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  ― 86 ―

The First Train to Muncoodra.

“Do ye moind th' toime, Mrs. Bush,” said my neighbour, a little atomy of an Irishman, with a face for all the world like a chimpanzee, bright, beady black eyes, and a shock of greasy, straggling black curls that turned up in wayward abandon beneath the brim of his little pot hat, and clustered in oily, fantastic ringlets over his not-too-clean collar. “Do ye moind th' toime,” repeated he, “whin th' fust thrain come to Muncoodra?”

“No, Mr. O'Mara,” replied the lady addressed—a hard-faced, shrewd woman of portly dimensions, whose bejewelled neck, bosom, and fingers unmistakably proclaimed her the prosperous innkeeper she strove not to appear. “I was not there, you know, though I have often heard of it,” she hastened to add, seeing a mischievous twinkle in the beady black eyes of the Irishman.

“No more ye was. No more ye was,” chuckled Mr. O'Mara, with a sly wink at the lean, cadaverous-looking man on the seat opposite. “An' more's th' pity that th' young spalpeens shud have chosen sich a toime t' inthrude thimselves on yer plans—th' varmints, kapin' their mother from all th' fun!”

“Mr. O'Mara!” rapped out the lady, trying to look dignified.

“Thrue it is, Mrs. Bush, nor need ye blush to own it. For they was as foine a pair av twins, both ov 'em, as ever was, an' it's a foine shtrappin' pair o' lads they do be growin', an' ye had every raison to be a proud woman that day. An' it's moity few—”

“But what about the first train coming to Muncoodra, Mr. O'Mara?” said the lean man, seeing the lady's embarrassment, and coming to her aid.

“Thrue fur ye, Mr. Whilks, thrue fur ye. Oh, it's th' man of tack ye be, tu be shure! Ye can't bate the lyers fur tack, sor,” said the little man, turning to me. “Whoi, Mr. Whilks here'll tak' his way thru the most inthricate case that ivver set Kentucky lyers talkin', an' whin he's thru wid it he'll tak' his fill o' th' verdic', an' ye'll tak' what ye can get an' be thankful.”

The general laugh raised by this remark somewhat disconcerted the lawyer, who nevertheless joined in it, to put as good a face as possible on his discomfiture.

By this time the attention of the assorted occupants of the crowded, stuffy compartment of the train slowly winding its way, with the wearisome, snail-like pace of most branch line trains, amongst the brown, drought-stricken hills, was directed to the little Irishman, who evidently desired a full audience before he would relate his story.

“Well,” said he, “th' fust toime th' thrain come to Muncoodra there was great ructions an' great shenanikin, I can tell ye. We was all of us, from moiles around, invoited t' inshpect th' ‘oiron horse,' as they called it. An'


  ― 87 ―
they was much whonderin' phwat sort of a steed it cud be. They was to be a great gatherin' at the staation to mate th' baste, wid lashins o' grog an' ateables enough an' plenty.

“An' th' Gundamurra town band was engaged fur th' occaasion, an' nary a wan of th' bhoys had cast oies on a thrain befure. Muncoodra had no town band, an' a coach had been sint fur th' Gundamurra bhoys, who had been practising their schales and exercoises fur whakes an' whakes befure, an' blowing thimsilves hoarse, as was most approhpriate, until it was feared by airy wan of us they'd moightily scare the baste whin they did mate him.

“Well, whin the toime come, it was a foine sight to see the staation, wid th' flaags floyin' an' ivvery wan dhressed up in their go-to-meetin' best, and bowers and shtrings and festunes of greenery stretched acrost frum soide to soide. An' th' Gundamurra bhoys was there, wid their foine new uniforms—all exceptin' th' caps, which hadn't arroived—an' their big drum, festunated wid ribbons and wreaths, an' their brass blowers and thrumpets laughin' back at the sun an' makin' ye blink and wink as ye looked at 'em.

“But th' faces of th' bhoys was shinin' even broighter as niver was as a whistle sounded beyant from th' turn where the loine twisst in frum th' cuttin', an' wid chests and cheeks puffed out they put th' corrnets and thrumpets an' blowers in front of their faces an' guv it lip wid ‘See, the Conquerin' Hero Comes.' An' come he did, too, wid a vengeance, snortin' and puffin' towards us, brathin' sparks an' smoke and shakin' th' ground like a rale hero.

“Th' bhoys didn't half loike it, aither, an' many a wan lost his note wid turnin' arround to look at the dhreadful noise. But Mikey Ryan, th' bandmaster, kep' at 'em so strong wid his bit of a shtick goin' up an' down, ‘wan, two, three fure; wan, two, three fure,' so fast an' so firm that it pulled 'em thegither a bit.

“Well, an' foine it was—fur a bit—while th' thrain was beyant, but moighty shakey an' quaverin' did it grow as the engine began t' come ferninst 'em. An' thin, be janus, 'twas an aisy conquerin' fur th' hero, fur th' bhoys, wid one shout o' terror, dhropped their blowers and brasses—those that cud of thim; the wans that had their heads thru didn't wait fur that—an' wid a mad rush made fur the fince at th' soide, and some lepped it, an' some didn't, but jest thoppled over into th' dhust an' schrambled to their feet wid their uniforms torn an' dhirty and their blowers bent straight and crooked. But they was all moighty handy wid their feet, and they skedaddled up th' shtreet loike as if Auld Nick himself was after thim, an' nary a shtop did they make till they had a whole block betune thim an' the staation.

“But not so Mikey Ryan, th' bandmaster. He was a thrue son of auld Oireland, an' whin he saw the bhoys had desarted him an' he had no wan to conducth, phwat did he do but conducth himself an' march along ferninst th' engine as bhold as brass, batin' toime wid his stick, ‘wan, two, three, fure; wan, two, three fure.' An' so, loike th' brave broth of an Oirish bhoy he was, he saaved th' situaation fur th' Gundamurra Town Band, an escoorted himsilf—bein' the rale conquerin' hero of th' ocaasion—till he an' the thrain come to a sthandstill amidst the cheers of th' assimbled bysthanders, minny of whom was rollin' back in their sates wid laughin' at him.”

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