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Albert W. Aiken, a younger brother of George L. Aiken (q.v.) and a cousin of George L. Fox, the famous clown, was one of a family of actors, and although he was very popular in his day, newspaper and theatrical journals have been searched in vain for a good biographical sketch. Only a few scattered notes have been found.
Albert Aiken was born in Boston about 1846. In a note accompanying his portrait in the Harvard Theatrical Collection, he is briefly described as an "actor, vocalist and playwright." To this should be added "author," for he was for years one of the most prolific and versatile of the Beadle group. At various times in his career as an actor he retired from the stage to take up the pen.
The following brief notes contain all the information found about him:
On May 23, 1869, his play "The Witches of New York" was produced; on August 15, 1869, "The Ace of Spades"; and on June 17, 1870, "The Red Mazeppa; or, The Madman of the Plains," appeared. "The Heart of Gold" was played for the first time on August 22, 1870, and he himself acted in it when it was played in Brooklyn, August 28, 1871. On March 11, 1872, he commenced a season at Kelly and Lewis' Theatre, but it was a failure and closed March 23d. On May 13, 1872, he reappeared in his own play, "The Witches of New York," at the Bowery Theatre, New York, which opened that day. Between the two appearances of this play he had published the story, under the pseudonym "Agile Penne," as a serial in the Saturday Journal, beginning in No. 41, December 24, 1870, and entitled "Orphan Nell, the Orange Girl." It was expanded later under the title "Royal Keene, the California Detective; or, The Witches of New York," in the same journal, beginning in No. 119, June 22, 1872. In the Correspondents' Column of the Saturday Journal, No. 74, it is stated that 'Agile Penne' is about 30 years old, was born in Boston, and during the Civil War was commissioned captain in the First Arkansas Regiment." The first two items apply correctly to Aiken, but whether the last one is correct could not be confirmed.
From the Brooklyn Directory we learn that he lived with his brother George at 613 Kosciusko Avenue in 1872-73, and at 668 DeKalb Avenue in 1875-77. In 1876 he wrote "The Molly Maguires," a story of a secret society in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, for the Fireside Companion. This was rewritten as a play, in which he took the part of Harry Andenreich when it was produced July 3, 1876 (and what a glorious play it seemed when I saw it as a boy some years later!)
In 1879 he spent the summer at Red Bank, on Shrewbury waters, on a chicken farm, and in the same year played in his "Alma, the Orphan," on tour.
He retired temporarily from the stage in 1881 to devote himself entirely to writing for Beadle, but by May 4, 1885, he was back on the stage with the Albert Aiken Co., which opened in New York on that day. For a time, also, he ran a theatre in Brooklyn, called Aiken's Museum.
In 1873, Aiken was married to Mary A. T. Crawford, eldest daughter of Thomas P. Crawford, of Brooklyn. He died in Keyport, New Jersey, August 19, 1894,(1) and was survived by his wife and six children, one of whom was the actor, Paul L. Aiken, and another the actress, Louise Wyatt.
Besides writing under his own name, he used the following pseudonyms(2) in novels published by Beadle: Agile Penne, Capt. Frank P. Armstrong, Major Lewis W. Carson, Col. Delle Sara Lieut. Alfred B. Thorne, Adelaide (also Frances Helen) Davenport, and A Celebrated Actress. Perhaps "Redmond Blake" (q.v.) was also one of his.
REFERENCES: The Saturday Journal, III, No. 119, June 22, 1872; IV, No. 174, July 12, 1873; X, No. 490, August 2, 1879; X, No. 504, November 8, 1879; New York Clipper Annual, 1886, 6; New York Clipper, XLII, August 25, 1894, 390, and September 8, 1894, 423; Thomas Allston Brown, A History of the New York Stage, New York, 1903, II, 151, 296; George C. Jenks, "The Dime Novel Makers," Bookman, (New York) XX, 1904, 108; Dict. Amer. Biog.; Edmund Pearson, Dime Novels, Boston, 1929, 123; G. C. D. Odell, Annals of the New York Stage, VIII, 589; IX, 161; X, 40.
Dime Novels. Nos. 173, 179, 196, 328, 369, 384, 391, 552, 558, 614
Saturday Journal. Nos. 9, 20, 30, 35, 49, 57, 68, 102, 119, 140, 152, 167, 181, 190, 196, 211, 227, 245, 264, 380, 400, 420, 445, 460, 481, 495, 515, 530, 541, 561, 585, 599, 614, 625, 635, 648
Beadle's Weekly. Nos. 2, 13, 23, 37, 46, 52, 65, 92, 103, 114, 130, 139,151
Banner Weekly. Nos. 163, 175, 187, 205, 214, 232, 255, 267, 288, 306, 321, 353, 374, 392, 425, 440, 467, 482, 491, 507, 518, 541, 553, 569, 579, 591, 622
Pocket Novels. Nos. 2, 8, 247
Twenty Cent Novels. Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 13, 16, 23, 24, 25, 26
Fireside Library. No. 55
Dime Library. Nos. 27, 31, 33, 34, 35, 36, 38, 41, 42, 49, 56, 59, 63, 72, 75, 77, 79, 81, 84, 91, 93, 97, 101, 107, 112, 130, 161, 173, 196, 203, 252, 320, 349, 354, 363, 370, 376, 381, 384, 391, 408, 419, 423, 440, 461, 465, 475, 490, 497, 520, 529, 537, 556, 562, 570, 577, 586, 594, 601, 607, 613, 620, 628, 632, 637, 647, 652, 660, 665, 670, 674, 681, 700, 708, 717, 725, 729, 733, 737, 741, 745, 749, 753, 760, 775, 793, 799, 814, 825, 835, 842, 865, 876, 892, 907, 925, 926, 932, 935, 940, 944, 949, 954, 959, 965, 976, 980, 988, 997, 996, 999,1003, 1008, 1039, 1048, 1051, 1060, 1077, 1099, 1102
Half-Dime Library. Nos. 77, 76, 79, 233, 447, 458, 464, 493, 510, 518, 1108, 1158
Waverley Library (quarto). Nos. 130, 165
Waverley Library (octavo). No. 52
Boy's Library (quarto). Nos. 15, 72
Boy's Library (octavo). Nos. 3, 64, 215
Pocket Library. Nos. 5, 60, 63, 72, 219, 277, 291, 380, 481
The following novels were published under the name "Agile Penne."
Saturday Journal. Nos. 41, 65, 101, 387
Waverley Library (quarto). Nos. 20, 30
Waverley Library (octavo). Nos. 29, 42
The following novels were published under the name "Frank P. Armstrong."
Dime Novels. Nos. 200, 204
The following novels were published under the name "Lewis W. Carson."
Starr's American Novels. Nos. 20, 25, 29, 32, 37, 52, 101, 120, 137
Dime Novels. Nos. 343, 353, 358, 566, 570, 592
Pocket Novels. Nos. 77, 22, 73, 78, 96, 262, 272
Half-Dime Library. Nos. 278, 283
Boy's Library (octavo). Nos. 140, 168, 303
Pocket Library. Nos. 243, 254, 445
The following novel was published as by "A Celebrated Actress."
Fireside Library. No. 100
Under the name "Adelaide Davenport" was published:
Saturday Journal. No. 567
Under the name "Frances Helen Davenport" were published:
Waverley Library (quarto). Nos. 149, 199
Waverley Library (octavo). No. 105
Under the name "Col. Delle Sara" were published:
Saturday Journal. Nos. 362, 394, 478, 527, 553
Twenty Cent Novels. No. 32
Dime Library. Nos: 53, 87, 106
Half-Dime Library. Nos. 703, 786
Under the name "Lieut. Alfred B. Thorne, U.S.N." was published:
Half-Dime Library. No. 317
SPECIMENS OF ALBERT W. AIKEN'S STYLE
"Overland Kit; or. The Idyl of White Pine." Beadle and Adams's Twenty Cent Novels No. I, pp. 143-47.
Joe Rain, standing in the center of the little road that ran northward by the side of the Reese, trembled.
Around him, the pines surged fitfully in the breeze that swept ever downward from the great rocky peaks of the Sierra. The tall walls of the canyon went straight upward, like a structure built by human hands, towards the heavens. And from the sky the full round moon shone down, though every now and then a sullen cloud passed over and hid the light of the vestal orb, as if the dark-hued courier of the sky, sailing upon the bosom of the air, was jealous of the silver sheen.
Rain, the desperado, the man upon whose soul lay the weight of a hundred crimes—whose life from boyhood had been but one long record of wrong—trembled, standing alone in that mountain canyon, at a sound that the pure night-air had brought to his ears.
With every sense intent on the watch, he stood like a statue in the road. His hand clutched convulsively the handle of a revolver in his belt, for the desperado was well armed. Two six-shooters were buckled to his waist, and the blade of a broad, keen-edged bowie-knife, thrust through his belt, gleamed silver in the moonlight.
"Cuss my darned coward heart!" he muttered, as he glared with watchful eyes around; "is a tree a-rustlin' in the wind a goin' to make me shiver and shake? But is it a tree? No pine that grows in this hyer gully ever made that noise. It's somebody a-trackin' me, Injun fashion. Kin it be a red-skin a-goin' fur my top-knot, or is it—" and he paused; a nervous shiver supplied the place of words. The desperado had not trembled at the first thought; the Indian warrior had less terror for him than the foe whose name he feared to speak.
Rigid as a statue for full five minutes the desperado remained. The sounds of the night and of the wilderness were around and about him. The breeze murmured through the branches of the pines and whistled softly in warning calls among the winding passages of the rocks of the canyon. The river rippled along over its stony path, and fell with a little, sullen roar over the edge of the shelving ledge into the dark pool below, where the spotted trout waited for its prey. The hum and cry of the night insects rose and fell upon the air, riding upon the balsamic breeze, but no sound of human life—nothing that denoted the presence of man in the mountain canyon fell upon the ears that listened so eagerly.
"I'm a darned fool!" Rain muttered, between his teeth; "wuss skeered nor a coyote makin' tracks with a' ounce ball into him. Why, I believe that a gopher comin' out of his hole would make me run. I'll go on ag'in." Joe thrust the half-drawn revolver back into its pouch, and proceeded on his way. Not ten steps did he take, when again he halted, a muttered curse on his lips. His listening ears had again caught the sound that he so feared to hear. But this time, instead of being behind him, following in his track, it was beyond him, toward the north.
"The darned critter has circled round me fur to head me off," Joe muttered, drawing the revolver from his belt. "All I ask is a fair shake; I ain't afraid." But the bloodless lips and quivering hand of the desperado proved that he did not speak the truth. A deadly terror was on his soul—a terror that unnerved his sinews and made his head sag with doubt.
Again Joe heard the slight sound. It was only some hundred paces ahead of him, and came apparently from a little clump of pines that grew close to the road.
Joe dropped upon his knees behind a huge bowlder. Carefully he drew back the hammer of the revolver. The sharp click of the lock rang out shrilly on the clear mountain air.
With an anxious face and a beating heart, the desperado clutched the weapon. The moonbeams danced in wavy lines of light along the surface of the shining barrel.
Then from the covert of the pines, into the center of the road, came the thing that had produced the noise that had so alarmed Rain.
"A jackass rabbit, by thunder!" the desperado exclaimed.
And so it was. The harmless little animal halted in the road, sat up on its haunches and looked around.
Joe could not repress a burst of laughter. Alarmed at the noise, the rabbit scampered into the shelter of the bushes again.
"Ha, ha, ha!" Joe roared, rising to his feet.
"Ha, ha!" rung out an answering laugh upon the night air, so natural, so like a man's laugh, and so unlike an echo, that Joe started in affright.
"What a darned fool I am," he muttered in anger, recovering from his alarm. "Fust I'm skeered to death by a jackass rabbit, and then I jump like a hit antelope at the echo of my own voice. If I ain't got more pluck than this I'd better sell out."
Then again Joe proceeded onward. He followed the road through the canyon. After it left the shelter of the defile, it turned suddenly to the right, followed always the course of the stream, and passed across a little rocky plain.
Half way across the plain Joe stopped. Again he had heard the stealthy footsteps following upon his trail.
The outlaw turned pale, and great drops of sweat came out on his bronzed forehead.
With a resolute effort he turned and faced in the direction of the noise.
"Darn the thing, whatever it is!" he cried. "I might as well be killed outright as skeered half to death this way."
The moment the desperado stopped, the sound of the footsteps stopped also. Joe listened, but no sound, save the noise of the night insects, the rustle of the breeze, and ripple and swash of the waters, came to his ear.
"Kin it be an echo of my own footsteps?" he muttered, in doubt. "Darned if it ain't more like a ghost following me than a man. My blood feels like ice," and Joe shivered as he spoke. He had again drawn his revolver from his pocket, and with it ready cocked in his hand he stood with a gloomy frown upon his rough features.
He was in the center of the little glade within easy revolver range of the pines that hid the entrance to the canyon.
"You darned skulkin' thief, come out an' face me if you dare." Joe said, defiantly. It cost him an effort, though, to utter the defiance. His voice sounded hard and unnatural, even to his own ears.
Before the echoes from the Sierra's side had given back the bold defiance of the outlaw, two forms stood within the rocky plain, lit by the moonbeams. One, the desperado Joe Rain, standing in its center, his bronzed face white with terror, and his heart chilled by the cold fingers of black despair; the other, on the very edge of the plain, risen like a specter from amid the pines at the canyon's mouth, was the road-agent, Overland Kit! His face was covered by a mask, as usual, a six-shooter in his hand, leveled with a deadly aim at the person of Joe Rain.
A howl of despair came from the lips of the desperado when he beheld the well-known figure of his former leader step from the dark cover of the pines.
A moment the two surveyed each other, their revolvers leveled at each other's breast; death in their hands, death in their hearts.
"Treacherous villain!" said the road-agent, in a stern, deep voice, "are you prepared to die?"
"To die?" growled Joe, a fierce light shining in his evil eyes.
"Yes; to die the death that all traitors should die."
"What have I done to you?"
"Cowardly hound!" exclaimed the road-agent, in contempt, "You ask that question even when you are flying like a thief in the night, from my vengeance. Every time that you have paused to listen for the sound of my footsteps tracking you through the canyon, your guilty conscience has whispered my name in your ear, and told you that I was on your track, and that my mission was one of vengeance. Not half a mile from this spot I watched you kill Jimmy Mullen. Like a coward, you struck him in the back, then robbed him of his wealth. I did not think then that heaven had destined me to avenge that deed. From my covert in the rocks I watched you depart without making any effort to stay you. I would not be both your judge and your executioner, although I knew you to be a red-handed murderer. Then you went straight to Spur City, eager for more blood-money. Had your eyes been as keen to penetrate my disguise as your hand was quick to strike Mullen in the back, I should have swung from a pine tree. But, your time's up; the game is over, 'pass in your checks.'"
"We are man to man hyer; you're no better than I am!" cried Joe, fiercely. "I am armed, an' I'll play my hand for all it's worth."
"You'd better 'pass'," returned Overland Kit, tersely.
"I'll see you in blazes furst," exclaimed Joe, with the courage of despair; "you jist 'chip in' now!"
"My 'edge!' " replied the road-agent.
Two puffs of flame, two whip-like cracks, and a wounded man fell on the rocks.
"Shamus O'Brien; the Bould Boy of Glingal; or, Irish Hearts and Irish Homes." Dime Library No. 106, 3-5.
The process-server watched both the lady and the priest until they were out of sight, malicious anger shining in his little evil eyes.
"Bad 'cess to the sowl of me fut!" he muttered, between his teeth, "but I will be even wid both of yees wan of these days."
Then he turned his attention to the cabin.
"Now, gintlemen an' ladies, by your l'ave," he continued. "If you will have the kindness, the politeness, and the civility to step out of me way and 1'ave me fix me little notice to the fore-front of that dure, I'll be as good as me word, afther all! I said that I would be afther puttin' my notice on the dure, and that neither man nor divil should stop me. The lady has gone bail for the five pounds but I will put me notice on the dure all the same. Oh! I'm a man of me word! jist bear it in mind all of you! Fall back there an' give me room!"
The peasants obeyed the command and MacDarrow approached the door with his notice in his hand, but as his foot pressed the threshold the door opened suddenly, and a monstrous big raw-boned woman appeared in the doorway.
"Take yerself out o' that, ye dirthy blaggard! What do yees mane?" she cried, in the richest of brogues.
All the lookers-on stared; the woman was a stranger to one and all.
She was a very large woman, and evidently muscularly built. She was dressed very poor, with an old shawl bound round her shoulders. A dirty cap with an enormous frill ornamented her head, and from under the cap great chunks of coarse red hair strayed out. Her skin was tanned, until it looked like leather, and altogether she was about as ugly, and formidable-looking a female as human eyes had ever rested upon.
Then, too, in her muscular right hand she twirled as "purty" a blackthorn stick as a man would wish to own, and from the way in which she handled the stick, a judge of that sort of thing would have been apt to think that the twig was not solely for ornament.
The most surprised man on the ground was the process-server; with open mouth he stared at the female —a proceeding that excited her anger at once.
"The divil fly away wid ye, ye lantern-jawed villain! Who are yees a-starin' at, wid ye two eyes stickin' out of ye head like lobsters? Go 'long wid ye! Ye make me blush! I'm a dacent woman, an' if ye don't get out of that I'll give ye a rap over the gob!"
This was a virago, sure enough, and Dooney retreated a step as she flourished the stick in close proximity to his nose.
"An' who are ye, an' what are ye doin' here?" Dooney asked, in wonder.
"Go 'long wid ye! Do ye think I'd be afther wasting me breath in answerin' yer impident questions?" she retorted. "An' what do yees want here, yerself, ye mur-therin' thafe of the woruld?"
"I'm goin' to put this notice on the dure."
"'Deed ye'll do no sich thing!"
"An' why won't I?"
"Bekase I'll be afther crackin yer head wid this bit of a sthick, de ye mind?"
Dooney looked at the woman a moment in wonder; then he quietly put the notice in his pocket, and began to flourish his stick in an extremely wicked manner.
"I'll have to be afther l'arning yees a little good manners," he said, approaching the woman as he spoke, and evidently bracing himself up for a conflict.
"Take care I don't give yees a taste o' some afore I get through wid ye," the virago retorted.
"Will ye come out of that dureway an' l'ave me put me paper up?" he demanded.
"Will you go to the divil an' shake yourself, ye murtherin' marauder?" she retorted.
"I'd hate to sp'ile that purty face of yours!" he exclaimed.
"It's lucky for yees that ye have no purty face to be sp'iled," she rejoined.
"If ye wasn't a woman I'd lay ye out!"
"The man never stood in your shoes that could do that same, do ye mine!"
"Here's for ye, then."
And Dooney commenced the attack with a vigorous crack at the woman's head, but she parried the blow dexterously, at the same time with a peculiar thrust beating down his guard and then the process-server got a blow between the eyes that knocked him down as if he had been shot.
The peasants yelled; it was as pretty a stroke as any of them had ever seen, but, although the lick was a hard one yet the process-server had a head like iron and he was up on his feet in a second, apparently not hurt in the least, although the blow had made his head ache.
"Ye cain't do that ag'in!" he cried, through his clenched teeth, fearfully enraged at being thus discomfited by a woman.
"Thry me an' find out!" she cried, in scorn. "I kape this stick expressly to dust the jackets of process-servers, gaugers an' sich like dirthy blaggards."
"Oh, I'll murther you now!" Dooney howled, as he rushed at the Amazon.
His intention was good enough, but, for once in his life, the process-server had met an antagonist who was more than his match.
Dooney's fierce and angry blows, although delivered with all the skill that he possessed, were parried with the greatest ease by the woman, who seemed to have a wrist of willow and an arm of steel; and the moment the process-served paused in his attack, winded, completely out of breath, she took the offensive, and Dooney could no more parry the blows that she rained down upon him than he could fly.
Every second stroke told.
Whack, whack, whack!
Loud sounded the blows on the air! Never was there a man in this world who had his jacket better dusted—never a process-server as well tamed, since the days of great Brian and Clontarf.
The peasantry were delighted; men, women and children screamed with laughter, and some were so overcome by merriment that they threw themselves on the ground and rolled over and over in their glee.
Dooney grew weaker and weaker; he was fairly being beaten black and blue;' and by a woman, too! A double disgrace.
"Oh, murther!" he yelled at last, completely exhausted and sore in every limb; "come an' help me! It is kilt I be! Will ye hold on? I'm bate entirely. Do you want to kill me?"
But the enraged assailant never relaxed her efforts, while the unfortunate process-server danced about like a monkey on a hot plate.
The constables could bear it no longer; although it seemed really ridiculous to think that the strong and cunning MacDarrow couldn't hold his own against a woman, yet it was very evident that he couldn't, and that he was getting a most unmerciful beating; so the whole six, flourishing their sticks, came rushing up to the assistance of their leader.
The peasantry grasped their blackthorns and prepared to join in the row, for they were not disposed to stand tamely by and see the woman who had thrashed the process-server so gloriously, succumb to overwhelming force; but their assistance was not needed, for, as the six came rushing to the attack, the woman, who had evidently kept her eyes about her, with a well-directed blow stretched the process-server out flat as a pancake, stunned and senseless, thus completely disposing of him; then she faced the constables, and in less time than it takes to tell the story, she stretched one after the other on the ground, as fast as they came up.
The strokes were delivered with marvelous quickness, and the lookers-on fairly held their breath with wonder as they gazed upon the surprising exhibition of human skill.
And, as fast as the constables rose to their feet the woman floored them again; no two ever got upon their feet at the same time.
It took just about two minutes for the Amazon to thrash the whole party, and at the end of that time the woman stood the victor of the field, with the vanquished men stretched around her on every side, some of them disabled—stunned like Dooney—so that they could not renew the fight even if they desired to, and others playing 'possum, and pretending to be stunned, having had all the licks that they cared to receive.
And now the sharp trot of horses sounded on the air and interrupted the scene.
"The sodgers! the sodgers!" the cry went up from the lips of the peasantry.
And, sure enough, advancing up the road from Ballinahinch was a squad of mounted yeomanry, coming on at a brisk trot, evidently having perceived the fray from a distance and being eager to take part in it.
At the head of the troop rode a powerfully-built young man, dark complexioned, with jet-black, curling hair and a crispy silken beard of the same hue.
This was Captain Desmond Burke, the sole remaining scion of the old, reckless Burkes of Twelve Pins, and the deadly enemy of the gallant young Irishman who had risked so much for the green isle, Shamus O'Brien.
. . . . . . . . .
"You must get up behind one of these men and come with us," Desmond announced.
"On a hoss?"
"An' how will I hould on? Sure! I'll be afther slipping off!"
"Oh, no; put your arms around the man."
The woman gave an unearthly howl at this.
"Is it hug a man I will?" she cried.
"By jove! I should prefer a she-bear!" Smithers suggested.
"I guess it won't hurt you any; we will be at the quarters in fifteen minutes," Burke replied.
"Oh, captain dear, ye make me blush!" and the virago tried hard to do so, but the attempt was a most decided failure.
"Come, get up behind one of them!"
"Can I choose me man?" and she cast a simpering glance at the lieutenant, much to Smither's disgust.
"Oh, come, none of that, you know!" he cried; "you carn't pick me out: I won't have it, by Jove!"
There was a general laugh at this, in which even stern Burke joined.
The woman surveyed the soldiers.
"There's a weeney man there," she said, indicating a trooper, "and it's a foine hoss he has under him, too. If you will promise to carry me nice and aisy, I'll ride wid you, sur, if you pl'ase," and she advanced to the trooper whom she had selected.
He was the smallest man in the party and mounted on about the best horse of them all, a big gray, that looked every inch a hunter. The yoemanry provided their own mounts, and this gray brute bore the reputation of being the best cross-country horse in Connaught, which was saying a great deal when the many noble steeds of that province are taken into consideration.
The rider, who was the village doctor of Ballinahinch, Johnny Tims, and a man naturally timid—which was the reason why he owned one of the best horses in the county, so that, in the hunting field, he might escape all danger—was not at all pleased by the selection, but there was no help for it; so he submitted with as good a grace as possible.
"Up with you!" commanded Burke. "Shall some of these men assist you?"
"I scorn their assistance! Hain't I a pair of good legs—I beg your pardon, gintlemin, I mane limbs; an' can't I lape for meself?"
And, no sooner were the words free from her lips than, with a spring, wonderfully light, when her size and weight were considered, she vaulted on the horse's back behind Tims.
She wound her arms around his waist and griped him with an energy that completely took the doctor's breath away.
"Hold on, ye elephant!" he protested; "do yees think that I am made of sheet-iron ? Ye'll break me back in a moment! L'ave go, will ye? One arm is enough. Glory be Moses! ye've got a gripe on ye like a steam-engine!"
"I axes yer pardon, sur," she responded, humbly. I'm not used to riding wid gintlemen."
So she removed one arm, griped the doctor with the right hand and laid hold of the edge of the saddle with the other.
Burke gave the command and the party moved off.
The doctor and the woman were in the center of the party, much to the discomfort of the rest, for the horse, evidently resenting the double burden, began to prance and kick and cavort generally in such a manner that it caused the doctor, who was usually a very mild-tempered man, to swear worse than the troopers of the famous army in Flanders.
Never before had the horse acted in so outrageous a manner; he soon cleared a space for himself, for the others were compelled to give the fractious steed a wide berth.
"The divil's in the baste, I belave!" cried the perplexed doctor, pulling at the bridle and vainly endeavoring to quiet the beast. "Will ye sit still and be hanged to yees! We'll both be over the head of the baste! Be quiet, ye tearer! Curse it, madam, will ye sit still? What the mischief are ye doing? W'oa there!"
Up into the air went the hind legs of the horse, then he reared up on his haunches and pawed viciously; down he went again and lashed out with his heels in all directions.
"Ow, ow! O'm fallin'! I'll be kilt, ow, ow! Hould onto me!" howled the woman.
"Ye murtherin' fool of a woman, will ye hould yer wist," the doctor shouted. "Your yells are enough to frighten the siven sinses out of a human, let alone a poor dumb baste that can't spake!"
"Ow, ow, I'll be kilt!" continued the virago, suddenly removing her hand from its position around the doctor and grabbing him by the back of the coat-collar, and the result of this proceeding was that the doctor was incontinently yanked backward so that he almost slipped out of the saddle.
The rage of Tims was unbounded; he had both hands full to restrain the horse which was leaping about like mad, and now that the woman had grabbed him by the collar, he expected every moment to be tumbled off the horse and then perhaps be kicked half to death by the heels of the fractious brute.
The soldiers, from Desmond downward, were roaring with laughter at the extremely ridiculous spectacle, and as for the peasantry their sides fairly ached with laughing.
Nearly all of the spectators had followed the troop, running along the road in the rear of the cavalcade, which, owing to the antics of the doctor's horse, was proceeding very slowly.
At last the party reached the spot where the little mountain-road led up into the wild rude lands known as Joyce's Country.
The doctor had been swearing at the top of his lungs, first at the horse and then at the woman, whom he blamed for all the trouble, but when the horse came prancing into the spot where the two roads met, standing first on his hind legs and then on his fore, lashing and kicking in all directions, the doctor's oaths suddenly turned into a loud yell of pain.
"For heaven's sake, ma'am, will ye take that pin out of yer sleeve, and be hanged to ye; it's two inches into my leg it's run—ow, ow!"
And, no wonder that the doctor howled with pain, for in the hand that rested on the saddle the woman held a large pin which she had been jabbing industriously into the horse's flanks ever since she had mounted. Little wonder, then, was it that the hunter under the spur of this infliction had been acting more like a crazy steed than one possessed of good sound horse sense.
But, by a mistake, upon reaching the cross-roads the woman had jabbed the pin into the fleshy part of Tim's leg instead of into the horse, and the pain of this operation had produced the fearful howl which had escaped from the doctor's lips.
The cross-roads reached, the time for action had come; all the troopers were widely separated, for each and every man had given as wide a berth to the prancing horse as possible. With a vigorous wrench the woman pulled the doctor backward as though she was slipping off the horse, and still keeping up her yells of affright to cover up her trick.
The doctor lost both stirrups; the horse plunged forward and over he went, sideways, compelled to let go of the bridle by the force of the fall.
The woman still succeeded in retaining her position upon the animal, to the astonishment of all, and having caught the bridle-reins dropped by the doctor was sticking to the beast with all the skill of the wild Indian upon the prairie, or the champion bare-back rider in the circus.
All looked in amazement, expecting to see the rider hurled violently to the ground every minute, for not a soul of them had any suspicion of the trick that had been so cunningly played.
The horse had dashed through the rest of the party at topmost speed, all taking particular care to get out of the way for it was the general impression that the gray had run away.
"Ow, ow! I shall be kilt!" shrieked the woman, at the top of her voice, but still sticking to the horse, at which all marvelled.
"Throw yourself off, you fool!" shouted Burke. Even cunning Desmond had been completely deceived, and had no suspicion of the true nature of the performance.
A good hundred yards in advance of the party had the startled steed gained when, suddenly, there was a wonderful change in the position of the woman, who was apparently clinging by chance to its back.
With a single good stout pull the stuff dress was ripped down in front, a pair of pantalooned legs, the feet of which were incased in boots, appeared!
Wonderful was the dexterity with which the rider pulled himself forward, threw his leg over the saddle and almost immediately gained both stirrups; and there he sat, the Amazonian woman transformed into a man, and evidently as good a rider as had ever leaped into a pig skin saddle since the days when the wild steed of the desert first submitted his free neck to man's domineering will.
†"Another Albert Aiken excerpt is given in Vol. I, p. 10."
† Correction made as per Volume 3.
|1||T. Allston Brown gives the place and date of his death as Brooklyn, September 4, 1894, but since the New York Clipper had recorded it in the issue of August 25, he is clearly wrong.|
|2||For confirmatory evidence, see these names in this book.|