, you fool,' says
he, 'that's FRANCE,' says he.
"'Tare an ouns,' says I, 'do you tell me so? and how do you know
it's France it is, Captain dear?' says I.
"'Bekase this is the Bay o' Bishky we're in now,' says he.
"'Throth, I was thinkin' so myself,' says I, 'by the rowl it has;
for I often heerd av it in regard of that same; and, throth, the
likes av it I never seen before nor since, and, with the help of
God, never will.'
"Well, with that, my heart began to grow light; and when I seen my
life was safe, I began to grow twice hungrier nor ever; so says I,
'Captain jewel, I wish we had a gridiron.'
"'Why, then,' says he, 'thunder an' turf,' says he, 'what puts a
gridiron into your head?'
"'Bekase I'm starvin' with the hunger,' says I.
"'And, sure, bad luck to you,' says he, 'you couldn't eat a gridiron,'
says he, 'barrin' you were a PELICAN O' THE WILDHERNESS,' says he.
"'Ate a gridiron!' says I. 'Och, in throth, I'm not such a gommoch
all out as that, anyhow. But, sure, if we had a gridiron we could
dress a beefstake,' says I.
"'Arrah! but where's the beefstake?' says he.
"'Sure, couldn't we cut a slice aff the pork?' says I.
"'By gor, I never thought o' that,' says the captain. 'You're a
clever fellow, Paddy,' says he, laughin'.
"'Oh, there's many a true word said in joke,' says I.
"'Thrue for you, Paddy,' says he.
"'Well, then,' says I, 'if you put me ashore there beyant (for we
were nearin' the land all the time), 'and, sure, I can ax them for
to lind me the loan of a gridiron,' says I.
"'Oh, by gor, the butther's comin' out o' the stirabout in airnest
now,' says he; 'you gommoch,' says he, 'sure I told you before
that's France—and, sure, they're all furriners there,' says the
"'Well, says I, 'and how do you know but I'm as good a furriner
myself as any o' thim?'
"'What do you mane?' says he.
"'I mane,' says I, 'what I towld you, that I'm as good a furriner
myself as any o thim.'
"'Make me sinsible,' says he.
"'By dad, maybe that's more nor me, or greater nor me, could do,'
says I; and we all began to laugh at him, for I thought I would
pay him off for his bit o' consait about the Garmant Oceant.
"'Lave off your humbuggin',' says he, 'I bid you, and tell me what
it is you mane at all at all.'
"'Parly voo frongsay?' says I.
"'Oh, your humble sarvant,' says he; 'why, by gor, you're a scholar,
"'Thruth, you may say that,' says I.
"'Why, you're a clever fellow, Paddy,' says the captain, jeerin'
"'You're not the first that said that,' says I, 'whether you joke
"'Oh, but I'm in airnest,' says the captain; 'and do you tell me,
Paddy,' says he, 'that you spake Frinch?'
"'Parly voo frongsay?' says I.
"'By gor, that bangs Banagher, and all the world knows Banagher
bangs the divil. I never met the likes o' you, Paddy,' says he.
'Pull away, boys, and put Paddy ashore, and maybe we won't get a
good bellyful before long.'
"So, with that, it wos no sooner said nor done. They pulled away,
and got close into shore in less than no time, and run the boat
up in a little creek; and a beautiful creek it was, with a lovely
white sthrand—an illegant place for ladies to bathe in the summer;
and out I got; and it's stiff enough in the limbs I was, afther
bein' cramped up in the boat, and perished with the cowld and
hunger; but I conthrived to scramble on, one way or t' other, tow'rd
a little bit iv a wood that was close to the shore, and the smoke
curlin' out iv it, quite timptin' like.
"'By the powdhers o' war, I'm all right,' says I; 'there's a house
there.' And, sure enough, there was, and a parcel of men, women,
and childher, ating their dinner round a table, quite convanient.
And so I wint up to the door, and I thought I'd be very civil to
them, as I heerd the Frinch was always mighty p'lite intirely, and
I thought I'd show them I knew what good manners was.
"So I took aff my hat, and, making a low bow, says I, 'God save
all here,' says I.
"Well, to be sure, they all stapt ating at wanst, and began to
stare at me, and, faith, they almost looked me out of countenance;
and I thought to myself, it was not good manners at all, more betoken
from furriners which they call so mighty p'lite. But I never minded
that, in regard o' wantin' the gridiron; and so says I, 'I beg your
pardon,' says I, 'for the liberty I take, but it's only bein' in
disthress in regard of ating,' says I, 'that I made bowld to throuble
yez, and if you could lind me the loan of a gridiron,' says I, 'I'd
be intirely obleeged to ye.'
"By gor, they all stared at me twice worse nor before, and with
that, says I (knowing what was in their minds), 'Indeed, it's thrue
for you,' says I. 'I'm tatthered to pieces, and God knows I look
quare enough; but it's by raison of the storm,' says I, 'which
dhruv us ashore here below, and we're all starvin',' says I.
"So then they began to look at each other again; and myself seeing
at once dirty thoughts was in their heads, and that they tuk me
for a poor beggar coming to crave charity, with that says I, 'Oh,
not at all,' says I, 'by no manes—we have plenty of mate ourselves
there below, and we'll dhress it,' says I, 'if you would be plased
to lind us the loan of a gridiron,' says I, makin' a low bow.
"Well, sir, with that, throth, they stared at me twice worse
nor ever, and, faith, I began to think that maybe the captain was
wrong, and that it was not France at all at all; and so says I, 'I
beg pardon, sir,' says I to a fine ould man, with a head of hair
as white as silver; 'maybe I'm under a mistake,' says I, 'but I
thought I was in France, sir; aren't you furriners?' says I. 'Parly
"'We, munseer,' says he.
"'Then would you lind me the loan of a gridiron,' says I, 'if you
"Oh, it was thin that they stared at me as if I had seven heads;
and, faith, myself began to feel flushed like and onaisy; and
so says I, makin' a bow and scrape ag'in, 'I know it's a liberty
I take, sir,' says I, 'but it's only in the regard of bein' cast
away; and if you plase, sir,' says I, 'parly voo frongsay?'
"'We, munseer,' says he, mighty sharp.
"'Then would you lind me the loan of a gridiron?' says I, 'and
you'll obleege me.'
"Well, sir, the ould chap began to munseer me; but the divil a bit
of a gridiron he'd gi' me; and so I began to think they wor all
neygars, for all their fine manners; and, throth, my blood begun
to rise, and says I, 'By my sowl, if it was you was in disthress,'
says I, 'and if it was to ould Ireland you kem, it's not only the
gridiron they'd give you, if you axed it, but something to put an
it, too, and the drop o' dhrink into the bargain, and cead mile
"Well, the word cead mile failte seemed to sthreck his heart,
and the ould chap cocked his ear, and so I thought I'd give him
another offer, and make him sinsible at last; and so says I, wanst
more, quite slow, that he might understand, 'Parly—voo—frongsay,
"'We, munseer,' says he.
"'Then lind me the loan of a gridiron,' says I, 'and bad scram to
"Well, bad win to the bit of it he'd gi' me, and the ould chap begins
bowin' and scrapin', and said something or other about a long tongs.
[Footnote: Some mystification of Paddy's touching the French
"'Phoo!—the divil swape yourself and your tongs,' says I; 'I don't
want a tongs at all at all; but can't you listen to raison?' says
I. 'Parly voo frongsay?'
"'Then lind me the loan of a gridiron,' says I, 'and howld your
"Well, what would you think, but he shook his old noddle as much as
to say he wouldn't; and so says I, 'Bad cess to the likes o' that
I ever seen! Throth, if you wor in my counthry, it's not that away
they'd use you. The curse o' the crows an you, you ould sinner,'
says I; 'the divil a longer i'll darken your door.'
"So he seen I was vexed; and I thought, as I was turnin' away, I
seen him begin to relint, and that his conscience throubled him;
and says I, turnin' back, 'Well, I'll give you one chance more,
you ould thief. Are you a Chrishthan at all? Are you a furriner,'
says I,' that all the world calls so p'lite? Bad luck to you, do
you understand your own language? Parly voo frongsay?' says I.
"'We, munseer,' says he.
"'Then, thunder an' turf,' says I, 'will you lind me the loan of
"Well, sir, the divil resa've the bit of it he'd gi' me; and
so, with that, 'The curse o' the hungry an you, you ould neygarly
villain,' says I; 'the back o' my hand and the sowl o' my foot to
you, that you may want a gridiron yourself yit,' says I. And with
that I left them there, sir, and kem away; and, in throth, it's
often sense that I thought that it was remarkable."