Gerald Griffin, The Collegians (1829)

(cont.)

Chapter 16: How the Friends Parted
“Is Fighting Poll up yet, I wonder,” said Lowry Looby, as he stood cracking his whip in the farm-yard, while the morning was just beginning to break, and the dairy people were tying down the firkins on his car. “I’d like to see her before I’d go, to know would she have any commands westwards. There’s no hoult upon her to hinder her speaking of a Friday, whatever.”
”Is who up?” exclaimed a shrill voice which proceeded from the grated windows of the dairy. It was that of the industrious Mrs. Frawley, who, as early, if not as brisk and sprightly as the lark, was already employed in setting her milk in the keelers.
 “Fighting Poll of the Reeks,” replied Lowry, turning toward the wire grating, through which he beheld the extensive figure of the dairy-woman, as neat as a bride, employed in her health-giving, life-prolonging, avocations.
 “Who is she, why?” said Mrs. Frawley.
 “Don’t you know the girl that come in the boat with Misther Cregan, and slep in the room outside you?”
 “Oyeh! I did n’t know who you meant. The boatman’s handsome little sister?” “
 Handsome, ayeh?”
 “Yes, then, handsome. She has the dawniest little nose I think I ever laid my two eyes on.
 “Why then ’tis a new story with it for a nose. Formerly, when I knew it, it was more like a button musharoon than any thing else, and the colour of a boiled carrot. Good raisun it had for that, as the publicans could tell you.”
 “Hold your tongue, man. Is it to drink you say she used?”
 “A thrifle, I’m tould.”
 “F’ then, I never see one that has less the sign of it than what she has.”
 “She’s altered lately, Danny Mann tells me. Nelly, eroo,” he added, changing his tone, “Sonuher* to you, now, an’ get me a dram, for its threatening to be a moist foggy mornen’, an’ I have a long road before me.” Nelly was occupied in liberating a whole regiment of ducks, hens, pouts, chicks, cocks, geese and turkies; who all came quacking, clucking, whistling, chirping, crowing, cackling, and gobbling, through the opened fowl-house door into the yard; where they remained shaking their wings on tiptoe, stretching their long necks over the little pool, the surface of which was green, and covered with feathers; appearing to congratulate each other on their sudden liberation, and seeming evidently disposed to keep all the conversation to themselves.
 “What is it you say, Lowry? Choke ye, for ducks, will ye let nobody spake but ye’rselves? What is it, Lowry?”
 Lowry repeated his request, making it more intelligible amid the clamour of the farm-yard, by using a significant gesture. He imitated the action of one who fills a glass and drinks it. He then laid his hand upon his heart and shook his head, as if to intimate the comfort that would be produced about that region by performing in reality what he only mocked at present.
 Nelly understood him as well as if he had spoken volumes. Commissioned by Mrs. Frawley, she supplied him with a bottle of spirits and a glass, with the use of which, let us do Lowry the justice to say, there was not a man in the barony better acquainted.
 While he dashed from his eyes the tears which were produced by the sharpness of the stimulus, he heard footsteps behind him, and looking round, beheld Danny, the Lord, and the soi-disant Mrs. Naughten, still muffled in her blue cloak and hood, and occupying a retired position near the kitchen door.
 “I’ll tell you what it is, Nelly,” said Lowry with a knowing wink to thc soubrette. “Poll Naughten lives very convanient on the Cork road, or not far from it, an’ I do be often goen’ that way of a lonesome night. I’ll make a friend o’ Poll before she leaves this, so as that she’ll he glad to see me another time. I’ll go over an’ offer her a dhram. That I may be blest, but I will.”
 So saying, and hiding the bottle and glass under the skirt of his coat, he moved toward the formidable heroine of the mountains with many respectful bows and a smile of the most winning cordiality.
 “A fine, moist mornen’ Mrs. Naughten. I hope you feel no fatague after the night, ma’am. Your sarvant, Misther Mann. I hope you didn’t feel us in the yard, ma’am. I sthrove to keep ’em quiet, o’ purpose. Tisn’t goen’ ye are so airly, Misther Mann?”
 Danny, who felt all the importance of diverting Lowry Looby’s attention from his fair charge, could find no means so effectual as that of acknowledging the existence of a mystery, and admitting him into a pretended confidence. Advancing, therefore, a few steps to meet him, he put on a most serious countenance and laid his finger warily along his nose.
 “What’s the matther?” whispered Lowry, bending down in the eagerness of curiosity.
 Danny the Lord repeated the action with the addition of a cautionary frown.
 “Can’t she talk of a Friday either?” said Lowry, much amazed. “I undherstand, Misther Mann. Trust me for the bare life. A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse.”
 “Or ass eider,” muttered the hunch-hack as he turned away. “But, Misther Mann!” cried Lowry, laying his immense claw upon his Lordship’s shoulder. “Listen hether. The mornen’ will be smart enough; and maybe I’d betther offer her a dhram, and she goen’ upon the wather?
 He strode past the Lord and was close to the muffled fair one, when Danny pulled him back by the skirt.
 “Didn’t I tell you before,” said he, “dat Poll never drank?”
 “’Iss, of a Thursday you said.”
 “Or a Friday, or any day. Oh den, oh den, Lowry!”
 “Well, I meant no harm. May be you’d have no vow yourself on the head of it any way, sir?” And he displayed the bottle.
 “Dere are tree kinds of oats, Lowry,” responded Danny Mann, as he twined his bony fingers fondly around the neck of the bottle; “Dere are tree kinds of oats dat are forbidden to be tuk as unlawful. Dey are false oats, rash oats, and unjust oats. Now do you see me, Lowry,” he continued, as he filled his glass - “if I made a vow o’ dat kind, it would he an unjust oat, for it would be traiten’ myself very bad, a poor boy dat’s night and day at sech cold work as mine, an’ it would be a rash oat, Lowry, for” (here he tossed off the spirits) “I’m blest but it wouldn’t be long before I’d make it a false oat.”
 Lowry was greatly shocked at this unprincipled speech. “That’s a nate youth,” he said privately to Nelly. “That’s a nice pet, not judging him. If that lad doesn’t see the inside of the Stone Jug* for some bad business one time or another, I’ll give you lave to say black is the white o’ my eye. If the gallows isn’t wrote upon his face, there’s no mait in mutton. Well, good mornen’ to you, Nelly, I see my load is ready. I have every thing now, I suppose, Mrs. Frawley. Whup, get up here, you old garron! Good mornen’ to you, Mrs. Naughten, an’ a fair wind after you.
 “Good mornen’, Misther Mann.”
 He cracked his whip, tucked the skirt of his riding coat under his arm, as usual, threw his little head back, and followed the car out of the yard, singing in a pleasant contented key:

“Don’t you remember the time I gave you my heart?
You solemnly swore from me you never would part.
But your mind’s like the ocean,
Each notion
Has now taken flight,
And left me bemoaning the loss of the red-haired man’s wife.”

 Kyrle Daly and his young friend were meanwhile exchanging a farewell upon the little gravel plot before the front door.
 “Come, come, go in out of the air,” said Hardress, “you shall not come down to the shore in that slight dress. Rememhbr what I have told you, and sustain your spirits. Before another month shall pass, I pledge myself to become master, for your sake, of Anne Chute’s secret.”
 “And to honour it?” said Kyrle, smiling as he gave him his hand.
 “According to its value,” replied Hardress, tossing his head, “Good bye; I see Danny Mann and his sister coming round, and we must not lose the morning’s tide.”
 They shook hands and parted. It was one of those still and heavy mornings which are peculiar to the close of summer in this climate. The surface of the waters was perfectly still, and a light wreath of mist steamed upward from the centre of the channel, so as to veil from their sight the opposite shores of Clare. This mist, ere long, became a dense and blinding fog, that lasted until noon, and together with the breathless calm that lay upon the land and water, prevented their reaching Ballybunion until sunset. In one of those caverns which are hollowed out of the cliffs on this shore, the traveller may discern the remains of an artificial chamber. It was used at the period of which we write, as a kind of ware-room for contraband goods; a species of traffic which was freely engaged in by nearly all the middling gentry and small farmers along the coast. A subterraneous passage, faced with dry stone work, opened into the interior of the country; and the chamber itself, from constant use, was become perfectly dry and habitable. In this place Hardress proposed to Eily that they should remain, and take some refreshment, while Danny the Lord was dispatched to secure a better lodging for the night, at some retired farm-house in the neighbourhood.
 A small canvas-built canoe, summoned from the interior of the cave by a whistle from the Lord, was employed to convey them from the pleasure-boat into the gloomy porch of this natural souterrain. Before the fragile skiff had glided into the darkness, Eily turned her head to catch a parting look of the descending sun. The scene which met her gaze, would have appeared striking, even to an accustomed eye; and to one like hers, acquainted only with the smoky splendour of a city sunset, it was grand and imposing in the extreme. Before her lay the gigantic portals of the Shannon, through which the mighty river glided forth with a majestic calmness, to mingle with the wide and waveless ocean that spread beyond and around them. On her right arose the clifted shores of Clare, over which the broad ball of day, although some minutes hidden from her sight, seemed yet, by refraction, to hold his golden circlet suspended amid a broken and brilliant mass of vapours. Eily kept her eyes fixed in admiration on the dilated orb, until a turn in the cave concealed the opening from her view, and she could only see the stream of light behind, as it struck on the jagged and broken walls of the orifice, and danced upon the surface of the agitated waters.
 The place to her seemed terrible. The hollow sound of the boatman’s voice, the loud plash of the oars, and the rippling of the water against the vessel’s prow, reverberating through the vaulted chambers; the impenetrable darkness into which they seemed to plunge headlong, and reckless of danger or impediment; all united, constituted a scene so new to the simple Eily, that she grasped close the arm of her husband, and held her breath for some moments, as if in expectation of some sudden and terrific encounter. In a little time the boatman rested on his oars, and a voice from the interior of the cave was heard exclaiming in Irish, “Is it himself?”
 “It is,” said the boatman in the same language. “Light up the fire at once, and put down a few of the fresh herrings. The lady is hungry.”
 “You will join for the first time, Eily,” said Hardress, “in a fisherman’s supper. Well, Larry, had you much luck last night?”
 “Poor enough, masther,” said the same oracular voice, which Eily now recognized as that of the man to whose escort she had been entrusted by Lowry Looby on the previous evening. “We left Misther Daly’s point as soon as ever the wind fell, and come down as far as Kilcordane, thinking we might come across the scull; but, though we were out all night, we took only five hundhert, more or less. A’ why don’t you light up the fire, Phaudhrig? And ’twasnt that the herrings didn’t come into the river either, for when the moon shone out we saw the scull to the westward, making a curl on the waters, as close an’ thick as if you threw a shovel full o’ gravel in a pond.”
 The fire now blazed suddenly upward, revealing the interior of the apartment before alluded to, and the figure of the rough old boatman and his boy. The latter was stooping forward on his hands, and kindling the fire with his breath, while Larry Kett himself was rinsing a small metal pot at the water-side. The effect of the smoky and subterraneous light upon those uncouth and grisly figures, and on the rude excavation itself, impressed the timid Eily with a new and agitating sensation, too nearly allied to fear to leave her mind at ease.
 In a few minutes she was seated on a small keg near the fire, while Hardress hurried the men who were preparing dinner. Larry Kett was not so proficient in the science of gastronomy as the celebrated Louis of Crockford’s, and yet it is to be questioned, whether the culinary preparations of the latter were ever dispatched with more eagerness and satisfaction. Eily, indeed, ate only a heroine’s proportion; but she wondered at the voracity of the boatmen, one of whom placing a raw onion on an unpeeled potato, swallowed both at a mouthful, almost without employing a single masticatory action.
 Danny Mann in the meantime was occupied in procuring a more eligible lodging for the night. He returned when they had concluded their unceremonious meal, to say that he had been successful in procuring two rooms, in the house of “a little ’oman dat kep a private bottle between dat an’ Beale.”
 “A private bottle?” exclaimed Hardress; “what do you mean by a private bottle?”
 “I mean,” replied the little lord, “dat she sells as good a drop as if she paid license for it; a ting she never was fool enough to do.”
 “Where does she live?”
 “Close to de road above. She told me,” (here he drew Hardress aside) “when I axed her, dat Myles of de ponies, and de master, an’ a deal o’ gentlemen went de road westwards yesterday, an’ dat Phil Naughten (Poll’s Phil) was in Beale waiten’ for you dese two days wit de horse an’ jauntin’ car.”
 “I am glad to hear it. Step over there to-night, and tell him to be at the door before day-break to-morrow morning. Tell him I will double his fare if he uses diligence.”
 “Why din, indeed,” said Danny, “I’ll tell him notin’ o’ de sort. ’Twould be de same case wit him still, for he’s a boy dat if you gave him England, Ireland, an’ Scotland for an estate, he’d ax de Isle o’ Man for a kitchen garden.”
 “Well, well, do as you please about it, Danny, but have him on the spot. That fellow,” he continued, speaking to Eily as he conducted her out of the cavern, “that fellow is so impudent sometimes, that nothing but the recollection of his fidelity and the honesty of his motive keeps my hand at rest. He is my foster brother, and, you may perceive, with the exception of one deformity, a well-looking man.”
 “I never observed any thing but the hunch,” said Eily.
 “For which,” added Hardress with a slight change in his countenance, “he has to thank his master.”
 “You, Mr. Hardress!”
 “Even so, Eily. When we were both children, that young fellow was my constant companion. Familiarity produced a feeling of equality, on which he presumed so far as to offer a rudeness to a little relative of mine, a Miss Chute, who was on a visit at my mother’s. She complained to me, and my vengeance was summary. I met him at the head of the kitchen stairs, and without even the ceremony of a single question or preparatory speech, I seized him by the collar and hurled him with desperate force to the bottom of the flight. He was unable to rise as soon as I expected, and on examination it was discovered that an injury had been done to the spine, which, notwithstanding all the exertions that were employed to repair it, had its result in his present deformity.”
 “It was shocking,” said Eily, with much simplicity of feeling. “No wonder you should be kind to him.”
 “If I were a mere block,” said Hardress, “I could not but be affected by the good nature and kindly feeling which the poor fellow showed on the occasion, and indeed down to the present moment. It seemed to be the sole aim and study of his life to satisfy me that he entertained not even a sentiment of regret for what had happened; and his attachment ever since has been the attachment of a zealot. I know he cannot but feel that his own prospects in life have been made dark and lonely by that accident; and yet he is congratulating himself whenever an opportunity occurs, on his good fortune, in being provided with a constant service, as if (poor fellow!) that were any compensation to him. I have been alarmed to observe that he sometimes attaches even a profane importance to his master’s wishes, and seems to care but little what laws he may transgress when his object is the gratification of my inclinations. I say, I am alarmed on this subject, because I have taken frequent occasion to remark that this injury to his spine has in some degree affected his head, and left him less able to discern the impropriety of such a line of conduct than people of sounder minds.”

Notes:
*A good husband.
*The gaol.

Chapter 17: How Hardress Learned a Little Secret From a Dying Huntsman
Notwithstanding the message which Hardress Cregan sent by Lowry Looby, it was more than a week before he visited his parents at their Killarney residence. Several days were occupied in seeing Eily pleasantly settled in her wild cottage in the Gap, and a still greater number in enjoying with her the pleasures of an autumnal sojourn amid those scenes of mystery, enchantment and romance. To a mind that is perfectly at freedom, Killarney forms in itself a congeries of Elysian raptures; but to a fond bride and bridegroom! - the heaven, to which its mountains rear their naked heads in awful reverence, alone can furnish a superior happiness.
After taking an affectionate leave of his beautiful wife, and assuring her that his absence should not be extended beyond the following day, Hardress Cregan mounted one of Phil Naughten’s rough-coated ponies, and set off for Dinis Cottage. It was not situated (as its name might seem to import) on the sweet little island which is so called, but far apart, near the ruined Church of Aghadoe, commanding a distant view of the lower lake and the lofty and wooded Toomies.
 The sun had gone down before he left the wild and rocky glen in which was situated the cottage of his bride. It was, as we have already apprized the reader, the first time Hardress had visited the Lakes since his return from College, and the scenery, now, to his matured and well-regulated taste, had not only the effect of novelty, but it was likewise invested with the hallowing and romantic charm of youthful association. The stillness, so characteristic of majesty, which reigned throughout the gigantic labyrinth of mountain, cliff, and valley through which he rode; the parting gleam of sunshine that brightened the ever-moving mists on the summit of the lofty peaks by which he was surrounded; the solitary appearance of the many nameless lakes that slept in black repose in the centre of the mighty chasm; the echo of his horse’s hoofs against the stony road; the voice of a goatherd’s boy, as he drove homeward, from the summit of a heath-clad mountain, his troublesome and adventurous charge; the lonely twitter of the kirkeen dhra, or little water hen, as it flew from rock to rock on the margin of the broken stream - these, and other long forgotten sights and sounds, awakened at the same instant the consciousness of present, and the memory of past enjoyments; and gradually lifted his thoughts to that condition of calm enthusiasm and fullness of soul which constitutes one of the highest pleasures of a meditative mind. He did not fail to recall at this moment the memory of his childish attachment, and could not avoid a feeling of regret at the unpleasing change that education had produced in the character of his first, though not his dearest love.
 This feeling became still more deep and oppressive as he approached the cottage of his father. Every object that be beheld, the lawn, the grove, the stream, the hedge, the stile - all brought to mind some sweet remembrance of his boyhood. The childish form of Anne Chute still seemed to meet him with her bright and careless smile, at every turn in the path; or to fly before him over the shorn meadow, as of old; while the wild and merry peal of infant laughter, seemed still to ring upon his hearing. “Dear little being!” he exclaimed, as be rode into the cottage avenue. “The burning springs of Gluver, I thought, might sooner have been frozen, than the current of that once warm and kindly heart; but like those burning springs, it is only in the season of coldness and neglect that fountain can resume its native warmth. It is the fervour of universal homage and adulation that strikes it cold and pulseless in its channels.”
 The window of the dining parlour alone was lighted up, and Hardress was informed in answer to his inquiries, that the ladies, Mrs. Cregan and Miss Chute, were gone to a grand ball in the neighbourhood. Mr. Cregan, with two other gentlemen, was drinking in the dining-room; and, as he might gather from the tumultuous nature of the conversation, and the occasional shouts of ecstatic enjoyment, and bursts of laughter which rang through the house, already pretty far advanced in the bacchalanian ceremonies of the night. The voices he recognized, besides his father’s, were those of Hepton Connolly, and Mr. Creagh, the duellist.
 Feeling no inclination to join the revellers, Hardress ordered candles in the drawing room, and prepared to spend a quiet evening by himself. He had scarcely however taken his seat on the straight-backed sofa, when his retirement was invaded by old Nancy, the kitchen-maid, who came to tell him that poor Dalton the huntsman was “a’most off,” in the little green room, and that when he heard Mr. Hardress had arrived, he begged of all things to see him before he’d go. “He never was himself rightly, a’ra gal,” said old Nancy, wiping a tear from the corner of her eye, “since the masther sold the hounds and tuk to the cock-fighting.”
 Hardress started up and followed her. “Poor fellow!” he exclaimed as he went along, “Poor Dalton! And is that breath that wound so many merry blasts upon the mountain, so soon to be extinguished? I remember the time, when I thought a monarch upon his throne a less enviable being than our stout huntsman, seated on his keen eyed steed, in his scarlet frock and cap, with his hounds, like painted courtiers, thronging and baying round his horse’s hoofs, and his horn hanging silent at his waist! Poor fellow! Every beagle in the pack was his familiar acquaintance, and was as jealous of his chirp or his whistle, as my cousin Anne’s admirers might be of a smile or secret whisper! How often has he carried me before him on his saddle bow, and taught me the true fox-hunting cry! How often at evening has he held me between his knees, and excited my young ambition with tales of hunts hard run, and neck or nothing leaps; of double ditches, cleared by an almost miraculous dexterity; of drawing, yearning, challenging, hunting mute, hunting change, and hunting counter! And now the poor fellow must wind his last recheat, and carry his old bones to earth at length! - never again to waken the echoes of the mountain lakes - never again beneath the shadow of those immemorial woods that clothe their lofty shores -

Ære ciere viros, Martemque accendere cantu!

The fox may come from kennel, and the red-deer slumber on his layer, for their mighty enemy is now himself at bay.”
 While these reflections passed through the mind of Hardress, old Nancy conducted him as far as the door of the huntsman’s room, where he paused for a moment on hearing the voice of one singing inside. It was that of the worn-out huntsman himself, who was humming over a few verses of a favourite ballad. The lines which caught the ear of Hardress were the following:-

“Ah, huntsman dear, I’ll be your friend.
If you let me go till morning;
Don’t call your hounds for one half hour,
Nor neither sound your horn;
For indeed I’m tired from yesterday’s hunt,
I can neither run nor walk well,
’Till I go to Rock hill amongst my friends,
Where I was bred and born.
Tally ho the fox!
Tally ho the fox!
Tally ho the fox, a collauneen,
Tally ho the fox
Over hills and rocks
And chase him on till morning.”

 “He cannot be so very ill,” said Hardress, looking at the old woman, “when his spirits will permit him to sing so merrily.”
 “Oyeh, heaven help you, a gra!” replied Nancy, “I believe if he was at death’s doore this moment, he’d have that song on his tongue still.”
 “Hush! hush!” said Hardress, raising his hand, “he is beginning again.”
 The ballad was taken up, after a heavy fit of coughing, in the same strain.

“I locked him up an’ I fed him well,
An’ I gave him victuals of all kinds;
But I declare to you, sir, when he got loose,
He ate a fat goose in the morning.
So now kneel down an’ say your prayers,
 For you’ll surely die this morning.
’Ah, sir’ says the fox, I never pray,
’For my Father he bred me a quaker.’
Tally ho the fox!
Tally ho the ... ”

 Hardress here opened the door and cut short the refrain.
 The huntsman turned his face to the door as he heard the handle turn. It was that of a middle-aged man in the very last stage of pulmonary consumption. A red night-cap was pushed back from his wasted and sunken temples, and a flush like the bloom of a withered pippin played in the hollow of his fleshless cheek.
 “Cead millia fealtha! My heart warms to see you, my own masther Hardhress,” exclaimed the huntsman, reaching him a skeleton hand from beneath the brown quilt, “I can die in pace now, as I see you again in health. These ten days back they’re telling me you’re coming, an’ coming, an’ coming, until I began to think at last that you wouldn’t come until I was gone.”
 “I am sorry to see you in this condition, Dalton. How did you get the attack?”
 “Out of a could* I think I got it first sir. When the masther sold the hounds - (Ah, masther Hardhress! to think of his parting them dogs and giving up that fine, manly exercise, for a paltry parcel o’ cocks an’ hens!) but when he sold them an’ took to the cock-fighting, my heart felt as low an’ as lonesome as if I lost all belonging to me! To please the masther, I turned my hand to the cocks, an’ used to go every morning to the hounds’ kennel, where the birds were kept, to give ’em food an’ water; but I could never warm to the birds. Ah, what is a cock-fight, Masther Hardhress, in comparison of a well-rode hunt among the mountains, with your horse flying under you like a fairy, and the cry o’ the hounds like an organ out before you, and the ground fleeting like a dream on all sides o’ you, an’, ah! what’s the use o’ talking?” Here he lay back on his pillow with a look of sudden pain and sorrow that cut Hardress to the heart.
 After a few moments, he again turned a ghastly eye on Hardress, and said in a faint voice, “I used to go down by the lake in the evening to hear the stags belling in the wood; and in the morning I’d be up with the first light, to blow a call on the top o’ the hill as I used to do, to comfort the dogs; and then I’d miss their cry, an’ I’d stop listenin’ to the aychoes o’ the horn among the mountains, till my heart would sink as low as my ould boots. And bad boots they wor too, signs on, I got wet in ’em; and themselves, and the could morning air, and the want o’ the horse exercise, I believe, an’ every thing, brought on this fit. Is the misthriss at home, sir?” he added, after struggling through a severe fit of oppression.
 “No, she is at a ball, with Miss Chute.”
 “Good look to them both, wherever they are. That’s the way o’ the world. Some in health, an’ some in sickness, some dancin’, and more dyin’.” Here he raised himself on his elbow, and after casting a haggard glance around, as if to be assured that what he had to say could not be overheard, he leaned forward toward Hardress, and whispered: “I know one in this house, masther Hardress, that loves you well.”
 The young gentleman looked a little surprised.
 “Indeed I do,” continued the dying huntsman, “one too that deserves a better fortune than to love any one without a return. One that was kind to me in my sickness, and that I’d like to see happy before I’d leave the world, if it was Heaven’s will.”
 During this conversation, both speakers had been frequently rendered inaudible by occasional bursts of laughter and shouts of Bacchanalian mirth from the dining-room. At this moment, and before the young gentleman could select any mode of inquiry into the particulars of the singular communication above mentioned, the door was opened, and the face of old Nancy appeared, bearing on its smoked-dried features a mingled expression of perplexity and sorrow.
 “Dalton, a’ra gal!” she exclaimed, “don’t blame me for what I’m going to say to you, for it is my tongue, an’ not my wish or my heart, that speaks it. The masther and the gentlemen sent me into you, an’ bid me tell you, for the sake of old times, to give them one fox huntin’ screech before you go.”
 The old huntsman fixed his brilliant but sickly eyes on the messenger, while a flush that might have been the indication of anger or of grief, flickered like a decaying light upon his brow. At length be said, “And did the masther send that message by you, Nancy?”
 “He did, Dalton, indeed. Ayeh, the gentlemen must be excused.”
 “True for you, Nancy,” said the huntsman after a long pause. Then raising his head with a smile of seeming pleasure, he continued. “Why then, I’m glad to see the masther hasn’t forgot the dogs entirely. Go to him, Nancy, and tell him that I’m glad to hear that he has so much o’ the sport left in him still. And that it is kind father for him to have a feeling for his huntsman, an’ I thank him. Tell him, Nancy, to send me in one good glass o’ Parliament punch, an’ I’ll give him such a cry as he never heard in a cock-pit any way.”
 The punch was brought, and in spite of the remonstrances of Hardress, drained to the bottom. The old huntsman then sat erect in the bed, and letting his head back, indulged in one prolonged “hoicks!” that made the phials jingle on the table, and frighted the sparrows from their roosts beneath the thatch. It was echoed by the jolly company in the dining parlour, chorussed by a howling from all the dogs in the yard, and answered by a general clamour from the fowl-house. “Another! Another! Hoicks!” resounded through the house. But the poor consumptive was not in a condition to gratify the revellers. When Hardress looked down upon him next, the pillow appeared dark with blood, and the cheeks of the sufferer had lost even the unhealthy bloom, that had so long masked the miner Death, in his work of snug destruction. A singular brilliancy fixed itself upon his eye-balls, his lips were dragged backward, blue and cold, and with an expression of dull and general pain; - his teeth - but wherefore linger on such a picture? - it is better let the curtain fall.
 Hardress Cregan felt less indignation at this circumstance than he might have done if it had occurred at the present day; but yet he was indignant. He entered the dining parlour to remonstrate, with a frame that trembled with passion.
 “And pray, Hardress?” said Hepton Connolly, as he emptied the ladle into his glass and turned on him an eye whose steadiness, to say the least, was equivocal. “Pray now, Hardress, is poor Dalton really dead?”
 “He is, sir. I have already said it.”
 “No offence my boy. I only asked, because if he be, it is a sure sign (here he sipped his punch and winked at Cregan with the confident air of one who is about to say a right good thing,) it is a sign that he never will die again.”
 There was a loud laugh at Hardress, which confused him as much as if he had been discomfited by a far superior wit. So true it is, that the influence, and not the capacity, of an opponent, renders him chiefly formidable; and that, at least, a fair half of the sum of human motive may be placed to the account of vanity.
 Hardress could think of nothing that was very witty to say in reply, and as the occasion hardly warranted a slap on the face, his proud spirit was compelled to remain passive. Unwilling however to leave the company, while the laugh continued against him, he called for a glass and sat down amongst them.

*a “cold”; that is, a respiratory infection.

Chapter 18: How the Gentlemen Spent the Evening, Which Proved Rather Warmer Than Hardress Expected
“Peace!” said Hepton Connolly, with a face of drunken seriousness, “peace be to the manes of poor Dalton!”
”Amen, with all my heart!” exclaimed Mr. Cregan, “although the cocks are well rid of him. But a better horseman never backed a hunter.”
 “I drink him,” said Hyland Creagh, “although I seldom care to toast a man who dies in his bed.”
 “That’s all trash and braggery, Creagh,” cried Connolly - “we’ll have you yet upon the flat of your back, and roaring for a priest into the bargain.”
 “Upon my honour as a gentleman, I am serious,” said Creagh. “They may talk of the field of battle and bloody breaches, forlorn hopes, and hollow squares, and such stuff; but what is the glory of a soldier after all! To drag through the fatigues of a whole campaign, with its concomitants of night-watches, marches in marshes, and bivouacs in rainy weather, and with no brighter prospect at the year’s end, than that of making one among half a million of fighting fellows who are shot on a heap like larks. And, even then, you meet not hand to hand, but cloud to cloud, moving about in a flock, and waiting your turn to take your allowance of cold lead, and fill a pit with your neighbours. Glory? What glory is there in figuring in small types among a list of killed and wounded? The utmost distinction that a poor sub can ever hope for. Why, a coward is no more ball proof than a gallant fellow, and both may often shine together upon the same list. No - my ambition should have a higher aim. While I live, let my life be that of a fearless fellow; and when I die, let my epitaph be found in a handsome paragraph, under the head of ‘Domestic Intelligence,’ in the county journal. ‘Affair of honour. Yesterday morning at five o’clock - meeting took place - Hyland Creagh, Esquire - attended by Blank Esquire - and Captain Blank attended by - Blank Esquire - regret to state - Mr. Creagh - third fire - mortally wounded - borne from the ground. - The affair, we understand, originated in a dispute respecting a lovely and accomplished young lady, celebrated as a reigning toast in that quarter.’”
 “And grand-niece, we understand,” added Hardress, laughing “to the unhappy old gentleman, whose fate we have just recorded.”
 There was a laugh at Creagh.
 “Nay, my young friend,” he said, adjusting his ruffles with the air of a Chesterfield - “the journal that shall mention that circumstance must be dated many years hence.”
 “Adad, not so far off neither, Creagh,” exclaimed Mr. Cregan, “and if you were to go out to-morrow morning, I should not like to see you go posting to the devil upon such a mission as that.”
 “Talking of the devil,” said Hepton Connolly, “did you hear, Creagh, that the priest is to have us all upon the altar next Sunday, on account of that little squib we had in the mountains the day of the races?”
 “It may be,” said Creagh, with a supercilious smile; “mais ce n’est pas mon affaire. I have not the honour to belong to his communion.”
 “Oh,” cried Mr. Cregan, “true enough. You belong to the genteel religion.”
 “There you have the whip hand of me,” said Connolly, “for I am a papist. Well, Creagh, not meaning to impugn your gallantry now, I say this; a papist, to fight a duel, requires and possesses the courage of a protestant ten times over.”
 “Pray will you oblige me with a reason for that pleasant speech?”
 “’Tis as clear as this glass. A protestant is allowed a wide discretionary range on most ethical, as well as theological points of opinion. A poor papist has none. The Council of Trent in its twenty-fifth session (I have it from the Bishop) excommunicates all duellists, and calls the practice an invention of the devil. And what can I say against it? I know something of the common law, and the rights of things, persons and so forth, but the canonical code to me is a fountain sealed. ’Tis something deeper than a cause before the petty sessions. ’Tis easier to come at Blackstone, or even Coke upon Lyttleton himself, than at Manochius, or Saint Augustine.”
 “Well, but how you run on! You were talking about the courage of a protestant and catholic.”
 “I say a papist must be the braver man; for in addition to his chance of being shot through the brains on a frosty morning in this world (a cool prospect) it is no joke to be damned everlastingly in the next.”
 “That never struck me before,” exclaimed Cregan.
 “And if it had,” said Creagh, “I confess I do not see what great disadvantage the reflection could have produced to our friend Connolly; for he knew, that whether he was to be shot yesterday in a duel, or physicked out of the world twenty years hence, that little matter of the other life will be arranged in precisely the same manner.”
 “As much as to say,” replied Connolly, “that now or then, the devil is sure of his bargain.”
 “My idea precisely; but infinitely better expressed.”
 “Very good, Creagh. I suppose it was out of a filial affection for the sooty old gentleman you took so much pains to send me to him the other morning.”
 “You placed your honour in my hands, and I would have seen you raked fore and aft, fifty times, rather than let the pledge be tarnished. If you did go to the devil, it was my business to see, that you met him with clean hands.”
 “I feel indebted to you, Creagh.”
 “I have seen a dozen shots exchanged on a lighter quarrel. I was present myself at the duel between Hickman and Leake, on a somewhat similar dispute. They fired fourteen shots each, and when their ammunition was exhausted, actually remained on the ground until the seconds could fetch a new supply from the nearest market-town.”
 “And what use did they make of it when it came?”
 “Give me time, and you shall hear. ’Twas Hickman’s fire, and he put his lead an inch above Leake’s right hip; (as pretty a shot as ever I saw in my life), Leake was not killed though, and he stood to his ground like a man. I never will forget the ghastly look he gave me (I was his second), when he asked whether the laws of the duello would allow a wounded man a chair. I was confident they did, so long as he kept his feet upon the sod, and I said so. Well, the chair was brought. He took his seat somewhat in this manner, grasping the orifice of the wound closely with his disengaged hand. (Here the speaker moved his chair some feet from the table, in order to enact the scene with greater freedom). There was a fatal steadiness in every motion. I saw Hickman’s eye wink, and not without a cause. It winked again, and never opened after. The roof of his skull was literally blown away.”
 “And the other fellow?” said Hardress.
 “The other gentleman fell from his chair, a corpse, at the same moment; after uttering a sentiment of savage satisfaction, too horrible, too blasphemous, to think of, much less to repeat.”
 “They were a murderous pair of ruffians,” said Hardress, “and ought to have been impaled upon a cross-road.”
 “One of them,” observed Hyland Creagh, sipping his punch, “one of them was a cousin of mine.”
 “Oh, and therefore utterly blameless, of course,” said Hardress with an ironical laugh.
 “I don’t know,” said Creagh; “I confess I think it a hard word to apply to a gentleman who is unfortunate enough to die in defence of his honour.”
 “Honour!” exclaimed Hardress, with indignant zeal (for though he was no great devotee, he had yet some gleams of a half religious virtue shining through his character). “Call you that honour? I say a duellist is a murderer, and worthy of the gallows, and I will prove it. The question lies in the justice or injustice of the mode of reparation. That cannot be a just one which subjects the aggressor and aggrieved to precisely the same punishment. If the duellist be the injured party, he is a suicide; and if he be the inflictor of the wrong, he is a murderer.”
 “Ay, Hardress,” said his father, “but there are cases ...”
 “Oh, I know what you mean, sir. Fine, delicate, thin-spun modes of insult, that draw on heavier assaults, and leave both parties labouring under the sense of injury. But they are murderers still. If I filled a seat in the legislature, do you think I would give my voice in favour of a law that made it a capital offence to call a man a scoundrel in the streets? And shall I dare to inflict with my own hand, a punishment that I would shudder to see committed to the hangman?”
 “But if public war be justifiable,” said Connolly, “why should not private?”*
 “Aye,” exclaimed Hardress, “I see you have got that aphorism of Johnson’s, the fat moralist, to support you; but I say, shame upon the recreant, for as mean and guilty a compliance with the prejudices of the world as ever parasite betrayed. I stigmatize it as a wilful sin, for how can I esteem the author of Rasselas a fool?”
 “Very hardly,” said Creagh, “and pray what is your counter argument?”
 “This - public war is never (when justifiable) a quarrel for sounds and conventual notions of honour. Public war is at best a social evil, and cannot be embraced without the full concurrence of society, expressed by its constituted authorities, and obtained only in obedience to the necessity of the case. But to private war, society has given no formal sanction, nor does it derive any advantage from the practice.”
 “Upon my word,” said Creagh, “you have some very curious ideas.”
 “Well, Hardress,” exclaimed Connolly, “if you have a mind to carry those notions into practice, I should recommend you to try it in some other country besides Ireland; you will never go through with it in this.”
 “In every company and on every soil,” said Hardress, “I will avow my sentiments. I never will fight a duel; and I will proclaim my purpose in the ears of all the duellists on earth.”
 “But society, young gentleman ...”
 “I bid society defiance; at least that reckless, godless, heartless crew, to whom you wrongfully apply the term. The greater portion of those who bow down before this bloody error, is composed of slaves and cowards, who are afraid to make their own conviction the guide of their conduct.

‘Letting I dare not, wait upon I would.
Like the poor cat i’ the adage.’

 “I am sure,” said Creagh, “I had rather shoot a man for doubting my word than for taking my purse.”
 “Because you are as proud as Lucifer,” exclaimed Hardress. “Who but the great father of all injustice would say that he deserved to be shot for calling you a (it is an unpleasant word to be sure) a liar?”
 “But he does more. He actually does strike at my life and property, for I lose both friends and fair repute, if I suffer such an insult to pass unnoticed.”
 In answer to this plea, Hardress made a speech, of which (as the newspapers say) we regret that our space does not allow us to offer more than a mere outline. He contended that no consequences could justify a man in sacrificing his own persuasion of what was right to the error of his friends. The more general this error was, the more criminal it became to increase the number of its victims. The question was not whether society would disown or receive the passive gentleman, but whether society was in the wrong or in the right; and if the former, then he was bound to adopt the cause of justice at every hazard. He drew the usual distinction between moral and animal courage, and painted with force and feeling the heroism of a brave man encountering alone the torrent of general opinion, and taking more wounds upon his spirit than ever Horatius Cocles risked upon his person. He quoted the celebrated passage of the faithful seraph in Milton, alluded to the Athenian manners, and told the well-known story of Lucian Anacharsis, all which tended considerably more to exhaust the patience than to convince the understanding of his hearers.
 “Finally,” said he, “I denounce the system of private war, because it is the offspring of a barbarous pride. It was a barbarous pride that first suggested the expedient, and it is an intolerable pride that still sustains it. Talk of public war! The world could not exist if nation were to take up the sword against nation upon a point of honour, such as will call out for blood between man and man. The very word means pride. It is a measureless, bloody pride, that demands a reparation so excessive for every slight offence. Take any single quarrel of them all, and dissect its motive, and you will find every portion of it stained with pride, the child of selfishness - pride, the sin of the first devil - pride, the poor pitiful creature of folly and ignorance - pride, the ...”
 “Oh, trash and stuff, man,” exclaimed Connolly, losing patience, “if you are going to preach a sermon choose another time for it. Come, Creagh, send the bowl this way, and let us drink. Here, young gentleman, stop spouting, and give us a toast. You’ll make a fool of yourself, Hardress, if you talk in that manner among gentlemen.”
 Without making any answer to this speech (which however he felt a little difficulty in digesting) Hardress proposed the health and future fame of young Kyrle Daly.
 “With all my heart!” exclaimed both his father and Connolly.
 “I’ll not drink it,” said Creagh, putting in his glass.
 Hardress was just as proud (to borrow his own simile) as Lucifer himself; and probably it was on this account he held the quality so cheap. It must be admitted, likewise, that his ambitious love of singularity formed but too considerable a part of his motive in the line of argument which he had followed up; and he was by no means prepared to perform the heroic part which he had described with so much enthusiasm. Least of all could he be expected to do so at the present moment; for while he was speaking, he had also been drinking, and the warmth of dispute, increased by the excitement of strong drink, left his reason still less at freedom than it might have been under the dominion of an ordinary passion. He insisted upon Creagh’s drinking his toast.
 “I shall not drink it,” said Creagh; “I consider him as an impertinent puppy.”
 “He is my friend,” said Hardress.
 “Oh, then of course,” said Fireball, with an ironical smile (evidently intended as a retort,) “he is utterly blameless.”
 To use a vulgar but forcible expression, the blood of Hardress was now completely up. He set his teeth for a moment, and then discharged the contents of his own glass at the face of the offender. The fire-eater, who, from long experience, was able to anticipate this proceeding, evaded by a rapid motion the degrading missile; and then quietly resuming his seat, “Be prepared, sir,” he said, “to answer this in the morning.”
 “I am ready now,” exclaimed Hardress. “Connolly, lend me your sword, and be my friend. Father, do you second that gentleman, and you will oblige me.”
 Mr. Barnaby Cregan rose to interfere, but in doing so, he betrayed a secret which had till that moment lain with himself; he was the first who fell.
 “No, no swords,” said Connolly, “there are a pretty pair of pistols over the chimney-piece. Let them decide the quarrel.”
  It was so agreed. Hardress and Creagh took their places in the two-corners of the room, upon the understanding, that both were to approach step by step, and fire when they pleased. Hepton Connolly took his place out of harm’s way in a distant corner, while Cregan crept along the floor, muttering in an indistinct tone. “Drunk? aye, but not dead drunk. I call no man dead drunk while he lies on the high road, with sense enough to roll out of the way when a carriage is driving towards him.”
 Hardress fired, after having made two paces. Creagh, who was unhurt, reserved his shot until he put the pistol up to the head of his opponent. Hardress never flinched, although he really believed that Creagh was about to shoot him.
 “Come,” said he loudly, “fire your shot and have done with it. I would have met you at the end of a handkerchief upon my friend’s quarrel.”
 Hyland Creagh, after enjoying for a moment the advantage he possessed, uncocked his pistol and laid it on the table.
 “Hardress,” said he, “you are a brave fellow. I believe I was wrong. I ask your pardon, and am ready to drink your toast.”
 “Oh, well,” said Hardress, with a laugh; “if that be the case, I cannot, of course, think of pursuing the affair any farther.” And he reached his hand to his opponent with the air of one who was exercising, rather than receiving, a kindness.
 The company once more resumed their places at the table, somewhat sobered by this incident, which though not unusual at the period, was yet calculated to excite a little serious feeling. It was not long, however, before they made amends for what was lost in the way of intoxication. The immense blue jug, which stood inside the fender, was replenished to the brim, and the bowl flew round more rapidly than ever. Creagh told stories of the Hell-fire Club in the sweating and pinking days. Connolly overflowed with anecdotes of attornies outdone, of plates well won, of bailiffs maimed and beaten; and Cregan (whose tongue was the last member of his frame that became accessory to the sin of intoxication) filled up his share in the conversation, with accounts of cocks, and of ghosts, in the appearance of which last, he was a firm, though not a fearful believer. Hardress remained with the company until the sound of a vehicle, drawing up at the hall door, announced the return of his mother and cousin. He then left the room and hurried to his own apartment, in order to avoid meeting them under circumstances which he well supposed were not calculated to create any impression in his own favour.
 We cannot better illustrate the habits of the period, than by transcribing an observation made in Mr. Cregan’s kitchen at the moment of the dispute above detailed. Old Nancy was preparing the mould candles for poor Dalton’s wake, when she heard the shot fired in the dining parlour.
 “Run into the gentlemen, Mike, eroo,” she exclaimed, without even laying aside the candle, which she was paring with a knife, in order to make it fit the socket more exactly. “I lay my life the gentlemen are fighting a jewel.”
 “It can’t be a jewel,” said Mike the servant boy, who was courting slumber in a low chair before the blazing fire. “It can’t be a jewel, when there was only one shot.”
 “But it isn’t long from ’em, I’ll be bail, till they’ll fire another if they don’t be hindered; for ’tis shot for shot with ’em. Run in, eroo.
 The servant stretched his limbs out lazily, and rubbed his eyes. “Well,” said he,”fair play all the world over. If one fired, you wouldn’t have the other put up with it, without havin’ his fair revinge?”
 “But may be one of ’em is kilt already!” observed Nancy.
 “E’then, d’ye hear this? Sure you know, well, that if there was any body shot, the master would ring the bell!”
 This observation was conclusive. Old Nancy proceeded with her gloomy toil in silence, and the persuasive Mike, letting his head hang back from his shoulders, and crossing his hands upon his lap, slept soundly on, undisturbed by any idle conjectures on the cause of the noise which they had heard.

*I am sorry the Author of Guy Mannering should have thought proper to adopt the same mode of reasoning. Will posterity remove that bar sinister from his literary escutcheon?

[ back ]

[ next ]