Gerald Griffin, The Collegians (1829)
[ cont. ]
How the Two Friends Hold a Longer Conversation Together Than the Reader May Probably Approve
The female in the blue cloak withstood all the recommendations and entreaties of the goodnatured dairy-woman, that she would step in and take an air of the kitchen fire. She pleaded extreme fatigue, and requested that she might be permitted to occupy at once the chamber in which she was to pass the night. Finding her resolute, Mrs. Frawley insisted on having a cheerful fire lighted up in the little room outside her own dormitory, which was appropriated to the fair strangers use. It was impossible to maintain her close disguise in the presence of this officious and hospitable woman, whose regard for her guest was in no degree diminished by a view of her person and dress. Her hair was wringing wet, but her cloak had in a great measure preserved the remainder of her attire, which was just a shade too elegant for a mere paysanne, and too modest for a person claiming the rank of a gentlewoman. The material, also, which was a pretty flowered cotton, a dawny pattern, as Mrs. Frawley declared, proclaimed a pocket altogether at ease, and led the dairy-woman to the conclusion that the Naughtins were decent, credible people, that knew how to industher, and turn and stretch a penny, as far as more would a shilling.
Having supplied the counterfeit Poll with every thing necessary for her immediate uses, Mrs. Frawley left her to make what changes she pleased in her dress, and went to look after the young gentlemens dinner: as well as to prepare some refreshment for the weary Mrs. Naughten herself.
Scarcely had Mrs. Frawley departed, when a soft tapping at the room door announced the approach of another visitor. The lovely inconnue, whn was employed at the moment in arranging and drying her hair, felt her heart beat somewhat quickly and strongly at the sound. She threw back from her temples the wavy mass of gold that hung around them, and ran to the door with lips apart, and a flushed and eager cheek. It is he! she exclaimed to her own breast as she undid the bolt.
It was not he. The weather-worn, freckled face of the little hunch-back, was the first object that met her eyes. Between his hands he held a small trunk, the lid of which was studded with brass nails, forming the letters E. OC.
By a dale to do, Miss, I laid hoult o dis, said Danny; Lowry said, de letters didnt stand for Mr. Hardress at all, only one of em.
Thank you, Danny. Where is your master?
Aten his dinner in de parlour wit Mr. Daly before a tunderen big fire.
Was Lowry speaking to you?
Did any body ever see him oderwise? Ill be bail he was so.
But does he know ...
I didnt hear him say a word about it, replied the little Lord, an I tink, if he knew, hed tell.
Well, Danny, will you find an opportunity of speaking to your master without being observed, and tell him that I wish to see him very much indeed. I am very uneasy, and he has not told me how long we are to stay here, or where we are to go next, or any thing. I feel quite lonesome, Danny, for it is the first evening I have ever spent alone in my life, I think. Here the poor young creatures lip quivered a little, and the water started into her eye.
Never fear, ma gra hu! ma grein chree ho! said Danny in a soothing tone, Ill speak a word in his ear, an hell come to you. Dat I may never die in a frost if I wouldnt go from dis to Dublin to sarve you, next to Mr. Hardress himself.
He was as good as his word; and took an opportunity, while Hardress was giving him some directions about the boat, to mention the request of their gentle companion in the storm. The young gentleman enquired the situation of her room, and bade his servant say, that he would not fail to visit her, if only for a few minutes, before he retired to rest. It was necessary that the utmost caution should be observed to avoid awakening suspicion.
Kyrle Daly, in the mean time, was employed in manufacturing a capacious bowl of whiskey-punch by the parlour fire-side. Instead of the humble but capacious tumbler, or still more modern, small stone-china jug, over which, you, good Irish reader, are, probably, accustomed to solace your honest heart in a winters evening, two glasses, more than a foot in height, were displayed upon the board, and seemed intended to meet the lips without the necessity of any assistance from the hand.
By one of those inconsistencies in our nature, on which it is idle to speculate, Kyrle Daly found a difficulty in getting into conversation with his friend, upon the very subject, on which, a few minutes before, he had longed for his advice and assistance. Hardress appeared to be in high, noisy, and even exulting spirits, the sound of which rang jarringly and harsh upon the ear of the disappointed lover. The uproar of his happy heart offended the languor of his young companions mind, as the bustle of the city noon sounds strange and unfamiliar on a sick mans hearing.
Neither, perhaps, is there any subject to which young men of equal pretensions have a greater distaste than that of love-confidences one with another. If the tale be of a past and unhappy attachment, it is wearisome and annoying; and if it relate to a present and successful passion, a sentiment of jealousy is apt to invade the heart of the listener, while he is made to contemplate a picture of happiness, which, perhaps, the sternness of his own destiny has allowed him to contemplate as a picture only. A better test could scarcely be adopted, to distinguish a sincere and disinterested friendship from one of mere convenience, than a trial of patience on such a topic. It is true, indeed, that the incidents lately recorded afford reason to believe that Hardress Cregan was not one of those forlorn beings who are made:
| to love, and not to be loved again;
but it is certain, nevertheless, that when Kyrle Daly first mentioned his having been at Castle Chute, and driving Anne to the race-course, his manner was rather reserved and discouraging, than otherwise.
The longer I live, Kyrle said at length with some hesitation in his manner, the longer I live in this luckless condition, and the oftener I think of that excellent girl, the more deep and settled is the hold which she has taken of my imagination. I wonder, Hardress, how you can be so indifferent to her acquaintance. Placing my own unfortunate affection altogether out of view, I can scarcely imagine an enjoyment more desirable than that of cultivating the society of so amiable a creature.
Here he drew a long sigh, and replenished the void thus occasioned, by having recourse to the bowl and ladle.
I am not of the same opinion, Kyrle, said Hardress, Anne Chute is unquestionably a very fine girl, but she is too highly educated for me.
Too highly educated!
Echo me not. The words are mine. Yes. Kyrle, I hold that this system of polishing girls ad unguem, is likely to be the destruction of all that is sincere and natural and unaffected in the sex. It is giving the mind an unwholesome preponderance over the heart, occasioning what an astronomer would call an occultation of feeling, by the intervention of reason.
I cannot imagine a case, said Kyrle, in which the exercise of reason can ever become excessive; and there are sneerers under the sun, Hardress, who will tell you, that this danger is least of all to be apprehended among the lovely beings of whom you are speaking.
I think otherwise. As I prefer the works of nature to the work of man, the fresh river breeze to the dusty and smoaky zephyr of Capel-street, the bloom on a cottage cheek to the crimson japan that blazes at the Earl of Buckinghamshires drawing-rooms; as I love a plain beef-steak before a grilled attorney,* this excellent whiskey punch before my mothers confounded currant wine, and any thing else that is pure and natural before any thing else that is adulterated and artificial; so do I love the wild hedge-flower simplicity before the cold and sapless exotic, fashion; so do I love the voice of affection and of nature before that of finesse and affectation.
Your terms are a little too hard, I think, said Kyrle, elegance of manner is not finesse, nor at all the opposite of simplicity; it is merely simplicity made perfect. I grant you, that few, very few, are successful in acquiring it; and I dislike its ape, affectation, as heartily as you do. But we find something that is conventional in all classes, and I like affectation better than vulgarity, after all.
Vulgarity of manner, said Hardress, is more tolerable than vulgarity of mind.
One is only offensive as the indication of the other, and I think it not more tolerable, because I prefer ugliness masked to ugliness exposed.
Why, now, Daly, I will meet you on tangible ground. There is our friend Anne Chute, acknowledged to be the loveliest girl in her circle, and one whom I remember a charming good-natured little hoyden in her childhood. And see what high education has done for her. - She is cold and distant, even to absolute frigidity, merely because she has been taught that insensibility is allied to elegance. What was habit, has become nature with her; the frost which she suffered to lie so long upon the surface, has at length penetrated to her affections, and killed every germ of mirth and love and kindness, that might have made her a treasure to her friends and an ornament to society.
Believe me - Hardress - believe me, my dear Hardress, you do her wrong, exclaimed Kyrle with exceeding warmth. It is not that I love Anne Chute, I speak - but because I know and esteem her. If you knew her but for three days, instead of one hour, you never would again pronounce so harsh a sentence. All that is virtuous - all that is tender and affectionate - all that is amiable and high-principled may be met with in that admirable woman. Take the pains to know her - visit her - speak of her to her friends - her dependants - to her aged mother - to any one that has observed her conduct, and you will be undeceived. Why will you not strive to know her better?
Why, you must consider that it is not many months since I returned from Dublin; and to say a truth, the single visit I paid at Castle Chute was not calculated to tempt me to a second. Considering that I was an old play-fellow, and a kind of cousin, I thought Anne Chute need not have received me as if I were a tax-gatherer, or a travelling dancing-master.
Why what would you have her do? Throw her arms about your neck and kiss you, I suppose?
Not exactly. You know the class of people of whom little Flaccus said, Quam vitia vitant in contraria currunt, and, after all, I think Anne Chute is not one of those. Her education is little worth if it could not enable her to see a medium between two courses so much at variance.
But will you allow a friend to remind you, Hardress, that you are a little overapt to take exception in matters of this kind. And notwithstanding all that you have been saying against the polite world, I will venture to prophecy this - that when circumstances shall more frequently thrust you forward on the stage, and custom shall make you blind to the slight and formal insincerities that grieve you at present, your ideas on fashion and elegance and education will undergo a change. I know you, Hardress; you are not yet of age. The shadow of a repulse is now to you a sentence of banishment from any circle in which you suppose it is offered; but when you shall be courted, when mothers shall dress their daughters at you, and daughters shall shower down smiles upon your paths; when fathers shall praise your drinking, and sons shall eulogize your horses; then, Hardress, look to it. You will be then as loud and talkative before the whole world as now in presence of your humble friend. You will smile and smile a hundred times over at your young philosophy.
Oh, never shall sun that morrow see cried Hardress, throwing himself back in his chair, and raising his hands in seeming deprecation - I perceive what you are hitting at, Kyrle, he continued, reddening a little. You allude to my - my - timidity - bashfulness - what you will, my social cowardice. But I disclaim the petty, paltry failing. The feeling that unnerves me in society is as widely different from that base consciousness of inferiority or servile veneration of wealth, rank or power, as the anger of Achilles from the spite of Thersites. You may laugh, and call me self-conceited, but, upon my simple honour, I speak in pure sincerity. My feeling is this, my dear Kyrle. New as I was to the world after leaving college (where you know I studied pretty hard) the customs of society appeared to wear a strangeness in my sight that made me a perfect and a competent judge of their value. Their hollowness disgusted, and their insipidity provoked me. I could not join with any ease in the solemn folly of bows and becks and wreathed smiles that can be put on or off at pleasure. The motive of the simplest forms of society stared me in the face when I saw them acted before me, and if I attempted to play a part among the hypocrites myself, I supposed that every eye around me was equally clear-sighted - saw through the hollow assumption, and despised it as sincerely in me, as I had done in others. The consciousness of guilt was evident in my manner, and I received the mortification which ensued as the just punishment of my meanness and hypocrisy.
You do express yourself in sufficiently forcible terms when you go about it, said Daly, smiling. What great hypocrisy or meanness can there be in remarking that it is a fine day, or asking after the family of an acquaintance, even though he should know that the first was merely intended to draw on a conversation, and the second to show him a mark of regard?
Which I did not feel.
Granted. Let him perceive that never so clearly, there is still an attention implied in your putting the question at all with which he cannot be disobliged. It is flattering to acknowledge the necessity of such a deference. And, my dear Hardress, if you were never to admit of ceremony as the deputy of natural and real feeling, what would become of the whole social system? How soon the mighty vessel would become a wreck! how silent would be the rich mans banquet! how solitary the great mans chambers! how few would bow before the throne! how lonely and how desolate would be the temples of religion!
You are the more bitter satirist of the two, said Hardress.
No, no, exclaimed Kyrle. I merely reminded you of an acknowledged fact, that when you enroll your name on the social list, you pledge yourself to endure as well as to enjoy. As long as ever you live, Hardress, take my word for it, you never will make, nor look upon a perfect world. It is such philosophy as yours that goes to the making of misanthropes. The next time you go into society, resolve to accept any mortifications you shall endure as a punishment for your sins, and so think no more of them. This indifference will become habitual and while it does so, those necessary hypocrisies of which you speak, will grow familiar and inoffensive.
I see no occasion, said Hardress, to make the trial. Plain human nature is enough for me. If I were to choose a companion for life, I should rather hope to cull the sweet fruit of conjugal happiness in the wild orchard of nature than from the bark-beds and hot-walls of society.
I advise you, however, said Kyrle, not to make the choice until you have greater opportunities of observing both sides of the question. Trust not to the permanence of your present feelings, nor to the practical correctness of your curious theories. It would be too late, after you had linked yourself to - to - simplicity, I shall call it, to discover that elegance was a good thing, after all.
Hardress did not appear to relish this speech, and the conversation, in consequence, was discontinued for some minutes. Young Cregan was indeed as incapable of calculating on his future character as Kyrle Daly asserted. He was in that period of life (the most critical perhaps of all,) when the energies of the mind, as well as of the frame, begin to develope themselves, and exhibit in irregular out-breaks, the approaching vigour and fire of manhood. A host of new ideas, at this time, crowd in upon the reason, distinguished rather by their originality and genius, than by that correctuess and good order which is derivable from instruction or experience alone; and it depends upon the circumstances in which the young thinker is placed, whether his future character shall be that of a madman or a sage. It was, perhaps, a knowledge of this inventive pride in youth that made the Stagirite assert that men should not look into philosophical works before the age of five-and-twenty.
Hardress, however, although very sensitive, was not one of those who can brood a long time over an evil feeling. Well, Daly, he exclaimed, starting from a reverie, we will each of us pursue our inclinations on this subject. Leave me to the indulgence of my theories, and I will wish you joy of your Anne Chute.
My Anne Chute! echoed Daly, sipping his punch with a sad face. I have no lien upon that lady, as the counsellors say. She may sue as a feme sole for me in any court in Christendom. Hardress turned on him a look of extreme surprise, in answer to which Kyrle Daly furnished him with an account of his unsuccessful suit to Anne, as also with his suspicions as to another attachment. The deep feeling of disappointment under which he laboured, became apparent, as he proceeded in his discourse, in the warmth and eagerness of his manner, the frequent compression of his lips, and clenching of his trembling hands, the dampness of his forehead, and the sparkling of his moistened eye-balls. The sight of his friend, in suffering, turned the stream of Hardress Cregans sympathies into another channel, and he employed all his eloquence and ingenuity in combatting the dangerous dejection which was hourly gaining upon his spirit. He declared his disbelief in the idea of another attachment, and recommended perseverance by every argument in his power.
But the state of her mind, he continued, shall not remain long a secret to you. They have been both (Anne and her mother) invited to spend a part of the autumn with us at Dinis cottage. My mother is a great secret-hunter, and I need only tell her where the game lies, to make certain that it will be hunted down. Trust every thing to me - for your sake I will take some pains to become better known to this extraordinary girl; and you may depend upon it, if she will suffer me to mount above Zero, you shall not suffer in my good report.
When the conversation had reached this juncture, the silence which prevailed in the cottage showed that the night was already far advanced. The punch had descended so low, as to leave the bowl of the ladle more than half visible; the candles seemed to meditate suicide, while the neglected snuff, gathering to a pall above the flame, threw a gloomy and flickering shadow on the ceiling; the turfen-fire was little more than a heap of pale ashes, before which the drowsy household cat, in her Sphynx-like attitude, sat winking, and purring her monotonous song of pleasure; the abated storm (like a true Irish storm) seemed to mourn with repentant howlings over the desolating effects of its recent fury; the dog lay dreaming on the hearth, the adjoining farm-yard was silent, all but the fowl-house, where some garrulous dame Partlet, with female pertinacity, still maintained a kind of drowsy clucking on her roost; the natural hour of repose seemed to have produced its effect upon the battling elements themselves; the tempest had folded his black wings upon the ocean, and the waters broke upon the shore with a murmur of expiring passion. Within doors or without, there was no sight nor sound that did not convey a hint of bed-time to the watchers.
To make this hint the stronger, Mrs. Frawley showed the disk of her full-blown countenance at the door, as round as the autumnal moon, and like that satellite, illuminated by a borrowed light, namely, the last inch of a dipped candle which burned in her hand. Masther Kyrle, darling, she exclaimed in a tone of tender remonstrance, wont you go to bed to-night, child? Tis near morning, dear knows.
Is Lowry Looby in bed?
No, sir, hes waiting to know have you any commands to Cork, hes going to guide the car in the morning with the firkins.
Lowry here introduced his person before that of the dairy-woman, causing however rather a transit than an eclipse of that moon of woman-hood.
Or Misther Cregan? he exclaimed, may be hed have some commands westwards? Because if he had, I could have em at the forge at the cross, above, with directions to have em sent down to the house.
I have no commands, said Hardress, except to say that I will be at home on next Friday.
And I have none whatever, said Kyrle Daly, rising and taking one of the candles. Hardress, mind you dont give me the counterfeit, the slip, in the morning.
This caution produced a hospitable battle which ended in Hardress Cregans maintaining his purpose of departing with the dawn of day. The friends then shook hands and separated for the night.
*It is notorious, that the drumstick of a goose or turkey, grilled and highly spiced, was called a devil. Some elegant persons, however, who deemed that term too strong for ears polite, were at the pains of looking for a synonym, of a milder sound, and discovered a happy substitute in the word attorney, which conveys all original force, without the coarse cacophony of the other phrase.
Chapter 14: How Lowry Becomes Philosophical
As Lowry Looby returned to the kitchen he was met by Nelly the housemaid, who reminded him that he would he obliged to start before the potatoes could he boiled in the morning, and recommended, as a preparatory measure, that he should take his breakfast overnight. Secure of his indulging her in so reasonable a request, she had already, under Mrs. Frawleys favour, laid on a little table before the kitchen fire, the remains of the roast ducks (so often commemorated in this narrative,) a plate of re-heaters, (such was Nellys term for potatoes suffered to cool and warmed again in the red-turf ashes,) as also a piece of pork, four inches in depth and containing no lean that was visible on a cursory inspection. This last was a dish for which Nelly knew Lowry Looby to entertain a fondness worthy of his ancient Irish descent. Indeed on all occasions Nelly was observed to take an interest in consulting the inclinations of this long-legged person; a kindness upon her part which the ungrateful Lowry seemed little inclined to appreciate.
The present proposal however harmonized so sweetly with his own feelings, at the moment, that he signified a speedy compliance, and followed the nymph into her culinary retreat. The kitchen presented a scene no less drowsy than the parlour. Mrs. Frawley was saying her prayers by the fire-side, with a string of beads that hung down to the ground, now and then venting a deep sigh, then running her godly race, through a fit of yawning, and anon casting a glance over her shoulder at the proceedings of the two domestics, while every new distraction was followed by a succession of more audible groans, and more vehement assaults with the closed hand upon her bosom. Danny Mann was sleeping heavily on the other side of the fire, with his red woollen comforter drying on his knee. In order to avoid disturbing either the slumbers of the one, or the devotions of the other, Nelly and her swain were obliged to carry on their conversation in a low whispering voice which gave additional effect to the sleepy tone of the entire scene. The shadows of the whole party, like the fame of genius magnified by distance, were thrown in gigantic similitude upon the surrounding walls. There Mrs. Frawley dilated to the dimensions of an ogres wife, and here Danny Manns hunch became to the original as Ossa to Knock Patrick. Loobys expanded mouth showed like the opening to Avernus, and the tight little Nelly herself, as she sat opposite, assumed the stature of Mr. Salts black breccia Memnon, which any reader, who is curious about Nellys personal outline, may behold in the ninth room of the British Museum.
While Lowry consoled himself with the greasy pork, swallowing it with as lively a relish as if it were the green fat of a Gallipagus turtle, he gave Nelly a history of the days adventures, not forgetting his own triumph at the staggeen race, and the disappearance of Eily OConnor. Nelly was the better pleased with his account of these transactions, as he thought fit to abstain, in the first instance, from all mention of Syl Carney; and, in speaking of the rope-makers daughter, to omit those customary eulogies which he dealt forth whenever her name was brought in question. Emboldened by this circumstance, Nelly did not hesitate to throw out some plain insinuations as to the probable cause of the mystery, which did not much redound to the honour of the charming fugitive, and she became still more impassioned in her invective, after Mrs. Frawley had relieved them from the restraint of her presence, and retired to her sleeping room.
Often an often I told you, Lowry, that it wasnt for you to be looken afther a girl o that kind, that thought herself as good as a lady. Great business, indeed, a poor man o your kind would have of one like her, that would be too grand to put a leg in a skeogh* to wash the potaties, or lay a hand on the pot-hooks to sthrain em if they wor broke to tathers.
That I may never die in sin if ever I had a thought of her, Nelly, only just divarten at Batt Coonertys.
What a show the house would be with ye! continued Nelly still following up the matrimonial picture, an you a hard-worken boy, obleest to be up early and late at other peoples bidden. Ill be bound that isnt the girl that would be up with the lark an have a fire made, an a griddle o bread down in the morning before you, an you going a long road; or have the hearth swep, an your supper ready, an every thing nate about the place for you, when youd be coming back at night. But I believe there s a chimæra* before the boys eyes that they dont know whats good for em.
Look! exclaimed Lowry, while he broke a potatoe between his fingers, swallowed one half at a mouthful, and tossed the crisped peel upon the table. That I may be happy, if she was offered to me this minute if Id take her. Sure I know Id have no more business of such a girl upon my floore than I would of Miss Chute herself. But theres no raison for all why I wouldnt be sorry for ould Mihils trouble. Hes gone westwards, Foxy Dunat the hair-cutter tells me, to Castle-island, to his brother, Father Ned, I suppose to get him to publish her from the altar or something. They think tis westwards she went.
Happening at this moment to cast his eyes upon Danny Mann, Lowry perceived, with a sensation of disagreeable surprise, that he was awake, and peering curiously upon him from below the hal£raised lids. The red fire-light which gleamed on the eye-balls gave them a peculiar and equivocal lustre, which added force to their native sharpness of expression. Danny felt the ill effect he had produced, and carried it off with a fit of yawning and stretching, asking Lowry at the same time, with a drowsy air, if he meant to go to bed at all?
To be sure I do, said Lowry, when its pleasing to the company to part. Theres a time for all things, as they say in the Reading-made-asy.
Surely, surely, returned Danny with a yawn, Dear knows, den, the Readen-made-asy time is come now, for tit amost mornen.
I always, mostly, smoke a drass before I go to bed of a night, said Lowry, turning towards the fire, and clearing the bowl of his pipe by knocking it gently against the bar of the grate, I like to be smoaken an talken when the company is agreeable, and I see no rason for bein in a hurry to-night above all others. Come, Nelly, he added, while he chopped up a little tobacco, and pressed it into the bowl with the tip of his little finger, Come here, an sit near me, I want to be talken to you.
Saying this, he took a half-burnt sod from the fire, crushed the bowl into the burning portion, and after offering it in vain to Danny, placed it in the corner of his mouth. He then remained for some moments, with his eyes half closed, drawing in the fire with his breath, and coaxing it with hitsfinger, until the vapour flowed freely through the narrow tube, and was emitted at intervals, at the opposite corner of his mouth, in a dense and spiry stream.
An what do you want to be saying? said Nell, taking her seat between Lowry and the Lord, Ill engage you have nothing to say to me afther all.
Come a little nearer, said Lowry, without changing his position.
Well,, there why, returned Nelly, moving her chair a little closer, will that do?
No, it wont. Tis a whisper I have for you. Misther Mann would hear me if I told it to you where you are.
Oh, a whisper! Well, now Im close enough any way, she said, placing her chair in contact with that of Lowry.
The latter took the pipe from his mouth, and advanced his face to close to that of the expectant house-maid, that she feared he was about to snatch a kiss. Perhaps it was in mere curiosity, to satisfy herself whether in fact he could possess so much audacity, that Nelly did not avoid that danger by moving her head aside; but greatly to her surprise, and doubtless, likewise to her satisfaction, the honest man proved that he had no such insolent intention. When he had attained a convenient proximity, he merely parted his lips a little, and puffed a whole volume of smoke into her eyes. Nelly uttered a gentle scream and covered her face with her hands, while Danny and Lowry exchanged a broad grin of satisfaction.
Well, Lowry, exclaimed the girl with much good humour, youre the greatest rogue going, and thats your name this night. Lowry appeared to muse for a few moments while he continued the enjoyment of his pipe. In a little time he once more took it from his lips, puffed forth the last whiff, and said, Misther Mann, they may say this and that of the world; an of poverty and riches, an humility an gentility, and every thing else they like, but heres my word, ever. If I was a king upon a throne this minute, an I wanted to have a smoke for myself by the fire-side, why if I was to do my best, what could I smoke but one penorth o tobacco in the night afther all? An cannt I have that, at it is, just as asy? If I was to have a bed with down feathers upon it, what could I do more than sleep there? An sure I can do that in the settle-bed above? If I was able to buy the whole market out an out, what could I ate of it more than I did to-night of that pork upon the table? Do you tee now, Misther Mann? Do you tee Nelly? Unless he could smoke two pipes of a night instead of one, or sleep more, or ate more without hurt, I dont say whats the advantage a king has over a poor man like myself.
A sure, you know thats foolish talk, Lowry. Sure the King could buy and sell you at the fair if he liked.
He couldnt without the Jury, returned Lowry, the Judge and Jury ever. He couldnt lay a wet finger on me, without the Jury, be coorse of law. The round o the world is as free to me as it is to him, if the world be round in airnest, as they say it is.
Round, ayeh? said Nell.
Iss, to be sure.
Danny Mann looked at him for a moment. Is it the world were walkin on? he asked in some surprize.
To be sure, what else?
A dont be talking, returned Danny, turning his head away in perfect scorn of the hypothesis.
Faix, I tell you no lie, said Lowry, tis printed in all the books in Europe. They say that if it wasnt round, wed soon be done for. We couldnt keep our hoult upon it at all, only to go flyin through the elements, the Lord save us!
Oh, vo! vo! said Nelly, well, that bates Ireland.
Sure theres more says that it isnt the sun above do be moven at all, only we goin round it.
That the sun doesnt stir?
Not a peg.
Well, now you may hould your tongue, after dat, said Danny, after wantin to take de eye-sight from us. Sure the whole world sees the sun goin, any way.
I wouldnt blieve that, said Nelly, if they were to put their eyes upon sticks.
I wouldnt be so, returned Lowry, what business would a poor boy o my kind have goin again men that are able to write books, let alone readen em. But tis the foolishness of the women, he continued, fixing upon Nell as the least pugnacious opponent, women are always for foolishness. Theyll blieve or not blieve, just as they like themselves. Equal to Dan Dawleys second wife, - Did you ever hear o that business, Misther Mann?
Not as I know.
Well, stir up the fire, Nelly, an put down a couple o sods, an Ill tell it while I am finishing my pipe, and then well all be off to bed. Dan Dawley was married the second time to a very nice girl, one Jug Minaham (hes the steward at Cattle-Chute, behind.) Well, he was out of a day at work, an his wife was setten alone by the fire, a few weeks afther they being married. Now there was one o the stones in the chimney (as it might be that stone there,) an it stood out loose from the morthar a dale beyond the rest. Well, she sat looking at it for a while, and the thought come in her head, If I had a child now, says the, an he was standing a-near that stone, may be twould fall out and brain him on me. An with the thought o that, she began roaring and bawling equal to any thing ever you hear.
Oh, then, she was a foolish girl, said Nelly.
Dear knows that was her name, said Danny.
Well, her old Mother heerd her bawling, an she came in the greatest hurry. A what ails you, Jug? says she. So Jug up and told her her thought about the stone, an began bawling worse than ever. An if she did, the mother joined her, and such a pillilu as they raised between em was never known. That was well an good. Well, Dan was abroad in the potatie-garden, an he heard the work goin on in his house, crying equal to a funeral. Whats this about? says Dan, theres somebody murthered, surely. So he made for the doore, an in he walked, an there he found the pair o ladies. A what ails you, mother? said he, Jug will tell you, agra, says the mother. So he looked at Jug. Thinken I was, says she, still crying, that if the child was born, an if that stone there fell upon him, twould brain him on me. Well, Dan stood for a while looken at her, If the sky fell, says he wed catch larks. An is that all that happened you? Isnt it enough? says she again. Well, he stopped a long while thinking in his mind, and then he reached out a hand to her. Well, says he, thats the foolishest thing I ever knew in my life, an Ill tell you what it is, I neverll take a day with you from this hour, until Ill find a woman, says he, thats foolisher than yourself. No sooner said than done, out he walked, laving em after him to do as they plased. Well, there was a long day before him, an he walked a dale before night-fall, an he didnt know where hed turn to for his bed and dinner. But sure Im asy about it, says he, sure while theres fools of women in the place, Ill engage I neednt starve. Well, he called a gorsoon that was going the road. Whose farm-house, says he, is that I see over there? Its belongin to a widow woman, sir, said the boy. What sort of a man was her husband? says Dan. A small, dark man, an wearing top boots, says the boy. Well became Dan, he made for the house, an axed for the lone woman. She was standen on the lawn looking at her cows milking, when Dan made towards her. Well, where do you come from? says the widow-woman, From heaven, maam, says Dan, making a bow. From heaven? says she, looking at him with her eyes open. Yes, maam, says he, for a little start. An I seen your husband there too, maam. My husband, inagh,* says she, looking at him very knowing, can you tell me what sort of a man he was? A small dark man, says Dan, an wearing top boots. I give it in to you, says she, thats the man. Come this way, an tell me what did he say to you, or did he give any message to me? Well, Dan put no bounds to his tongue, just to thry her. He bid me tell you, says he that hes very badly off for want o victuals; an hed like to have the young grey horse to be ridin for himself, an hed do as much if you could send em to him. Why then Ill do that, says the widow, for he was a good husband to me when he lived. What time will you be going back? To-morrow or afther, says Dan, afther I see my people. Well, stay here tonight, says she, an Ill give you something to take to him in the morning. Well became her, she brought him in, and trated him like a prince that night, with music an dancing; an in the morning she had the grey horse at the doore with a bag o flour, and a crock o butter, an a round o corned beef. Well, Dan mounted the horse, an away with him home to his wife. Well, Jug, says he, Ill take with you all my days, for as bad as you are theres more thats twice worse; an I believe if I went farther tis worse an worse Id be getting to the worlds end. So he up an told em the whole business, an they had a merry supper that night, and for weeks afther, on what Dan brought home with him.
He was a rogue, for all, said Nelly, to keep the poor womans horse upon her.
She deserved it, says Danny, an worse. I never hear o such a fool. Well, Lowry, will you go to bed now at last?
The question was answered in the affirmative; and Danny was at the same time pressed to take a share of the sweets of the table, which he resolutely refused. Soon after, the careful Nelly, having made Lowry turn his head another way, ascended by a ladder to her pallet, on a loft over the parlour; while Lowry and the little lord rolled into the settle-bed together, the one to dream of breakers, raw onions, whiskey, and Misther Hardress; the other, of Foxy Dunats mare, and the black eyes of Syl Carney.
*An optical illusion.
Chapter 15: How Hardress Spent His Time While Kyrle Daly Was Asleep
All were now asleep, except the two strangers, and the silence, which reigned throughout the little cottage, showed Hardress that no ear was capable of detecting his movements. He opened his room door softly, slipped his shoes from his feet, and leaving the light burning on his table, trusted to the famous sixth sense of the German physiologists, for a chance of finding his way among the chairs and tables in the dark. He reached the door without a stumble; and perceived by the light, which streamed through the keyhole and under the door of his fair friends apartment, that she still expected him.
Their meeting, though silent, was impassioned and affectionate. Hardress enquired, with the tender and sedulous attention of a newly married man, whether she felt any injurious effects from the storm - whether she had changed her dress, and taken some refreshment - whether, in fine, her situation was in any way inconvenient to her?
In no way at all, Mr. Hardress, as to any of these things you mention, she replied in a low voice, for she was fearful of waking Mrs. Frawley in the next room. But as to the mind! - May heaven never give you the affliction of spending two such hours as I have done since I entered this room!
My life, why will you speak so? What other course remained for our adoption? You know your fathers temper, he would as soon have died as sanctioned a private marriage, such as ours must be for some time longer. It would be absolute ruin to me if my mother knew of my having contracted such an engagement without consulting her wishes - and my father, as I have before told you, will act exactly as she desires. And why, now, my love, will you indulge those uneasy humours? Are you not my bride, my wife, the chosen of my heart, and the future partner of my fortunes? Do you really think that I would forget my little angels feelings, so far as to omit any thing in my power that might set her mind at rest? If you do, I must tell you that I love you more than you imagine.
Oh, Mr. Hardress! oh, dont say that at all, sir, said the young woman with frankness and ready warmth of manner. Only I was just thinking, an I sitting by the fire, what a heartbreak it would be to my father, if anybody put it into his head that the case was worse than it is, (here she hung down her head) and no more would be wanting but just a little word on a scrap o paper, to let him know that he neednt be uneasy, and that hed know all in time.
This suggestion appeared to jar against the young gentlemans inclinations. If you wish, said he, with a little earnestness of voice, I will return with you to Garryowen to-morrow, and have our marriage made public from the altar of Johns Gate Chapel. I have no object in seeking to avoid my own ruin, greater than that of preventing you from sharing it. But if you will insist upon running the hazard - hazard? I mean, if you are determined on certainly destroying our prospects of happiness, your will shall be dearer to me than fortune or friends either. If you have a father to feel for, you will not forget, my love, that I have a mother whom I love as tenderly, and whose feelings deserve some consideration at my hands.
The gentle girl seemed affected, but not hurt, by this speech. Dont be angry with me, she said, laying her hand affectionately on his shoulder, dont be angry, Mr. Hardress. I know I have a very bad head, and cant see into every thing at once; but one word from you (and it neednt be an angry one either) is enough to open my eyes. Insist, do you say, Mr. Hardress? Indeed, sir, I was never made to insist upon any thing. But when a thought, foolish as it is, once comes into my head, I long to speak of it, to know what you will say, to know if it is wrong or right. You wouldnt wish that I should keep it from you, sir?
Never, oh, never! Do not think of that.
I never will practice it long, any way, for such thoughts as those, if I were to hide them, would kill me before a month. But keep always near me, my dear, dear Mr. Hardress, for though you showed me that there is nothing very criminal in what I have done, yet when you leave me long alone, the reasons go out of my head, and I only think of what the neighbours are saying about me, this way, and of what my father must feel, listening to them. Dont think, now, sir, that I am going to question what you tell me (for I trust in you next to heaven) but if I am not so much to blame, why is it that my mind is not at ease? The storm, sir - oh, that storm! When the waves rose, and the boat rocked, and the wind howled about me, how my feelings changed on a sudden! I strove to look quiet before you, but my heart was leaping for fear within me. When we sank down in the darkness and rose in the light, when the waves were dashen in over the side, and the sails were dippen in the water, I thought of my fathers fire-side, and I was sure that it was the anger of the Almighty, hunting the disobedient child over the dark waters. I thought I never would walk the land again - and how will it be, says I, if the boat breaks under us, and my father is told that his daughter was washed ashore a corpse, with a blot upon her name, and no one living that can clear it? ... But, I give thanks to Heaven! the poor girl continued, clasping her hands, and looking upward with tears in her eyes - that judgment has been spared; not for my merit, I am sure, but for its own mercy.
And is not that a quieting remembrance, Eily? said her husband. Oh, that is not all, said Eily, that is not the worst. Every moment that I make seems to bring down the anger of heaven, since I first thought of deceiving my father. Do you remember the morning of our marriage? she added with a slight shudder, I never can put that frightful morning out of my mind. Tis always before my eyes. The little room inside the sacristy, and the candles burning on the small table, and the grey dawn just breaking through the window! We did not marry as other people do, in their families, or in the open daylight. We married in secret, like criminals in prison, without preparation, without confession, or communion, or repentance. We chose a priest that was disgraced by his Bishop, to give us that great sacrament, for money. May heaven forgive him! how soon and suddenly he was called to judgment for that act!
Hardress, who had himself been struck by the circumstance last alluded to, remained silent for a moment, while his eyes were fixed upon the earth.
Why did you go back to the chapel that time, Eily, he said at length, after I parted from you at the door?
Every thing looked bad and disheartening, said the young woman, I was just going to lift the latch of my fathers door, when I found that I had forgot the priests certificate. I went back to the chapel as fast as I could walk. I passed through the sacristy and into the little room. The certificate was there upon the table, the candles were burning, and the clergyman was sitting upright in his chair - a dead man! Oh, I can no more tell you how I felt that moment than if I was dumb. I thought the world was coming to an end, and that I had no more hold of life, than of the wind that was going by me. I ran out into the chapel and strove to pray, but my blood was boiling out at my fingers ends. While I was on my knees, I heard the people running to and fro in the sacristy, and I hurried out of the chapel for fear Id be questioned.
And did you go home at once?
No; I took a walk first, to quiet my mind a little, and when I did go home, I found my father was up and getting the breakfast ready before me. Ah, he deserved a better daughter than Eily!
Come, come! said her husband kindly, you will be a good daughter to him yet.
I hope so, sir, said Eily, in a mournful voice. Theres one thing, at all events. He loves me very well, and whenever I return, I am sure of being easily forgiven.
And can you find no encouragement in that? Hardress said, while he took her hand in his, and pressed it in a soothing manner. You say that you have confidence in me - and the few happy weeks that we have counted since our marriage have furnished me with no occasion for complaint on that subject. Continue yet a little longer to trust in your own Hardress, and the time will shortly come when you shall find that it was not bestowed in vain. Come, now, let me dry those sweet eyes, while I tell you shortly what my plans shall be. You have heard me speak of Danny Manns sister, Naughten, who lives on the side of the Purple Mountain, in the Gap of Dunlough - (you dont know those places now, but youll be enchanted with them by and by.) She is a good natured creature, though somewhat violent; and is, moreover, entirely at my command. I have had two neat rooms fitted up for you in her cottage, where you can have some books to read, a little garden to amuse you, and a Kerry pony to ride over the mountains, and see all that is to be seen about the lakes. In the meantime I will steal a visit now and then to my mother, who spends the autumn in the neighbourhood. She loves me, I know, as well as I love her; and that is very well. I will gradually let her into my secret, and obtain her forgiveness - I am certain she will not withhold it - and my fathers will follow as a matter of course - for he has the greatest respect for her opinions. (If Hardress had not been Barny Cregans son, he would have given this respect another name.) I shall then present you to my mother, she will commend your modesty and gentleness to my father, who will rap out an exclamation on your beauty; we shall send for your father and priest OConnor to the hauling-home, and then where is the tongue that shall venture to wag against the fame of Eily Cregan? If such a one there be, it shall never sting again, for I will cut the venom out of it with my small-sword.
Hush! hush, sir! Do not speak so loud, cried the young woman in some alarm - theres one asleep in the next room. Who is it? Mrs. Frawley?
The fat, good old woman that got dinner ready for me.
Never fear her. She is a hard-working diligent woman, that always minds the business she has in hand. It was not to lie awake and make use of her ears that she got between the blankets. Hark! - There is a clearer proof still that she is asleep. She must be dreaming of a hunt, she imitates the horn of chase so finely. Well, Eily, be ready to start for Ballybunion at sunrise in the morning. You must contrive to slip down to the shore without being seen by Lowry, or any body else, if possible.
The creaking of the bed, which sustained the ponderous Mrs. Frawley, here startled the young and passionate, though most ill-sorted, pair. After a hurried good night, Hardress returned to his room just in time to escape the observation of the good dairy-woman, who had been awaked out of a dream of pecks and keelers and fresh prints by the sound of voices in the strangers room. On opening the door, however, she was a little astonished to observe the lovely guest in the attitude of devotion. Deprived, by this circumstance, of the opportunity of putting any awkward questions, Mrs. Frawley, after yawning once or twice, and shaking her shoulders as often, tumbled into bed again, and speedily resumed the same tone upon the horn which had excited the admiration of Hardress.
Reader, I desire you not to think that this speedy fit of devotion was a manœuvre of the gentle Eily. The sin, assuredly, was not done with reflection. But if the case appears suspicious, go down upon your knees and pray that as (alas, the while!) it has not been the first, it may be the last instance in which religion shall be made subservient to human and terrestrial purposes!
There was a slight feeling of chagrin mingled with the happier emotions of the young husband as he prepared for slumber. Gifted, as he was, with a quick perception and keen feeling of the beautiful and worthy, the passion he had conceived for the gentle Eily had been as sudden as it was violent. The humility of her origin, at a period when pride of birth was more considered in matrimonial alliances than it is at present, might, it is true, have deterred him from contravening the wishes of his friends, if the impression made on his imagination had been less powerful; but his extreme youth, and the excelling beauty of his bride, were two circumstances that operated powerfully in tempting him to overlook all other counsels than those which love suggested. He thought, nevertheless, that he had acted towards Eily OConnor with a generosity which approached a species of magnanimity, in preferring her before the whole world and its opinions; and perhaps, too, he entertained a little philosophical vanity in the conceit that he had thus evinced an independent reliance on his own mental resources, and shown a spirit superior to the ordinary prejudices of society. He felt therefore, a little chagrined at Eilys apparent slowness in appreciating so noble an effort, for indeed she did him the justice to believe that it was a higher motive than the love of self-adulation which induced him to bestow upon her his hand and his affections. But the reader is yet only partially acquainted with the character of Hardress, and those early circumstances which fashioned it to its present state of irregular and imperfect virtue; we will, therefore, while that fiery heart lies quenched in slumber, employ those hours of inaction in a brief and comprehensive view of the natural qualities and acquirements of our hero.
While Hardress Cregan was yet a child, he displayed more symptoms of precocious ability, than might have shed a lustre on the boyhood of many a celebrated genius. He obtained, even in his school days, the sobriquet of Counsellor from his fondness for discussion, and the childish eloquence which he displayed in maintaining a favourite position. His father liked him for a certain desperation of courage which he was apt to discover on occasions of very inadequate provocation. His mother, too, doated on him for a mothers own, best reason; that he was her child. Indulgent she was, even to a ruinous extent; and proud she was, when her sagacious acquaintances, after hearing her relate some wonderful piece of wit in little Hardress, would compress their lips, shake their heads with much emphasis, and prophecy that that boy would shine one day or another. His generosity too (a quality in which Mrs. Cregan was herself preeminent) excited his mothers admiration, and proved indeed that Hardress was not an ordinary child.
And yet he was not without the peculiar selfishness of genius, that selfishness which consists not in the love of getting, or the love of keeping, in cupidity or avarice; but in a luxurious indulgence of all ones natural inclinations, even to an effeminate degree. His very generosity was a species of self-seeking, of that vulgar quality which looks to nothing more than the gratification of a suddenly awakened impulse of compassion, or, perhaps, has a still meaner object for its stimulus, the gratitude of the assisted, and the fame of an open hand. If this failing were in Hardress, as in Charles Surface, the result of habitual thoughtlessness and dissipation, it might challenge a gentler condemnation, and awaken pity rather than dislike; but young Cregan was by no means incapable of appreciating the high merit of a due self-government even in the exercise of estimable dispositions. He admired, in Kyrle Daly, that noble and yet unaffected firmness of principle which led him, on many occasions, to impose a harsh restraint upon his own feelings, when their indulgence was not in accordance with his notions of justice. But Hardress Cregan, with an imagination which partook much more largely of the national luxuriance, and with a mind which displayed, at intervals, bursts of energy which far surpassed the reach of his steady friend, was yet the less estimable character of the two. They were, nevertheless, well calculated for a lasting friendship; for Kyrle Daly liked and valued the surpassing talent of Hardress, and Hardress was pleased with the even temper and easy resolution of his school-fellow.
Seldom, indeed, it was, that esteem formed any portion in the leading motive of Hardress Cregans attachments. He liked for likings sake, and as long only as his humour lasted. It required but a spark to set him all on fire, but the flame was often as prone to smoulder, and become extinct, as it was hasty to kindle. The reader is already aware that he had formed during his boyhood, a passion for Anne Chute, who was then a mere girl, and on a visit at Dinis Cottage. His mother, who, from his very infancy had arranged this match within her own mind, was delighted to observe the early attachment of the children, and encouraged it by every means in her power. They studied, played, and walked together, and all his recollections of the magnificent scenery of those romantic mountain lakes were blended with the form, the voice, the look and manner of his childish love. The long separation, however, which ensued when he was sent to school, and from thence to college, produced a total alteration in his sentiments; and the mortification which his pride experienced on finding himself, as he imagined, utterly forgotten by her, completely banished even the wish to renew their old familiar life. Still, however, the feeling with which be regarded her was rather one of resentment than indifference, and it was not without a secret creeping of the heart, that he witnessed what he thought the successful progress of Kyrle Dalys attachment.
It was under these circumstances, that he formed his present hasty union with Eily OConnor. His love for her was deep, sincere, and tender. Her entire and unbounded confidence, her extreme beauty, her simplicity and timid deference to his wishes, made a soothing compensation to his heart for the coldness of the haughty, though superior, beauty, whose inconstancy had raised his indignation.
Yes, said Hardress to himself as be gathered the blankets about his shoulders, and disposed himself for sleep. Her form and dispositions are perfect. Would that education had been to her as kind as nature! Yet she does not want grace nor talent; - but that brogue! Well, well! the materials of refinement are within and around her, and it must be my task, and my delight, to make the brilliant shine out that is yet dark in the ore. I fear Kyrle Daly is, after all, correct in saying that I am not indifferent to those external allurements. (Here his eyelids drooped.) The beauties of our mountain residence will make a mighty alteration in her mind, and my society will - will - gradually - beautiful - Anne Chute - Poll Naughten - independent ...
The ideas faded on his imagination, a cloud settled on his brain, a delicious languor crept through all his limbs, he fell into a profound repose.