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Tony Butler   By: (1806-1872)

Tony Butler by Charles James Lever

First Page:


By Charles James Lever

With Illustrations By E. J. Wheeler.

Little, Brown, and Company.


Copyright, 1896



In a little cleft, not deep enough to be a gorge, between two grassy hills, traversed by a clear stream, too small to be called a river, too wide to be a rivulet, stood, and, I believe, still stands, a little cottage, whose one bay window elevates it above the condition of a laboring man's, and shows in its spacious large paned proportions pretensions to taste as well as station. From the window a coast line can be seen to which nothing in the kingdom can find the equal. It takes in the bold curve of shore from the "White Rocks" to the Giant's Causeway, a sweep of coast broken by jutting headland and promontory, with sandy bays nestling between gigantic walls of pillared rock, and showing beneath the green water the tessellated pavement of those broken shafts which our superstition calls Titanic. The desolate rock and ruin of Dunluce, the fairy bridge of Carrig a Rede, are visible; and on a commonly clear day Staffa can be seen, its outline only carrying out the strange formation of the columnar rocks close at band.

This cottage, humble enough in itself, is not relieved in its aspect by the culture around it A small vegetable garden, rudely fenced with a dry stone wall, is the only piece of vegetation; for the cutting winds of the North Sea are unfriendly to trees, and the light sandy soil of the hills only favors the fern and the foxglove. Of these, indeed, the growth is luxuriant, and the path which leads down from the high road to the cottage is cut through what might be called a grove of these leafy greeneries. This same path was not much traversed, and more than once within the year was the billhook required to keep it open, so little intercourse was maintained between the cottage and the world, whose frontier lay about a mile off. A widow and her son, with one servant, were the occupants. It had been a fishing lodge of her husband's in more prosperous days. His memory and the cheapness of life in the neighborhood had decided her in choosing it, lonely and secluded as it was; and here she had passed fourteen years, her whole care being the education of her boy, a task to which she addressed herself with all the zeal and devotion of her nature. There was, it is true, a village school at Ballintray, about three miles off, to which he went in summer; but when the dark short days of winter set in with swooping storms of rain and wind, she held him, so far as she could, close prisoner, and pored with him over tasks to the full as difficult to herself as to him. So far as a fine, open hearted, generous disposition, truthful and straightforward, could make him, he repaid all the love and affection she could bear him. He was well grown, good looking, and brave. There was scarcely an exercise of which he was not master; and whether in the saddle over a stiff country, or on the thwart of a boat in a stormy sea, Tony Butler could hold his own against all competitors. The leap of twenty feet four inches he had made on the level sward was one of the show objects of the village, and the place where he had pitched a fourteen pound sledge to the top of a cliff was marked by a stone with a rude attempt at an inscription. Fortunate was he if these were enough for glory, for his gifts scarcely rose to higher things. He was not clever, nor was he very teachable; his apprehension was not quick, and his memory was bad. The same scatterbrained forgetfulness that he had in little things attended him in more serious ones. Whenever his intellect was called on for a great effort he was sure to be vanquished, and he would sit for hours before an open book as hopeless of mastering it as though the volume were close clasped and locked before him. Dull men are not generally alive to their own dulness; but Tony was, he saw and felt it very bitterly... Continue reading book >>

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