General Sir A. Campbell was appointed to the chief command, and Colonel M'Bean, with the rank of Brigadier General, commanded the Madras force. The Bengal squadron sailed from Saugur in the middle of April; and reached the rendezvous, Port Cornwallis, in the Andaman Islands, at the end of the month.
M'Bean was impelled to say: "You're to keep it, girl alive, if you've e'er a fancy for it. Sure it's fitter for you than the likes of me, that 'ud look a quare old scarecrow if I offered to go about in such a thing." She had not at first intended this generosity, her worldly goods being so few that she could not lightly part with even a very unpromising possession.
M'Bean was on her way along by the low sea-wall to buy a bit of bacon at Donnelly's shop in Kilclone, the east wind did her the shrewd turn of whisking off her hat and dropping it into the water. It was a most shabby old black straw, rusty and battered, and torn, yet Mrs. M'Bean, a labourer's wife, who had nothing at all handsome about her, seemed to think it worth a serious risk.
M'Bean, as the J. P.'s ladies, commiserating her half-drowned plight, sent her that same evening a goodly bundle of cast-off clothes, over which her eyes grew gleefully bright in her careworn face. At one of the articles included they widened with almost awe. This was an enormous hat made of white fluffy felt, with vast contorted brims, and great blue velvet rosettes and streamers.
When they disembarked her, gasping and dripping, at the nearest landing-place, she was understood to say, "Sure me heart's broke," a remark which Police-sergeant Young, who formed one of the group gathered by the disaster, considered sufficient grounds for marching her off to the handiest J. P. on a charge of attempted suicide. Mrs. M'Bean vehemently repelled the accusation.
"Ne'er a bit am I afraid of me luck," averred Nelly, cheerful and threadbare, not to say ragged. But Mrs. M'Bean was pricked by a sudden thought up the ladder to the little attic aloft, whence she creaked down again, bringing with her the great white hat.
Brown, for reasons best known to himself, but which will duly come out as my story advances, was very anxious to be at the "draw," and accordingly duly appeared at the Marie Stuart Hall, Crosshill. There were a lot of pale faces in the room when Pate drew the Queen's Park, Dick Wallace the "Vale," Bill Weldon, Dumbarton, and Sandy M'Bean the Rangers.
As for Tim, he quite lost patience at this devotion to study on the part of his master; who, he declared to his comrades, went on just as if he intended to become a nigger and a hathen himself. "It's just awful to hear him, Corporal M'Bean, jabbering away in that foreign talk, with that little black monkey moonshine.
M'Bean, for her part, could not entertain the idea of carrying anything so sumptuous upon her grizzled head; and when she tried it on her eldest daughter, it totally extinguished and nearly smothered the child. So she stowed it away in a corner, where it remained unseen for several weeks. But next month, on the afternoon of Easter Day, Mrs.
M'Bean had two visitors over from Ballyhoy: Annie Cassidy, elderly and rather grim, with her young friend Nelly Walsh. "Nelly's bound to be havin' bad luck this year of her life," Annie observed in the course of conversation, "for not a new stitch has she put on her to-day, and it Easter. That's an unlucky thing, accordin' to the sayin'."