Gerald Griffin, The Collegians (1829)

[ cont. ]

Chapter 22: How the Temptation of Hardress Proceeded
DURING THE FEW weeks that followed the conversation just detailed, Eily perceived a rapid and a fearful change in the temper and appearance of her husband. His visits were fewer and shorter than before, and when he did come, his manner was restrained and conscious in an extraordinary degree. His eye looked troubled, his voice was deep and broken, his cheek grew pale and fleshless, and a gloomy air, which might be supposed the mingled result of discontent and dissipation, appeared in all his person. He no longer conversed with that noisy frankness and gaiety which he was accustomed to indulge in all societies where he felt perfectly at his ease. To Eily he spoke sometimes with coldness and impatience, and very often with a wild affection that had in it as much of grief as of tenderness. To the other inmates of the cottage he was altogether reserved and haughty, and even his own boatman seldom cared to tempt him into a conversation. Sometimes Eily was inclined to think that he had escaped from some unpleasing scenes at home, his demeanour during the evening was so abstracted and so full of care. On other occasions, when he came to her cottage late at night, she was shocked to discover about him the appearances of a riotous indulgence. Born and educated as she was in the Ireland of the eighteenth century, this circumstance would not have much disturbed the mind of our heroine, hut that it became gradually more frequent of occurrence, and seemed rather to indicate a voluntary habit than that necessity to which even sober people were often subjected, when they mingled in the society of Irish country gentlemen of that period. Eily thus experienced, for the first time, and with an aching spirit, one of the keenest anxieties of married life.
”Hardress,” she said to him one morning when he was preparing to depart, after an interval of gloomy silence, long unbroken. “I wont let you go among those fine ladies any more, if you be thinking of them always when you come to me again.”
 Her husband started like one conscience struck, and looked sharply round upon her.
 “What do you mean?” he said, with a slight contraction of the brows.
 “Just what I say, then,” said Eily, smiling and nodding her head, with a pretty affectation of authority. “Those fine ladies musn’t take you from Eily. And I’ll tell you another thing, Hardress: whisper!” she laid her hand on his shoulder, raised herself on tiptoe, and murmured in his ear, “I’ll not let you among the fine gentlemen either, if that’s the teaching they give you.
 “What teaching?”
 “Oh, you know, yourself;” Eily continued nodding and smiling: “it is a teaching that you would never learn from Eily if you spent the evenings with her as you used to do in the beginning. Do you know is there e’er a priest living in this neighbourhood?”
 “Why do you ask?” “Because I have something to tell him that lies upon my conscience.”
 “And would you not confess your failings to an affectionate friend, Eily, as well as to a holier director?”
 “I would,” said Eily, bending on him a look of piercing sweetness - “if I thought he would forgive me afterwards, as readily.”
 “Provided always that you are a true penitent,” returned Hardress, reaching her his hand.
 “There is little fear of that;” said Eily. “It would be well for me, Hardress, if I could as easily be penitent for heavier sins.”
 After a moment’s deep thought, Eily resumed her playful manner, and placing both her hands in the still expanded one of her husband, she continued, “Well then, sir, I’ll tell you what’s troubling me. I’m afraid I’m going wrong entirely, this time back. I got married, sir, a couple o’ months ago, to one Mr. Hardress Cregan, a very nice gentleman that I’m very fond of.”
 “Too fond, perhaps?”
 “I’m afraid so, rightly speaking, although I hope he doesn’t think so. But he told me when he brought me down to Killarney, that he was going to speak to his friends (the brow of the listener darkened,) and to ask their forgiveness for himself and Eily. And there’s nearly two months now, since I came, and what I have to charge myself with, sir, is, that I am too fond of my husband, and that I don’t like to vex him by speaking about it, as may be it would be my duty to do. And, besides, I don’t keep my husband to proper order at all. I let him stop out sometimes for many days together, and then I’m very angry with him, but when he comes, I’m so foolish and so glad to see him, that I can’t look cross, or speak a hard word, if I was to get all Ireland for it. And more than that, again; I’m not at all sure how he spends his time while he is out, and I don’t ever question him properly about it. I know there are a great many handsome young ladies where he goes to, and a deal of gentlemen that are very pleasant company after dinner, for indeed, my husband is often more merry than wise, when he comes home to me late at night, and still Eily says nothing. And besides all this, I think my husband has something weighing upon his mind, and I don’t make him tell it to me, as a good wife ought to do, and I’d like to have a friend’s advice, as you’re good enough to offer it, sir, to know what I’d do. What do you think about him, sir? Do you think any of the ladies has taken his fancy? Or do you think he’s growing tired of Eily? Or do you think he doesn’t think so much of her now that he knows her better? What would you advise me to do?”
 “I am rather at a loss,” said Hardress, with some bitterness in his accent, “it is so difficult to advise a jealous person.”
 “Jealous!” exclaimed Eily with a slight blush, “Ah, now I’m sorry I came to you at all, for I see you know nothing about me, since you think that’s the way. I see now that you don’t know how to advise me at all, and I’ll leave you there. What would I be jealous of?”
 “Why, of those handsome young ladies that your husband visits.”
 “Ah, if I was jealous that way,” said Eily, with a keen and serious smile, “that isn’t the way I’d show it.”
 “How then, Eily?”
 “Why, first of all, I wouldn’t as much as think of such a thing, without the greatest reason in the world, without being down-right sure of it, and if I got that reason, nobody would ever know it, for I wouldn’t say a word, only walk into that room there, and stretch upon the bed, and die.”
 “Why, that’s what many a brutal husband, in such a case, would exactly desire.”
 “So itself,” said Eily, with a flushed, and kindling cheek - “ so itself. I wouldn’t be long in his way, I’ll engage.
 “Well then,” Hardress said, rising and addressing her with a severe solemnity of manner, “my advice to you is this. As long as you live, never presume to inquire into your husband’s secrets, nor affect an influence which he never will admit. And if you wish to avoid that great reason for jealousy of which you stand in fear, avoid suffering the slightest suspicion to appear; for men are stubborn beings, and when such suspicions are wantonly set afloat, they find the temptation to furnish them with a cause almost irresistible.”
 “Well, Hardress,” said Eily, “you are angry with me, after all. Didn’t you say you would forgive me? Oh, then, I’ll engage I’d be very sorry to say any thing, if I thought you’d be this way.”
 “I am not angry,” said Hardress, in a tone of vexation. “I do forgive you,” he added in an accent of sharp reproof, “I spoke entirely for your own sake.”
 “And wouldn’t Hardress allow his own Eily her little joke?”
 “Joke!” exclaimed Hardress, bursting into a sudden passion, which made his eyes water and his limbs shake as if they would have sunk beneath him. “Am I become the subject of your mirth? Day after day my brain is verging nearer and nearer to utter madness, and do you jest on that? Do you see this cheek? You count more hollows there than when I met you first, and does that make you merry? Give me your hand! Do you feel how that heart beats? Is that a subject, Eily, for joke or jest? Do you think this face turns thin and yellow for nothing? There are a thousand and a thousand horrid thoughts and temptations burning within me daily, and eating my flesh away by inches. The devil is laughing at me, and Eily joins him.”
 “Oh, Hardress - Hardress! ...”
 “Yes! - you have the best right to laugh, for you are the gainer. Curse on you! Curse on your beauty - curse on my own folly - for I have been undone by both! Let go my knees! let go my arm! I hate you! Take the truth, I’ll not be poisoned with it. I am sick of you, you have disgusted me! I will ease my heart by telling you the whole. If I seek the society of other women, it is because I find not among them your meanness and vulgarity. If I get drunk, and make myself the beast you say, it is in the hope to forget the iron chain that binds me to you!”
 “Oh, Hardress,” shrieked the affrighted girl, “you are not in earnest now?”
 “I am! I do not joke!” her husband exclaimed with a hoarse vehemence. “Let go my knees! you are sure enough of me. I am bound to you too firmly.”
 “Oh, my dear Hardress! Oh, my own husband, listen to me! Hear your own Eily for one moment! Oh, my poor father!”
 “It slipped from me! Forgive me! I know I am to blame, I am greatly to blame, dear Hardress, but forgive me! I left my home and all for you - oh, do not cast me off! I will do any thing to please you, I never will open my lips again - only say you did not mean all that! Oh, heaven!” she continued, throwing her head back, and looking upward with expanded mouth and eyes, while she maintained her kneeling posture and clasped her husband’s feet. “Merciful Heaven, direct him! Oh, Hardress, think how far I am from home! think of all you promised me, and how I believed you! Stay with me for a while at any rate! Do not ...”
 On a sudden, while Hardress was still struggling to free himself from her arms, without doing her a violence - Eily felt a swimming in her head, and a cloud upon her sight. The next instant she was motionless.
 The first face which she beheld on recovering from her insensibility was that of Poll Naughten, who was seated in a low chair, and supporting Eily’s head against her knees, while she was striking her in the open palm with a prodigious violence.
 “Ah, there she dhraws the breath,” said Fighting Poll. “Oh, wirra, missis, what brought you out on your face and hands in the middle of the floore, that way?”
 Eily muttered some unmeaning answer and remained for some minutes struggling with the consciousness of some undefined horror. Looking around at length, and missing the figure of Hardress, she lay back once more, and burst into a fit of hysterical weeping. Phil Naughten, who was smoking a short pipe by the fire-side, said something in Irish to his wife, to which the latter replied in the same language, and then turning to Eily, said:-
 “Will you take a drop of any thing, achree?”
 Eily raised her hand in dissent. “Will you come in, and take a sthretch on the bed then?”
 To this Eily answered in the affirmative, and walked with the assistance of her hostess into her sleeping chamber. Here she lay during the remainder of the day, the curtain suffered to fall so as to keep the broad sunshine from her aching eyes and head. Her reflections, however, on the frightful and sudden alteration which had taken place in her condition were cut short, ere long, by a sleep, of that sound and dreamless nature which usually supervenes after an access of passionate excitement or anxiety.
 In the meantime Hardress hurried along the Gap road with the speed of one who desires to counteract by extreme bodily exertion the turbulence of an uneasy spirit. As he passed the lonely little bridge, which crosses the stream above the Black Lake, his attention was suddenly arrested by the sound of a familiar voice which appeared to reach him from the clouds. Looking over his shoulder to the summit of the Purple Mountain, he beheld Danny Mann, nearly a thousand feet above him, moving toward the immense pile of loose stones (from the hue of which the mountain has derived its name,) and driving before him a small herd of goats, the property of his brother-in-law. Turning off the road, Hardress commenced the ascent of this toilsome eminence, partly because the difficulty afforded a relief to his spirits, and partly because he wished to converse with his dependent.
 Although the day was fine, and sometimes cheered with sunshine near the base of the mountain, its summit was wrapped in mist, and wet with incessant showers. The scenery around was solitary, gigantic, and sternly barren. The figure of some wonder-hunting tourist, with a guide-boy bearing his port-folio and umbrella, appeared at long intervals, among the lesser undulations of the mountain side, and the long road, which traversed the gloomy valley, dwindled to the width of a meadow foot-path. On the opppsite side of the enormous ravine, the grey and misty Reeks still raised their crumbling summits far above him. Masses of white mist gathered in sullen congress between their peaks, and, sometimes floating upward in large volumes, were borne majestically onward, catching a thousand tints of gold and purple from the declining sun. Sometimes a trailing shower, of mingled mist and rain, would sweep across the intervening chasm, like the sheeted spectre of a giant, and present to the eye of the spectator that appearance which supplied the imagination of Ossian with its romantic images. The mighty gorge, itself, at one end, appeared to be lost and divided amid a host of mountains tossed together in provoking gloom and mystery. Lower down, it opened upon a wide and cultivated champaign, which, at this altitude, presented the resemblance of a rich mosaic, of a thousand colours, and afforded a bright contrast to the barren and shrubless gloom of the solitary vale itself. As Hardress approached the summit, this scene of grandeur and of beauty was shut out from his view by the intervening mist, which left nothing visible but the peak on which he stood, and which looked like a barren islet in a sea of vapour. Above him was a blue sky, broken up with masses of cloud against which the rays of the sun were refracted, with various effect, according to their degrees of density and altitude. Occasionally, as Hardress pressed onward through the heath, a heavy grouse wouild spring up at his feet, challenge, and wheel to the other side of the mountain. Sometimes also, as he looked downward, a passing gust of wind would draw aside the misty veil that lay between him and the world, and cause the picture once more to open on his sight.
 His attendant now met, and greeted, him as usual. “It’s well for you, Master Hardress, dat hasn’t a flock o’ goats to be hunting after dis mornin’; - my heart is broke from ’em, dat’s what it is. We turn ’em out in de mornin,’ and dough dey have plenty to ate below dere, dey never stop till dey go to de top o’ the mountain, nothing less would do for ’em; like many o’ de Christians demselves, dey ’ll be mounting always, even when ’tis no good for ’em.”
 “I have no remedy,” said Hardress musing, “and yet the thought of enduring such a fate is intolerable.”
 “What a fine day dis would be for de water, Master?” continued his servant - “You don’t ever care to take a sail now, sir?”
 “Oh, Kyrle! Kyrle Daly, what a prophetic truth was in your words! Giddy, headlong wretch that I have been! I wish that my feet had grown to my mother’s hearth when I first thought of evading her controul, and marrying without her sanction.” He paused in a mood of bitter retrospection. “I’ll not endure it!” he again exclaimed, starting from his reverie, “It shall not be without recall. I will not, because I cannot. Monster! Monster, that I am! Wed one, and woo another! Both now are cheated! Which shall be the victim?”
 The devil was at his ear, and whispered, “Be not uneasy, hundreds have done the same before you.”
 “Firm as dat mountain stands, an’ as it stood dis hundred, aye, dis tousand year, may be,” continued Danny Mann, “still an’ all, to look up dat way at dem great loose stones, dat look as if dey were shovelled up above us by some joyants or great people of ould, a body would tink it hardly safe to stand here onder ’em, in dread dey’d come tumblin’ down, may be, an’ make smiddereens of him, bless de mark! Wouldn’t he now, master Hardress?”
 The person so addressed turned his eyes mechanically in the same direction. A kind of desperate satisfaction was visible on his features, as the idea of insecurity, which his servant suggested, became impressed upon his mind. The latter perceived and understood its expression on the instant.
 “Dere’s something troublin’ you, Master Hardress; dat I see plain enough. An’ tisn’t now, nor to day, nor ’isterday, I seen it, aider. Is dere anyting Danny Mann can do to sarve you? If dere be, say de word dis moment, an’ I’ll be bail he’ll do it before long.”
 “Danny,” said Hardress after a pause, “I am troubled. I was a fool, Danny, when I refused to listen to your advice upon one occasion.
 “An’ dat was de time when I tould you not to go again’ de missis, an’ to have no call to Eily O’Connor.”
 “It was.”
 “I tought it would be dis way. I tought, all along, dat Eily was no wife for you, master Hardress. It was not in natur she could be, a poor man’s daughter, widout money, or manners, or book-larnen’, or one ha’p’ort’. I told you dat, master Hardress, but you wouldn’t hear me, by any means, an’ dis is de way of it, now.”
 “Well, well, ’tis done, ’tis done,” said Hardress, with sullen impatience, “I was to blame, Danny, an’ I am suffering for it.”
 “Does she know herself the trouble she is to you?”
 “I could not keep it from her. I did not know, myself, how utterly my dislike had prevailed within me, until the occasion arose for giving it utterance, and then it came forth, at once, like a torrent. I told her what I felt; that I hated, that I was sick of her! I could not stop my tongue. My heart struck me for the base unkindness, the ungrateful ruffianism of my speech, and yet I could not stop my tongue. I have made her miserable, and I am myself accursed. What is there to be done? Have you only skill to prevent mischief? Have you none to remedy?”
 Danny took thought for a moment. “Sorrow trouble would I ever give myself about her,” he said at last, “only send her home packin’ to her fader, an’ give her no thanks.”
 “And with what face should I appear before my honourable friends, when that old rope-maker should come to demand redress for his insulted child, and to claim her husband’s promise? Should I send Eily home, to earn for myself the reputation of a faithless villain?”
 “I never tought o’ dat,” said Danny, nodding his head. “Dat’s a horse of anoder colour. Why, den, I’ll tell you what I’d do. Pay her passage out to Quaybec, and put her aboord of a three-master, widout ever sayin’ a word to any body. I’ll tell you what it is, master Hardress. Do by her as you’d do by that glove you have on your hand. Make it come off as well as it come on, and if it fits too tight, take the knife to it.”
 “What do you mean?”
 “Only gi’ me the word, as I said before, an’ I’ll engage Eily O’Connor will never trouble you any more. Don’t ax me any questions at all, only if you’re agreeable, take off dat glove an’ give it to me for a token. Dat’ll be enough. Lave the rest to Danny.”
 A doubtful, horrible sensation of fear and anxiety gathered upon the heart of the listener, and held him for a minute fixed in breathless expectation. He gazed upon the face of his servant, with an expression of gaping terror, as if he stood in the presence of the Arch Tempter himself. At length he walked up to the latter, laid his open hand upon his neck, and then drawing his fingers close, until the fellow’s face was purple with blood, he shook him as if he would have shaken his joints out of their sockets.
 “Villain!” he exclaimed, with a hoarseness and vehemence of tone, which gave an appalling depth to his expressions. “Dangerous villain and tempter! If you ever dare again to utter a word, or meditate a thought of violence towards that unhappy creature, I will tear you limb from limb between my hands!”
 “Oh, murder, Master Hartiress! Dat de hands may stick to me, sir, if I tought a ha’p’ort o’ harm!”
 “Do you mark me well, now? I am quite in earnest. Respect her, as you would the highest lady in the land. Do as she commands you, without murmuring. If I hear her say (and I will question her upon it) that you have leered one glance of those blood-longing eyes upon her, it shall be their last look in this world.”
 “Oh, Vo! Dat I may never die in sin, Master Hardress, if ...”
 “Begone! I am glad you have opened my eyes. I tread more safely now. My heart is lighter! Yet that I should have endured to be so tempted! Fellow, I doubt you for worse than you appear! We are here alone; the world, the busy world, is hid beneath us, and we stand here alone in the eye of the open heaven, and without roof or wall, to screen us, even in fancy, from the downright reproach of the beholding angels. None but the haughty and insulting Lucifer, himself, could think of daring Providence upon the threshold of his own region. But be you fiend, or mortal, I defy and dare you! I repel your bloody temptation! I tell you, fiend or mortal, that my soul abhors your speech and gesture both. I may be wretched and impious I may send up to heaven a cry of discontent and murmuring; the cry of blood shall never leave this earth for me. Blood! Whose blood? Hers? Great heaven! Great heaven defend me!” He covered his face with his hands, and bent down for a moment in dreadful agitation; then suddenly starting up, and waving his hand rapidly, he continued, “Away! away at once, and quit my sight. I have chosen my doom. My heart may burn for years within my breast, if I can find no other way to soothe it. I know how to endure, I am wholly ignorant of guilt like this. Once more, he added, clenching his fist, and shaking it towards his startled dependant, “Once more, I warn you, mark my words, and obey them.”
 So saying, be hurried down the hill, and was hid in the ascending mist; while his affrighted servant remained gaping after him, and muttering mechanically such asseverations as, “Dat I may never sin, Master Hardress! Dat de head may go to de grave wit me! Dat I may be happy! Dat de hands may stick to me, if I tought any harm!”
 More than half of the frantic speech of Hardress, it may be readily imagined, was wholly unintelligible to Danny, who followed him down the mountain, half crazed with terror, and not a little choked into the bargain.

Chapter 23: How an Unexpected Visitor Arrived in Eily’s Cottage
Towards night-fall, Eily awoke with that confused and strange feeling which a person experiences, who has slept at an unaccustomed hour. The sun had already set; but the red and faintly lustrous shadow of her window, which was thrown on the opposing wall, showed that his refracted light was yet strong and bright on the horizon. While she lay hack, endeavouring to recall the circumstances which brought her into her present situation, a voice assailed her ear which made her start in sudden alarm from her reclining posture. It was that of a person singing in a low voice outside her window the following words:-

“As I roved out on a fine summer morning,
A speculating most curiously,
To my surprise I soon espied
A charming fair one approaching me.
I stood awhile -

here the melodist knocked gently at the door of the cottage -

“I stood awhile in deep meditation,
Contemplating what I should do;
Till, at length, recruiting all my sensations,
I thus accosted the fair Colleen rue.”*

At the close of the verse, which was prolonged by the customary nasal twang, the singer knocked a little more loudly with the knuckle of his fore-finger -

“Oh, was I Hecthor, that noble victhor,
Who died a victim to the Grecian skill;
Or was I Paris, whoase deeds were vaarious,
As an arbithraator on Ida’s hill.
I’d roam through Asia, likewise Arabia,
Or Pennsylvania -

here he knocked again -

“  Or Pennsylvania looking for you,
Through the burning ragions, like famed Orpheus,
For one embrace of you, Colleen rue.”

 “I am ruined! I am undone!” thought Eily, as she listened in deep distress and fear, “my father has found me out, and they are all come to look for me! Oh, Hardress! Hardress!”
 “They’re all dead, or dhraming here, I believe,” said the singer; “I’m in fine luck, if I have to go down the ould gap again afther night-fall.” Stimulated by this reflection, he turned his back to the door, and began kicking against it with his heel, while he continued his song:

“And are you Aurora, or the goddess Flora,
Or Eutherpasia, or fair Vanus bright?
Or Halen fair, beyond compare,
Who am Paris stole from the Grecian’s sight?
Thou fairest creature, how you’ve inslaved me!
I’m intoxicated by Cupid’s clue,
Whoase golden notes and infatuations,
Have deranged my ideas for you, Colleen rue.”

Here the same air was taken up by a shrill and broken female voice, at a little distance from the house, and in the words which follow:

“And are you Aurora, or the goddess Flora,
Or Eutherpasia, or fair Vanus bright?
Or Halen fair, beyond compare,
Who am Paris stole from the Grecian’s sight?
Thou fairest creature, how you’ve inslaved me!
I’m intoxicated by Cupid’s clue,
Whoase golden notes and infatuations,
Have deranged my ideas for you, Colleen rue.”

“Sir, I pray be aisy, and do not tease me
With your false praises most jestingly;
Your golden notes and insiniwayshuns
Are vaunting speeches decaiving me.
I’m not Aurora, nor the goddess Flora,
But a rural female to all men’s view,
Who’s here condoling my situation,
And my appellation is the Colleen rue.”

 “You’re not Aurora?” muttered the first voice. “Wisha, dear knows, it isn’t aisy to conthradict you. They’d be the dhroll Auroras an’ Floras, if that’s the figure they cut. Ah! Mrs. Naughten!” he added, raising and changing his voice as the shadow of the female figure crossed the window of Eily’s apartment, “How are you this evening ma’am? I hope you got well over your voyage that morning?”
 “What voyage? Who is it I have there at all?” said Poll in a tone of surprise. “Oh, Lowry Looby! Oh, ma gra hu! how is every inch of you, Lowry? It raises the very cockles o’ my heart to see you.”
 “Purty well, indeed, as for the health, Mrs. Naughten, we’re obleest to you.”
 “Oh, vo, vo! An’ what brought you into this part of the world, Lowry? It’s a long time since you an’ I met.”
 “’Tis as good as two months, a’ most, I b’lieve.”
 “Two months, eroo? ’Tis six years if its a day.”
 “Oh ’iss, for good; but I mane the time we met in the cottage behind at the dairy farm, the night o’ the great starm, when ye were near being all lost, in the boat, if it wasn’t the will o’ Heaven.”
 “The dairy farm! lost in the boat! I don’t know what is it you’re talken’ about at all, man. But come in, come in, Lowry, and take a sate. Stop, here’s Phil. Phil, eroo, this is Lowry Looby, that you heard me talk of being a friend o’ the Hewsans, formerly.”
 Thus introduced, Phil and Lowry both took off their hats, and bowed repeatedly, and with a most courteous profundity of obeisance. The door was then opened, and a polite contest arose as to the right of precedence between the gentlemen, which was finally decided in favour of Lowry, as the visitor.
 “Well, Lowry, what news eastwards?” was the next question.
 “Oh, then nothing sthrange, Mrs. Naughten. I was twice by this way, since I seen you that night. Coming from Cork I was to-day, when I thought I’d step over, and see how you wor, afther the voyage. I left the horse an’ car over, in Mr. Cregan’s yard.”
 “I believe you’re lost with the hunger. Phil, stir yourself, an’ put down something for supper.”
 “Don’t hurry yourself on my account,” said Lowry, affecting an indifference which he did not feel, “I took something at Mr. Cregan’s. I saw Masther Hardeess there in the parlour windee, playin’ chests (I think it is they called it) with Miss Anne Chute. Oh, murder, that’s a darling, a beautiful lady! Her laugh is like music. Oh, dear! oh, dear! To see the smile of her, though, an’ she looking at him! It flogged the world! Mike, the boy, they have there, an’ old Nancy, told me, she’s greatly taken with the young masther.”
 “Why then, she may as well throw her cap at him.”
 “Why so, eroo?” “Oh - for raisons.
 “There’s one thing Mike told me, an’ I’m sure I wondher I never heerd a word of it before; that there was some talks of herself and my young masther, Mr. Kyrle Daly. I know he used to be going there of an odd time, but I never heerd any thing that way. There’s a dale that’s looking afther her, Mike tells me. Whoever gets her, they say, he’ll have as much jewels to fight, as will keep him going for the first quarther, any way.”
 “Tha go bragh!” said Phil, tossing his head, “that’s what bothers the gentlemen. Jewels, jewels, always.”
 “Jewels always, then, just as you say, Misther Naughten,” said Lowry. “Its what ruins ’em, body and soul. At every hand’s turn nothing but a jewel! Let there be a conthrairy look, and pistols is the word at once.”
 “An’ if a poor boy is reflected upon, an’ goes to a fair to thry it out, with an innocent little kippen, O the savages! the gentlemen cry at once. O the blood thirsty villyans! And they’ll go themselves and shoot one another like dogs for less raison.”
 “It’s thrue, for you,” returned Lowry. “Sure ’twould be a blessing for a man to be airt[i]ng a dhry piatie from morning till night, an’ to have quietness. I’ll tell you what it is, Misther Naughten. I spake for myself, of all things going, I wouldn’t like to be born a gentleman. They’re never out o’ throuble, this way, or that way. If they’re not fighting, they have more things upon their mind, that would bother a dozen poor men; an’ if they go divarting, ten to one they have a jewel before the day is over. Sure if it was a thing, two gentlemen axed a lady to dance, an’ she gave in to one of ’em, the other should challenge him for to go fighting! Sure, that flogs Europe! And they have so much books to read, to be able to convarse genteel before the ladies. I’m told, a gentleman isn’t fit to shew his face in company, till he reads as much books as would sthretch from this to the doore over. And then to be watching yourself, an’ spake Englified, an’ not to ate half your ’nough at dinner, an’ to have ’em all looking at you, if you took too big a bit, or done any thing again’ manners, and never to have your own fling, an’ let you do what you liked yourself! I wouldn’t lade such a life, if I got Europe. A snug stool by the fireside, a boiled piatie in one hand, a piggin o’ milk in the other, and one (that I won’t name now) smiling overright me, that’s all the gentility I’d ever ax for this world, any way. I’d a’most as lieve be born a female as a gentleman, manning no offence to the ladies, Mrs. Naughten.”
 “Every one to his taste, Lowry. Many men have many minds. Phil, will you go out now, and help Danny to put up them goats, not to have them straying over on Myles Murphy’s ground as they wor o’ Chuesday week. I see Danny coming down the mountain.”
 The obedient husband did as he was commanded, and Lowry took advantage of his absence, to enter into a more confidential communication with his formidable hostess.
 “Well, Mrs. Naughten, if I was to hear a person swear this upon a book, I’d say ’twas a lie he was telling me, if I didn’t see it with my own eyes.
 “What is it you see?”
 “Oh, then, nothing but what I’m well pleased to see. Well, I thought one that once gave themselves a bad habit, could never be broke of it again, no more than a horse could be broke of starting.”
 At this the virago fixed upon him a kindling and suspicious eye.
 “And tell me now, Mrs. Naughten,” continued Lowry, not perceiving the indication of incipient wrath, “how did it come on you first when you dhropt the cursing that way entirely? I think I’d feel a great loss for the first week or fortnight.”
 “Folly on! Misther Looby, folly on! You’re welcome to your sport this evening.”
 “Sport? Faiks it’s no sport to me, only an admiration. All the people that ever I heerd of making a vow o’ the kind wor sure to break it again, if they didn’t get inside of it, one way or another by shkaming. Sure there was, to my own knowledge, John O’Reilly, the blacksmith near Castle Chute, made as many vows as I have fingers an’ toes again’ the dhrink, an there isn’t one of ’em but what he got the advantage of. First he med a vow he wouldn’t dhrink a dhrop for six months to come, any way, either in a house or out of a house. An’ sore ’tis where I found him the fortnight afther was at Mick Normile’s, an’ he dhrinkin’ as if it was for bets, an’ he sitting in a chair upon the threshold o’ the doore with a leg at this side and a leg at that. ’Is that the way you’re keeping your vow, Misther O’Reilly?’ says I, when I seen him. “Tis,’ says he ’what else? sure I can dhrink here,’ says he, ’an’ no thanks, while I’m neither in the house nor out of it.’ And sure ’twas thrue for him. Well, there’s no use in talking, but some people would live where a fox would starve. Sure, of another time, he med a vow he wouldn’t dhrink upon Ireland ground, an’ where do you think did I get him afther only sitting cross legs upon a branch o’ the big beech tree near Normile’s, an’ he still at the ould work, dhrinking away! Wisha, long life to you says I, if that’s the way; a purty fruit the tree bears in you, says I, this morning. People o’ that kind, Mrs. Naughten, has no business making vows at all, again’ the dhrink, or the cursing either.”
 “I’m hearing to you, Lowry,” said Fighting Poll, with an ominous sharpness in her accent.
 “An’ do you hould to the same plan, still, ma’am?”
 “What plan do you mane?”
 “The same plan as when I met you that night at the Dairy Cottage. Not to be talking, nor drinking, nor cursing, nor swearing, nor fighting, nor ...Oh, murther, Mrs. Naughten, sure you’re not going to sebrike me inside your own doore?”
 “To be sure I would, when I see you daar make a hand o’ me!”
 “Me make a hand o’ you, woman! What hand am I making?”
 “Every hand!” exclaimed the Penthesile, raising her voice. So saying, and with the accustomed yell of onset, she flourished her short stick, and discharged a blow at Lowry’s little head, which, if it had not been warded off by a dexterous interposition of the chair on which he had been sitting, would have left him something to think of for a week to come.
 The scuffle waxed hot, and would doubtless have terminated in some serious bodily injury to the party assailed, but that the sudden re-entrance of Phil, with his brother-in-law, Danny Mann, brought it to a premature termination.
 “Poll! Poll, ayeh! Misther Looby! What’s the mather? Worn’t ye as thick as cousins this moment?”
 “A’ Lowry, is dat you? What’s all dis about?”
 “Don’t hould me Phil, an’ I’ll bate him while bating is good for him! an’ that’s from this till morning.”
 “Here’s usage, Mr. Naughten! Mr. Mann, here’s thratement! Gi’ me my ould hat an’ let me be off, I was a fool to come at all! And after my civility eastwards, when you come dhripping wet into the cottage! Well, it’s all one.” “Whisht eroo!” said Danny Mann, in a conciliating tone, “Come dis way, Lowry, I want to talk to you.” And he led him out of the cottage.
 Eily, who was perfectly aware of the cause of this misconception, had listened to the whole scene, at one time with intense and painful anxiety; and at another with an inclination to laugh in spite of all the difficulties and dangers by which she was surrounded. Before long, however, an idea entered her mind, which wholly detached her attention from the melay in the kitchen. She resolved to write to her father by Lowry, to make him aware, at least, of her safety and of her hope to meet him again in honour, if not in happiness. This would at least remove one great load from her mind, and prepare him for her return. While she arranged her writing materials at the small table, the thoughts of home came crowding on her, so thick and fast, that she found a difficulty in proceeding with her task. It was an humble home, to be sure, but yet it was her home. He was an humble father, but he was her father. She painted a little picture, unconsciously, to her own mind, of that forsaken dwelling. She saw her father sitting by the turf fire, leaning forward with his elbow resting on his knee, a finger beneath his temple, and his grey watery eye fixed on her accustomed chair, which stood empty, on the opposite side. His hair had received another shower of silver since they parted. She scarcely dared to breathe aloud, lest she should disturb the imagined loneliness of his condition. On a sudden she figured to herself the latched door put gently back, and the form of Lowry Looby entering, with her letter in his hand. She marked the air of cold and sad indifference with which the old man recognized him, and received the letter. He looked at the direction - started - tore off the seal and looked within, while his whole frame trembled until the gray hairs were shaken loose upon his temples. She saw the passion struggling in his throat, and her own eyes were blinded by tears; the picture here became too vivid for her feelings, and pushing the little desk aside, she sank down into her chair in a violent fit of sobbing.
 While she remained in this condition, Poll Naughten entered the room, arranging her disordered head-dress, and bearing still upon her countenance the traces of the vanished storm. Its expression, however, was completely altered, when she observed the situation of Eily.
 “What ails you, a ra gal?” she asked in a softened voice, “Arn’t you betther afther the sleep at all?”
 “Poll, do you know that man who is in the kitchen?”
 “Is it Lowry Looby? Ah ha! the scoundhril! ’tis I that do, an’ I’ll make him he’ll know me too before I part him.”
 “Hush! Poll, come hither. I want you to do me a service. I know this man, too.”
 “Why then he’s little credit to you, or any one else.”
 “I want to caution you against saying a word of my name, while he is in the house. It would be ruinous both to your master and myself.”
 “Faiks, I’ll engage he won’t be a bit the wiser of it for Poll Naughten.”
 “And I wished besides, that you would give him, if he intends going to Limerick, a letter, which I will have for you in a few minutes. You need not tell him from whom it comes, do not even let him know that it is from a person in the house. And now, Poll, will you light me one of those candles, and close the window-shutters?”
 This was done, and Eily commenced her letter. Before she proceeded far, however, it occurred to her, that the superscription might awaken the suspicions of Lowry, and besides, she felt a very accountable difficulty about the manner of addressing her offended parent. Finally she decided on forwarding a brief and decorous note, to “Mr. Donat O’Leary, Hair-cutter, Garryowen;” in which she requested him to communicate, to his old neighbour, the circumstances of which she desired the latter should be made aware.
 While she folded the letter, she heard the cottage door once more open, and two persons enter the kitchen. A stillness ensued, which was first broken by the voice of Danny Mann.
 “I was spaking to this boy here, Poll,” he said, “an’ I see ’tis all rising out of a mistake betune de two o’ ye. He didn’t mane any thing by it, he tells me. Eh, Lowry?”
 “It would be long from me, Mrs. Naughten, to say any thing offensive to you, or any o’ your people. Misther Mann, here, explained to me the nature of the matther. I own I didn’t mane a ha’p’worth.”
 “Well, that’s enough, that’s enough. Give him the hand now, Poll,’ said her husband, “and let us ate our little supper in pace.”
 Eily heard no more, and the clatter of knives and forks, soon after, informed her that the most perfect harmony had been re-established amongst the parties. Nothing farther occurred to disturb the good understanding which was thus fortunately restored, or to endanger the secret of our heroine, although Lowry was not without making many enquiries as to the name and quality of the lodger in the inner room. It was a long time too, before he ceased to speculate on the nature of the letter to Foxy Dunat. On this his hostess would give him no information, although he threw out several hints of his anxiety to obtain it, and made many conjectures of his own, which he invariably ended by tossing the head, and declaring that “It flogged the world.”

*Red little girl.

Chapter 24: How Eily Undertakes a Journey in the Absence of Her Husband
EILY HEARD Lowry Looby take his departure on the next morning, with as lively a sensation of regret as if he had been a dearer friend. After the unkindness of her hushand, she trembled, whi!e she wept, to think that it might be a long time before she could meet one more interested in her fortunes.
Happier anticipations than this might not have been so perfectly fulfilled. The first weeks of winter swept rapidly away, and Eily neither saw, nor heard from, Hardress. Her situation became every moment more alarming. Her host and hostess, according as she appeared to grow out of favour with their patron, became at first negligent, and surly, and at last insulting. She had hitherto maintained her place on the sunny side of Poll’s esteem, by supplying that virago with small sums of money from time to time, although her conscience told her that those donations were not appropriated hy the receiver to any virtuous end, but now her stock was running low. Hardress, and this was from mere lack of memory, had left her almost wholly unprovided with funds.
 She resolved to write to him, not with the view of obtaining mere pecuniary assistance, but in order to communicate the request which is subjoined in her own simple language:-

“Do not leave me here, to spend the whole winter alone. If Eily has done any thing to offend you, come and tell her so, but rememher she is now away from every friend in the whole world. Even, if you are still in the same mind as when you left me, come, at all events, for once, and let me go back to my father. If you wish it, nobody, besides us three, shall ever know what you were to your own.

 To this letter, which she entrusted to Danny the Lord, she received no answer; neither Hardress nor his servant being seen at the cottage for more than a week after.
 Matters in the mean time grew more unpleasing between Eily and her hosts. Poll treated her with the most contemptuous rudeness, and Phil hegan to throw out hints which it was difficult to misconceive respecting their poverty, and the unreasonableness of people thrusting idlers upon them, when it was as much as they could do to maintain themselves in honesty. But Poll, who possessed the national recklessness of expense, whenever her husband spoke in this niggardly humour, turned on him not in defence of Lily, but in abuse of his “mainness,” although she could herself use the very same cause of invective when an occasion offered. Thus Eily, instead of commanding like a queen, as she had been promised, was compelled to fill the pitiable situation of an insecure and friendless dependant.
 The wintry year rolled on, in barrenness and gloom, casting an air of iron majesty and grandeur over the savage scenery in which she dwelt, and bringing close to her threshold the first Christmas which she had ever spent away from home. The Christmas eve found her still looking anxiously forward to the return of her husband, or of his messenger. The morning had brought with it a black frost, and Eily sat down alone to a comfortless breakfast. No longer attended with that ready deference which marked the conduct of the Naughtens while she remained in favour, Eily was now obliged to procure and arrange all the materials for her repast with her own hands. There was no butter, nor cream; but as this was one of the great Vigils or fast days of her Church, which Eily observed with a conscientious exactness, she did not miss these prohibited luxuries. There was no fast upon sugar, however, and Eily perceived, with some chagrin, that the sugar-bowl also was empty. She walked softly to the chamber-door, where she paused for a moment, with her handkerchief placed before her cheeks in that beautiful attitude which Homer ascribes to Penelope at the entrance of the “stout-built-hall.” At length she raised the latch, and opened the door to a few inches only.
 “Poll,” she said, in a timid and gentle voice, “do you know where’s the sugar?”
 “It’s in the cubbert I suppose,” was the harsh and unceremonious answer.
 The fact was, Poll had begun to keep the Christmas the evening before, and treated herself to a few tumblers of hot punch, in the manufacture of which she had herself consumed the whole of Eily’s sweets. And there might have been some cause of consolation, if Poll’s temper had been rendered the sweeter by all the sugar she took, but this was not the case.
 “There is none there, Poll,” said Eily.
 “Well, what hurt? Can’t you put a double allowance o’ crame in the tay, an’ dhrink it raw, for once?”
 “Ah, but this is a fast day,” said Eily.
 “Oyeh, choke it, for work! Well then, do as you plase, I can’t help you. I haven’t a spoonful o’ groceries in the house, girl, except I went for ’em, a thing I’d be very onfond to do on a morning like this.”
 “Well, I can do without it, Poll,” said Eily, returning to the table, and sitting down to her, unmetaphorically, bitter draught with the meekest resignation.
 “Gi’ me the money, by an’ by, when I’m going into town for the Christmas candle, an’ I’ll buy it for you, itself, an’ the tay.”
 “But I have no money, Poll.” “No money, inagh? An’ isn’t it upon yourself we’re dependin’ this way to get in the things again’ to-morrow, a Christmas day?” “
 Well, I have not a farthing.”
 “Didn’t you tell me, yourself, the other day, you had a half-crown keepin’ for me again’ Handsel Monday?”
 “I gave it to Danny. I thought I’d have more for you before then.”
 Here Poll dashed in the door with her hand, and confronted her affrighted lodger with the look and gesture of a raging Bacchanal.
 “An’ is that my thanks?” she screamed aloud, “Why then, cock you up with bread and tay this morning. Go look afther Danny, now, if you want your bruk’ast.” And so saying she seized two corners of the table-cloth, and upset the whole concern into the fire-place.
 Terror and astonishment deprived Eily for some moments of the power of speech or motion. But when she saw Poll taking breath, for a moment, and looking around to know what farther devastation she might commit, the forlorn helplessness of her condition rushed at once upon her mind, and she fell back into her seat in a violent fit of hysterics.
 This is a condition in which one woman can rarely behold another without emotion. Poll ran to her relief, uttering every sound of affectionate condolence and encouragement which arose to her lips. “Whisht, now, a’ ra gal! Whisht now, missiz, a-chree! - Oh, ma chree, m’asthora, ma llanuv, you wor! Howl, now, a’ ra gal! Oh vo! vo! - howl! - howl asthore! What ails you? Sure you know ’tis only funnin’ I was, Well, see this! Tell me any thing now in the wide world I’ll do for you, a’ ra gal.”
 “Poll,” said Eily, when she had recovered a certain degree of composure, “there is one thing that you can do for me, if you like, and it will relieve me from the greatest distress.”
 “An’ what is that, a-chree?”
 “To lend me one of the ponies, and get me a boy that can show me the way to Castle-Island.”
 “Is it goin’ you’re thinking of?”
 “I will be here again,” said Eily, “on to-morrow evening.” Eily spoke this without any vehemence of asseveration, and in the quiet manner of one who had never been accustomed to have her words doubted. So irresistible, too, is the force of simple truth, that Poll did not even entertain a suspicion of any intent to deceive.
 “An’ what business would carry you to Castle-Island, a’ ra gal?”
 “I have a friend there, an uncle,” Eily replied with tears starting into her eyes at the remembrance of her old preceptor. “I am sure, Poll, that he would assist me.”
 “I’m in dhread ’tis going from uz you are now, o’ ’count o’ what I said to you. Don’t mind that at all. Stop here as long as ever you like, an’ no thanks. I’ll step across the road this minute an’ borry the sugar for you if it’s it you want.”
 “No, no. I only want to do as I have told you. I’ll engage to screen you from all blame.”
 “Blame! A’ whose blame is it you think I’d be afeerd of? I’ll let you see that I’ll do what I like myself, an’ get you the pony saddled an’ all this minute. But you didn’t ate any thing hardly. Here’s more bread in the cupboard, and strengthen yourself again’ the road while I’m away.”
 She left the room, and Eily, who had little hope of succeeding so easily in her request, proceeded to make her preparations for the journey, with as much dispatch and animation as if she had discovered a sudden mode of release from all her anxieties. For a considerable time, the prospect of meeting with her uncle filled her bosom with sensations of unmingled pleasure. If she looked back (while she tied her bonnet strings below her chin, and hurried on the plainest dress in her trunk,) if she looked back to those days in which her venerable relative presided over her evening studies, and directed their application, it was only to turn her eyes again upon the future, and hope for their speedy renovation.
 Having concluded her arrangements and cautioned Poll not to say a word of her destination, in case Hardress should come to the cottage, Eily now set out upon her lonely journey. The person whom Poll Naughten had procured her for a guide was a stout made girl, who carried an empty spirit-keg, slung at her back, in the tail of her gown, which she had turned up over her shoulders. She informed Eily that she was accustomed to go every Saturday to a town at the distance of fourteen miles, and to return in the evening with the keg full of spirits. “But this week,” she continued. “I’m obleest to go twice, on account o’ the Christmas day falling in the middle of it.”
 “And what does your employer want of so much whiskey?” said Eily, a little interested in the fortune of so hard-working a creature.
 “Want o’ the whiskey, inagh?” exclaimed the mountain girl, turning her black eyes on her companion, in surprise. “Sure isn’t it she that keeps the public house above the Gap, an’ what business would she have wit a place o’ the kind without a dhrop o’ whiskey?”
 “And what are you paid, now, for so long a journey as that?”
 “Defferent ways, I’m paid, defferent times. If it’s a could evening when I come home, I take a glass o’ the spirits itself, in preference to any thing, an’ if not, the misthress pays me a penny every time.”
 “One penny only!”
 “One penny. Indeed it’s too little, but when I spake of it, the misthress tells me she can get it done for less. So I have nothin’ to say but do as I’m bid.”
 Eily paused for some moments, while she compared the situation of this uncomplaining individual with her own. The balance of external comforts, at least, did not appear to be on the side of the poor little mountaineer.
 “And have you no other way of living now than this?” she asked with increasing interest.
 “Illiloo! Is it upon a penny a week you think I’d live?” returned the girl, who was beginning to form no very exalted idea of her companion’s intellect.
 “Do you live with your mistress?”
 “No, I live with my ould father. We have a spot o’ ground beyant, for the piatees. Sometimes I dig it, but mostly the young boys o’ the place comes and digs it for us on a Sunday or a holiday morning, an’ I stick in the seed.”
 “And which is it for the sake of, the father or the daughter, they take that trouble?”
 “For the sake, I b’lieve, of the Almighty that made ’em both. Signs on, they have our prayers, night an’ morning.”
 “Is your father quite helpless?”
 “Oyeh! long from it. He’s a turner. He makes little boxes, and necklaces, and things that way, of the arbutus, and the black oak of the Lakes, that he sells to the English an’ other quollity people that comes to see them. But he finds it hard to get the timber, for none of it is allowed to be cut, and ’tis only windfalls that he can take when the stormy saison beg’ns. Besides, there’s more in the town o’ Killarney that outsells him. He makes but a poor hand of it afther all.”
 “I wonder you have not got a sweetheart. You are very pretty, and very good.”
 The girl here gave her a side-long glance, and laughed so as to exhibit a set of teeth of the purest enamel. The look seemed to say, “Is that all you know about the matter?” but her words were different in their signification.
 “Oyeh, I dont like ’em for men,” she said with a half smiling, half coquetish air. “They’re deceivers an’ rovers, I believe, the best of ’em.”
 “Well, I wouldn’t think that, now, of that handsome young man, in the check shirt, that nodded to you as we passed him, while ago. He has an honest face.”
 The girl again laughed and blushed. “Why then I’ll tell you,” she said, at length seduced into a confidence. “If I’d b’lieve any of ’em, I think it is that boy. He is a boatman on the Lakes, and airns a sighth o’ money, but it goes as fast as it comes.”
 “How is that?”
 “O then, he can’t help it, poor fellow. Them boatman ar’nt allowed to dhrink any thing while they’re upon the lake, except at the stations, but then, to make up for that, they all meet at night at a hall in town, where they stay dancing and dhrinking all night, ’till they spend whatever the quollity gives ’em in the day. Luke Kennedy (that’s this boy,) would like to save, if he could, but the rest wouldn’t pull an oar with him, if he didn’t do as they do. So that’s the way of it. And sometimes afther being up all night a’most, you’ll see ’em out again at the first light in the morning. ’Tis a pity the quollity would give ’em money at all, only have it laid out for ’em in some way that it would do ’em good. Luke Kennedy is a great fencer, I’m tould. Himself an’ Myles Murphy, behind, are the best about the lakes at the stick. Sure Luke taught fencing himself once. Did you ever hear o’ the great guard he taught the boys about the place?”
 Fame had not informed Eily of this circumstance.
 “Well, I’ll tell you it. He gev it out one Sunday, upon some writing that was pasted again the chapel door, to have all the boys, that wor for larnen to fence, to come to him at sech a place, an’ he’d taich ’em a guard that would hindher ’em of ever being sthruck. Well, ’tis an admiration what a gathering he had before him. So when they wor all listening, ’Boys’ says he, getting up on a table an’ looking round him, ’Boys, the guard I have to give ye, that ’ll save ye from all sorts o’ sthrokes’ is this, to keep a civil tongue in ye’r head at all times. Do that,’ says he, ’an’ I’ll be bail ye never ’ll get a sthroke.’ Well, you never seen people wondher so much, or look so foolish as they did, since the hour you wor born.”
 “’Twas a good advice.”
 “An’ that’s a thing Luke knew how to give, better than he’d take. I hardly spake to him at all now, myself.
 “Why so?”
 “Oh, he knows, himself. He wanted me a while ago to marry him, and to part my ould father.”
 “And you refused?” said Eily, blushing a conscious crimson.
 “I hardly spoke to him afther. He’d be the handsome Luke Kennedy, indeed, if he’d make me part the poor ould man that way. An’ my mother dead, an’ he having no else but myself to do a ha’p’orth for him. What could I expect if I done that? If Luke likes me, let him come and show it by my father, if not, there’s more girls in the place, an’ he’s welcome to pick his choice, for Mary.”
 Every word of this speech fell, like a burning coal, upon the heart of Eily. She paused a moment in deep emotion, and then addressed her companion:
 “You are right, Mary, you are very right. Let nothing, let no man’s love, tempt you to forget your duty to your father. Oh, you don’t know, much as you love him, what thoughts you would have, if you were to leave him as you say. Let nothing tempt you to it. You would neither have luck, nor peace, nor comfort, and if your husband should be unkind to you, you could not turn to him again for consolation. But I need not be talking to you; you are a good girl, and more fit to give me advice, than to listen to any I can offer you.”
 From this moment Eily did not open her lips to her companion, until they arrived in Castle-Island. The Christmas Candles were already lighted in every cottage, and Eily determined to defer seeing her uncle until the following morning.

Chapter 25: How Eily Fared in Her Expedition
AFTER A SHARP and frosty morning, the cold sun of the Christmas noon found Father Edward O’Connor seated in his little parlour, before a cheerful turf fire. A small table was laid before it, and decorated with a plain breakfast, which the fatigues of the forenoon rendered not a little acceptable. The sun shone directly in the window, dissolving slowly away the fantastic foliage of frost-work upon the window-panes, and flinging its shadow on the boarded floor. The reverend host himself sat in a meditative posture, near the fire, awaiting the arrival of some fresh eggs, over the cookery of which, Jim, the clerk, presided in the kitchen. His head was drooped a little; his eyes fixed upon the burning fuel, his nether lip a little protruded, his feet stretched out and crossed, and the small bulky volume, in which he had been reading his daily office, half closed in his right hand, with a finger left between the leaves to mark the place. No longer a pale and secluded student, Father Edward now presented the appearance of a healthy man, with a face hardened by frequent exposure to the winds of midnight and of morn, and with a frame made firm and vigorous by unceasing exercise. His eye, moreover, had acquired a certain character of severity, which was more than qualified by a nature of the tenderest benevolence.
On the table, close to the small tray which held his simple equipage, was placed a linen bag, containing in silver the amount of his Christmas offerings. They had been paid him on that morning, in crowns, half-crowns, and shillings, at the parish chapel. And Father Edward on this occasion had returned thanks to his parishioners for their liberality, - the half yearly compensation for all his toils and exertions, his sleepless nights and restless days, amounting to no less a sum than thirteen pounds, fourteen shillings.
 “’Tis an admiration, sir,” said Jim, the clerk, as he entered, clad in a suit of Father Edward’s rusty black, laid the eggs upon the tray, and moved back to a decorous distance from the table. “’Tis an admiration what a sighth o’ people is abroad in the kitchen, money hunting.”
 “Didn’t I tell ’em the last time, that I never would pay a bill upon a Christmas day, again?”
 “That’s the very thing I said to ’em, sir. But ’tis the answer they made me, that they come a long distance, and ’twould cost ’em a day more if they were obliged to be coming again to-morrow.”
 Father Edward, with a countenance of perplexity and chagrin, removed the top of the egg, while he cast a glance alternately at the bag, and at his clerk. “It is a hard case, Jim,” he said at last, “that they will not allow a man even the satisfaction of retaining so much money in his possession for a single day, and amusing himself by fancying it his own. I suspect I am doomed to be no more than a mere agent to this thirteen pound fourteen, after all; to receive and pay it away in a breath.”
 “Just what I was thinking myself, sir,” said Jim, tossing his head.
 “Well, I suppose, I must not cost the poor fellows a day’s work, however, Jim, if they have come such a distance. That would he a little Pharisaical, I fear.”
 Jim did not understand this word, but he bowed as if he would say, “Whatever your reverence says, I am sure, must be correct.”
 “Who are they, Jim?” resumed the clergyman.
 “There’s Luke Scanlon the shoe-maker, for your boots, sir; and Reardon the black-smith for shoeing the pony; and Miles-na-coppulleen as they call him, for the price o’ the little crathur; and the printher for your reverence 5 subscription to the Kerry Luminary; an’ Rawley, the carpenther, for the repairs o’ the althar, an - “
 “Hut-tut! he must settle that with the parishioners. But the others, let me see. Shoeing myself, fifteen shillings; shoeing my pony thirteen, four sets; Well! the price of the ’little crathur,’ as you say, seven pounds ten (and she’s well worth it) and lastly, the newspaper man two pounds.”
 “But not lastly intirely,” said Jim, “for there’s the tailor ...” 
 “Sixteen and three pence. Jim, Jim, that will be a great reduction on the thirteen pound fourteen.” “Just what I was thinking of myself, sir,” said the clerk.
 “But I suppose they must have their money. Well, bring me in their bills, and let them all write a settled at the bottom.”
 Exit Jim.
 “Here they are all, sir,” he said, returning with a parcel of soiled and crumpled papers in his hand, “and Myles Murphy says that the agreement about the pony was seven pound ten an’ a glass o’ whiskey, an’ that he never know a morning he’d sooner give your reverence a reçate for it, than a frosty one like this.”
 “Let him have it, Jim. That was an item, in the bargain, which had slipped my memory. And as you are giving it to him, take the bottle and treat them all round. They have a cold road before them.”
 “It’s what I thought myself, sir,” said Jim.
 Father Edward emptied the bag of silver and counted into several sums the amount of all the bills. When he had done so, he took in one hand the few shillings that remained, threw them into the empty bag, jingled them a little, smiled and tossed his head. Jim, the clerk, smiled and tossed his head in sympathy.
 “It’s aisier emptied than filled, plase your reverence,” said Jim, with a short sigh.
 “If it were not for the honour and dignity of it,” thought Father Edward, after his clerk had once more left the room, “my humble curacy at St. John’s were preferable to this extensive charge in so dreary a peopled wilderness. Quiet lodgings, a civil landlady, regular hours of discipline, and the society of my oldest friends; what was there in these that could be less desirable than a cold small house, on a mountain side, total seclusion from the company of my equals, and a fearful increase of responsibility? Did the cause of preference lie in the distinction between the letters V.P. And P.P.; and the pleasure of paying away thirteen pounds fourteen shillings at Christmas? Oh, world! world! world! You are a great stage coach with fools for outside passengers; a huge round lump of earth, on the surface of which men seek for peace, but find it only when they sink beneath. Would I not give the whole thirteen pounds fourteen at this moment, to sit once more in my accustomed chair, in that small room, with the noise of the streets just dying away as the evening fell, and my poor little Eily reading to me from the window, as of old, as innocent, as happy, and as dutiful as then? Indeed I would, and more, if I had it. Poor Mihil! Ah, Eily, Eily! You deceived me! Well, well! Old Mihil says, I am too ready to preach patience to him. I must try and practise it myself.”
 At this moment the parlour door opened again, and Jim once more thrust in his head.
 “A girl, sir, that’s abroad, an’ would want to see you, if you plase.”
 “Who is she? What does she want? Confession, I suspect.”
 “Just what I was thinking of myself, sir.”
 “Oh, why didn’t she go to the chapel yesterday, where I was sitting until ten at night?”
 “It’s the very thing I said to her myself, sir, and she had no answer to make, only wanting to see you.”
 “Who is she? Don’t you know her, even by sight?”
 “No, sir, in regard she keeps her head down, and her handkerchief to her mouth. I stooped to have a peep undernaith, but if I stooped low, she stooped lower, an’ left me just as wise as I was in the beginning.”
 “Send her in,” said Father Edward, “I don’t like that secrecy.”
 Jim went out, and presently returned, ushering in with many curious and distrustful glances, the young female of whom he had spoken. Father Edward desired her to take a chair, and then told the clerk to go out to the stable, and give the pony his afternoon feed. When the latter had left the room, he indulged in a preliminary examination of the person of his visitor. She was young, and well formed, and clothed in a blue cloak and bonnet, which were so disposed, as she sat, as to conceal altogether both her person and her features.
 “Well, my good girl,” said the clergyman, in an encouraging tone, “what is your business with me?”
 The young female remained for some moments silent, and her dress moved as if it were agitated by some strong emotion of the frame. At length rising from her seat, and tottering towards the astonished priest, she knelt down suddenly at his feet, and exclaimed while she uncovered her face, with a burst of tears and sobbing, “Oh, Uncle Edward, don’t you know me?”
 Her uncle started from his chair. Astonishment, for some moments, held him silent and almost breathless. He, at last, stooped down, gazed intently on her face, raised her, placed her on a chair, where she remained quite passive, resumed his own seat, and covered his face, in silence, with his hand. Eily, more affected by this action than she might have been by the bitterest reproaches, continued to weep aloud with increasing violence.
 “Don’t cry, do not afflict yourself,” said Father Edward, in a quiet, yet cold tone, “there can be no use in that. The Lord forgive you, child! Don’t cry. Ah, Eily O’Connor! I never thought it would be our fate to meet in this manner.”
 “I hope you will forgive me, uncle,” sobbed the poor girl, “I did it for the best, indeed.”
 “Did it for the best!” said the clergyman looking on her for the first time with some sternness. Now Eily, you will vex me, if you say that again. I was in hopes that, lost as you are, you came to me, nevertheless, in penitence and in humility, at least, which was the only consolation your friends could ever look for. But the first word I hear from you is an excuse, a justification of your crime. Did it for the best? Don’t you remember, Eily, having ever read in that book that I was accustomed to explain to you in old times, don’t you remember that the excuses of Saul made his repentance unaccepted? - and will you imitate his example? You did it for the best, after all! I won’t speak of my own sufferings, since this unhappy affair, but there is your old father (I am sorry to hurt your feelings, but it is my duty to make you know the extent of your guilt,) your old father has not enjoyed one moment’s rest ever since you left him. He was here with me a week since, for the second time after your departure, and I never was more shocked in all my life. You cry, but you would cry more bitterly if you saw him. When I knew you together, he was a good father to you, and a happy father too. He is now a frightful skeleton! - Was that done for the best, Eily?”
 “Oh, no, no, sir, I did not mean to say that I acted right, or even from a right intention. I only meant to say, that it was not quite so bad as it might appear.”
 “To judge by your own appearance, Eily,” her uncle continued, in a compassionate tone, “one would say, that its effects have not been productive of much happiness on either side. Turn to the light; you are very thin and pale. Poor, child! poor child! oh, why did you do this? What could have tempted you to throw away your health, your duty, to destroy your father’s peace of mind, and your own honest reputation all in a day?”
 “Uncle,” said Eily, “there is one point on which I fear you have made a wrong conclusion. I have been, I know, sir, very ungrateful to you, and to my father, and very guilty in the sight of heaven, but I am not quite so abandoned a creature as you seem to believe me. Disobedience, sir,” she added with a blush of the deepest crimson, “is the very worst offence of which I can accuse myself.”
 “What!” exclaimed Father Edward, while his eyes lit up with sudden pleasure, “Are you then married?”
 “I was married, sir, a month before I left my father.” The good clergyman seemed to be more deeply moved by this intelligence than by any thing which had yet occurred in the scene. He winked repeatedly with his eyelids, in order to clear away the moisture which began to overspread the balls, but it would not do. The fountain had been unlocked, it gushed forth in a flood, too copious to be restrained, and he gave up the contest. He reached his hand to Eily, grasped hers, and shook it fervently, and long, while he said, in a voice that was made hoarse and broken by emotion: -
 “Well, well, Eily, that’s a great deal. ’Tis not every thing, but it is a great deal. The general supposition was that the cause of secrecy could be no other than a shameful one. I am very glad of this, Eily. This will be some comfort to your father.” He again pressed her hand, and shook it kindly, while Eily wept upon his own, like an infant.
 “And where do you stay, now, Eily? Where - who is your husband?”
 Eily appeared distressed at this question, and, after some embarrassment, said: - “ My dear uncle, I am not at liberty to answer you those questions, at present. My husband does not know of my having even taken this step; - and I dare not think of telling what he commanded that I should keep secret.”
 “Secrecy, still, Eily?” said the clergyman, rising from his seat and walking up and down the room with his hands behind his back, and a severe expression returning to his eye - “ I say again, I do not like this affair. Why should your husband affect this deep concealment? Is he poor? Your father will rejoice to find it no worse. Is he afraid of the resentment of your friends? Let him bring back our own Eily, and he will be received with arms as open as charity. What, besides conscious guilt, can make him thus desirous of concealment?”
 “I cannot tell you his reasons, uncle,” said Eily, timidly, “but indeed he is nothing of what you say.”
 “Well, and how do you live, then, Eily? With his friends, or how? If you will not tell where, you may at least tell how.”
 “It is not, will not, with me, indeed, uncle Edward, but dare not. My first act of disobedience cost me dearly enough, and I dare not attempt a second.”
 “Well, well,” replied her uncle, a little annoyed, “you have more logic than I thought you had. I must not press you farther on that head. But how do you live? Where do you hear mass on Sundays? Or do you hear it regularly at all?”
 Eily’s drooping head and long silence gave answer in the negative.
 “Do you go to mass every Sunday at least? You used to hear it every day, and a blessing fell on you, and on your house, while you did so. Do you attend it now on Sunday itself?”
 Eily continued silent.
 “Did you hear mass a single Sunday, at all since you left home?” he asked in increasing amazement.
 Eily answered in a whisper between her teeth - “ Not one.”
 The good Religious lifted up his hands to heaven, and then suffered them to fall motionless by his side. “Oh, you poor child!” he exclaimed, “May the Lord forgive you your sins! It is no wonder that you should be ashamed, and afraid, and silent.”
 A pause of some moments now ensued, which was eventually broken by the Clergyman. “And what was your object in coming then, if you had it not in your power to tell me any thing that could enable me to be of some assistance to you?”
 “I came, sir,” said Eily, “in the hope that you would, in a kinder manner than any body else, let my father know all that I have told you, and inform him, moreover, that I hope it will not be long before I am allowed to ask his pardon, with my own lips, for all the sorrow that I have caused him. I was afraid, if I had asked my husband’s permission to make this journey, it might have been refused. I will now return, and persuade him if I can, to come here with me again this week.”
 Father Edward again paused for a considerable time, and eventually addressed his niece with a deep seriousness of voice and manner. “Eily, he said, “a strong light has broken in upon me respecting your situation. I fear this man, in whom you trust so much and so generously, and to whose will you show so perfect an obedience, is not a person fit to be trusted, nor obeyed. You are married, I think, to one who is not proud of his wife. Stay with me, Eily, I advise - I warn you. It appears by your own words that this man is already a tyrant, he loves you not, and from being despotic, he may grow dangerous. Remain with me, and write him a letter. I do not judge the man. I speak only from general probabilities, and these would suggest the great wisdom of your acting as I say.”
 “I dare not, I could not, would not, do so,” said Eily. “You never were more mistaken in any body’s character than in his of whom you are speaking. If I did not fear, I love him far too well to treat him with so little confidence. When next we meet, uncle, you shall know the utmost of my apprehensions. At present, I can say no more. And the time is passing too,” she continued, looking at the sunshine which traversed the little room, with a ray more faint and more oblique. “I am pledged to return this evening. Well, my dear uncle, good bye! I hope to bring you back a better niece than you are parting now. Trust all to me for three or four days more, and Eily never will have a secret again from her uncle, nor her father.”
 “Good bye, child, good bye, Eily,” said the clergyman much affected. “Stay - Stay!” he exclaimed, as a sudden thought entered his head. “Come here, Eily, an instant.” He took up the linen bag before mentioned and shook out into his hand the remaining silver of his dues. “Eily,” said he with a smile “it is a long time since Uncle Edward gave you a Christmas-box. Here is one for you. Open your hand, now, if you do not wish to offend me. Good bye! Good bye, my poor, darling child!” He kissed her cheek, and then, as if reproaching himself for an excess of leniency, he added in a more stern accent. “I hope, Eily, that this may be the last time I shall have to part from my niece, without being able to tell her name.”
 Eily had no other answer than her tears, which, in most instances, were the most persuasive arguments she could employ. “She is an affectionate creature, after all,” said Father Edward, when his niece had left the house - “a simple, affectionate little creature, but I was in the right to be severe with her,” he added, giving himself credit for more than he deserved,” her conduct called for some severity, and I was in the right to exercise it as I did. So saying, he returned to his chair by the fire-side, and resumed the reading of his interrupted Office.

[ back ]

[ next ]