[ cont. ]
How Hardress Consoled Himself During His Separation from Eily
Danny, the lord, did not, as Eily was tempted to fear, neglect the delivery of her letter to Hardress. Night had surprised him on his way to Mr. Cregans cottage. A bright crescent shed its light over the lofty Toomies, and flung his own stunted shadow on the lime-stone road, as he trudged along, breathing now and then on his cold fingers, and singing: -
|Oh, did you not hear of Kate Kearney?
Who lives on de Banks of Killarney,
From the glance of her eye,
Shun danger and fly,
For fatals de glance of Kate Kearney.
He had turned in upon the road which led to Aghadoe, and beheld at a short distance the ruined church, and the broken grave-stones which were scattered around its base. Danny, with the caution which he had learned from his infancy, suppressed his unhallowed song as he approached this mournful retreat, and stepped along with a softer pace, in order to avoid attracting the attention of any spiritual loiterers in his neighbourhood The grave of poor Dalton, the huntsman, was amongst the many which he beheld, and Danny knew that it was generally reported, amongst the peasantry, that his ghost had been frequently seen in the act of exercising, after death, that vocation to which, during life, he had been so ardently attached. Danny, who had no ambition to become a subject for the view-halloo to his sporting acquaintance, kept on the shady side of the road, in the hope that by this means he might be enabled to stale by, onknownst.
Suddenly, the night wind, which hurried after, bore to his ear the sound of several voices, which imitated the yelling of hounds in chase and the fox-hunters cry. Danny started aghast with terror, a heavy and turbid sensation pressed upon his nerves, and all his limbs grew damp. He crossed himself, and drew close to the dry-stone wall which bounded the road side.
Hoicks! Come! - Come! - Come away! Come away! Hoicks! was shouted at the top of a voice that, one might easily judge, had sounded the death-knell of many a wily reynard. The cry was caught up and echoed at various distances by three less practiced voices. The ringing of horses hoofs against the hard and frosty road, was the next sound that encountered the ear of the little Lord. It approached rapidly nearer, and grew too sharp and hard to suppose that it could be occasioned by any concussion of immaterial substances. It proved, indeed, to be a danger of a more positive and actual kind. Our traveller perceived, in a few minutes, that the noise proceeded from three drunken gentlemen who were returning from a neighbouring debauch, and urging their horses forward to the summit of their speed, with shouts and gestures which gave them the appearance of demoniacs.
The foremost, perceiving Danny Maun, pulled up his horse, with a violent check, and the others, as they approached, irnitated his example. The animals (who were worthy of kinder masters) appeared to participate in the intoxication of their riders. Their eyes flared, their mouths were hid in foam and they snorted in impatient scorn of the delay to which they were subjected.
Tally! cried the first who gallopped up. Ware bailiff! Who are you?
A poor man, sir, dats going de road to ...
Hoicks! A bailiff! Come, come away! Dont I know you, you limb of mischief? Give me out your processes, or Ill beat you into a jelly. Kneel down there, on the road, until I ride over you!
Dat de hands may stick to me, sir, if I have a process in de world.
Kneel down, I say! repeated the drunken horseman, shaking his whip loose, and applying it, several times, with all his might, to the shoulders of the recusant. Lie down on the road, until I ride over you and trample your infernal brains out!
Pink him! Sweat him! Pink the rascal! cried another horseman, riding rapidly up, and flourished a naked sword. Put up your whip, Connolly, out with your sword, man, and let us pink the scoundrel.
Do as Creagh bids you, Connolly, exclaimed a third, who was as drunk again as the other two. Out with your blade and pi - pink the ras - rascal.
There was nothing for it but a run, and Danny took to his heels like a fawn. This measure, however, gave a new zest to the sport. The gentlemen gallopped after him, with loud shouts of Hoicks! and Tally! and overtook him at a part of the road which was enclosed by hedges, too close and high to admit of any escape into the fields. Knowing well the inhuman desperation with which the gentlemen of the day were accustomed to follow up freaks of this kind, Danny felt his heart sink as low as if he had been pursued by a rooted enemy. While he glanced in terror from one side to another, and saw himself cut off from all chance of safety, he received a blow on the head from the loaded handle of a whip, which stunned, staggered, and finally laid him prostrate on the earth.
I have him! shouted his pursuer. Here he is, as cool as charity. Ill trample the rascals brains out!
So saying, he reined up his horse, and endeavoured, by every species of threat and entreaty, to make the chafed and fiery steed set down his iron hoof upon the body of the prostrate Lord. But the animal, true to that noble instinct which distinguishes the more generous individuals of his species, refused to fall in with the bloody humour of his rider. He set his feet apart, demi-volted to either side, and would not, by any persuasion or sleight of horsemanship, be prevailed upon to injure the fallen man.
Danny, recovering from the stunning effects of the blow, and perceiving the gentlemen hemming him round with their swords, now sought, in an appeal to their mercies, that security which he could not obtain by flight. He knelt before them, lifted up his hands, and implored compassion in accents which would have been irresistible by any but drunken gentlemen on a pinking frolic. But his cries were drowned in the savage shouts of his beleaguerers. Their swords gathered round him in a fearful circle, and Creagh commenced operations by a thrust in the arm, which left a gash of nearly half an inch in depth. His companions, who did not possess the same dexterity in the exercise of the weapon, and were nevertheless equally free of its use, thrust so frequently, and with so much awkwardness, that the unfortunate deformed ran a considerable risk of losing his life. He had already received several gashes in the face and limbs, and was growing faint with pain and anxiety, when the voice of a fourth horseman was heard at a little distance, and young Hardress Cregan, as little self-possessed as the rest, gallopped into the group. He drew his small sword, flourished it in the moonlight with a fierce halloo! that was echoed far away among the lakes and mountains, and prepared to join in the fun. But one glance was sufficient to enable him to recognize his servant.
Connolly, hold! Hold off, Creagh! Hold, or Ill stab you! he cried aloud while he struck up their swords with passion, How dared you set upon my servant? You are both drunk! go home or Ill hash you!
Drunk! said his father, pup - Puppy! wha - what do you call d - d - drunk? D - d - dyou say Im drunk? Eh? And he endeavoured, but without much success, to assume a steady and dignified posture in his saddle.
No sir, said Hardress, who merited his own censure as richly as any one present, But - a - th - these two gentlemen are.
Dye hear that, Creagh? said Connolly, Come along and show him if were drunk. Look here, Mister Slender-limbs! Do you see that road?
I - I do, said Hardress, who might have conscientiously sworn to the seeing more than one.
And do you - (look here!) - do you see this horse?
I do, said Hardress, with some gravity of deliberation.
And do you see me? shouted the querist,
|And raised upon his desperate foot
On stirrup-side, he gazed about.
Ve - very - well! You see that road, and you see my horse, and you see me! Ve - very well. Now could a drunken man do this? Yo - hoicks! Come! come! come away! hoicks! And, so saying, he drove the rowels into his horses flank, stooped forward on his seat and gallopped away with a speed that made the night air whistle by his ears. He was followed, at an emulative rate, by Hyland Creagh and the elder Cregan.
Hardress now assisted the afflicted Danny to mount behind him, and putting spurs to his horse, rode after his companions, at a pace but little inferior, in point of speed, to that which they had used.
Arrived at the cottage, he bade Danny follow him into the drawing room, where there was a cheerful fire. The other gentlemen, in the mean time, had possessed themselves of the dining parlour, and were singing in astounding chorus the melody which begins with this verse:
|Come! each jolly fellow
That loves to be mellow,
Attend unto me and sit easy;
One jorum in quiet,
My boys we will try it,
Dull thinking will make a man crazy.
The ladies, who had spent the evening out were not yet returned, and Hardress, much against the will of the affrighted boatman, insisted upon Dannys taking his seat, before the fire, in Mrs. Cregans arm-chair.
Sit down there! he exclaimed, with violence, seizing him by the collar, and forcing him into the seat. Know, fellow, that if I bid you sit on a throne you are fit to fill it! - You are a king, Danny! he added, standing unsteadily before his servant, with one hand thrust between his ample shirt frills and the other extended in an oratorical attitude, you are a king, in heart, though not in birth. But, tush! as Sterne says - Are we not all relations? Look at this hand! I admire you, Danny Mann! I respect - I venerate you - I think you a respectable person, in your class, respectable in your class, and what more could be expected from a king? - I admire - I love you, Danny! - You are a king in heart! though not, he repeated, lowering the tone of his eulogy while he fixed his half-closed eyes upon the deplorable figure of the little Lord, though not in appearance.
Any body, who could contemplate Dannys person, at this moment, might have boldly joined in the assertion that he was not a king, in appearance. The poor little hunch-back sat forward in the chair, in a crouching attitude, half terrified, and abashed by the finery with which he was surrounded. His joints were stiffening from the cold, his dress sparkling with a hoar frost, and his face of a wretched white wherever it was not discoloured by the clotted blood. At every noise he half started from his seat with the exclamation, Tunder alive! its de missiz!
Nancy! Hardress said, addressing the old woman who came to answer the bell. Nancy, draw that table near the fire, there, and slip into the dining parlour, do you hear? and bring me here the whiskey, a jug of hot water, a bowl, two glasses, and a lemon - Dont say a word to the gentlemen - Ill take a quiet glass here in comfort with Danny ...
With Danny! exclaimed the old woman, throwing up her hands.
Oh, dat I mightnt sin, master, if I daare do it! said Danny, springing out of the chair. Ill be kilt be de missiz.
Stay where you are! said Hardress, and you, woman! do as youre bid!
He was obeyed. The Lord, in vain ennobled, returned to his seat; and the bewildered Nancy laid on the table the materials in demand.
Danny, said Hardress, filling out a brimming glass to his dependant, when the winds of autumn raved, and the noble Shannon ruffled his grey pate against the morning sun, when the porpoise rolled his black bulk amid the spray and foam, and the shrouds sung sharp against the cutting breeze - do you understand me?
Iss, partly sir.
In those moments, then, of high excitement and of triumph, with that zest which danger gives to enjoyment, when every cloud that darkened on the horizon sent forth an additional blast, a fresh trumpeter amongst the Tritons to herald our destruction; when our best hope was in our own stout hands, and our dearest consolation that of the Trojan leader -
Hæc olim meminisse juvabit!
Do you understand that?
Its Latin, sir, Im thinking.
Probatum est! When the struggle grew so close between our own stout little vessel and her invisible aerial foe, as to approach the climax of contention, the point of contact between things irresistible, and things immovable, the - Do you understand?
More Latin, sir?
Thats Greek, you goose.
Its all Greek to me, said Danny.
But in those moments, my fidus Achates, you often joined me in a simple aquatic meal, and why not now? This is my conclusion. Why not now? Major - We used to eat together - minor - We wish to drink together - conclusion - We ought to drink together. And following up, in act a conclusion so perfectly rational, the collegian (who was only pedantic in his maudlin hours) hurried swiftly out of sight the contents of his own lofty glass.
Danny timidly imitated his example, at the same time drawing from inside the lining of his hat, the letter of the unhappy Eily. Intoxicated as he was, the sight of this well-known hand produced a strong effect upon her unprincipled husband. His eye-lid quivered, his hand trembled, and a black expression swept across his face. He thrust the letter, opened, but still unread, into his waistcoat pocket, refilled his glass, and called on Danny for a song.
A song, Master Hardress! Oh, dat I may be happy, if Id raise my voice in dis room for all Europe!
Sit in that chair, and sing! exclaimed Hardress, clenching his hand, and extending it towards the recusant, or Ill pin you to that door!
Thus enforced, the rueful Danny returned to the chair which he had once more deserted, and after clearing his throat by a fresh appeal to the glass, he sang a little melody which may yet be heard at evening in the western villages. Hardress was enchanted with the air, the words, and the style of the singer. He made Danny repeat it, until he became hoarse, and assisted to bear the burthen himself with more of noise than good taste or correctness. The little Lord, as he dived deeper into the bowl, began to lose his self-restraint, and to forget the novelty of his situation. He rivalled his master in noise and volubility, and no longer showed the least reluctance or timidity when commanded to chaunt out the favourite lay for the seventh time, at least:
My mamma she bought me a camlet coat-gown,
Made in de fashion, wit de tail of it down,
A dimity petticoat whiter dan chalk,
An a pair o bow slippers to help me to walk.
An its Oro wisha, Danel asthore!
|Ive a nice little dog to bark at my doore,
A nate little besom to sweep up de floore,
Every ting else dat is fit for good use,
Two ducks and a gander, besides an old goose.
An its Oro wisha, Danel asthore.
Well, why do you stop? What do you stare at? Hardress asked, perceiving the vocalist suddenly lower his voice, and slinge away from the table, while his eyes were fixed on the farther end of the room. The collegian looked in the same direction, and beheld the figure of a young female, in a ball dress of unusual splendour, standing as if fixed in astonishment. Her black hair, which was decorated with one small sprig of pearls, hung loose around her head, a necklace of the same costly material rested on her bosom, and was, in part, concealed by the bright coloured silk kerchief which was drawn around her shoulders. On one arm she held the fur- trimmed cloak and heavy shawl which she had just removed from her person, and which were indicative of a recent exposure to the frosty air. Indeed, nothing but the uproarious mirth of the ill-assorted revellers, could have prevented their hearing the wheels of the carriage as they grated along the gravel - plat before the hall door. This venerable vehicle was sent to set the ladies down by the positive desire of their hostess, and Mrs. Cregan accepted it in preference to her open curricle, although she knew that a more crazy and precarious mode of conveyance could not be found, even among the ships marked with the very last letter on Lloyds list.
Recognizing his cousin, Hardress endeavoured to assume towards Danny Mann, an air of dignified condescension and maudlin majesty, which formed a ludicrous contrast to the convivial freedom of his manner a few moments before.
Very well, my man, he said, liquifying the consonants in every word. Go out now, go to the kitchen, and Ill hear the remainder of your story in the morning. Danny fell cunningly into the deception of his master, to whom he now evinced a profundity of respect, as if to banish the idea of equality, which the foregoing scene might have suggested.
Iss, plase your honour! he said, bowing repeatedly down to his knees, and brushing his hat back, until it swept the floor, long life and glory to your honour, master Hardress, an tis I dat would be lost, if it wasnt for your goodness. Oh, murder, murder! he added, to himself, as he scoured out of the room, describing a wide circuit to avoid Miss Chute, Ill be fairly flayed alive on de count of it.
Well, Anne? said Hardress, rising and moving towards her with some unsteadiness of gait. I - Im glad to see you, Anne, were just come home: very pleasant night, pleasant fellows, very, very pleasant fellows, some cap - capital songs, I was wishing for you, Anne. Had you a pleasant night where you were? Who - who did you dance with? Come, Anne, well dance a minuet - min - minuet de la cour.
Excuse me, said Anne, coldly, as she turned towards the door, not at this hour, certainly.
A fig for the hour, Anne. Hours were made for slaves. Anne, oh, Anne! You look beautiful - beautiful to-night! Oh, Anne! Time flies, youth fades, and age, with slow and withering pace, comes on, before we hear his footfall! Here he sang in a loud, but broken voice -
|Then follow, follow,
Follow, follow pleasure!
Theres no drinking in the grave!
Oh, Anne! thats as true as if the Stagyrite had penned it. Worms, Anne, worms and silence! Come, one minuet! Lay by your cloak -
|And follow, follow,
Follow, follow pleasure!
Theres no dancing in the grave!
Let me pass, if you please, said Miss Chute, still cold and lofty, while she endeavoured to get to the door.
Not awhile, Anne, replied Hardress, catching her hand.
Stand back, sir! exclaimed the offended girl, drawing up her person into the attitude of a Minerva, while her forehead glowed, and her eye flashed with indignation. If you forget yourself, do not suppose that I am inclined to commit the same oversight. Saying this, she walked out of the room, with the air of an offended princess, leaving Hardress a little struck and sobered by the sudden change in her manner.
Lifting up his eyes, after a pause of some moments, he beheld his mother standing near, and looking on him with an eye in which the loftiness of maternal rebuke was mingled with an expression of sneering and satirical reproach.
You are a wise young gentleman, she said, you have done well. Fool that you are, you have destroyed yourself. Without bestowing another word upon him, Mrs. Cregan took one of the candles in her hand, and left the room.
Hardress had sufficient recollection to follow her example. He took the other light, and endeavoured, but with many errors, to navigate his way towards the door. Destroyed myself! he said, as he proceeded, Why wheres the mighty harm of taking a cheerful glass on a winters night with a friend? A friend, Hardress? Yes, a friend, but what friend? Danny Mann, alias Danny the Lord, my boatman. It wont do! (shaking his head.) It sounds badly. Im afraid I did something to offend Anne Chute. Im sorry for it, because I respect her; I respect you, Anne, in my very, very heart. But Im ill used, and I ought to have satisfaction; Creagh has pinked my boatman. Ill send him a message, thats clear; Ill not be hiring boatmen for him to be pinking for his amusement. Let him pink their master if he can. Thats the chat! (snapping his fingers,) Danny Mann costs me twelve pounds a year, besides his feeding and clothing, and Ill not have him pinked by old Hyland Creagh, afterwards. Pink me, if he can: let him leave my boatman alone! Thats the chat! This floor goes starboard and larboard, up and down, like the poop of a ship; up and - Hallo! Who are you? oh, its only the door. I have broke my nose against it. And if I break my own nose without any reason at this time o day, what usage can I expect from Creagh, or any body else?
Having arrived at this wise conclusion, he sallied out of the room, rubbing with one hand the bridge of the afflicted feature, and elevating, in the other, the light, which he still held with a most retentive grasp. As the long and narrow hall, which lay between him and his bed-chamber formed a direct rail-road way, which it was impossible even for a drunken man to miss, he reached the little dormitory without farther accident. The other gentlemen had been already borne away unresisting from the parlour, and transmitted from the arms of Mike to those of Morpheus.
How Hardress Answered the Letter of Eily
You have destroyed yourself! Mrs. Cregan repeated, on the following morning, as she sat in the breakfast parlour, in angry communion with our collegian. If you have any desire to redeem even a portion of her forfeited esteem, now is your time. She is sitting alone in the drawing room, and I have prevailed on her to see you for a few moments. She returns in two or three days to Castle Chute, where she is to Christmas, and unless you are able to make your peace before her departure, I know not how long the war may last.
Yes, said Hardress, with a look of deep anguish, I shall go and meet her on the spot where I dared to insult her! Insult Anne Chute? Why, if my brain had turned, if lunacy, instead of drunkenness, had set a blind upon my reason at the time, I thought my heart at least would have directed me. Mother, dont ask me to see her there, I could tear my very flesh for anger; I never will forgive myself, and how then can I seek forgiveness from her?
Go - go! - That speech might have done much for you, if it had been properly addressed - Go to her.
I will! said Hardress, setting his teeth, and rising with a look of forced resolution, I know that it is merely a courting of ruin, a hastening and confirming of my own black destiny, and yet I will go seek her. I cannot describe to you the sensation that attracts my feet at this moment in the direction of the drawing room. There is a demon leading, and a demon driving me on, and I know them well and plainly, and yet I will not choose but go ...The way is torture, and the end is hell, and I know it, and I go! And there is one sweet spirit, one trembling, pitying angel that waves me back with its pale, fair hands, and strives to frown in its kindness, and points that way to the hills! Mother! mother! the day may come when you will wish a burning brand had seared those lips athwart before they said - Go to her!
What do you mean? said Mrs. Cregan, with some indignant surprize.
Well, well, am I not going? Do I not say I go? continued Hardress, Is it not enough if I comply? May I not talk? May I not rant a little? My heart will burst if I do these things in silence.
Come Hardress, you are far too sensitive a lover ...
A what? cried Hardress, springing to his feet, and with a fierceness of tone and look that made his mother start.
Pooh, pooh! A cousin, then, a good, kind cousin, hut too sensitive.
Yes - yes ...muttered Hardress, I am not yet damned. The sentence is above my head, but it is not spoken; the scarlet sin is willed, but not recorded. - Mother, have patience with me! I will not, I cannot, I dare see Anne Chute this morning. And he again sunk into his chair.
Mrs. Cregan, who attributed all those manifestations of reluctance, and remorse (which her son had evinced during their frequent interviews) to the recollection of some broken promise, or boyish faith forsaken, was now surprized at their intensity.
My dear Hardress! she said, laying her hand affectionately on his shoulder, my darling child, you afflict yourself too honestly. Say what you will, there are few natures nursed in an Irish cabin that are capable of suffering so keenly to the endurance of any disappointment as you do to the inflicting it.
Do you think so, mother?
Be assured of it. And again - why do you vex your mind about this interview? Is it not a simple matter for a gentleman to apologize politely to a lady for an unintentional affront? If you have hurt your cousins feelings, what crime can accompany or follow a plain and gentlemanly apology?
Thats true, thats very true, said Hardress. There is a call upon me, and I will obey it. But politely? Politely? If I could stop at that. It is impossible, I shall first become a fool, and, by and by, a demon. But you are right, and I obey you, mother.
So saying, he walked with a kind of desperate calmness our of the room, and Mrs. Cregan heard him continue the same heavy, self-abandoned step along the hall which led to the drawing-room door.
Nothing could have been more propitiatory than the air of mournful tranquility with which the young collegian entered the room in which his cousin was expecting him. It might resemble that of a believing mussulman, who prepared to encounter a predestined sorrow. He observed, and his pulse quickened at the sight, that his cousins eyes were marked with a slight circle of red as if she had been weeping. She rose as he entered, and lowered her head and her person in rather distant courtesy, a coldness which she repented the moment her eye rested on his pale and anxious countenance.
You see how totally all shame has left me, said Hardress, forcing a smile, I do not even hide myself. Will any apology, Anne, be admissible after last night? Miss Chute hesitated and appeared slightly confused. She did not, she said, for her own sake, look for any. But, it would indeed give her pleasure, to hear any thing that might explain the extraordinary scene on which she had intruded.
You are astonished, said Hardress, to find that I could make myself so much a beast! But intoxication is not always a voluntary sin, with people who sit down after dinner with such men as Creagh, and Connolly, and ... he did not add, my father.
But when you were aware.
And when I was, and as I was, Anne, I rose and left the table; I, and young Geoghegan, but they all got up, to a man, and shut out the door, and swore we should not stir. They went so far as to draw their swords. Upon my honour, I do not think we could have left the room last night, sober, without bloodshed. And was it so unpardonable then? Cato, himself, you know, was once found drunk.
I dont think thats deserved, said Hardress, colouring slightly, I may have often trespassed a little in that way, but I never, till last night, became as drunk as Cato. Nor even last night, for I was able to ride home at a canter, to rescue my poor hunch-back out of a dilemma, and to bring him hither on my saddle, whereas Cato was unable to keep his own legs, you know.
I heard that circumstance this morning, and I admit that it altered the posture of the transaction very considerably. But did those gentlemen who drew their swords upon you, make you promise to continue drinking after your return, and to bring Danny into the drawing-room to join you?
And to insult my cousin? added Hardress, No, there my guilt begins, and unless your mercy steps in to my relief, I must bear the burthen unassisted.
To tell you the truth, Hardress, said Anne, assuming an air of greater frankness, it is not the offence or insult (as you term it) of last night alone, that perplexes and afflicts me. Your whole manner, for a long time past, is one continued enigma, one distressing series of misconceptions on my part, and of inconsistencies, I will say nothing harder, upon yours. Your whole conduct has changed since I have met you here, and changed by no means favourably. I cannot understand you. I appear to give you pain most frequently when it is farthest from my own intention, and I cannot tell you how distressed I feel upon the subject.
Hardress fixed his eyes upon her while she spoke, and remained for some moments wrapt in silent and intoxicating admiration. When she had concluded, and while a gentle anxiety still shadowed her features with an additional depth of interest, he approached to her side, and said.
And is it possible, Anne, that the conduct of so worthless a fellow as I am should in any way affect you so deeply as you describe? Believe me, Anne, I do not mouth, nor rave, while I declare to you, that I had rather lie down and die here at your feet, than give you a moments painful thought, or seem to disregard your feelings.
Oh, sir, said Anne, looking more offended than usual, I cannot sit to hear this language again repeated. You must remember how painfully those conversations have always terminated.
The intoxication of passion is no less absorbing and absolute, than that which arises our of a coarser sensual indulgence. Hardress was no more capable of thought or of reflection now, than he was during the excesses of the foregoing night. He yielded himself slowly, but surely, to the growing delirium, and became forgetful of every thing but the unspeakable happiness that seemed to thrust itself upon him.
Anne, he said, with great anxiety of voice and manner; let that, too, he made a subject for your forgiveness. Shall I tell you a secret? Shall I give yoii the key to all those perplexing inconsistencies, the solution to that long enigma of which you have complained? I can no more contain it than I could arrest a torrent. I love you! Does that explain it? If you are satisfied, do not conceal your thought. Say it kindly, say it generously! I do not ask you to say any thing that can even make you blush. If you are not displeased, say only that you forgive me, and that word will be the token of my happiness.
He paused, and Anne Chute, turning away her head, and reaching him her hand, said in a low, hut distinct tone, Hardress, I am satisfied, I do forgive you.
Hardress sunk at her feet, and bathed with his tears the hand which had been surrendered to him.
One moment! one moments patience, my kindest, my sweetest Anne! he said, as a sudden thought started into his mind. I wish to send one line to my mother, is it your pleasure? She is in the next room, and I wish to - Ha!
A sudden alteration took place in his appearance. While he spoke of writing, he had taken from his waistcoat pocket a pencil and an open letter, ftom which he tore away a portion of the back. The handwriting arrested his attention, and he looked within. The first words that met his eye were the following:
If EiIy bas done any thing to offend you, come and tell her so; but remember 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.
While his eyes wandered over this letter, his figure underwent an alteration that filled the heart of Anne with terror. The apparition of the murdered Banquo, at the festival, could not have shot a fiercer remorse into the soul of his slayer, than did those simple lines into the heart of Hardress. He held the paper before him at arms length, his cheek grew white, his forehead grew damp, and the sinews of his limbs grew faint and quivering with fear. His uneasiness was encreased by his total ignorance of the manner in which the letter came into his possession.
Hardress! What is the matter? What is it you tremble at? said Anne, in great uneasiness.
I do not know, Anne. I think theres witch-craft here. I am doomed, I think, to live a charmed life. I never yet imagined that I was on the threshold of happiness; but some wild hurry, some darkening change, swept across the prospect, and made it all a dream. It has been always so, in my least, as in my highest, hopes. I think it is my doom. Even now, I thought I had already entered upon its free enjoyment, and behold, yourself, how swiftly it has vanished!
Vanished! Aye vanished, and for ever! Were we not now almost one soul and being? Did we not mingle sighs? Did we not mingle tears? Was not your hand in mine, and did I not think I felt our spirits growing together in an inseparable league? And now (be witness for me against my destiny) how suddenly we have been wrenched asunder! how soon a gulf has opened at our feet, to separate our hearts and fortunes from henceforth and forever!
For ever! echoed Anne, lost in perplexity and astonishment.
Forgive me! Hardress continued in a dreary tone. I did but mock you, Anne, I cannot, must not love you! I am called away; I was mad, and dreamed a lunatics dream, but a horrid voice has woke me up, and warned me to begone. I never can be the happy one I hoped, Anne Chutes accepted lover.
Yet once again, sir! exclaimed Miss Chute, with a burst of natural indignation. Once more must I endure those insults? Do you think I am made of marble! Do you think, she continued, panting heavily, that you can sport with my feelings at your pleasure?
I can only say, forgive me!
I do not think you value my forgiveness. I have been always too ready to accord it, and that I think has subjected me to additional insult. Oh, Mrs. Cregan! she added, as she saw that lady enter the room, and close the door carefully behind her. Oh, Mrs. Cregan, why did you bring me to this house?
With these words she ran, as if for refuge, to the arms of her aunt, and fell in a fit of hysterical weeping upon her neck.
What is the matter? said Mrs. Cregan, sternly, and standing at her full height. What have you done?
I have, in one breath, made her a proposal, which I have broken in the next, said Hardress calmly.
You do well to boast of it. Comfort yourself, my love, you shall have justice. Now, hear me, sir. Abandon my house this instant!
Be silent, sir, and dare not address me by that name. My love, be comforted! I disown, I renounce you, for a son of mine. If you had one drop of gentle blood in your veins, it would have rebelled against such perfidy, such inhuman villany as this! Away, sir, your presence is distressing to us both! My love! my love! my unoffending love, he comforted! she added, gathering her niece tenderly in her arms, and pressing her head against her bosom.
Mother, said Hardress, drawing in his breath between his teeth, if you are wise, you will not urge me farther. Your power is great upon me. If you are merciful, do not put it in exercise at this moment.
Do not, aunt! said Anne, in a whisper, let him do nothing against his own desire.
He shall do it, girl! exclaimed Mrs. Cregan. Must the selfish boy suppose that there are no feelings to be consulted besides his own in the world? - I will nut speak for myself, she added, but look there! holding towards him the form of her niece as if in reproach. Is there a man on earth besides yourself that ... here the words stuck in her throat and her eyes filled up. Excuse me, my darling! she said to Anne, I must sit down. This monster will kill me! she burst into tears as she spoke those words.
It now became Annes turn to assume the office of comforter. She stood by her aunts chair, with her arm round her neck, and loading her with caresses. If ever a man felt like a fiend, Hardress Cregan did so at that moment.
I am a villain either way, he muttered below his breath. There is no escaping it. Well whispered, fiend! I have but a choice between the two modes of evil, and there is no resisting this! I cannot hold out against this.
Come Anne, said Mrs. Cregan, rising, let us look for privacy elsewhere, since this gentleman loves so well to feast his eyes upon the misery he can occasion, that he will not afford it to us here.
Stay, mother! said Hardress suddenly rising and walking towards them, I have decided between them.
I - I mean, that I am ready to obey you. I am ready, if Anne will forgive me, to fulfill my pledge. I ask her pardon and yours for the distress I have occasioned. From this moment I will offend no more. Your power, mother, has prevailed. Whether for good or evil, let Time tell!
But will you hold to this?
To death, and after. Surely that may answer.
No more discoveries?
None, mother, none.
This, once for all, and at every hazard?
At every hazard, and at every expense to soul or to body, here or hereafter.
Fie! fie! Why need you use those desperate terms? Where are you running now?
Merely to speak to my servant. I will return to dinner.
Why, how you tremble! You are pale and ill!
No, no, tis nothing. The air will take it away. Good bye, one moment, I will return to dinner.
He hurried out of the room, leaving the ladies to speculate together on the probable cause of his vaccillation. What appeared most perplexing to Anne Chute was the circumstance that she knew he loved her as deeply and intensely as he said, and yet her admitting his addresses always seemed to occasion a feeling of terror in his mind. More than once, as his character unfolded on her view, she had been tempted to regret her hasty predilection; and had recurred, with a feeling of saddened recollection, to the quiet tenderness, and cheerful affection, of the rejected Kyrle Daly.
In the meantime Hardress Cregan hurried through the house in search of his boatman. Dannys wounds had become inflamed in the course of the night, and he was now lying in a feverish state in the little green room in which Hardress had held his last interview with the poor huntsman. Hither he hastened, with a greater turbulence of mind than he had ever yet experienced.
They are driving me upon it! he muttered between his teeth. They are gathering upon me, and urging me onward in my own despite! Why then, have at ye, devils! I am among ye. Which way must it be done? Heaven grant I may not one day weep for this! - but I am scourged to it!
He entered the room. The check blind was drawn across the little window, and he could scarcely, for a moment, distinguish the face of his servant, as the latter raised himself in the bed at his approach. Old Nancy was standing with a bowl of whey in her hand near the bedside. Hardress, as if unwilling to afford a moments time for reflection, walked quickly to her, seized her by the shoulders, and thrust her out of the room. He then threw in the bolt of the door, and took a chair by the sick mans side. A silence of some moments ensued.
Long life to you, master Hardress, tis kind o you to come and see me dis mornin, said the wounded Lord.
His master made no reply, but remained for a minute with his elbows on his knees, and his face buried between his hands.
Danny, he said, at length, do you remember a conversation which I had with you some weeks since on the Purple Mountain? O den, master, said Danny putting his hands together with a beseeching look, dont talk o dat, any more. I ax heavens pardon, an I ax your pardon, for what I said; and I hope and pray your honour ill rink of it no more. Many is de time I was sorry for it since, and moreover now being on my sick bed, an tinking of every ting.
Pooh, pooh! you do not understand me! Do you remember your saying something about hiring a passage for Eily in a North American vessel, and ...
I do, an I ax pardon. Let me out o de bed, an Ill go down on my two knees ...
Pish! bah! he silent. When you spoke of that, I was not wise enough to judge correctly. Do you mark? If that conversation were to pass again I would not speak, nor think, nor feel, as I did then.
Danny gaped and stared on him, as if at a loss.
Look here! you asked me for a token of my approbation. Do you remember it? You bade me draw my glove from off my hand, and give it for a warrant. Danny, he continued, plucking off the glove slowly, finger after finger; my mind has altered. I married too young. I didnt know my own mind. Your words were wiser than I thought. I am hampered in my will. I am burning with this thraldom. Here is my glove.
Danny received it, while they exchanged a look of cold and fatal intelligence.
You shall have money; Hardress continued, throwing a purse upon the bed. My wish is this. She must not live in Ireland. Take her to her father? No, the old man would babble, and all would come to light. Three thousand miles of a roaring ocean may be a better security for silence. She could not keep her secret at her fathers. She would murmur it in her dreams. I have heard her do it. She must not stay in Ireland. And you, do you go with her, watch her, mark all her words, her wishes, I will find you money enough, and never let me see her more. Harm not, I say ... Oh, harm not a hair of the poor wretchs head! - but never let me see her more! Do you hear? Do you agree?
O den, Id do more dan dat for your honour, but ...
Enough. When? when then? when?
Ah den, master Hardress, dear knows Im so poorly after de proddin I got from dem jettlemen, dat I dont know will I he able to lay dis for a few days, Im tinken.
Well, when you go, here is your warrant.
He tore the back from Eilys letter and wrote in answer:-
I am still in the same mind as when I left you. I accept your proposal. Put yourself under the bearers care and he will restore you to your father.
He placed this black lie in the hand of his retainer, and hurried out of the room.
How the Little Lord Put His Masters Wishes Into Action
We lost sight of Eily after her parting with her uncle. She wasted no time on her journey homewards, but yet it was nearly dusk before the pony had turned in upon the little craggy road which led upward through the Gap. The evening was calm and frosty, and every foot-fall of the animal was echoed from the opposite cliffs like the stroke of a hammer. A broken covering of crystal was thrown across the stream that bubbled downwards through the wild valley, and the rocks and leafless trees, in those corners of the Glen which had escaped the direct influence of the sunshine, were covered with drooping spars of ice. Chilled by the nipping air, and fearful of attracting the attention of any occasional straggler in the wild, Eily had drawn her blue cloak around her face, and was proceeding quietly in the direction of the cottage, when the sound of voices on the other side of a hedge, by which she passed, struck on her ear.
Seven pound tin, an a pint o whiskey! the same money as I had for the dead match of her from Father OConnor the priest, eastwards in Castle-Island. Say the word now, seven pound tin, or lave it there.
No, seven pound tin. I will not, I tell you.
Well then, being relations as we are, I never will break your word, although shes worth that if it was between brothers.
In her first start of surprise at hearing this well remembered voice, Eily had dropt the mantle from her face. Before she could resume it, the last speaker had sprung up on the hedge and plainly encountered her.
At this moment, far away from home, forsaken, as it appeared, by her chosen, her own accepted love, living all alone in heart, and without even the feverish happiness of hope itself; at this mournful moment it would be difficult to convey any idea of the effect which was produced upon Eily by the sudden apparition of the first, though not the favoured, love of her girlish days. Both came simultaneously to a pause, and both remained gazing each on the others face with a feeling too sudden and too full for immediate expression. The handsome, though no longer healthy, countenance of the mountaineer was expanded to a stare of pleasurable astonishment, while that of Eily was covered with an appearance of shame, sorrow, and perplexity. The pony likewise, drooping his head as she suffered the rein to slacken in her hand, seemed to participate in her confusion.
At length, Myles of the ponies, keeping his eyes still fixed on Eily, advanced towards her step after step, with the breathless suspense of King Leontes before the feigned statue.
Eily! he said at length, laying one hand upon the shaggy neck of the little animal, and placing the other against his throat, to keep down the passion which he felt gathering within, Oh, Eily OConnor, is it you I see at last?
Eily, with her eyes lowered, replied in a whisper, which was all but utterly inaudible, Tis, Myles.
A long pause ensued. The poor mountaineer bent down his head in a degree of emotion which it would be difficult to describe, otherwise than by adverting to the causes in which it originated. He was Eilys first declared admirer, and he was the cause of her present exile from her fathers fire-side. He had the roughness, but at the same time the honesty, of a mountain cottager, and he possessed a nature, which was capable of being deeply, if not acutely, impressed by the circumstances just mentioned. It was long, therefore, before he could renew the conversation. At last he looked up and said:
Why then, I felt you when you were below that lake, when I seen you, that it was somebody was there, greatly, although I couldnt see a bit o you but the cloak. I wondhered what is it made me feel so quare in myself. Sure its little notion I had who was in it, for a cloak. Little I thought ... (here he passed his hand across his eyes) Ah, whats the use o talking?
Eily was still unable to articulate a syllable.
I saw the old man last week, continued Myles, still at the old work on the rope-walk.
Did you - speak to him? whispered Eily.
No. He gave me great anger (and justly) the next time he saw me afther you going, in regard it was on my account, he said (and justly too) that you were driven to do as you done. Oh, then, Miss Eily, why did you do that? Why didnt you come to me, unknownst to the old man, and says you, Myles, I make it my request o you, you wont ax me any more, for I cant have you at all? And sure, if my heart was to split open that minute, its the last word youd ever hear from Myles.
Theres only one person to blame in all this business, murmured the unhappy girl, and that is Eily OConnor.
I dont say that, returned the mountaineer. Its no admiration to me you should be heart broken with all the persecution we gave you day after day. All Im thinking, is, Im so sorry you didnt mention it to myself, unknownst. Sure it would be betther for me than to be as I was afther when I heerd you wor gone. Lowry Looby that told me first of it when I was eastwards. Oh, vo! such a life as I led afther! Lonesome as these mountains looked before, when I used to come home thinken of you, they looked ten times lonesomer afther I heard that story. The ponies - poor craturs, see em all how theyre looken down at us this moment, they didnt hear me spring the rattle on the mountain for a month afther. I suppose they thought it is in Garryowen I was.
Here he looked upward, and pointed to his herd, a great number of which were collected in groups on the broken cliff above the road, some standing so far forward on the projections of rock, as to appear magnified against the dusky sky. Myles sprung the large wooden rattle which he held in his hand, and in an instant all dispersed and disappeared like the clan of the highland chief, at the sound of their leaders whistle.
Well, Myles, said Eily, at length, collecting a little strength.
I hope well see some happy days in Garryowen yet.
Heaven send it. Ill pack off a boy to-night to town, or Ill go myself if you like, or Ill get you a horse and truckle, and guide it myself for you, or Ill do any thing in the whole world that youll have me. Look at this. Id rather be doing your bidding this moment than my own mothers, and heaven forgive me, if thats a sin. Ah, Eily, they may say this and that o you, in the place where you were born, but Ill ever hold to it, I held to it all through, an Ill hold to it to my death, that when you darken your fathers door again, you will send no shame before you!
You are right in that, Myles.
Didnt I know I was? And wasnt it that that broke my heart? Look! If one met me afther you flitted away, and saw me walking the road with my hands in my pocket, and my head down, an I thinking; an if he sthruck me upon the shouldher an Myles says, he dont grieve for her, shes this and that! an if he proved it to me, why, Id look up that minute an Id smile in his face. Id be as easy from that hour as if I never crossed your threshold at Garryowen! But knowing in my heart, and as my heart told me, that it never could be that way, that Eily was still the old girl always, an hearing what they said o you, an knowing that it was I that brought it all upon you, ...oh, Eily! Eily! ...Oh, Eily OConnor, there is not that man upon Ireland ground that can tell what I felt. That was what killed me! That was what drove the pain into my heart, and kept me in the docthors hands till now.
Were you ill then, Myles? Eily asked in a tone of greater tenderness and interest than she had ever shown to this faithful lover. He seemed to feel it, too; for he turned away his head, and did not answer for some moments.
Nothing to speak of; he said, at length, nothing, Eily, that couldnt be cured by a kind word or a look o that kind. But where are you going now? The night is falling, and this is a lonesome road. The Sowlth* was seen upon the Black Lake, last week, and few are fond of crossing the little bridge at dark since then.
I am not afraid, said Eily.
Are you going far a-past the gap? Let me guide the pony for you?
No, Myles, where I am going, I must go alone.
Alone? Sure tisnt to part me you will, now?
I must indeed, Myles.
And what will I say to the old man, when I go and tell him that Isaw Eily, an spoke to her, an that I know no more?
Tell him, if you like, that Eily is sorry for the trouble she gave him, and that before many days she hopes to ask his pardon on her knees. Good night, and heaven be with you, Myles! you are a good man.
An amnt I to know where you stop itself?
Not now. You said, Myles, that you would like to do my bidding. Miy bidding is now that you would neither ask, nor look after, where Im going, nor where I stop. If you do either one or the other, you will do me a great injury.
Say no more, a-chree! said Myles, the word is enough. Well, Eily, good night! your own good night back again to you, and may the angels guide you on your road. Cover up your hands in your cloak, an hide your face from the frost. I do your bidding, but I dont like the look o you that way, going up this lonesome glen alone, and a winter night coming on, an not knowing where you re steering, or who youre trusting to. Eily, be said by me and let me go with you.
Eily again refused, and gave her hand to Myles, who pressed it between his, and seemed as loth to part with it as if it were a treasure of gold. At length, however, Eily disengaged herself, and put her pony to a trot. The mountaineer remained gazing after her until her figure was lost among the shadows of the rocks. He then turned on his path, and pursued the road which led down the valley, with his eyes fixed heavily upon the ground, and his head sunk forward in an access of deep and singular emotion.
Eily, meanwhile, pursued her journey to the cottage, where, as the reader is already aware, no news of her forgetful husband had as yet been heard. Some days of painful suspense and solitude elapsed, and then came Danny Mann, with his young masters note.
It was the eve of Little Christmas, and Eily was seated by the fire, still listening, with the anxiety of defeated hope, to every sound that approached the cottage door. She held in her hand a small prayer book, in which she was reading, from time to time, the office of the day. The sins and negligences of the courted maiden, and the happy bride, came now in dread array before the memory of the forsaken wife, and she leaned forward with her cheek supported by one finger, to contemplate the long arrear, in silent penitence. They were for the most part, such transgressions as might, in a more worldly soul, he considered indicative of innocence rather than hopeless guilt, but Eilys was a young and tender conscience, that bore the burthen with reluctance, and with difficulty.
Poll Naughten was arranging at a small table, the three-branched candle, with which the vigil of this festival is celebrated in Catholic houses. While she was so occupied, a shadow fell upon the threshold, and Eily started from her chair. It was that of Danny Mann. She looked for a second figure, but it did not appear, and she returned to her chair with a look of agony and disappointment.
Wheres your masther? Isnt he coming? asked Poll, while she applied a lighted rush to one of the branches of the candle.
He isnt, returned Danny, in a surly tone, he has something else to do.
He approached Eily, who observed, as he handed her the note, that he looked more pale than usual, and that his eye quivered with an uncertain and gloomy fire. She cast her eyes on the note, in the hope of finding there a refuge from the fears which crowded in upon her. But it came only to confirm them in all their gloomy force. She read it word after word, and then letting her hand fall lifeless by her side, she leaned back against the wall, in an attitude of utter desolation. Danny avoided contemplating her in this condition, and stooped forward, with his hands expanded over the fire. The whole took place in silence so complete, that Poll was not yet aware of the transaction, and had not even looked on Eily. Again she raised the paper to her eyes, and again she read in the same well known hand, to which her pulses had so often thrilled and quickened, the same unkind, cold, heartless, loveless words. She thought of the first time on which she had met with Hardress, she remembered the warmth, the tenderness, the respectful zeal of his young and early attachment, she recalled his favourite phrases of affection, and again she looked upon this unfeeling scrawl, and the contrast almost broke her heart. She thought, that if he were determined to renounce her, he might at least have come and spoken a word at parting; even if he had used the same violence, as in their last interview. His utmost harshness would be kinder than indifference like this. It was an irremediable affliction, one of those frightful visitations from the effects of which, a feeble and unelastic character like that of this unhappy girl, can never after be recovered.
But though the character of Eily was, as we have termed it, unelastic; though, when once bowed down by a calamitous pressure, her spirits could not recoil, but took the drooping form, and retained it, even after that pressure was removed; still she possessed a heroism peculiar to herself; the noblest heroism of which humanity is capable; the heroism of endurance. The time had now arrived for the exercise of that faculty of silent sufferance, of which she had made her gentle boast to Hardress. She saw, now, that complaint would be in vain, that Hardress loved her not, that she was dead in his affections, and that, although she might disturb the quiet of her husband, she never could restore her own. She determined therefore to obey him at once, and without a murmur. She thought that Hardresss unkindness had its origin in a dislike to her, and did not at all imagine the possibility of his proceeding to such a degree of perfidy as he, in point of fact contemplated. Had she done so, she would not have agreed to maintain the secresy which she had promised.
While this train of meditation was still passing in her mind, Danny Mann advanced toward the place where she was standing, and said, without raising his eyes from her feet:- If youre agreeable to do whats in dat paper, Miss EiIy, I have a boy below at de gap wit a horse an car, an you can set off to-night if you like.
Eily, as if yielding to a mechanical impulse, glided into the little room, which, during the honey moon, had been furnished up and decorated for her own use. She restrained her eyes from wandering, as much as possible; and commenced with hurried and trembling hands her arrangements for departure. They were few and speedily effected. Her apparel was folded into her trunk, and, for once, she tied on her bonnet and cloak without referring to the glass. It was all over now! - it was a happy dream, but it was ended. Not a tear fell, not a sigh escaped her lips, during the course of those farewell occupations. The struggle within her breast was deep and terrible, but it was firmly mastered.
A few minutes only elapsed, before she again appeared at the door of the little chamber accoutered for the journey. Danny, she said, in a faint, small voice, I am ready.
Ready? exclaimed Poll. Is it going you are, a-chree?
Nothing could be more dangerous to Eilys firmness, at this moment, than any sound of commiseration, or of kindness. She felt the difficulty at once, and hurried to escape the chance of this additional trial.
Poll, she replied, still in the same faint tone. Good bye to you! I am sorry I have only thanks to give at parting, but I will not forget you, when it is in my power. I left my things within. I will send for them some other time.
And where is it youre going? Danny, whats all this about?
What business is it of yours? replied her brother, in a peevish tone, or of mine eider? It is de masters bidding, an you can ax him why he done it, when he comes, if you want to know.
But the night will rain. It will be a bad night, said Poll. I seen the clouds gatherin for tundher, an I comen down the mountain.
Eily smiled faintly, and shook her head, as if to intimate that the changes of the seasons would henceforth be to her a matter of trivial interest.
If it be the masthers bidding, it must be right, no doubt, said Poll, still looking in wonder and perplexity on Eilys dreary and dejected face, but it is a quare story, thats what it is. Wont you ate any thing?
Oh, not a morsel! said Eily, with a look of sudden and intense disgust, but perhaps Danny may.
No, but Ill drink a dhrop, if you have it, returned the Lord, in a tone which showed that he doubted much the likelihood of any refreshment of that kind remaining long inactive in the possession of his sister. To his delight and disappointment, however, Poll handed him a bottle from the neighbouring dresser which contained a considerable quantity of spirits. He drank off the whole at a draught, and we cannot more clearly show the strong interest which Poll Naughten felt in the situation of Eily than by mentioning that she left this circumstance unnoticed.
Without venturing to reiterate her farewell, Eily descended, with a hasty but feeble step, the broken path which led to the Gap road, and was quickly followed by the little Lord. Committing herself to his guidance, she soon lost sight of the mountain cottage, which she had sought in hope and joy, and which she now abandoned in despair.