"Bravo, masther!" said Keenan; "that's what some o' them couldn't say—"
"Upon locomotive principles. I admit Munster, gintlemen—glorious Kerry!—yes, and I say I am not ashamed of it. I do plead guilty to the peripatetic system: like a comet I travelled during my juvenile days—as I may truly assert wid a slight modicum of latitude" (here he lurched considerably to the one side)—"from star to star, until I was able to exhibit all their brilliancy united simply, I can safely assert, in my own humble person. Gintlemen, I have the honor of being able to write 'Philomath' after my name—which is O'Finigan, not Finigan, by any means—and where is the oyster in his shell could do that? Yes, and although they refused me a sizarship in Trinity College—for what will not fear and envy do?
"'Tantaene animis celesiibus irae'
Yet I have the consolation to know that my name is seldom mentioned among the literati of classical Kerry—nudis cruribus as they are—except as the Great O'Finigan! In the mane time—"
"Bravo, Masther!" exclaimed Keenan, interrupting him. "Here, Ted! another bottle, till the Great O'Finigan gets a glass of whiskey."
"Yes, gintlemen," proceeded O'Finigan, "the alcohol shall be accepted, puris naturalibus—which means, in its native—or more properly—but which comes to the same thing—in its naked state; and, in the mane time, I propose the health of one of my best benefactors—Gerald Cavanagh, whose hospitable roof is a home—a domicilium to erudition and respectability, when they happen, as they ought, to be legitimately concatenated in the same person—as they are in your humble servant; and I also beg leave to add the pride of the barony, his fair and virtuous daughter, Kathleen, in conjunction wid the I accomplished son of another benefactor of mine—honest James Burke—in conjunction, I say, wid his son, Mr. Hyacinth. Ah, gintlemen—Billy Clinton, you thievin' villain! you don't pay attention; I say, gintlemen, if I myself could deduct a score of years from the period of my life, I should endeavor to run through the conjugations of amo in society wid that pearl of beauty. In the mane time—"
"Here's her health, masther," returned Keenan, "an' her father's too, an' Hycy Burke's into the bargain—is there any more o' them? Well, no matter." Then turning to his antagonist, he added, "I say agin, thin, that a Mullin's not a match for a Keenan, nor never was—no, nor never will be! That's the chat! and who's afeard to say it? eh, masther?"
"It's a lie!" shouted one of the opposite party; "I'm able to lick e'er a Keenan that ever went on nate's leather—an' that's my chat."
A blow from Keenan in reply was like a spark to gunpowder. In a moment the cavern presented a scene singularly tragic-comic; the whole party was one busy mass of battle, with the exception of Ted and Batt, and the wife of the latter, who, having first hastily put aside everything that might be injured, stood enjoying the conflict with most ferocious glee, the schoolmaster having already withdrawn himself to his chair. Even Barney Broghan, the fool, could not keep quiet, but on the contrary, thrust himself into the quarrel, and began to strike indiscriminately at all who came in his way, until an unlucky blow on the nose happening, to draw his claret very copiously, he made a bound up behind the sill, uttering a series of howlings, as from time to time he looked at his own blood, that were amusing in the extreme. As it happened, however, the influence of liquor was too strong upon both parties to enable them to inflict on each other any serious injury. Such, however, was the midnight pastime of the still-house when our friend Hycy entered.
"What in the devil's name—or the guager's—which is worse—" he asked, addressing himself to Batt and Teddy, "is the meaning of all this?"
"Faith, you know a'most as much about it," replied Hogan, laughing, "as we do; they got drunk, an' that accounts for it."
"Mr. Burke," said Finigan, who was now quite tipsy; "I am delighted to be able to—to—yes, it is he," he added, speaking to himself—"to see you well."
"I have my doubts as to that, Mr. Finigan," replied Hycy.
"Fame, Mr. Burke," continued the other, "has not been silent with regard to your exploits. Your horsemanship, sir, and the trepid pertinacity with which you fasten upon the reluctant society of men of rank, have given you a notorious celebrity, of which your worthy father, honest Jemmy, as he is called, ought to be justly proud. And you shine, Mr. Burke, in the loves as well as in the—tam veneri quam—I was about to add Marti, but it would be inappropriate, or might only remind you of poor Biddy Martin. It is well known you are a most accomplished gintleman, Mr. Burke—homo fadus ad unguem—ad unguem."
Hycy would have interrupted the schoolmaster, but that he felt puzzled as to whether he spoke seriously or ironically; his attention besides was divided between him and the party in conflict.
"Come," said he, addressing Hogan and Teddy, "put an end to this work, and why did you, you misbegotten vagabond," he added, turning to the latter, "suffer these fellows to remain here when you knew I was to come up?"
"I must shell my fwisky," replied Teddy, sullenly, "fwhedher you come or stay."
"If you don't clear the place of them instantly," replied Hycy, "I shall return home again."
Hogan seemed a good deal alarmed at this intimation, and said—"Ay, indeed, Terry, we had better put them out o' this."
"Fwhor fwhat?" asked Teddy, "dere my best customers shure—an' fwlay would I quarrel wid 'em all fwor wan man?"
"Good-night, then, you misshapen ruffian," said Burke, about to go.
"Aisy, Mr. Burke," said. Hogan; "well soon make short work wid them. Here, Ted, you devil's catch-penny, come an' help me! Hillo, here!" he shouted, "what are you at, you gallows crew? Do you want to go to the stone jug, I say? Be off out o' this—here's the guager, blast him, an' the sogers! Clear out, I tell you, or every mother's son of you will sleep undher the skull and cross-bones to-night." (* Meaning the County Prison)
"Here you, Barney," whispered Teddy, who certainly did not wish that Burke should return as he came; "here, you great big fwhool you, give past your yowlin' dere—and lookin' at your blood—run out dere, come in an' shout the gauger an' de sogers."
Barney, who naturally imagined that the intelligence was true, complied with the order he had received in a spirit of such alarming and dreadful earnestness, that a few minutes found the still-house completely cleared of the two parties, not excepting Hogan himself, who, having heard nothing of Teddy's directions to the fool, took it now for granted that that alarm was a real one, and ran along with the rest. The schoolmaster had fallen asleep, Kate Hogan was engaged in making preparations for supper at the lower end of the casern, and the fool had been dispatched to fetch Hogan himself back, so that Hycy now saw there was a good opportunity for stating at more length than he could in the market the purpose of his visit.
"Teddy," said he, "now that the coast's clear, let us lose no time in coming to the point. You are aware that Bryan M'Mahon has come into the mountain farm of Ahadarra by the death of his uncle."
"Shiss; dese three years."
"You will stick to your cursed brogue," said the other; "however, that's your own affair. You are aware of this?"
"Well, I have made my mind up to take another turn at this," and he tapped the side of the still with his stick; "and I'll try it there. I don't know a better place, and it is much more convenient than this."
Teddy looked at him from under his brows, but seemed rather at a loss to comprehend his meaning.
"Fwor fhy 'ud you go to Ahadarra?"
"It's more convenient, and quite as well adapted for it as this place, or nearly."
"Well! Shiss, well?"
"Well; why that's all I have to say about it, except that I'm not to be seen or known in the business at all—mark that."
"Shiss—well? De Hogans must know it?"
"I am aware of that; we couldn't go on without them. This running of your's will soon be over; very well. You can go to Ahadarra to-morrow and pitch upon a proper situation for a house. These implements will do."
"No, dey won't; I wouldn't tink to begin at all wid dat ould skillet. You must get de Hogans to make a new Still, Head and Worm, an' dat will be money down."
"Very well; I'll provide the needful; let Philip call to me in a day or two."
"Dat Ahadarra isn't so safe," said Teddy. "Fwhy wouldn't you carry it on here?" and he accompanied the query with a piercing-glance as he spoke.
"Because," replied Hycy, "I have been seen here too often already, and my name must not in any way be connected with your proceedings. This place, besides, is now too much known. It's best and safest to change our bob, Ted."
"Dere's trewt in dhat, anyhow," said the other, now evidently more satisfied as to Hycy's motive in changing. "But," he added, "as you is now to schange, it 'ud be gooder to shange to some better place nor Ahadarra."
"I know of none better or safer," said Burke.
"Ay, fifty," returned his companion, resuming his suspicious looks; "but no matther, any way you must only plaise yerself—'tis all the shame to me."
"Ahadarra it must be then," said the other, "and that ends it."
"Vary well, den, Ahadarra let her be," said Ted, and the conversation on this subject dropped.
The smuggler's supper now made it's appearance. The geese were beautifully done, and as Hycy's appetite had got a keen stimulus by his mountain walk, he rendered them ample justice.
"Trot," said Teddy, "sich a walk as you had droo de mountains was enough to sharpen anybody's appetite."
Hogan also plied him with punch, having provided himself with sugar for that express purpose. Hycy, however, was particularly cautious, and for a long time declined to do more than take a little spirits and water. It was not, in fact, until he had introduced the name of Kathleen Cavanagh that he consented to taste punch. Between the two, however, Burke's vanity was admirably played on; and Hogan wound up the dialogue by hinting that Hycy, no matter how appearances might go, was by no means indifferent to the interesting daughter of the house of Cavanagh.
At length, when the night was far advanced, Burke rose, and taking his leave like a man who had forgotten some appointment, but with a very pompous degree of condescension, sought his way in the direction of home, across the mountains.
He had scarcely gone, when Hogan, as if struck by a sudden recollection, observed as he thought it would be ungenerous to allow him, at that hour of the night, to cross the mountains by himself. He accordingly whispered a few words to his wife, and left them with an intention, as he said, to see Mr. Hycy safe home.
CHAPTER V.—Who Robbed Jemmy Burke?
On the second morning after the night described in the last chapter, Bryan M'Mahon had just returned to his father's house from his farm in Ahadarra, for the purpose of accompanying him to an Emigration auction in the neighborhood. The two farms of Carriglass and Ahadarra had been in the family of the M'Mahon's for generations, and were the property of the same landlord. About three years previous to the period of our narrative, Toal M'Mahon, Bryan's uncle, died of an inflammatory attack, leaving to his eldest nephew and favorite the stock farm of Ahadarra. Toal had been a bachelor who lived wildly and extravagantly, and when he died Bryan suceeeded to the farm, then as wild, by the way, and as much neglected as its owner had been, with an arrear of two years' rent upon it. In fact the house and offices had gone nearly to wreck, and when Bryan entered into occupation he found that a large sum of money should be expended in necessary improvements ere the place could assume anything like a decent appearance. As a holding, however, it was reasonable; and we may safely assert that if Toal M'Mahon had been either industrious or careful he might have lived and died a wealthy man upon it. As Ahadarra lay in the mountain district, it necessarily covered a large space; in fact it constituted a townland in itself. The greater portion of it, no doubt, was barren mountain, but then there were about three hundred acres of strong rough land that was either reclaimed or capable of being so. Bryan, who had not only energy and activity, but capital to support both, felt, on becoming master of a separate farm, that peculiar degree of pride which was only natural to a young and enterprising man. He had now a fair opportunity, he thought, of letting his friends see what skill and persevering exertion could do. Accordingly he commenced his improvements in a spirit which at least deserved success. He proceeded upon the best system then known to intelligent agriculturalists, and nothing was left undone that he deemed necessary to work out his purposes. He drained, reclaimed, made fences, roads, and enclosures. Nor did he stop here. We said that the house and offices were in a ruinous state when they came into his possession, and the consequence was that he found it necessary to build a new dwelling house and suitable offices, which he did on a more commodious and eligible site. Altogether his expenditure on the farm could not have been less than eight hundred pounds at the period of the landlord's death, which, as the reader knows is that at which we have commenced our narrative.
Thomas M'Mahon's family consisted of—first, his father, a grey-haired patriarch, who, though a very old man, was healthy and in the full possession of all his faculties; next, himself; then his wife; Bryan, the proprietor of Ahadarra; two other sons, both younger, and two daughters, the eldest twenty, and the youngest about eighteen. The name of the latter was Dora, a sweet and gentle girl, with beautiful auburn hair, dark, brilliant eyes, full of intellect and feeling, an exquisite mouth, and a figure which was remarkable for natural grace and great symmetry.
"Well, Bryan," said the father, "what news from Ahadarra?"
"Nothing particular from Ahadarra," replied the son, "but our good-natured friend, Jemmy Burke, had his house broken open and robbed the night before last."
"Wurrah deheelish" exclaimed his mother, "no, he hadn't!"
"Well, mother," replied Bryan, laughing, "maybe not. I'm afeard it's too true though."
"An' how much did he lose?" asked his father.
"Between seventy and eighty pounds," said Bryan.
"It's too much," observed the other; "still I'm glad it's no more; an' since the villains did take it, it's well they tuck it from a man that can afford to lose it."
"By all accounts," said Arthur, or, as he was called, Art, "Hycy, the sportheen, has pulled him down a bit. He's not so rich now, they say, as he was three or four years ago."
"He's rich enough still," observed his father; "but at any rate, upon my sowl I'm sorry for him; he's the crame of an honest, kind-hearted neighbor; an' I believe in my conscience if there's a man alive that hasn't an ill-wisher, he is."
"Is it known who robbed him?" asked the grandfather, "or does he suspect anybody?"
"It's not known, of course, grandfather," replied Bryan, "or I suppose they would be in limbo before now; but there's quare talk about it. The Hogans is suspected, it seems. Philip was caught examinin' the hall-door the night before; an' that does look suspicious."
"Ay," said the old man, "an' very likely they're the men. I remember them this many a long day; it's forty years since Andy Hogan—he was lame—Andy Boccah they called him—was hanged for the murdher of your great-granduncle, Billy Shevlin, of Frughmore, so that they don't like a bone in our bodies. That was the only murdher I remember of them, but many a robbery was laid to their charge; an' every now and then there was always sure to be an odd one transported for thievin', an' house-breakin', and sich villainy."
"I wouldn't be surprised," said Mrs. M'Mahon, "but it was some o' them tuck our two brave geese the night before last."
"Very likely, in throth, Bridget," said her husband; "however, as the ould proverb has it, 'honesty's the best policy.' Let them see which of us I'll be the best off at the end of the year."
"There's an odd whisper here an' there about another robber," continued Bryan; "but I don't believe a word about it. No, no;—he's wild, and not scrupulous in many things, but I always thought him generous, an' indeed rather careless about money."
"You mane the sportheen?" said his brother Art.
"The Hogans," said the old man, recurring to the subject, as associated with them, "would rob anybody barrin' the Cavanaghs; but I won't listen to it, Bryan, that Hycy Burke, or the son of any honest man that ever had an opportunity of hearin' the Word o' God, or livin' in a Christian counthry, could ever think of robbin' his own father—his own father! I won't listen to that."
"No, nor I, grandfather," said Bryan, "putting everything else out of the question, its too unnatural an act. What makes you shake your head, Art?"
"I never liked a bone in his body, somehow," replied Art.
"Ay, but my goodness, Art," said Dora, "sure nobody would think of robbin' their own father?"
"He has been doin' little else these three years, Dora, by all accounts," replied Art.
"Ay, but his father," continued the innocent girl; "to break into the house at night an' rob him like a robber!"
"Well, I say, it's reported that he has been robbin' him these three years in one shape or other," continued Art; "but here's Shibby, let's hear what she'll say. What do you think, shibby?"
"About what, Art?"
"That Hycy Burke would rob his father!"
"Hut, tut! Art, what puts that into your head? Oh, no, Art—not at all—to rob his father, an' him has been so indulgent to him!"
"Indeed, I agree with you, Shibby," said Bryan; "for although my opinion of Hycy is changed very much for the worse of late, still I can't and won't give in to that."
"An what has changed it for the worse?" asked his mother. "You an' he wor very thick together always—eh? What has changed it, Bryan?"
Bryan began to rub his hand down the sleeve of his coat, as if freeing it from dust, or perhaps admiring its fabric, but made no reply.
"Eh, Bryan," she continued, "what has changed your opinion of him?"
"Oh, nothing of much consequence, mother," replied her son; "but sometimes a feather will toll one how the wind blows."
As he spoke, it might have been observed that he looked around upon the family with an appearance of awakened consciousness that was very nearly allied to shame. He recovered his composure, however, on perceiving that none among them gave, either by look or manner, any indication of understanding what he felt. This relieved him: but he soon found that the sense of relief experienced from it was not permitted to last long. Dora, his favorite sister, glided over to his side and gently taking his hand in hers began to play with his fingers, whilst a roguish laugh, that spoke a full consciousness of his secret, broke her pale but beautiful features into that mingled expression of smiles and blushes which, in one of her years, gives a look of almost angelic purity and grace. After about a minute or two, during which she paused, and laughed, and blushed, and commenced to whisper, and again stopped, she at last put her lips to his ear and whispered:—"Bryan, I know the reason you don't like Hycy."
"You do?" he said, laughing, but yet evidently confused in his turn;—"well—an'—ha!—ha!—no, you fool, you don't."
"May I never stir if I don't!"
"Well, an' what is it?"
"Why, bekaise he's coortin' Kathleen Cavanagh—now!"
"An' what do I care about that?" said her brother.
"Oh, you thief!" she replied; "don't think you can play upon me. I know your saycret."
"An' maybe, Dora," he replied, "I have my saycrets. Do you know who was inquirin' for you to-day?"
"No," she returned, "nor I don't care either—sorra bit."
"I met James Cavanagh there below"—he proceeded, still in a whisper, and he fixed his eyes upon her countenance as he spoke. The words, however, produced a most extraordinary effect. A deep blush crimsoned her whole neck and face, until the rush of blood seemed absolutely to become expressive of pain. Her eye, however, did not droop, but turned upon him with a firm and peculiar sparkle. She had been stooping with her mouth near his ear, as the reader knows, but she now stood up quickly, shook back her hair, that had been hanging in natural and silken curls about her blushing cheeks, and exclaimed: "No—no. Let me alone Bryan;" and on uttering these words she hurried into another room."
"Bryan, you've vexed Dora some way," observed her sister. "What did you say to her?"
"Nothing that vexed her, I'll go bail," he replied, laughing; "however, as to what I said to her, Shibby, ax me no questions an' I'll tell you no lies."
"Becaise I thought she looked as if she was angry," continued Shibby, "an', you know, it must be a strong provocation that would anger her."
"Ah, you're fishin' now, Shibby," he replied, "and many thanks for your good intentions. It's a saycret, an' that's all you're going to know about it. But it's as much as 'll keep you on the look out this month to come; and now you're punished for your curiosity—ha!—ha!—ha! Come, father, if we're to go to Sam Wallace's auction it's time we should think of movin'. Art, go an' help Tom Droogan to bring out the horses. Rise your foot here, father, an' I'll put on your spur for you. We may as well spake to Mr. Fethertonge, the agent, about the leases. I promised we'd call on Gerald Cavanagh, to—an' he'll be waitin' for us—hem!"
His eye here glanced about, but Dora was not visible, and he accordingly seemed to be more at his ease. "I think, father," he added, "I must trate you to a pair of spurs some of these days. This one, it's clear, has been a long time in the family."
"Throth, an' on that account," replied M'Mahon, "I'm not goin' to part wid it for the best pair that ever were made. No, no, Bryan; I like everything that I've known long. When my heart gets accustomed to anything or to anybody"—here he glanced affectionately at his wife—"I can't bear to part wid them, or to think of partin' wid them."
The horses were now ready, and in a brief space he and his son were decently mounted, the latter smartly but not inappropriately dressed; and M'Mahon himself, with his right spur, in a sober but comfortable suit, over which was a huge Jock, his inseparable companion in every fair, market, and other public place, during the whole year. Indeed, it would not be easy to find two better representatives of that respectable and independent class of Irish yeomanry of which our unfortunate country stands so much in need, as was this man of high integrity and his excellent son.
On arriving at Gerald Cavanagh's, which was on their way to the auction, it appeared that in order to have his company it was necessary they should wait for a little, as he was not yet ready. That worthy man they found in the act of shaving himself, seated very upright upon a chair in the kitchen, his eyes fixed with great steadiness upon the opposite wall, whilst lying between his legs upon the ground was a wooden dish half filled with water, and on a chair beside him a small looking-glass, with its backup, which, after feeling his face from time to time in an experimental manner, he occasionally peeped into, and again laid down to resume the operation.
In the mean time, Mrs. Cavanagh set forward a chair for Tom M'Mahon, and desired her daughter Hannah to place one for Bryan, which she did. The two girls were spinning, and it might have been observed that Kathleen appeared to apply herself to that becoming and feminine employment with double industry after the appearance of the M'Mahons. Kate Hogan was sitting in the chimney corner, smoking a pipe, and as she took it out of her mouth to whiff away the smoke from time to time, she turned her black piercing eyes alternately from Bryan M'Mahon to Kathleen with a peculiar keenness of scrutiny.
"An' how are you all up at Carriglass?" asked Mrs. Cavanagh.
"Indeed we can't complain, thank God, as the times goes," replied M'Mahon.
"An' the ould grandfather?—musha, but I was glad to see him look so well on Sunday last!"
"Troth he's as stout as e'er a one of us."
"The Lord continue it to him! I suppose you hard o' this robbery that was done at honest Jemmy Burke's?"
"I did, indeed, an' I was sorry to hear it."
"A hundre' an' fifty pounds is a terrible loss to anybody in such times."
"A hundre' an' fifty!" exclaimed M'Mahon—"hut, tut!—no; I thought it was only seventy or eighty. He did not lose so much, did he?"
"So I'm tould."
"It was two—um—it was two—urn—urn—it was—um—um—it was two hundre' itself," observed Cavanagh, after he had finished a portion of the operation, and given himself an opportunity of speaking—"it war two hundre' itself, I'm tould, an' that's too much, by a hundre' and ninety-nine pounds nineteen shillings an' eleven pence three fardens, to be robbed of."
"Troth it is, Gerald," replied M'Mahon; "but any way there's nothin' but thievin' and robbin' goin'. You didn't hear that we came in for a visit?"
"You!" exclaimed Mrs. Cavanagh—"is it robbed? My goodness, no!"
"Why," he proceeded, "we'll be able to get over it afore we die, I hope. On ere last night we had two of our fattest geese stolen."
"Two!" exclaimed Mrs. Cavanagh—"an' at this saison of the! year, too. Well, that same's a loss."
"Honest woman," said M'Mahon, addressing Kate Hogan, "maybe you'd give me a draw o' the pipe?"
"Maybe so," she replied; "an' why wouldn't I? Shough! that is here!"
"Long life to you, Katy. Well," proceeded the worthy man, "if it was a poor person that wanted them an' that took them from hardship, why God forgive them as heartily as I do: but if they wor stole by a thief, for thievin's sake, I hope I'll always be able to afford the loss of a pair betther than the thief will to do without them; although God mend his or her heart, whichever it was, in the mane time."
During this chat Bryan and Hanna Cavanagh were engaged in that good-humored badinage that is common to persons of their age and position.
"I didn't see you at Mass last Sunday, Bryan?" said she, laughing; "an' that's the way you attend to your devotions. Upon my word you promise well!"
"I seen you, then," replied Bryan, "so it seems if I haven't betther eyes I have betther eyesight."
"Indeed I suppose," she replied, "you see everything but what you go to see."
"Don't be too sure of that," he replied, with an involuntary glance at Kathleen, who seemed to enjoy her sister's liveliness, as was evident from the sweet and complacent smile which beamed upon her features.
"Indeed I suppose you're right," she replied; "I suppose you go to say everything but your prayers."
"An' is it in conversation with Jemmy Kelly," asked Bryan, jocularly, alluding to her supposed admirer, "that you perform your own devotions, Miss Hanna?"
"Hanna, achora," said the father, "I think you're playin' the second fiddle there—ha! ha! ha!"
The laugh was now general against Hanna, who laughed as loudly, however, as any of them.
"Throth, Kathleen," she exclaimed, "you're not worth knot's o' straws or you'd help me against this fellow here; have you nothing," she proceeded, addressing Bryan, and nodding towards her sister, "to say to her? Is everything to fall on my poor shoulders? Come, now," with another nod in the same direction, "she desarves it for not assistin' me. Who does she say her devotions with?"
"Hem—a—is it Kathleen you mane?" he inquired, with rather an embarrassed look.
"Not at all," she replied ironically, "but my mother there—ha! ha! ha! Come, now, we're waitin' for you."
"Come, now?" he repeated, purposely misunderstanding her—"oh, begad, that's a fair challenge;" and he accordingly rose to approach her with the felonious intent of getting a kiss; but Hanna started from her wheel and ran out of the house to avoid him.
"Throth, you're a madcap, Hanna," exclaimed her mother, placidly—"an antick crather, dear knows—her heart's in her mouth every minute of the day; an' if she gets through the world wid it always as light, poor girl, it'll be well for her."
"Kathleen, will you get me a towel or praskeen of some sort to wipe my face wid," said her father, looking about for the article he wanted.
"I left one," she replied, "on the back of your chair—an' there it is, sure."
"Ay, achora, it's you that laves nothing undone that ought to be done; an' so it is here, sure enough."
"Why, then, Gerald," asked Tom M'Mahon, "in the name o' wonder what makes you stick to the meal instead o' the soap when you're washin' yourself?"
"Throth, an' I ever will, Tom, an' for a good raison—becaise it's best for the complexion."
The unconscious simplicity with which Cavanagh uttered this occasioned loud laughter, from which Kathleen herself was unable to refrain.
"By the piper, Gerald," said M'Mahon, "that's the best thing I h'ard this month o' Sundays. Why, it would be enough for one o' your daughters to talk about complexion. Maybe you paint too—ha! ha! ha!"
Hanna now put in her head, and asked "what is the fun?" but immediately added, "Kathleen, here's a message for you."
"For me!" said Kathleen; "what is it?"
"Here's Peety Dhu's daughter, an' she says she has something to say to you."
"An' so Rosha Burke," said Mrs. Cavanagh, "has taken her to live wid them; I hope it'll turn out well for the poor thing."
"Will you come out, Kathleen," said Hanna, again peeping in; "she mustn't tell it to anyone but yourself."
"If she doesn't she may keep it, then," replied Kathleen. "Tell her I have no secrets," she added, "nor I won't have any of her keeping."
"You must go in," said Hanna, turning aside and addressing the girl—"you must go in an' spake to her in the house."
"She can tell us all about the robbery, anyway," observed Mr. Cavanagh. "Come in, a-colleen—what are you afeard of?"
"I have a word to say to her," said the girl—"a message to deliver; but it must be to nobody but herself. Whisper," she proceeded, approaching Kathleen, and about to address her.
Kathleen immediately rose, and, looking on the messenger, said, "Who is it from, Nanny?"
"I mustn't let them know," replied the girl, looking at the rest.
"Whatever it is, Or whoever it's from, you must spake it out then, Nanny," continued Kathleen.
"It's from Hycy Burke, then," replied the girl; "he wants to know if you have any answer for him?"
"Tell Hycy Burke," replied Kathleen, "that I have no answer for him; an' that I'll thank him to send me no more messages."
"Hut tut! you foolish girl," exclaimed her mother, rising up and approaching her daughter; "are you mad, Kathleen?"
"What's come over you," said the father, equally alarmed; "are you beside yourself, sure enough, to send Hycy Burke sich a message as that? Sit down, ma colleen, sit down, an' never mind her—don't think of bringin' him back sich a message. Why, then," he added, "in the name o' mercy, Kathleen, what has come over you, to trate a respectable young man like. Hycy Burke in that style?"
"Simply, father, because I don't wish to receive any messages at all from him."
"But your mother an' I is of a different opinion, Kathleen. We wish you to resave messages from him; an' you know you're bound both by the laws of God an' man to obey us an' be guided by us."
"I know I am, father," she replied; "an' I hope I haven't been an undutiful child to either of you for so far."
"That's true, Kathleen—God sees it's truth itself."
"What message do you expect to bring back, Nanny?" said the mother, addressing the girl.
"An answer," replied the girl, seeing that everything must be and was above board—"an answer to the letther he sent her."
"Did he send you a letther?" asked her father, seriously; "an' you never let us know a word about it?—did he send you a letther?"
Kathleen paused a moment and seemed to consult Hanna's looks, who had now joined them. At length she replied, slowly, and as if in doubt whether she ought to speak in the affirmative or not—"no, he sent me no letter."
"Well now, take care, Kathleen," said her mother; "I seen a letther in your hands this very mornin'."
Kathleen blushed deeply; but as if anxious to give the conversation another turn, and so to relieve herself, she replied, "I can't prevent you, mother, or my father either, from sending back whatever answer you wish; but this I say that, except the one I gave already, Hycy Burke will never receive any message or any answer to a message from me; an' now for the present let us drop it."
"Very well," said her mother; "in the mane time, my good girsha, sit down. Is it thrue that Jemmy Burke's house was robbed a couple o' nights ago?"
"True enough," said the girl.
"And how much did he lose?" asked M'Mahon; "for there's disputes about it—some say more and some say less."
"Between seventy and eighty pounds," replied Nanny; "the masther isn't sure to a pound or so; but he knows it was near eighty, any way."
"That's just like him," said Cavanagh; "his careless way of managin'. Many a time I wondher at him;—he slobbers everything about that you'd think he'd beggar himself, an' yet the luck and prosperity flows to him. I declare to my goodness I think the very dirt under his feet turns to money. Well, girsha, an' have they any suspicion of the robbers?"
"Why," said the girl, "they talk about"—she paused, and it was quite evident from her manner that she felt not only embarrassed, but distressed by the question. Indeed this was no matter of surprise; for ever since the subject was alluded to, Kate Hogan's black piercing eyes had not once been removed from hers, nor did the girl utter a single word in reply to the questions asked of her without first, as it were, consulting Kate's looks.
A moment's reflection made Cavanagh feel that the question must be a painful one to the girl, not only on her own account, but on that of Kate herself; for even then it was pretty well known that Burke's family entertained the strongest suspicion that the burglary had been committed by these notorious vagabonds.
"Well, ahagur," said Cavanagh, "no matter now—it's all over unless they catch the robbers. Come now," he added, addressing M'Mahon and his son, "if you're for the road I'm ready."
"Is it true, Mrs. Burke," asked Bryan, "that you're goin' to have a Kemp in your barn some o' these days?"
"True enough, indeed," replied the good woman, "an' that's true, too, tell the girls, Bryan, and that they must come."
"Not I," said the other, laughing; "if the girls here—wishes them to come, let them go up and ask them."
"So we will, then," replied Hanna, "an' little thanks to you for your civility."
"I wish I knew the evenin'," said Bryan, "that I might be at Carriglass."
"When will we go, Kathleen," asked her sister, turning slyly to her.
"Why, you're sich a light-brained cracked creature," replied Kathleen, "that I can't tell whether you're joking or not."
"The sorra joke I'm jokin'," she replied, striving suddenly to form her features into a serious expression. "Well, then, I have it," she proceeded. "Some Thursday, Bryan, in the middle o' next week—now you know I'm not jokin', Kathleen."
"Will you come, Kathleen?" inquired Bryan.
"Why, if Hanna goes, I suppose I must," she replied, but without looking up.
"Well then I'll have a sharp look-out on Thursday."
"Come now," said Gerald, "let us move. Give the girsha something to ate among you, for the credit of the house, before she goes back," he added. "Paddy Toole, girth that horse tighter, I tell you; I never can get you to girth him as he ought to be girthed."
On bidding the women good-bye, Bryan looked towards Kathleen for a moment, and her eye in return glanced on him as he was about to go. But that simple glance, how significant was its import, and how clearly did it convey the whole history of as pure a heart as ever beat within a female bosom!
CHAPTEE VI.—Nanny Peety looks mysterious
—Hycy proves himself a good Judge of Horse-Flesh.
The day was all light, and life, and animation. The crops were going down fast in every direction, and the fields were alive and cheerful with the voice of mirth and labor. As they got into the vicinity of Wallace's house they overtook or were over-taken by several of their neighbors, among whom was seen our old friend, Jemmy, or as I his acquaintances generally called him, honest Jemmy Burke, mounted upon a brood mare with a foal at her heels, all his other horses having been engaged in the labor of the season.
After having sympathized with him upon the loss he had sustained, they soon allowed the subject to drop; for it was quite clear from the expression of care, if not of sorrow, that was legible in his face, that the very mention of it only caused him to feel additional anxiety.
At length they reached Wallace's house, where they found a tolerably large crowd of people waiting for the auction, which was not to commence until the hour of one o'clock.
Sam Wallace was a respectable Protestant farmer, who finding, as he said, that there was no proper encouragement given to men who were anxious and disposed to improve their property, had deemed it a wiser step to dispose of his stock and furniture than to remain as he was—not merely with no certain prospect of being able to maintain even his present position, but with the chances against him of becoming every day a poorer and more embarrassed man. His brother, who like himself, after having been on the decline for a considerable period, had emigrated to America, where he was prospering, now urged him to follow his example and leave a country in which he said, in language that has become a proverb, "everything was going to the bad." Feeling that his brother's words were unfortunately too true, Wallace, at all events, came to the determination of following his example.
The scene at which our friends arrived was indeed a striking and impressive one. The majority of the crowd consisted of those who belonged either to the Protestant or Presbyterian forms of worship; and it might be with truth asserted, that nothing could surpass the clear unquestionable character of independent intelligence which prevailed among them. Along with this, however, there was an obvious spirit of dissatisfaction, partial, it is true, as to numbers, but yet sufficiently marked as to satisfy an observer that such a people, if united upon any particular subject or occasion, were not for a moment to be trifled with or cajoled. Their feelings upon the day in question were stirred into more than usual warmth. A friend, a neighbor, a man of an old and respectable family, frugal, industrious, and loyal, as they said, both to king and country, was now forced from want of due encouragement from his landlord, to disturb all his old associations of friendship and kindred, and at rather an advanced state of life to encounter the perils of a long voyage, and subject himself and his family to the changes and chances which he must encounter in a new world, and in a different state of society. Indeed, the feeling which prompted the expression of these sentiments might be easily gathered from the character that pervaded the crowd. Not to such an extent, however, with respect to Wallace himself or any portion of his family, There might be observed upon him and them a quiet but resolute spirit, firm, collected, and cheerful; but still, while there were visible no traces of dejection or grief, it was easy to perceive that under this decent composure there existed a calm consciousness of strong stern feeling, whose dignity, if not so touching, was quite as impressive as the exhibition of louder and more clamorous grief.
"Bryan," said M'Mahon to his son, as the auction was proceeding, "I'll slip up to the agent's, and do you see if them sheep goes for a fair value—if they do, give a bid or two any how. I'm speakin' of that lot we wor lookin' at, next the wall there."
"I'll pay attention to it," said Bryan; "I know you'll find the agent at home now, for I seen him goin' in a while ago; so hurry up, an' ax him if he can say how soon we may expect the leases."
"Never fear, I will."
On entering Fethertonge's Hall, M'Mahon was treated with very marked respect by the servant, who told him to walk into the parlor, and he would let his master know.
"He entertains a high opinion of you, Mister M'Mahon," said he; "and I heard him speak strongly about you the other day to some gentlemen that dined with us—friends of the landlord's. Walk into the parlor."
In a few minutes M'Mahon was shown into Fethertonge's office, the walls of which were, to a considerable height, lined with tin boxes, labelled with the names of those whose title-deeds and other valuable papers they contained.
Fethertonge was a tall, pale, placid looking man, with rather a benevolent cast of countenance, and eyes that were mild, but very small in proportion to the other features of his face. His voice was exceedingly low, and still more musical and sweet than low; in fact it was such a voice as, one would imagine, ought to have seldom been otherwise employed than in breathing hope and, consolation to despairing sinners on their bed of death. Yet he had nothing of either the parson or the preacher in his appearance. So far from that he was seldom known to wear a black coat, unless when dressed for dinner, and not very frequently even then, for he mostly wore blue.
"M'Mahon," said he, "take a seat. I am glad to see you. How are your family?"
"Both I an' they is well, I'm thankful to you, sir," replied the farmer.
"I hope you got safe home from the metropolis. How did you travel?"
"Troth, I walked it, sir, every inch of the way, an' a long stretch it is. I got safe, sir, an' many thanks to you."
"That was a sudden call poor Mr. Chevydale got, but not more so than might, at his time of life, have been expected; at all events I hope he was prepared for it, and indeed I have reason to think he was."
"I trust in God he was, sir," replied M'Mahon; "so far as I and mine is consarned, we have raison to wish it; he didn't forget us, Mr. Fethertonge."
"No," said the other, after some pause, "he did not indeed forget you, M'Mahon."
"I tuck the liberty of callin' down, sir," proceeded M'Mahon, "about the leases he spoke of, an' to know how soon we may expect to have them filled."
"That is for your son Bryan and yourself. How is Bryan proceeding with Ahadarra, by the way? I spoke to him some time ago about his system of cropping that farm, and some other matters of the kind; I must ride up one of these days to see how he is doing. As to the leases, there is no difficulty in the way, M'Mahon, except to get our young landlord to sign them. That we will easily do, of course; in the meantime, do you go on, improve your land, and strive to do something for your children, M'Mahon; for, in this world, he that won't assist himself will find very few that will. The leases are in Dublin; if you wish, I'll send for them, and have them ready for the landlord's signature whenever he comes down here; or I'll leave them in town, where I shall be more likely to see him."
"Very well, sir," replied M'Mahon, "I lave it all in your own hands, for I know that if you won't be my friend, you won't be my enemy."
"Well—certainly—I hope not. Will you take anything? Here, James, bring in some brandy."
M'Mahon's protest against the brandy was anything but invincible. Fethertonge's manner was so kind, so familiar, and his interest in the success of himself and his family so unaffectedly warm and sincere, that, after drinking his health, he took his leave with a light and. happy heart.
Their journey home was a little more lively than the depression of Jemmy Burke's mind had allowed it to be on their way to the auction. Yet each had his own peculiar feelings, independently of those which were elicited by the conversation. Jemmy Burke, who had tasted some of Wallace's liquor, as indeed, with the exception of Bryan, they all did, was consequently in a better and more loquacious humor than he had been during the day. On this occasion his usual good fortune attended him for it was the opinion of every one there, that he had got the best bargain disposed of during the day—a lot of twenty-five wethers in prime condition. Gerald Cavanagh, who had also tasted the poteen, stuck as closely as possible to his skirts, moved thereto by a principle of adhesion, with which our readers are already acquainted; and Bryan, who saw and understood his motives, felt by no means comfortable at witnessing such strong symptoms of excessive attachment. Old M'Mahon did not speak much, for, in truth, he could not overcome the depressing effects of the scene he had witnessed, nor of the words uttered by Wallace, as they bade each other farewell.
Burke, however, and his companion, Cavanagh, looked like men between whom a warm friendship was about to grow up. Whenever they came to a public-house or a shebeen, they either dismounted and had a cordial drop together, or took it in the saddle after touching each other's glasses in token of love and amity. It is true some slight interruption occurred, that disturbed the growing confidence and familiarity of their dialogue, which interruption consisted in the endless whinnying of the mare whenever her foal delayed a moment behind her, or in the sudden and abrupt manner in which she wheeled about with a strong disposition to return and look for it.
On the discovery of Burke's robbery an investigation was set on foot, but with no prospect of success, and without in any way involving the Hogans, who were strongly suspected. It was clearly proved that Philip and one of his brothers slept in their usual residence—Cavanagh's corn-kiln—on that night, but it was admitted that Batt Hogan and his wife Kate were both abroad the greater portion of it. On them suspicion might, indeed, very naturally have rested, were it not for the evidence of Hycy himself, who at once admitted that he could exonerate them from any suspicion, as he knew both how and where they had passed the night in question. So far, therefore, the Hogans, dishonest as they were unquestionably reputed to be, now stood perfectly exonerated from all suspicion.
The lapse of a very few days generally cools down the ferment occasioned by matters of this kind, especially when public curiosity is found to be at fault in developing the whole train of circumstances connected with them. All the in-door servants, it is true, were rigorously examined, yet it somehow happened that Hycy could not divest himself of a suspicion that Nanny Peety was in some way privy to the disappearance of the money. In about three or four days he happened to see her thrust something into her father's bag, which he carried as a mendicant, and he could not avoid remarking that there was in her whole manner, which was furtive and hurried, an obvious consciousness of something that was not right. He resolved, however, to follow up the impression which he felt, and accordingly in a few minutes after her father had taken his departure, he brought her aside, and without giving her a moment to concoct a reply, he asked what it was that he saw her thrusting in such a hurried manner into his bag. She reddened like scarlet, and, after pausing a moment, replied, "Nothing, sir, but an ould pair of shoes."
"Was that all?" he asked.
"That was all, sir," she replied.
The blush and hesitation, however, with which she answered him were far from satisfactory; and without more ado he walked briskly down the avenue, and overtook her father near the gate at its entrance.
"Peety," said he, "what was that your daughter Nanny put into your bag a while ago? I wish to know?"
"Deed an its scarcely worth your while, Master Hycy," replied the mendicant; "but since you'd like to know, it was a pair of ould brogues, and here they are," he added, "if you wish to see them."
He laid down the bag as he spoke, and was proceeding to pull them out, when Hycy, who felt angry with himself as well as ashamed at being detected in such a beggarly and unbecoming act of espionage, turned instantly back, after having vented several hearty curses upon the unfortunate mendicant and his bags.
As he approached the hall-door, however, he met Nanny crossing into the kitchen-yard, and from the timid and hesitating glance she cast at him, some vague suspicion again occurred, and he resolved to enter into further conversation with her. It struck him that she had been watching his interview with her father, and could not avoid yielding to the impression which had returned so strongly upon him.
"I saw your father, Nanny," he said, in as significant and dry a tone as possible.
"Did you, sir?" said she; and he remarked that while uttering the words, she again colored deeply and did not raise her eyes to his face.
"Yes," he replied; "but he did not bear out what you said—he had no pair of shoes in his bag."
"Did you see what he had in it, Master Hycy?"
"Why," said he, "a—hem—a—a—I didn't look—but I'll tell you what, Nanny, I think you look as if you were in possession of some secret. I say so, and don't imagine you can for a moment impose upon me. I know what your father had in his bag."
"Well then, if you do, sir," she replied, "you know the saycrit."
"So there is a secret, then?"
"So you say, Masther Hycy."
"Nanny," he proceeded, "it occurs to me now that you never underwent a formal examination about this robbery that took place in our house."
"That wasn't my fault," she replied; "I mostly happened to be out."
"Well, but do you know anything about it?"
"Not a thing—no more than yourself, Mr. Hycy."
Her interrogator turned upon her a hard scrutinizing glance, in which it was easy to see that she read a spirit of strong and dissatisfied suspicion. She was evidently conscious of this; for as Hycy stood gazing upon her, she reddened, and betrayed unequivocal symptons of confusion.
"Because, Nanny," he proceeded, "if you knew anything about it, and didn't mention it at once to the family, you would be considered as one of the robbers."
"An' wouldn't I be nearly as bad if I didn't?" she replied; "surely the first thing I'd do would be to tell."
"It's very strange," observed Hycy, "that such a robbery could be committed in a house where there are so many servants, without any clue whatsoever to a discovery."
"Well, I don't agree with you there, Mr. Hycy—if what your father and mother an' all o' them say is true—that it wasn't often the hall-door was bolted at night; and that they can't say whether it was fastened on that night or not. Sure if it wasn't, there was nothing to prevent any one from comin' in."
"Very true, Nanny," he replied, "very true; and we have paid severely for our negligence."
This closed the conversation, but Hycy felt that, proceed from whatever source it might, it was impossible to dismiss certain vague suspicions as connected with the mendicant's daughter. He determined, however, to watch her narrowly; and somehow he could not divest himself of the impression that she saw through his design. This incident occurred a few days after the robbery.
Jemmy Burke, though in many respects a man of easy and indolent character, was nevertheless a person who, as is familiarly! said, "always keep an eye to the main chance." He was by no means over-tidy either in his dress or farming; but it mattered little in what light you contemplated him, you were always certain to find him a man not affected by trifles, nor rigidly systematic in anything; but at the same time you could not help observing that he was a man of strong points, whose life was marked by a course of high prosperity, that seemed to flow in upon him, as it were, by some peculiar run of good fortune. This luck, however, was little less than the natural result of shrewd mother-wit, happily applied to the: ordinary transactions of life, and assuming the appearance of good fortune rather than of sound judgment, in consequence of the simplicity of character under which it acted. Ever since the night of the robbery, he had devoted himself more to the pipe than he had ever been known to do before; he spoke little, too; but what he did say was: ironical, though not by any means without a tinge of quiet but caustic humor.
Hycy, on entering the parlor, found him! seated in an arm-chair, smoking as usual, whilst his mother, who soon came down stairs, appeared dressed in more than her usual finery.
"What keeps Patsy Dolan wid the car?" she inquired. "Hycy, do you see any appearance of him?"
"No, ma'am," replied the son; "I didn't know you wanted him."
Jemmy looked at her with a good deal of surprise, and, after whiffing away the smoke, asked—"And well, Rosha—begs pardon—Mrs. Burke—is it a fair question to ax where you are bound for?"
"Fair enough, Mr. Burke," she replied; "but I'm not goin' to answer it."
"You're bound for a journey, ma'am, I think?"
"I'm bound for a journey, sir."
"Is it a long journey, Mrs. Burke?"
"No, indeed; it's a short journey, Mister Burke."
"Ah!" replied her husband, uttering a very significant groan; "I'm afraid it is."
"Why do you groan, Mr. Burke?"
"Oh it doesn't signify," he replied, dryly; "it's no novelty, I believe, to hear a man—a married man—groan in this world; only if you wor for a long journey, I'd be glad to give you every assistance in my power."
"You hear that, Hycy; there's affection?" she exclaimed—"wishin' me to go my long journey!"
"Would you marry again, Mr. Burke?" asked the worthy son.
"I think not," replied Jemmy. "There's gintlemen enough o' the name—I'm afraid one too many."
"Well," exclaimed his wife, assuming something as near to her conception of the look of a martyr as possible, "I'm sufferin' at all events; but I know my crown's before me."
"Sich as it is," replied her husband, "I dare say it is."
"I'll not be back for a few hours, Hycy; an'—but here's the car. Come fardher up, Patsy."
Hycy politely handed his mother out, and assisted her on the car. "Of course, he'll discover it all," said he, laughing.
"I know he will," she replied; "but when it's over, it's over, and that's all."
Jemmy now met his son at the hall-door, and asked him if he knew where his mother had gone.
"I really cannot undertake to say," replied the other. "Mrs. Burke, father, is a competent judge of her own notions; but I presume to think that she may take a drive upon her own car, without being so severely, if not ungenerously catechised about it. I presume to think so, sir; but I daresay I am wrong, and that even that is a crime on my part."
His father made no reply, but proceeded at an easy and thoughtful pace to join his men in the field where they were at labor.
Hycy, after his mother's return that evening, seemed rather in low spirits, if one could form any correct estimate of his character by appearances. He was very silent, and somewhat less given to those broken snatches of melody than was his wont; and yet a close observer might have read in his deportment, and especially in the peculiar expression of his eye, that which seemed to indicate anything rather than depression or gloom. His silence, to such an observer, might have appeared rather the silence of satisfaction and triumph, than of disappointment or vexation.
His father, indeed, saw little of him that night, in consequence of the honest man having preferred the hob of his wealthy and spacious kitchen to the society of his wife and son in the parlor. The next morning, however, they met at breakfast, as usual, when Hycy, after some ironical compliments to his father's good taste, asked him, "if he would do him the favor to step towards the stable and see his purchase."
"You don't mane Crazy Jane?" said the other, coolly.
"I do," replied Hycy; "and as I set a high value on your opinion, perhaps you would be kind enough to say what you think of her."
Now, Hycy never for a moment dreamt that his father would have taken him at his word, and we need hardly say that he was a good deal disconcerted at the cool manner in which the other expressed his readiness to do so.
"Well, Mr. Burke," he proceeded, when they had reached the stable, "there she is. Pray what do you think of her?"
The old man looked at her from various points, passed his hand down her limbs, clapped her on the back, felt her in different places, then looked at her again. "She's a beauty," said he, "a born beauty like Billy Neelin's foal; what's this you say you paid for her?"
"Tare-an-ounty, Hycy, she's dog chape—thirty-five!—why she's value for double the sum."
"Nearly," replied Hycy, quite elevated and; getting into good humor; "is she not really now, father, a precious bit of flesh?"
"Ah! you may swear that, Hycy; I tell you you won't act the honest man, if you don't give him fifteen or twenty pounds over an' above what you paid him. Tom Burton I see's too simple for you. Go and do what I bid you; don't defraud the poor man; you have got a treasure, I tell you—a beauty bright—an extraordinary baste—a wonderful animal—oh, dear me! what a great purchase! Good-bye, Hycy. Bless my sowl! what a judge of horseflesh you are!"
Having uttered these words in a tone of grave and caustic irony, he left his worthy son in a state of chagrin almost bordering on resentment, at the strong contempt for Crazy-Jane, implied by the excessive eulogium he had passed upon her. This feeling, however, was on reflection considerably checked by his satisfaction on finding that the matter was taken by his father so coolly. He had calculated on receiving a very stormy lecture from him the moment he should become aware of his having the animal in his possession; and he now felt rather relieved that he should have escaped so easily. Be this as it may, Hycy was now in excellent spirits. Not only had Crazy Jane been secured, but there were strong symptoms of his being in cash. In a few days after the incident of the stable, he contrived to see Philip Hogan, with whom he appointed a final meeting in Cavanagh's kiln on the night of the Kemp; at which meeting, Teddy Phats and the other two Hogans were also to be present, in order to determine upon the steps which he ultimately proposed to take, with a view to work out his purposes, whatever those purposes may have been.
CHAPTER VII.—The Spinster's Kemp.
A kemp, or camp, is a contest of industrial skill, or a competition for priority in a display of rustic labor. Among men it is principally resorted to in planting potatoes or reaping of corn, and generally only on the day which closes the labor at each for the season; but in the sense in which it is most usually practised and contested, it means a trial of female skill at the spinning of linen yarn. It is, indeed, a very cheerful assemblage of the fair sex; and, although strong and desperate rivalry is the order of the day, yet it is conducted in a spirit so light-hearted and amicable that we scarcely know a more laudable or delightful recreation in country life. Its object is always good, and its associations praiseworthy, inasmuch as they promote industry, a spirit of becoming emulation, and principles of good will and kindness to our neighbor.
When a kemp is about to be held, the matter soon becomes generally known in the neighborhood. Sometimes the young women are asked, but in most instances, so eager are they to attend it that invitations are unnecessary. In the whiter months, and in mountain districts, it is often as picturesque as it is pleasant. The young women usually begin to assemble about four o'clock in the morning; and, as they always go in groups, accompanied besides by their sweethearts or some male relatives, each of the latter bearing a large torch of well-dried bogfir, their voices, and songs, and loud laughter break upon the stillness of night with a holiday feeling, made ten times more delightful by the surrounding darkness and the hour. When they have not the torches the spinning-wheels are carried by the males, amidst an agreeable din of fun, banter, repartee, and jest, such as scarcely any other rustic amusement with which we are acquainted ever occasions. On arriving at the house where the kemp is to be held, they are placed in the barn or some clean outhouse; but indeed the numbers are usually such as to crowd every available place that can be procured for their accommodation. From the moment they arrive the lively din is incessant. Nothing is heard but laughter, conversation, songs, and anecdotes, all rising in a loud key, among the louder humming of the spinning-wheels and the stridulous noise of the reeds, as they incessantly crack the cuts in the hands of the reelers, who are perpetually turning them from morning to night, in order to ascertain the quantity which every competitor has spun; and she, of course, who has spun most wins the kemp, and is the queen for the night.
A kemp invariably closes with a dance—and a dance too upon an unusually extensive scale. Indeed, during the whole day the fair competitors are regaled from time to time with the enlivening strains of the fiddle or bagpipes, and very often with the united melody of both together.
On that morning the dwelling-house and mostly all the out-offices of Gerald Cavanagh bore, in stir and bustle, a stronger resemblance to the activity of so many bee-hives about to swarm than to anything else to which we can think of comparing them. Mirth in all its shapes, of laughter, glee, and song, rang out in every direction. The booming of wheels and the creaking of reels, the loud banter, the peals of laughter, the sweet Irish songs that filled up the pauses of the louder mirth, and the strains of the fiddle that ever and anon added to the enlivening spirit of the scene, all constituted such a full and general chorus of hilarity as could seldom be witnessed.
There were many girls present who took no part in the competition, but who, as friends and acquaintances of Kathleen and Hanna, came to enjoy the festive spirit of the day. Hanna herself, however, who had earned some celebrity as a spinster, started for the honor of winning, as did Dora M'Mahon, whose small and beautiful fingers seemed admirably adapted for this graceful and peculiarly feminine process of Minerva. Towards evening the neighbors assembled in considerable numbers, each interested in the success of some peculiar favorite, whose former feats had induced her friends to entertain on her behalf strong, if not certain, hopes of victory. Kathleen, from a principle of generosity, patronized her young friend, Dora M'Mahon; and Shibby M'Mahon, on the other hand, took Hanna Cavanagh under her protection. As the evening advanced, and the spectators and friends of the parties began to call, in order to be present at the moment of victory, it would be difficult to witness any assemblage of young women placed under circumstances of such striking interest. The mirth and song and general murmur diminished by degrees, until they altogether ceased, and. nothing was to be heard but the perpetual cracking of the reels, the hum of the rapid wheels, and the voices of the reelers, as they proclaimed the state of this enlivening pool of industry. As for the fair competitors themselves, it might have been observed that even those among them who had no, or at least but slight pretensions to beauty, became actually interesting from the excitement which prevailed. Their eyes lit by the active spirit of rivalry within them, sparkled with peculiar brilliancy, their cheeks became flushed or got pale as they felt themselves elevated or depressed by the prospect or loss of victory. Nor were there wanting on this occasion some vivid glances that were burthened, as they passed aslant, their fair faces, with pithier feelings than those that originated from a simple desire of victory. If truth must be told, baleful flashes, unmeasured both in number and expression, were exchanged in a spirit of true defiance between the interested and contending parties, as the close of the contest approached. At length, by the proclamation of the reelers, the great body of the competitors were thrown out, and they consequently gave up the contest. It was now six o'clock, and the first sound of seven o'clock by Captain Millar's bell was to close the proceedings, and enable the reelers to proclaim the victor. Only four names now remained to battle it out to the last; to wit, a country farmer's daughter, named Betty Aikins, Dora M'Mahon, Hanna Cavanagh, and a servant-girl belonging to another neighbor, named Peggy Bailly. This ruck, as they say on the turf, was pretty well up together, but all the rest nowhere. And now, to continue the metaphor, as is the case at Goodwood or the Curragh, the whole interest was centered upon these four. At the commencement of the last hour the state of the case was proclaimed as follows: Betty Aikins, three dozen and eight cuts; Dora M'Mahon, three dozen and seven cuts; Hanna Cavanagh, three dozen and five cuts; and Peggy Bailly, three dozen and four cuts. Every individual had now her own party anxious for her success, and amidst this hour of interest how many hearts beat with all hopes and fears that are incident even to the most circumscribed contest of human life. Opposite Dora stood the youth whom we have already noticed, James Cavanagh, whose salvation seemed but a very trifling thing when compared or put into opposition with her success. Be this as it may, the moment was a most exciting one even to those who felt no other interest than that which naturally arises from human competition. And it was unquestionably a beautiful thing to witness this particular contest between, four youthful and industrious young women. Dora's otherwise pale and placid features were now mantling, and her beautiful dark eyes flashing, under the proud and ardent spirit of ambition, for such in fact was the principle which now urged and animated the contest. When nearly half an hour had passed, Kathleen came behind her, and stooping down, whispered, "Dora, don't turn your wheel so quickly: you move the, foot-board too fast—don't twist the thread too much, and you'll let down more."
Dora smiled and looked up to her with a grateful and flashing eye. "Thank you, Kathleen," she replied, nodding, "I'll take your advice." The state of the contest was then proclaimed:—Betty Aikins—three dozen and ten cuts; Dora M'Mahon—three dozen and ten cuts; Hanna Cavanagh —three dozen, six cuts and a half; Peggy Bailly—three dozen, five and a half.
On hearing this, Betty Aikin's cheek became scarlet, and as it is useless to disguise the fact, several flashing glances that partook more of a Penthesilean fire than the fearful spirit which usually characterizes the industrious pursuits of Minerva, were shot at generous Dora, who sustained her portion of the contest with singular spirit and temper.
"You may as well give it up, Dora M'Mahon," exclaimed Betty; "there never was one of your blood could open against an Aikins—the stuff is not in you to beat me."
"A very little time will soon tell that," replied Dora; "but indeed, Betty, if I am doin' my best to win the kemp, I hope it's not in a bad or unfriendly spirit, but in one of fair play and good humor."
The contest now went on for about fifteen minutes, with surpassing interest and animation, at the expiration of which period, the seven o'clock bell already alluded to, rang the hour for closing their labors and determining the victory. Thus stood their relative position—Dora M'Mahon, four hanks and three cuts; Betty Aikins, four hanks; Hanna Cavanagh, three hanks and nine cuts; Peggy Bailly, three hanks and eight cuts.
When this result was made known, Betty Aikins burst into a loud fit of grief, in which she sobbed as if her very heart would break, and Kathleen stooping down, congratulated the beautiful girl upon her victory, kissing her at the same time as she spoke—an act of love and kindness in which she would have joyfully been followed by several of her male friends, if they had dared to take that delicious liberty.
The moment of victory, we believe, is that which may be relied upon as the test of true greatness. Dora M'Mahon felt the pride of that moment in its fullest extent, but she felt it only to influence her better and nobler principles. After casting her eyes around to gather in, as it were, that honest approbation which is so natural, and exchanging some rapid glances with the youth we have alluded to, she went over to her defeated competitor, and taking her hand said, "Don't cry, Betty, you have no right to be ashamed; sure, as you say, it's the first time you wor ever beaten; we couldn't all win; an' indeed if I feel proud now, everyone knows an' says I have a right to be so; for where was there—ay, or where is there—such a spinner as you are?
"Shake hands now an' there's a kiss for you. If I won this kemp, it was won more by chance than by anything else."
These generous expressions were not lost on Betty; on the contrary, they soothed her so much that she gave her hand cordially to her young and interesting conqueress, after which they all repaired to a supper of new milk and flummery, than which there is nothing more delicious within the wide range of luxury. This agreeable meal being over, they repaired to the large barn where Mickey M'Grory the fiddler, was installed in his own peculiar orchestra, consisting of an arm-chair of old Irish oak, brought out from Gerald Cavanagh's parlor.
It would indeed be difficult to find together such a group of happy faces. Gerald Cavanagh and his wife, Tom M'Mahon and his better half, and several of the neighbors, of every age and creed, were all assembled; and, in this instance, neither gray hairs nor length of years were looked upon as privileged from a participation in the festivities of the evening. Among the rest, gaunt and grim, were the three Hogans, looking through the light-hearted assemblage with the dark and sinister visages of thorough ruffians, who were altogether incapable of joining in the cheerful and inoffensive amusements that went forward around them. Kate Hogan sat in an obscure corner behind the fiddler, where she was scarcely visible, but from which she enjoyed a full view of everything that occurred in the house.
A shebeen-man, named Parra Bradagh, father to Barney, whom the reader has already met in the still-house, brought a cask of poteen to the stable, where he disposed of it sub silentio, by which we mean without the knowledge of Gerald Cavanagh, who would not have suffered any such person about his place, had the circumstance been made known to him. Among the rest, in the course of the evening, our friend O'Finigan the Philomath made his appearance, and as was his wont very considerably advanced in liquor. The worthy pedagogue, on inquiring for the queen of the kemp, as he styled her, was told that he might know her by the flowers in her hair. "There she is, masther," said one of them, "wid the roses on her head."
"Well," said O'Finigan, looking about him with surprise, "I have, before now, indulged in the Cerelian juice until my eyes have become possessed of that equivocal quality called the double vision, but I must confess that this is the first occasion on which the quality aforesaid has been quadrupled. Instead of one queen, wid Flora's fragrant favors in her lock, I think I see four."
Finigan indeed was right. Dora, on being presented with a simple chaplet of flowers, as the heroine of the night, in a spirit of true magnanimity generously divided the chaplet among her three rivals, thus, like every brave heart, resting satisfied with the consciousness of victory, and anxious that those who had approached her so nearly should also share in its honors.
It is not our intention to enter into a detailed account of the dancing, nor of the good humor which prevailed among them. It is enough to say that the old people performed minuets and cotillions, and the young folks, jigs, reels, and country dances; hornpipes were performed upon doors, by rural dancers, and all the usual variations of mirth and amusement were indulged in on the occasion.
We have said that Tom M'Mahon and his family were there, but we should have added, with one exception. Bryan did not arrive until the evening was far advanced, having been prevented by pressing business connected with his farm. On making his appearance, he was greeted by a murmur of welcomes, and many an honest hand was extended to him. Up until then there were two individuals who observed Kathleen Cavanagh closely, and we must ourselves admit that both came to the same conclusion. Its was clear that during the whole evening she had been unusually pensive, if not actually depressed, although a general observer would have seen nothing in her beyond the natural sedateness of her manner. The two in question were Kate Hogan and Dora M'Mahon. On Bryan's arrival, however, the color of her cheek deeped into a richer beauty, the eye became more sparkling, and a much slighter jest than before moved her into mirth. Such, however, we are, and such is the mystery of our nature. It might have been remarked that the Hogans eyed Bryan, soon after making his appearance, with glances expressive of anything but good feeling. It was not, however, when he first arrived, or danced with Hanna Cavanagh, that these boding glances were turned upon him, but on the occasion of his performing a reel with Kathleen. It might have been noticed that they looked at him, and afterwards at each other, in a manner that could admit of but little misapprehension.
"Philip," observed Finigan, addressing the elder Hogan,—"Philip, the Macedonian—monarch of Macedon, I say, is not that performance a beautiful specimen of the saltatory art? There is manly beauty, O Philip! and modest carriage.
"'With aquil beauty formed, and aquil grace, Hers the soft blushes of the opening morn, And his the radiance of the risen day.'"
"It's night now, misther, if you plaise," returned Hogan, gruffly; "but we don't want your opinion here—stick to your pothooks and hangers—keep to your trade."
"The pot-hooks and hangers are more tui generis, you misbegotten satyr," replied the schoolmaster; "that is, more appropriately concatenated with your own trade than wid mine. I have no trade, sirra, but a profession, and neither have you. You stand in the same degraded ratio to a tradesman that a rascally quack does to a regular surgeon."
"You had better keep a civil tongue in jour head," replied Hogan, nettled at the laughter which the schoolmaster raised at his expense.
"What! a civil tongue for you! Polite language for a rascally sotherer of ould skillets and other anonymous utensils. Why, what are you?—firstly, a general violation of the ten commandments; and, secondly, a misshapen but faithful impersonation of the seven deadly sins. Take my word for it, my worthy Macedonian, you will die any death but a horizontal one—it's veracity I'm telling you. Yet there is some comfort for you too—some comfort, I say again; for you who never lived one upright hour will die an upright death. A certain official will erect a perpendicular with you; but for that touck of Mathematics you must go to the hangman, at whose hands you will have to receive the rites of your church, you monstrous bog-trotting Gorgon. Mine a trade! Shades of Academus, am I to bear this!"
Finigan was, like most of his class, a privileged man; but on this occasion the loudness of the mirth prevented Hogan's reply from being heard. As to violence, nobody that knew the poor pedagogue could ever dream of using it towards him, and there is little doubt that the consciousness of this caused him to give his tongue a license when provoked, which he otherwise would not have dared to venture upon. When he first made his appearance he was so far advanced in liquor as scarcely to be able to stand, and it was quite evident that the heat of the crowded house by no means improved him.
In about a quarter of an hour after Bryan and Kathleen had danced, the good people of the kemp were honored by the appearance of Hycy Burke among them—not in his jockey dress, but in a tight-fitting suit, that set off his exceedingly well-made person to great advantage. In fact, Hycy was a young fellow of a remarkably handsome face, full of liveliness and apparent good humor, and a figure that was nearly perfect. He addressed the persons present with an air of easy condescension, and went over immediately and shook hands, in a very cordial manner, with Gerald Cavanagh and his wife, after which he turned round and bowed to the daughters. He then addressed Bryan, beside whom Kathleen was sitting.
"Bryan," said he, "there will be mistakes in the best of families. I hate enmity. How, do you do?"
Bryan nodded, and replied, "Pretty well, Hycy—how are you?"
Cavanagh and his wife were evidently quite delighted to see him; the good man rose and made him take his own seat, and Mrs. Cavanagh paid him every conceivable mark of attention.
"Mrs. Cavanagh," said he, after some chat, "may I be permitted to indulge in the felicity of a dance with Miss Cavanagh?"
"Which of them?" asked the mother, and then added, without waiting for a reply—"to be sure you may."
"The felicity of a dance! that was well expressed, Mr. Hycy; but it was not for nothing that you broke grammatical ground under Patricius Finigan—ah, no; the early indoctrinations will tell;—that is clear."
"I mean Miss Kathleen," replied Hycy, without paying any attention to Finigan's observations.
"Why not?" exclaimed both; "of course you will—go over and bring her out."
Hycy, approaching her, said, in his blandest and most persuasive manner, "Miss Cavanagh, will you allow me the gratification of dancing a reel with you?"
"I'm obliged to you, Mr. Burke," she replied gravely; "I have just danced a reel with Bryan M'Mahon here, and I don't intend to dance any more to-night."
"A simple reel?" said Hycy; "perhaps you will so far favor me? I shall consider it as a favor, I assure you."
"Excuse me, Mr. Burke, but I won't dance any more to-night."
"That's hard," he replied, "especially as I came all the way to have that pleasure. Perhaps you will change your mind, Miss Cavanagh?"
"I'm not in the habit of changing my mind, Mr. Burke," she replied, "and I don't see any reason why I should do so now. I say once for all that I won't dance any more to-night."
"What is it," asked the mother, on perceiving her hesitation; "won't she dance wid you? Hut, tut, Kathleen, what nonsense is this? To be sure you must dance wid Mr. Burke; don't take any refusal, Mr. Burke—is that all you know about girls.—sure nineteen refusals is aquil to one consent. Go over, Gerald, and make her dance wid him," she added, turning to her husband.
"What's the matter, Kathleen, that you won't dance wid Mr. Hycy?" asked the good man.
"Because I have danced all I will dance to-night, father."
"Tut, nonsense, you foolish girl—it's proud you ought to be that he'd ax you. Get up and dance a reel wid him."
Hanna, who knew her sister's resolution when once formed, immediately came to her rescue. "Don't ask her, father," she said; "the truth is, that I believe she has a headache—however, I'll take her place—have you any objection to me, Mr. Burke?"
None in the world—he would be very happy—only he regretted that he could not have that pleasure also with his sister.
"Ah, Mr. Hycy—which is properly Hyacinthus," said Finigan; "I am able to perceive that Cupid declines to be propitious in that quarter, or perhaps it's the irae amantium,—-which is, on being rendered into vernacularity, a falling out of lovers; and if so, do not despair; for as certain as it is, it will be followed by that most delectable of processes, the redintegratio amoris, or the renewing of love. In fact, he is a little better than a tyro—an ignoramus, who doesn't quarrel at least once a week, wid the fair object of his amorous inclinations, an' that for the sake of the reconciliaitons."
Hycy and Hanna were now about to dance, when Philip Hogan came forward, and, with an oath, declared that Kathleen must dance—"He wouldn't see Mr. Burke insulted that way by any such airs—and by—she must dance. Come," said he, "what stuff is this—we'll see whether you or I is strongest;" and as he spoke he seized her rudely by the arm, and was about to pull her out on the floor.
Bryan M'Mahon sprung to his feet. "Let her go, you ruffian," he exclaimed; "let her go this instant."
"No, I won't," replied the savage; "an' not for you, at any rate. Come, Miss Kathleen, out you'll go:—for you indeed," he added, in a ferocious parenthesis, looking at Bryan; "it's you that's the cause of all this. Come, miss, dance you must."
The words were scarcely uttered when M'Mahon, by a single blow on the neck, felled him like an ox, and in an instant the whole place was a scene of wild commotion. The Hogans, however, at all times unpopular, had no chance in an open affray on such an occasion as this. The feeling that predominated was, that the ruffianly interference of Philip had been justly punished; and ere many minutes the usual harmony, with the exception of some threatening looks and ferocious under growls from the Hogans, was restored. Hycy and Hanna then went on with their dance, and when it was over, the schoolmaster rose to depart.
"Mr. Burke," said he, "you are and have the reputation of being a perfect gentleman homo factus ad unguem—as has been said by the learned little Roman, who, between you and me, was not overburthened with an excess of morality. I take the liberty, jinteels, of wishing you a good-night—precor vobia prosperam noctem! Ah, I can do it yet; but it wasn't for nothing that I practised the peripatetics in larned Kerry, where the great O'Finigan is not yet forgotten. I shall now seek a contiguous place of repose, until the consequences of some slight bacchanalin libations on my part shall have dispersed themselves into thin air."
He accordingly departed, but from the unsteadiness of his step it was clear that, as he said, the place of his repose must be contiguous indeed. Had he been conscious of his own motions it is not likely he would have sought for repose in Cavanagh's kiln, then the habitation of the Hogans. It was probably the fact of the door having been left open, which was generally the case in summer, that induced him to enter—for enter he did—ignorant, it is to be presumed, that the dwelling he was about to enter was then inhabited by the Hogans, whom he very much disrelished.
The place was nearly waste, and had a very desolate look. Scattered around, and littered upon shake-down beds of straw, some half dozen young besmutted savages, male and female, lay stretched in all positions, some north, others south, without order or decency, but all seeming in that barbarous luxury which denotes strong animal health and an utter disregard of cleanliness and bodily comfort. Over in one of the corners lay three or four budgets, old iron skillets, hammers, lumps of melted lead, broken pots, a quantity of cows' horns for spoons, wooden dishes that required clasping, old kettles that wanted repair, a couple of cast off Poteen Stills, and a new one half made—all of which were visible by the light of a large log of bog-fir which lay burning in the fire-place. On looking around him, he descended a flight of stone steps that led to the fireplace or the kiln or opening in which the fuel used to dry the grain was always burned. This corner, which was eight or ten feet below the other portion of the floor, being, in general, during the summer months filled with straw, received the drowsy pedagogue, who, in a few minutes, was as sound asleep as any of them about him.
Hycy, who was conscious of his good figure, danced two or three times afterwards.
Dora M'Mahon had the honor of being his partner, as had one or two of the best looking girls present. At the close of the last dance he looked significantly at the Hogans, and nodded towards the door; after which it might have been observed, that they slunk out one at a time, followed in a few minutes by Kate Hycy, after some further chat with Gerald Cavanagh and his wife, threw half a crown to Mickey M'Grory, and in his usual courteous phraseology, through which there always ran, by the way, a vein of strong irony, he politely wished them all a good night.
CHAPTER VIII.—Anonymous Letter with a Name to It
—Finigan's Dialogue with Hycy
The severest tax upon Hycy's powers of invention was, in consequence of his habits of idleness, to find means of occupying his time. Sometimes, it is true, he condescended to oversee the men while at work, but there it was generally found that so far from keeping them to their employment, he was a considerable drawback upon their industry. The ordinary business of his life, however, was riding about the country, and especially into the town of Ballymacan and home again. He was also a regular attendant in all the neighboring fairs; and we may safely assert that no race in the province ever came off without him.
On the second day after his interview with Teddy Phats and the Hogans, he was riding past the post-office, when he heard the window tapped, and, on approaching, a letter was handed out to him, which on opening he found to contain the following communication:—
"Worthy Mr. Hyacinthus—
"A friend unknown to you, but not altogether so to fame, and one. whom no display of the subtlest ingenuity on behalf of your acute and sagacious intellect could ever decypher through the medium of this epistle, begs to convey to you a valuable portion of anonymous information. When he says that he is not unknown to fame, the assertion, as far as it goes, is pregnant wid veracity. Mark that I say, as far as it goes, by which is meant the assertion as well as the fame of your friend, the inditer of this significant epistle. Forty-eight square miles of good sound fame your not inerudite correspondent can conscientiously lay claim to; and although there is, with regret I admit it, a considerable portion of the square superficies alluded to, waste and uncultivated moor, yet I can say, wid that racy touch of genial and expressive pride which distinguishes men of letters in general, that the other portions of this fine district are inhabited by a multitudinity of population in the highest degree creditable to the prolific powers of the climate. 'Tisn't all as one, then, as that thistle-browsing quadruped. Barney Heffeman, who presumes, in imitation of his betters, to write Philomath after his name, and whose whole extent of literary reputation is not more than two or three beggarly townlands, whom, by the way, he is inoculating successfully wid his own ripe and flourishing ignorance. No, sir; nor like Gusty Gibberish, or (as he has been most facetiously christened by his Reverence, Father O'Flaherty) Demosthenes M'Gosther, inasmuch as he is distinguished for an aisy and prodigal superfluity of mere words, unsustained by intelligibility or meaning, but who cannot claim in his own person a mile and a half of dacent reputation. However, quid multis Mr. Hyacinthus; 'tis no indoctrinated or obscure scribe who now addresses you, and who does so from causes that may be salutary to your own health and very gentlemanly fame, according as you resave the same, not pretermitting interests involving, probably, on your part, an abundant portion of pecuniarity.