"No sir," replied Harry, laughing. "Only I hope you will excuse me for the liberty I took."
"Certainly, with all my heart, and you shall be always welcome to take the same liberty. Good-bye, again."
Clinton now felt satisfied that Hycy's letter to his uncle was an anonymous one, and although he could not divine its contents, he still felt assured that it was in some way connected with the farm transaction, or at all events detrimental to Bryan M'Mahon. He consequently resolved to see Hycy, against whom, or rather against whose principles he was beginning to entertain a strong repugnance, and without any hesitation to repudiate the engagement he had entered into with him.
He found Hycy at home, or rather he found him in conversation with Bat Hogan behind his father's garden.
"What was that ruffian wanting with you, Hycy, if it's a fair question?"
"Perfectly," said Hycy, "from you; but not in sooth from your worthy uncle."
"How is that?"
"Simply, he wants to know if I'd buy a keg of Poteen which, it seems, he has to sell. I declined because I have a sufficiently ample stock of it on hands."
"My uncle," said Clinton, prefers it to any other spirits; indeed, at home he never drinks any other, and whenever he dines, thanks those who give it the preference."
"Come in, and let us have a glass of poteen grog, in the mean time," said Hycy, "for it's better still in grog than in punch. It's a famous relish for a slice of ham; but, as the Scotch say, baith's best."
Having discussed the grog and ham, the conversation went on.
"Hycy," proceeded his companion, "with respect to that foolish arrangement or bargain we made the other night, I won't have anything to say or do in it. You shall impoverish or ruin no honest man on my account. I was half drunk or whole drunk, otherwise I wouldn't have listened to such a proposal."
"What do you mean?" said Hycy, with a look of very natural surprise, and a pause of some time, "I don't understand you."
"Don't you remember the foolish kind of stipulation we entered into with reference to M'Mahon's farm, of Ahadarra, on the one hand, and my most amiable (d—n me but I ought to be horsewhipped for it) sister on the other?"
"No," replied Hycy, "devil a syllable. My word and honor, Harry."
"Well, if you don't, then, it's all right. You didn't appear to be tipsy, though."
"I never do, Harry. In that respect I'm the d—dest, hypocritical rascal in Europe. I'm a perfect phenomenon; for, in proportion as I get drunk in intellect, I get sober both in my carriage and appearance. However, in Heaven's name let me know the bargain if there was one?"
"No, no," replied his friend, "it was a disgraceful affair on both sides, and the less that's said of it the better."
By some good deal of persuasion, however, and an additional glass of grog, he prevailed on Clinton to repeat the substance of the stipulation; on hearing which, as if for the first time, he laughed very heartily.
"This liquor," he proceeded, "is a strange compound, and puts queer notions into our head. Why if there's an honest decent fellow in Europe, whom I would feel anxious to serve beyond another, next to yourself, Harry, it is Bryan M'Mahon. But why I should have spoken so, I can't understand at all. In the first place, what means have of injuring the man? And what is stronger still, what inclination have I, or could have—and what is still better—should have?"
"I do assure you it did not raise you in my opinion."
"Faith, no wonder, Harry, and I am only surprised you didn't speak to me sooner about it. Still," he proceeded, smiling, 'there is one portion of it I should not wish to see cancelled—I mean your advocacy with Miss Clinton."
"To be plain with you, Hycy, I wash my hands out of that affair too; I won't promise advocacy."
"The truth is, neither neutrality nor advocacy would avail a rush. I have reason to think that my sister's objections against you are insuperable."
"On what do they rest?" asked the other.
"They are founded upon your want of morals," replied Clinton.
"Well, suppose I reform my morals?"
"That is, substitute hypocrisy for profligacy; I fear, Hycy, the elements of reformation are rather slight within you."
"Seriously, you do me injustice; and, besides, a man ought not to be judged of his morals before marriage, but after."
"Faith, both before and after, in my opinion, Hycy. No well-educated, right-minded girl would marry a man of depraved morals, knowing him to be such."
"But I really am not worse than others, nor so bad as many. Neither have I the reputation of being an immoral man. A little wild and over-impulsive from animal spirits I may be, but all that will pass off with the new state. No, no, d—n it, don't allow Miss Clinton to imbibe such prejudices. I do not say that I am a saint; but I shall settle down and bring her to church very regularly, and hear the sermon with most edifying attention. Another glass of grog?"
"But I hope and trust, my dear Harry, that you have not been making impressions against me."
"Unquestionably not. I only say you have no chance whatever in that quarter."
"Will you allow me to try?" asked Hycy.
"I have not the slightest objection," replied the other, "because I know how it will result."
"Very well,—thank you even for that same, my dear Harry; but, seriously speaking, I fear that neither you nor I are leading the kind of lives we ought, and so far I cannot quarrel with your sister's principles. On the contrary, they enable me to appreciate her if possible still more highly; for a clear and pure standard of morals in a wife is not only the best fortune but the best security for happiness besides. You might stop and dine?"
"No, thank you, it is impossible. By the way, I have already spoiled my dinner with that splendid ham of yours. Give me a call when in town."
Hycy, after Clinton's departure, began to review his own position. Of ultimately succeeding with Miss Clinton he entertained little doubt. So high and confident was his vanity, that he believed himself capable of performing mighty feats, and achieving great successes, with the fair sex,—all upon the strength of having destroyed the reputation of two innocent country girls. Somehow, notwithstanding his avowed attachment for Miss Clinton, he could not help now and then reverting to the rich beauty and magnificent form of Kathleen Cavanagh; nor was this contemplation of his lessened by considering that, with all his gentlemanly manners, and accomplishments, and wealth to boot, she preferred the clod-hopper, as he called Bryan M'Mahon, to himself.
He felt considerably mortified at this reflection, and the more especially, as he had been frequently taunted with it and laughed at for it by the country girls, whenever he entered into any bantering conversation. A thought now struck him by which he could, as he imagined, execute a very signal revenge upon M'Mahon through Kathleen, and perhaps, ultimately upon Kathleen herself, if he should succeed with Miss Clinton; for he did not at all forgive Kathleen the two public instances of contempt with which she had treated him. There was still, however, another consideration. His father had threatened to bring home his brother Edward, then destined for the church, and altogether to change his intentions in that respect. Indeed, from the dry and caustic manner of the old man towards him of late, he began to entertain apprehensions upon the subject. Taking therefore all these circumstances into consideration, he resolved in any event to temporize a little, and allow the father to suppose that he might be prevailed upon to marry Kathleen Cavanagh.
In the course of that evening, after dinner, while his father and he were together and his mother not present, he introduced the subject himself.
"I think, Mr. Burke, if I remember correctly, you proposed something like a matrimonial union between the unrivalled Katsey Cavanagh and the accomplished Hycy."
"I did, God forgive me."
"I have been thinking over that subject since."
"Have you, indeed," said his father; "an' am I to make Ned a priest or a farmer?" he asked, dryly.
"The church, I think, Mr. Burke, is, or ought to be, his destination."
"So, after all, you prefer to have my money and my property, along wid a good wife, to your brother Ned—Neddy I ought to call him, out of compliment to you—ha! ha! ha!"
"Proceed, Mr. Burke, you are pleased to be facetious."
"To your brother Ned—Neddy—having them, and maybe along wid them the same, wife too?"
"No, not exactly; but out of respect to your wishes.
"What's that?" said the old man, staring at him with a kind of comic gravity—"out of respect to my wishes!"
"That's what I've said," replied the son. "Proceed."
His father looked at' him again, and replied, "Proceed yourself—-it was you introduced the subject. I'm now jack-indifferent about it."
"All I have to say," continued Hycy, "is that I withdraw my ultimate refusal, Mr. Burke. I shall entertain the question, as they say; and it is not improbable but that I may dignify the fair Katsey with the honorable title of Mrs. Burke."
"I wish you had spoken a little sooner, then," replied his father, "bekaise it so happens that Gerald Cavanagh an' I have the match between her and your brother Ned as good as made."
"My brother Ned! Why, in the name of; all that's incredible, how could that be encompassed?"
"Very aisily," said his father, "by the girl's waitin' for him. Ned is rather young! yet, I grant you; he's nineteen, however, and two years more, you know, will make him one-and-twenty—take him out o' chancery, as they say."
"Very good, Mr. Burke, very good; in that case I have no more to say."
"Well," pursued the father, in the same dry, half-comic, half-sarcastic voice, "but what do you intend to do with yourself?"
"As to that," replied Hycy, who felt that the drift of the conversation was setting in against him, "I shall take due time to consider."
"What height are you?" asked the father, rather abruptly.
"I can't see, Mr. Burke, I really can't see what my height has to do with the question."
"Bekaise," proceeded the other, "I have some notion of putting you into the army. You spoke of it wanst yourself, remimber; but then there's an objection even to that."
"Pray, what is the objection, Mr. Burke?"
"Why, it's most likely you'd have to fight—if you took to the milintary trade."
"Why, upon my word, Mr. Burke, you shine in the sarcastic this evening."
"But, at any rate, you must take your chance for that. You're a fine, active young fellow, and I suppose if they take to runnin' you won't be the last of them."
"Good, Mr. Burke—proceed, though."
"An accordingly I have strong notions of buying you a corplar's or a sargent's commission. A good deal of that, however, depends upon yourself; but, as you say, I'll think of it."
Hycy, who could never bear ridicule, especially from the very man whom he attempted to ridicule most, bounced up, and after muttering something in the shape of an oath that was unintelligible, said, assuming all his polite irony:—
"Do so, Mr. Burke; in the mean time I have the pleasure of wishing you a very good evening, sir."
"Oh, a good-evening, sir," replied the old fellow, "and when you come home from the wars a full non-commissioned officer, you'll be scowerin' up your halbert every Christmas an' Aisther, I hope; an' telling us long stories—of all you killed an' ate while you were away from us."
Harry Clinton, now aware that the anonymous letter which his uncle had received that morning was the production of Hycy, resolved to watch the gauger's motions very closely. After a great deal of reflection upon Hycy's want of memory concerning their bargain, and upon a close comparison between his conduct and whole manner on the night in question, and his own account of the matter in the course of their last interview, he could not help feeling that his friend had stated a gross falsehood, and that the pretended want of recollection was an ingenious after-thought, adopted for the purpose of screening himself from the consequences of whatever injury he might inflict upon Bryan M'Mahon.
"Harry," said his uncle, as nine o'clock approached, "I am going upon duty tonight."
"In what direction, sir? may I ask."
"Yes, you may, but I'm not bound to tell you. In this instance, however, there is no necessity for secrecy; it is now too late to give our gentleman the hard word, so I don't care much if I do tell you. I am bound for Ahadarra."
"For Ahadarra—you say for Ahadarra, uncle?"
"I do, nephew."
"By heavens, he is the deepest and most consummate scoundrel alive," exclaimed Harry; "I now see it all. Uncle, I wish to God you would—would—-I don't know what to say."
"That's quite evident, nor what to think either. In the mean time the soldiers are waiting for me in Ballymacan, and so I must attend to my duty, Harry."
"Is it upon the strength of the blotted letter you got this morning, sir, that you are now acting"?"
"No, sir; but upon the strength of a sure spy dispatched this day to the premises. I am a little too shrewd now, Master Harry, to act solely upon anonymous information. I have been led too many devil's dances by it in my time, to be gulled in my old age on the strength of it."
He immediately prepared himself for the excursion, mounted his horse, that was caparisoned in a military saddle, the holsters furnished with a case of pistols, which, with a double case that he had on his person and two daggers, constituted his weapons of offence and defence.
Their path lay directly to the south for about two miles. Having traversed this distance they reached cross-roads, one of which branched towards the left and was soon lost in a rough brown upland, into which it branched by several little pathways that terminated in little villages or solitary farmer's houses. For about two miles more they were obliged to cross a dark reach of waste moor, where the soil was strong and well capable of cultivation. Having avoided the villages and more public thoroughfares, they pushed upward until they came into the black heath itself, where it was impossible that horses could travel in such darkness as then prevailed; for it was past ten o'clock, near the close of December. Clinton consequently left his horse in the care of two soldiers on a bit of green meadow by the side of Ahadarra Lough—a small tarn or mountain lake about two hundred yards in diameter. They then pushed up a long round swelling hill, on the other side of which was a considerable stretch of cultivated land with Bryan M'Mahon's new and improved houses at the head of it. This they kept to their right until they came in sight of the wild but beautiful and picturesque Glen of Althadhawan, which however was somewhat beyond the distance they had to go. At length, after breasting another hill which was lost in the base of Cullimore, they dropped down rapidly into a deep glen through which ran a little streamlet that took its rise not a quarter of a mile above them, and which supplied the apparatus for distillation with soft clear water. This they followed until near the head of the glen, where, in a position which might almost escape even a gauger's eye, they found the object of their search.
Tumbled around them in all directions were a quantity of gigantic rocks thrown as it were at random during some Titanic war-fare or diversion—between two of which the still-house was built in such a way, that, were it not for the smoke in daylight, it would be impossible to discover it, or at all events, to suppose that it could be the receptacle of a human being.
On entering, Clinton and his men were by no means surprised to find the place deserted, for this in fact was frequently the case on such occasions. On looking through the premises, which they did by the light of a large fire, they found precisely that which had been mentioned in Hycy's letter—to wit, the Still, the Head, and the Worm; but with the exception of an old broken rundlet or two, and a crazy vessel of wash that was not worth removing, there was nothing whatsoever besides.
The Still was on the fire half filled with water, the Head was on the Still, and the Worm was attached to the Head precisely as if they were in the process of distillation.
"Ay," said Clinton, on seeing how matters stood, "I think I understand this affair. It's a disappointment in one sense—but a sure enough card in another. The fine is certain, and Ahadarra is most undoubtedly in for it."
CHAPTER XV.—State of the Country
—Hycy's Friendship for Bryan M'Mahon—Bryan's Interview with his Landlord.
M'Mahon's last interview with Fethertonge was of so cheering a nature, and indicated on the part of that gentleman so much true and sterling kindness towards the young man and his family, that he felt perfectly satisfied on leaving him, and after having turned their conversation over in his mind, that he might place every confidence in the assurance he had given him. His father, too, who had never for a moment doubted Feathertonge, felt equally gratified at Bryan's report of their interview, as indeed did the whole family; they consequently spared neither labor nor expense in the improvements which they were making on their farms.
The situation of the country and neighborhood at this period was indeed peculiar, and such as we in this unhappy country have experienced both before and since. I have already stated, that there was a partial failure of the potato crop that season, a circumstance which uniformly is the forerunner of famine and sickness. The failure, however, on that occasion was not caused by a blight in the haulm, or to use plainer words, by a sudden withering of the stalks, but by large portions of the seed failing to grow. The partial scarcity, however, occasioned by this, although it did not constitute what can with propriety be termed famine, cause the great mass of pauperism which such a season always extends and increases, to press so heavily upon the struggling farmers, that their patience and benevolence became alike tired out and exhausted. This perpetually recurring calamity acts with a most depressing effect upon those persons in the country who have any claim to be considered independent. It deprives them of hope, and consequently of energy, and by relaxing the spirit of industry which has animated them, tends in the course of time to unite them to the great body of pauperism which oppresses and eats up the country. But let us not be misunderstood. This evil alone is sufficiently disastrous to the industrial energies of the class we mention; but when, in addition to this, the hitherto independent farmer has to contend with high rents, want of sympathy in his landlord, who probably is ignorant of his very existence, and has never seen him perhaps in his life; and when it is considered that he is left to the sharp practice and pettifogging, but plausible rapacity of a dishonest agent, who feels that he is irresponsible, and may act the petty tryant and vindictive oppressor if he wishes, having no restraint over his principles but his interest, which, so far from restraining, only guides and stimulates them;—when we reflect upon all this, and feel, besides, that the political principles upon which the country is governed are those that are calculated to promote British at the expense of Irish interests—we say, when we reflect upon and ponder over all this, we need not feel surprised that the prudent, the industrious, and the respectable, who see nothing but gradual decline and ultimate pauperism before them—who feel themselves neglected and overlooked, and know that every sixth or seventh year they are liable to those oppressive onsets of distress, sickness, and famine—we need not, we repeat, feel at all surprised that those who constitute this industrious and respectable class should fly from the evils which surround them, and abandon, whilst they possess the power of doing so, the country in which such evils are permitted to exist.
It is upon this principle, or rather upon these principles, and for these reasons, that the industry, the moral feeling, the independence, and the strength of the country have been passing out of it for years—leaving it, season after season, weaker, more impoverished, and less capable of meeting those periodical disasters which, we may almost say, are generated by the social disorder and political misrule of the country.
The fact is, and no reasonable or honest man capable of disencumbering himself of political prejudices can deny it, that up until a recent period the great body of the Irish people—the whole people—were mainly looked upon and used as political instruments in the hands of the higher classes, but not at all entitled to the possession of separate or independent interests in their own right. It is true they were allowed the possession of the forty-shilling franchise; but will any man say that the existence of that civil right was a benefit to the country? So far from that, it was a mere engine of corruption, and became, in the hands of the Irish landlords, one of the most oppressive and demoralizing curses that ever degraded a people. Perjury, fraud, falsehood, and dishonesty, were its fruits, and the only legacy it left to the country was an enormous mass of pauperism, and a national morality comparatively vitiated and depraved, in spite of all religious influence and of domestic affections that are both strong and tender. Indeed it is exceedingly difficult to determine whether it has been more injurious to the country in a political than in a moral sense. Be that as it may, it had a powerful effect in producing the evils that we now suffer, and our strong tendencies to social disorganization. By it the landlords were induced, for the sake of multiplying, votes, to encourage the subdivision of small holdings into those that were actually only nominal or fictitious, and the consequences were, that in multiplying votes they were multiplying families that had no fixed means of subsistence—multiplying in fact a pauper population—multiplying not only perjury, fraud, falsehood, and dishonesty, but destitution, misery, disease and death. By the forty-shilling franchise, the landlords encumbered the soil with a loose and unsettled population that possessed within itself, as poverty always does, a fearful facility of reproduction—a population which pressed heavily upon the independent class of farmers and yeomen, but which had no legal claim upon the territory of the country. The moment, however, when the system which produced and ended this wretched class, ceased to exist, they became not only valueless in a political sense, but a dead weight upon the energies of the country, and an almost insuperable impediment to its prosperity. This great evil the landlords could conjure up, but they have not been able to lay it since. Like Frankenstein in the novel, it pursues them to the present moment, and must be satisfied or appeased in some way, or it will unquestionably destroy them. From the abolition of the franchise until now, an incessant struggle of opposing interests has been going on in the country. The "forties" and their attendants must be fed; but the soul on which they live in its present state is not capable of at the same time supporting them and affording his claims to the landlord; for the food must go to England to pay the rents and the poor "forties" must starve. They are now in the way of the landlord—they are now in the way of the farmer—they are in fact in way of each other, and unless some wholesome and human principle, either of domestic employment or colonial emigration, or perhaps both, shall be adopted, they will continue to embarrass the country, and to drive out of it, always in connection with other causes, the very class of persons that constitute its remaining strength.
At the present period of our narrative the neighborhood of Ballymacan was in an unsettled and distressful state. The small farmers, and such as held from six to sixteen acres, at a rent which they could at any period with difficulty pay, were barely able to support themselves and their families upon the produce of their holdings, so that the claims of the landlord were out of the question. Such a position as this to the unhappy class we speak of, is only another name for ruin. The bailiff, who always lives upon the property, seeing their condition, and knowing that they are not able to meet the coming gale, reports accordingly to the agent, who, now cognizant that there is only one look-up for the rent, seizes the poor man's corn and cattle, leaving himself and his family within cold walls, and at an extinguished hearth. In this condition were a vast number in the neighborhood of the locality laid in our narrative. The extraordinary, but natural anxiety for holding land, and the equally ardent spirit of competition which prevails in the country, are always ready arguments in the mouth of the landlord and agent, when they wish to raise the rent or eject the tenant. "If you won't pay me such a rent, there are plenty that will. I have been offered more than you pay, and more than I ask, and you know I must look to my own interests!" In this case it is very likely that the landlord speaks nothing but the truth; and as he is pressed on by his necessities on the one hand, and the tenant on the other, the state of a country so circumstanced with respect to landed property and its condition may be easily conceived.
In addition, however, to all we have already detailed, as affecting the neighborhood of Ahadarra, we have to inform our readers that the tenantry upon the surrounding property were soon about to enjoy the luxury of a contested election. Chevydale had been the sitting member during two sessions of Parliament. He was, as we have already stated, an Emancipator and Liberal; but we need scarcely say that he did not get his seat upon these principles. He had been a convert to Liberalism since his election, and at the approaching crisis stood, it was thought, but an indifferent chance of being re-elected. The gentleman who had sat before was a sturdy Conservative, a good deal bigoted in politics, but possessing that rare and inestimable quality, or rather combination of qualities which constitute an honest man. He was a Major Vanston, a man of good property, and although somewhat deficient in the suaviter in modo, yet in consequence of his worth and sincerity, he was rather a favorite with the people, who in general relish sincerity and honesty wherever they find them in public men.
Having thus far digressed, we now beg leave to resume our narrative and once more return, from the contemplation of a state of things so painful to the progress of those circumstances which involve the fate of our humble individuals who constitute our dramatis personae.
The seizure of the distillery apparatus on M'Mahon's farm of Ahadarra, was in a few days followed by knowledge of the ruin in which it must necessarily involve that excellent and industrious young man. At this time there was an act of parliament in existence against illicit distillation, but of so recent a date that it was only when a seizure similar to the foregoing had been made, that the people in any particular district became acquainted with it. By this enactment the offending individual was looked upon as having no farther violated the laws in that case made and provided, than those who had never been engaged in such pursuits at all. In other words, the innocent, were equally punished with the guilty. A heavy fine was imposed—not on the offender, but on the whole townland in which he lived; so that the guilt of one individual was not visited as it ought to have been on the culprit himself, but equally distributed in all its penalties upon the other inhabitants of the district in question, who may have had neither act nor part in any violation of the laws whatsoever.
Bryan M'Mahon, on discovering the fearful position in which it placed him, scarcely knew on what hand to turn. His family were equally alarmed, and with just reason. Illicit distillation had been carried to incredible lengths for the last two or three years, and the statute in question was enacted with, a hope that it might unite the people in a kind of legal confederacy against a system so destructive of industry and morals. The act, however ill-judged, and impolitic at best, was not merely imperative,—but fraught with ruin and bloodshed. It immediately became the engine of malice and revenge between individual enemies—often between rival factions, and not unfrequently between parties instigated against each other by political rancor and hatred. Indeed, so destructive of the lives and morals of the people was it found, that in the course of a very few years it was repealed, but not until it had led to repeated murders and brought ruin and destruction upon many an unoffending and industrious family.
Bryan now bethought him of the warnings he had received from the gauger and Fethertonge, and resolved to see both, that he; might be enabled, if possible, to trace to its source the plot that had been laid, for his destruction. He accordingly went down to his father's at Carriglass, where he had not been long when Hycy Burke made his appearance, "Having come that far on his way," he said, "to see him, and to ascertain the truth of the report that had gone abroad respecting the heavy responsibility under which the illicit distillation had placed him." Bryan was naturally generous and without suspicion; but notwithstanding this, it was impossible that he should not entertain some slight surmises touching the sincerity of Burke.
"What is this, Bryan?" said the latter. "Can it be possible that you're in for the Fine, as report goes?"
"It's quite possible," replied Bryan; "on yesterday I got a notice of proceedings from the Board of Excise."
"But," pursued his friend, "what devil could have tempted you to have anything to do with illicit distillation? Didn't you know the danger of it?"
"I had no more to do with it," replied Bryan, "than you had—nor I don't even rightly know yet who had; though, indeed, I believe I may say it was these vagabonds, the Hogans, that has their hands in everything that's wicked and disgraceful. They would ruin me if they could," said Bryan, "and I suppose it was with the hope of doing so that they set up the still where they did."
"Well, now," replied Hycy, with an air of easy and natural generosity, "I should be sorry to think so: they are d—d scoundrels, or rather common ruffians, I grant you; but still, Bryan, I don't like to suspect even such vagabonds without good grounds. Bad as we know them to be, I have my doubts whether they are capable of setting about such an act for the diabolical purpose of bringing you to ruin. Perhaps they merely deemed the place on your farm a convenient one to build a still-house in, and that they never thought further about it."
"Or what," replied Bryan, "if there was some one behind their backs who is worse than themselves? Mightn't sich a thing as that be possible?"
"True," replied Hycy, "true, indeed—that's not improbable. Stay—no—well it may be—but—no—I can't think it."
"What is it you can't think?"
"Why, such a thing might be," proceeded Hycy, "if you have an enemy; but I think, Bryan, you are too well liked—and justly so too—if you will excuse me for saying so to your face—to have any enemy capable of going such nefarious lengths as that."
Bryan paused and seemed a good deal struck with the truth of Hycy's observation—"There's raison, sure enough in what you say, Hycy," he observed. "I don't know that I have a single enemy—unless the Hogans themselves—that would feel any satisfaction in drivin' me to destruction."
"And besides," continued Hycy, "between you and me now, Bryan, who the devil with an ounce of sense in his head would trust such scoundrels, or put himself in their power?"
Bryan considered this argument a still more forcible one than the other.
"That's stronger still," Re replied, "and indeed I am inclined to think that after all, Hycy, it happened as you say. Teddy Phats I think nothing at all about, for the poor, misshapen vagabone will distil poteen for any one that employs him."
"True," replied the other, "I agree with you; but what's to be done, Bryan? for that's the main point now."
"I scarcely know," replied Bryan, who now began to feel nothing but kindness towards Hycy, in consequence of the interest which that young fellow evidently took in his misfortune, for such, in serious truth, it must be called. "I am the only proprietor of Ahadarra," he proceeded, "and, as a matter of course, the whole fine falls on my shoulders."
"Ay, that's the devil of it; but at all events, Bryan, there is nothing got in this world without exertion and energy. Mr. Chevydale, the Member, is now at home: he has come down to canvass for the coming-election. I would recommend you to see him at once. You know—but perhaps you don't though—that his brother is one of the Commissioners of Excise; so that I don't know any man who can serve you more effectually than Chevydale, if he wishes."
"But what could he do?" asked Bryan.
"Why, by backing a memorial from you, stating the particulars, and making out a strong case, he might get the fine reduced. I shall draw up such a memorial if you wish."
"Thank you, Hycy—I'm obliged to you—these, I dare say, will be the proper steps to take—thank you."
"Nonsense! but perhaps I may serve you a little in another way. I'm very intimate with Harry Clinton, and who knows but I may be able to influence the uncle a little through the nephew."
"It's whispered that you might do more through the niece," replied Bryan, laughing; "is that true?"
"Nonsense, I tell you," replied Hycy, affecting confusion; "for Heaven's sake, Bryan, say nothing about that; how did it come to your ears?"
"Faith, and that's more than I can tell you," replied the other; "but I know I heard it somewhere of late."
"It's not a subject, of course," continued Hycy, "that I should wish to become the topic of vulgar comment or conversation, and I'd much rather you would endeavor to discountenance it whenever you hear it spoken of. At all events, whether with niece or nephew," proceeded Hycy, "you may rest assured, that whatever service I can render you, I shall not fail to do it. You and I have had a slight misunderstanding, but on an occasion like this, Bryan, it should be a bitter one indeed that a man—a generous man at least,—would or ought to remember."
This conversation took place whilst Bryan was proceeding to Fethertonge's, Hycy being also on his way home. On arriving at the turn of the road which led to Jemmy Burke's, Hycy caught the hand of his companion, which he squeezed with an affectionate warmth, so cordial and sincere in its character that Bryan cast every shadow of suspicion to the winds,
"Cheer up, Bryan, all will end better than you think, I hope. I shall draw up a memorial for you this evening, as strongly and forcibly as possible, and any other assistance that I can render you in this unhappy difficulty I will do it. I know I am about ninety pounds in your debt, and instead of talking to you in this way, or giving you fair words, I ought rather to pay you your money. The 'gentleman,' however, is impracticable for the present, but I trust—"
"Not a word about it," said Bryan, "you'll oblige me if you'll drop that part of the subject; but listen, Hycy,—I think you're generous and a little extravagant, and both is a good man's case—but that's not what I'm going to spake about, truth's best at all times; I heard that you were my enemy, and I was desired to be on my guard against you."
Hycy looked at him with that kind of surprise which is natural to an innocent man, and simply said, "May I ask by whom, Bryan?"
"I may tell you some other time," replied Bryan, "but I won't now; all I can say is, that I don't believe it, and I'm sure that ought to satisfy you."
"I shall expect you to tell me, Bryan," said the other, and then after returning a few steps, he caught M'Mahon's hand again, and shaking it warmly, once more added, "God bless you, Bryan; you are a generous high-minded young fellow, and I only wish I was like you."
Bryan, after they had separated, felt that Hycy's advice was the very best possible under the circumstances, and as he had heard for the first time that Chevydale was in the country, he resolved to go at once and state to him the peculiar grievance under which he labored.
Chevydale's house was somewhat nearer Ahadarra than Fethertonge's, but on the same line of road, and he accordingly proceeded to the residence of his landlord. The mansion indeed was a fine one. It stood on the brow of a gentle eminence, which commanded a glorious prospect of rich and highly cultivated country. Behind, the landscape rose gradually until it terminated in a range of mountains that protected the house from the north. The present structure was modern, having been built by old Chevydale, previous to his marriage. It was large and simple, but so majestic in appearance, that nothing could surpass the harmony that subsisted between its proportions and the magnificent old trees which studded the glorious lawn that surrounded, it, and rose in thick extensive masses that stretched far away behind the house. It stood in a park, which for the beauties of wood and. water was indeed worthy of its fine simplicity and grandeur—a park in which it was difficult to say whether the beautiful, the picturesque, or the wild, predominated most. And yet in this princely residence Mr. Chevydale did not reside more than a month, or at most two, during the whole year.
On reaching the hall-door, M'Mahon inquired from the servant who appeared, if he could see Mr. Chevydale.
"I'm afraid not," said the servant, "but I will see; what's your name?"
"Bryan M'Mahon, of Ahadarra, one of his tenants."
The servant returned to him in a few moments, and said, "Yes, he will see you; follow me."
Bryan entered a library, where he found his landlord and Fethertonge apparently engaged in business, and as he was in the act of doing so, he overheard Chevydale saying—"No, no, I shall always see my tenants."
Bryan made his obeisance in his own plain way, and Chevydale said—"Are you M'Mahon of Ahadarra?"
"I am, sir," replied Bryan.
"I thought you were a much older man," said Chevydale, "there certainly must be, some mistake here," he added, looking at Fethertonge.
"M'Mahon of Ahadarra was a middle-aged man several years ago, but this person is young enough to be his man."
"You speak of his uncle," replied Fethertonge, "who is dead. This young man, who now owns his uncle's farm, is son to Thomas M'Mahon of Carriglass. How is your father, M'Mahon? I hope he bears up well under his recent loss."
"Indeed but poorly, sir," replied Bryan, "I fear he'll never be the same man."
Chevydale here took to reading a newspaper, and in a minute or two appeared to be altogether unconscious of Bryan's presence.
"I'm afeard, sir," said Bryan, addressing himself to the agent, who was the only person likely to hear him, "I'm afeard, sir, that I've got into trouble."
"Into trouble? how is that?"
"Why, sir, there was a Still, Head, and Worm found upon Ahadarra, and I'm going to be fined for it."
"M'Mahon," replied the agent, "I am sorry to hear this, both on your own account and that of your family. If I don't mistake, you were cautioned and warned against this; but it was useless; yes, I am sorry for it; and for you, too."
"I don't properly understand you, sir," said Bryan.
"Did I not myself forewarn you against having anything to do in matters contrary to the law? You must remember I did, and on the very last occasion, too, when you were in my office."
"I remember it right well, sir," replied Bryan, "and I say now as I did then, that I am not the man to break the law, or have act or part in anything that's contrary to it. I know nothing about this business, except that three ruffianly looking fellows named Hogan, common tinkers, and common vagabonds to boot—men that are my enemies—are the persons by all accounts who set up the still on my property. As for myself, I had no more to do in it or with it than yourself or Mr. Chevydale here."
"Well," replied Fethertonge, "I hope not. I should feel much disappointed if you had, but you know, Bryan," he added, good-humoredly, "we could scarcely expect that you should admit such a piece of folly, not to call it by a harsher name."
"If I had embarked in it," replied M'Mahon, "I sartinly would not deny it to you or Mr. Chevydale, at least; but, as I said before, I know nothing more about it, than simply it was these ruffians and a fellow named Phats, a Distiller, that set it a-working,—however, the question is, what am I to do? If I must pay the fine for the whole townland, it will beggar me—ruin me. It was that brought me to my landlord here," he added; "I believe, sir, you have a brother a Commissioner of Excise?"
"Eh? what is that?" asked Chevydaie, looking up suddenly as Bryan asked the question.
M'Mahon was obliged to repeat all the circumstances once more, as did Feathertonge the warning he had given him against having any connection with illegal proceedings.
"I am to get a memorial drawn up tomorrow, sir," proceeded Bryan, "and I was thinking that by giving the Board of Excise a true statement of the case, they might reduce the fine; if they don't, I am ruined—that's all."
"Certainly," said his landlord, "that is a very good course to take; indeed, your only course."
"I hope, sir," proceeded Bryan, "that as you now know the true circumstances of the case, you'll be kind, enough to support my petition; I believe your brother, sir, is one of the Commissioners; you would sartinly be able to do something with him."
"No," replied Chevydaie, "I would not ask anything from him; but I shall support your Petition, and try what I can do with the other Commissioners. On principle, however, I make it a point never to ask anything from my brother."
"Will I bring you the Petition, sir?" asked Bryan.
"Fetch me the Petition."
"And Bryan," said Fethertonge, raising his finger at him as if by way of warning—and laughing—"hark ye, let this be the last."
"Fethertonge," said the landlord, "I see 'Pratt has been found guilty, and the sentence confirmed by the Commander-in-Chief."
"You will insist on it," said Bryan, in reply to the agent, "but—"
"There now, M'Mahon," said the latter, "that will do; good day to you."
"I think it is a very harsh sentence, Fethertonge; will you touch the bell?"
"I don't know, sir," replied the other, ringing as he spoke; "Neville's testimony was very strong against him, and the breaking of the glass did not certainly look like sobriety."
"I had one other word to say, gentlemen," added M'Mahon, "if you'll allow me, now that I'm here."
Fethertonge looked at him with a face in which might be read a painful but friendly rebuke for persisting to speak, after the other had changed the subject. "I rather think Mr. Chevydale would prefer hearing it some other time, Bryan."
"But you know the proverb, sir," said Bryan, smiling, "that there's no time like the present; besides it's only a word."
"What is it?" asked the landlord.
"About the leases, sir," replied M'Mahon, "to know when it would be convanient for you to sign them."
Chevydale looked, from Bryan to the agent, and again from the agent to Bryan, as if anxious to understand what the allusion to leases meant. At this moment a servant entered, saying, "The horses are at the door, gentlemen."
"Come some other day, M'Mahon," said Fethertonge; "do you not see that we are going out to ride now—going on our canvass? Come to my office some other day; Mr. Chevydale will remain for a considerable time in the country now, and you need not feel so eager in the matter."
"Yes, come some other day, Mr.—Mr.—ay—M'Mahon; if there are leases to sign, of course I shall sign them; I am always anxious to do my duty as a landlord. Come, or rather Fethertonge here will manage it. You know I transact no business here; everything is done at his office, unless when he brings me papers to sign. Of course I shall sign any necessary paper."
Bryan then withdrew, after having received another friendly nod of remonstrance, which seemed to say, "Why will you thus persist, when you see that he is not disposed to enter into these matters now? Am I not your friend?" Still, however, he did not feel perfectly at ease with the result of his visit. A slight sense of uncertainty and doubt crept over him, and in spite of every effort at confidence, he found that that which he had placed in Fethertonge, if it did not diminish, was most assuredly not becoming stronger.
CHAPTER XVI.—-A Spar Between Kate and Philip Hogan
—Bryan M'Mahon is Cautioned against Political Temptation—He Seeks Major Vanston's Interest with the Board of Excise.
The consequences of the calamity which was hanging over Bryan M'Mahon's head, had become now pretty well understood, and occasioned a very general and profound sympathy for the ruin in which it was likely to involve him. Indeed, almost every one appeared to feel it more than he himself did, and many, who on meeting him, were at first disposed to offer him consolation, changed their purpose on witnessing his cheerful and manly bearing under it. Throughout the whole country there was but one family, with another exception, that felt gratified at the blow which had fallen on him. The exception we speak of was no other than Mr, Hycy Burke, and the family was that of the Hogans. As for Teddy Phats, he was not the man to trouble himself by the loss of a moment's indifference upon any earthly or other subject, saving and excepting always that it involved the death, mutilation, or destruction in some shape, of his great and relentless foe, the Gauger, whom he looked upon as the impersonation of all that is hateful and villainous in life, and only sent into this world to war with human happiness at large. That great professional instinct, as the French say, and a strong unaccountable disrelish of Hycy Burke, were the only two feelings that disturbed the hardened indifference of his nature.
One night, shortly after Bryan's visit to his landlord, the Hogans and Phats were assembled in the kiln between the hours of twelve and one o'clock, after having drunk nearly three quarts of whiskey among them. The young savages, as usual, after the vagabond depredations or mischievous exercises of the day, were snoring as we have described them before; when Teddy, whom no quantity of liquor could affect beyond a mere inveterate hardness of brogue and an indescribable effort at mirth and melody, exclaimed—"Fwhy, dhen, dat's the stuff; and here's bad luck to him that paid fwor it."
"I'll not drink it, you ugly keout," exclaimed Philip, in his deep and ruffianly voice; "but come—all o' yez fill up and drink my toast. Come, Kate, you crame of hell's delights, fill till I give it. No," he added abruptly, "I won't drink that, you leprechaun; the man that ped for it is Hycy Burke, and I like Hycy Burke for one thing, an' I'll not dhrink bad luck to him. Come, are yez ready?"
"Give it out, you hulk," said Kate, "an' don't keep us here all night over it."
"Here, then," exclaimed the savage, with a grin of ferocious mirth, distorting his grim colossal features into a smile that was frightful and inhuman—"Here's may Bryan M'Mahon be soon a beggar, an' all his breed the same! Drink it now, all o' yez, or, by the mortal counthryman, I'll brain the first that'll refuse it."
The threat, in this case, was a drunken one, and on that very account the more dangerous.
"Well," said Teddy, "I don't like to drink it; but if—"
"Honomondiaul! you d——d disciple," thundered the giant, "down wid it, or I'll split your skull!"
Teddy had it down ere the words were concluded.
"What!" exclaimed Hogan, or rather roared again, as he fastened his blazing eyes on Kate—"what, you yalla mullotty, do you dar to refuse?"
"Ay, do dar to refuse!—an' I'd see you fizzin' on the devil's fryin'-pan, where you'll fiz yet, afore I'd dhrink it. Come, come," she replied, her eye blazing now as fiercely as his own, "keep quiet, I bid you—keep calm; you ought to know me now, I think."
"Drink it," he shouted, "or I'll brain you."
"Howl him," said Teddy—"howl him; there's murdher in his eye. My soul to happiness but he'll kill her."
"Will he, indeed?" said Bat, with a loud laugh, in which he was joined by Ned—"will he, indeed?" they shouted. "Go on, Kate, you'll get fair play if you want it—his eye, Teddy! ay, but look at her's, man alive—look at her altogether! Go on, Kate—more power!"
Teddy, on looking at her again, literally retreated a few paces from sheer terror of the tremendous and intrepid fury who now stood before him. It was then for the first time that he observed the huge bones and immense muscular development that stood out into terrible strength by the force of her rising passion. It was the eye, however, and the features of the face which filled him with such an accountable dread. The eyes were literally blazing, and the muscles of the face, now cast into an expression which seemed at the same time to be laughter and fury, were wrought up and blended together in such a way as made the very countenance terrible by the emanation of murder which seemed to break from every feature of it. "Drink it, I say again," shouted Philip. Kate made no reply, but, walking over to where he stood, she looked closely into his eyes, and said, with grinding teeth—"Not if it was to save you from the gallows, where you'll swing yet; but listen." As she spoke her words were hoarse and low, there was a volume of powerful strength in her voice which stunned one like the roar of a lioness. "Here," she exclaimed, her voice now all at once rising or rather shooting up to a most terrific scream—"here's a disgraceful death to Hycy Burke! and may all that's good and prosperous in this world, ay, and in the next, attend Bryan M'Mahon, the honest man! Now, Philip, my man, see how I drink them both." And, having concluded, she swallowed the glass of whiskey, and again drawing her face within an inch of his she glared right into his eyes.
"Howl me," he shouted, "or I'll sthrike, an' we'll have a death in the house."
She raised one hand and waved it behind her, as an intimation that they should not interfere.
The laughter of the brothers now passed all bounds. "No, Kate, go on—we won't interfere. You had better seize him."
"No," she replied, "let him begin first, if he dar."
"Howl me," shouted Philip, "she'll only be killed."
Another peal of laughter was the sole reply given to this by the brothers. "He's goin'," they exclaimed, "he's gone—the white fedher's in him—it's all over wid him—he's afeerd of her, an' not for nothing either—ha! ha! ha! more power, Kate!"
Stung by the contemptuous derision contained in this language, Philip was stepping back in order to give himself proper room for a blow, when, on the very instant that he moved, Kate, uttering something between a howl and a yell, dashed her huge hands into his throat—which was, as is usual with tinkers, without a cravat—and in a moment a desperate and awful struggle took place between them. Strong as Philip was, he found himself placed perfectly on the defensive by the terrific grip which this furious opponent held of his throat. So powerful was it, indeed, that not a single instant was allowed him for the exercise of any aggressive violence against her by a blow, all his strength being directed to unclasp her hands from his throat that he might be permitted to breathe. As they pulled and tugged, however, it was evident that the struggle was going against him—a hoarse, alarming howl once or twice broke from him, that intimated terror and distress on his part.
"That's right, Kate," they shouted, "you have him—press tight—the windpipe's goin'—bravo! he'll soon stagger an' come down, an' then you may do as you like."
They tugged on, and dragged, and panted, with the furious vehemence of the exertion; when at length Philip shouted, in a voice half-stifled by strangulation, "Let g—o—o—o, I—I sa—y—y; ah! ah! ah!"
Bat now ran over in a spirit of glee and triumph that cannot well be described, and clapping his wife on the back, shouted—"Well done, Kate; stick to him for half a minute and he's yours. Bravo! you clip o' perdition, bravo!"
He had scarcely uttered the words when the giant carcass of Philip tottered and fell, dragging Kate along with it, who never for a moment lost or loosened her hold. Her opponent now began to sprawl and kick out his feet from a sense of suffocation, and in attempting to call for assistance, nothing but low, deep gurgling noises could issue from his lips, now livid with the pressure on his throat and covered with foam. His face, too, at all times dark and savage, became literally black, and he uttered such sternutations as, on seeing that they were accompanied by the diminished struggles which betoken exhaustion, induced Teddy to rush over for the purpose of rescuing him from her clutches.
"Aisy," said the others; "let them alone—a little thing will do it now—it's almost over—she has given him his gruel—an' divil's cure to him—he knew well enough what she could do—but he would have it."
Faint convulsive movements were all now that could be noticed in the huge limbs of their brother, and still the savage tigress was at his throat, when her husband at length said:—
"It's time, Ned—it's time—she may carry it too far—he's quiet enough now. Come away, Kate, it's all right—let him alone—let go your hoult of him."
Kate, however, as if she had tasted his blood, would listen to no such language; all the force, and energies, and bloody instincts of the incarnate fury were aroused within her, and she still stuck to her victim.
"Be japers she'll kill him," shouted Bat, rushing to her; "come, Ned, till we unclasp her—take care—pull quickly—bloody wars, he's dead!—Kate, you divil!—you fury of hell! let go—let go, I say."
Kate, however, heard him not, but still tugged and stuck to the throat of Philip's quivering carcass, until by a united effort they at length disentangled her iron clutches from it, upon which she struggled and howled like a beast of prey, and attempted with a strength that seemed more akin to the emotion of a devil than that of a woman to get at him again and again, in order to complete her work.
"Come, Kate," said her husband, "you're a Trojan—by japers you're a Trojan; you've settled him any way—is there life in him?" he asked, "if there is, dash wather or something in his face, an' drag him up out o' that—ha! ha! Well done, Kate; only for you we'd lead a fine life wid him—ay! an' a fine life that is—a hard life we led until you did come—there now, more power to you—by the livin' Counthryman, there's not your aquil in Europe—come now, settle down, an' don't keep all movin' that way as if you wor at him again—sit down now, an' here's another glass of whiskey for you."
In the mean time, Ned and Teddy Phats succeeded in recovering Philip, whom they dragged over and placed upon a kind of bench, where in a few minutes he recovered sufficiently to be able to speak—but ever and anon he shook his head, and stretched his neck, and drew his breath deeply, putting his hands up from time to time as if he strove to set his windpipe more at ease.
"Here Phil, my hairo," said his triumphant brother Bat, "take another glass, an' may be for all so strong and murdherin' as you are wid others you now know—an' you knew before what our woman' can do at home wid you."
"I've—hoch—hoch—I've done wid her—she's no woman; there's a devil in her, an' if you take my advice, it's to Priest M'Scaddhan you'd bring her, an' have the same devil prayed out of her—I that could murdher ere a man in the parist a'most!"
"Lave Bryan M'Mahon out," said Kate.
"No I won't," replied Phil, sullenly, and with a voice still hoarse, "no, I won't—I that could make smash of ere a man in the parish, to be throttled into perdition by a blasted woman. She's a devil, I say; for the last ten minutes I seen nothin' but fire, fire, fire, as red as blazes, an' I hard somethin' yellin', yellin', in my ears."
"Ay!" replied Kate, "I know you did—that was the fire of hell you seen, ready to resave you; an' the noise you hard was the voices of the devils that wor comin' for your sowl—ay, an' the voices of the two wives you murdhered—take care then, or I'll send you sooner to hell than you dhrame of."
The scowl which she had in return for this threat was beyond all description.
"Oh, I have done wid you," he replied; "you're not right, I say—but never mind, I'll put a pin in M'Mahon's collar for this—ay will I."
"Don't!" she exclaimed, in one fearful monosyllable, and then she added in a low condensed whisper, "or if you do, mark the consequence."
"Trot, Phil," said Teddy, "I think you needn't throuble your head about M'Mahon—he's done fwhor."
"An' mark me," said Kate, "I'll take care of the man that done for him. I know him well, betther than he suspects, an' can make him sup sorrow whenever I like—an' would, too, only for one thing."
"An' fwhat's dhat wan thing?" asked Phats.
"You'll know it when you're ouldher, may be," replied Kate; "but you must be ouldher first—I can keep my own secrets, thank God, an' will, too—only mark me all o' yez; you know well what I am—let no injury come to Bryan M'Mahon. For the sake of one person he must be safe."
"Well," observed Teddy, "let us hear no more about them; it's all settled that we are to set up in Glen Dearg above again—for this Hycy,—who's sthrivin' to turn the penny where he can."
"It is," said Bat; "an', to-morrow night, let us bring the things up—this election will sarve us at any rate—but who will come in?" (* That is, be returned.)
"The villain of hell!" suddenly exclaimed Kate, as if to herself; "to go to ruin the young man! That girl's breakin' her heart for what has happened."
"What are you talkin' about?" asked her husband.
"Nothing," she replied; "only if you all intend to have any rest to-night, throw yourselves in the shake-down there, an' go sleep. I'm not to sit up the whole night here, I hope?"
Philip, and Ned, and Teddy tumbled themselves into the straw, and in a few minutes were in a state of perfect oblivion.
"Hycy Burke is a bad boy, Bat," she said, as the husband was about to follow their example; "but he is marked—I've set my mark upon him."
"You appear to know something particular about him," observed her husband.
"Maybe I do, an' maybe I don't," she replied; "but I tell you, he's marked—that's all—go to bed now."
He tumbled after the rest, Kate stretched herself in an, opposite corner, and in a few minutes this savage orchestra was in full chorus.
What an insoluble enigma is woman! From the specimen of feminine delicacy and modest diffidence which we have just presented to the reader, who would imagine that Kate Hogan was capable of entering into the deep and rooted sorrow which Kathleen Cavanagh experienced when made acquainted with the calamity which was about to crush her lover. Yet so it was. In truth this fierce and furious woman who was at once a thief, a liar, a drunkard, and an impostor, hardened in wickedness and deceit, had in spite of all this a heart capable of virtuous aspirations, and of loving what was excellent and good. It is true she was a hypocrite herself, yet she detested Hycy Burke for his treachery. She was a thief and a liar, yet she liked and respected Bryan M'Mahon for his truth and honesty. Her heart, however, was not all depraved; and, indeed, it is difficult to meet a woman in whose disposition, however corrupted by evil society, and degraded by vice, there is not to be found a portion of the angelic essence still remaining. In the case before us, however, this may be easily accounted for. Kate Hogan, though a hell-cat and devil, when provoked, was, amidst all her hardened violence and general disregard of truth and honesty, a virtuous woman and a faithful wife. Hence her natural regard for much that was good and pure, and her strong sympathy with the sorrow which now fell upon Kathleen Cavanagh.
Kathleen and her sister had been sitting sewing at the parlor window, on the day Bryan had the interview we have detailed with Chevydale and the agent, when they heard their father's voice inquiring for Hanna.
"He has been at Jemmy Burke's, Kathleen," said her sister, "and I'll wager a nosegay, if one could get one, that he has news of this new sweetheart of yours; he's bent, Kathleen," she added, "to have you in Jemmy Burke's family, cost what it may."
"So it seems, Hanna."
"They say Edward Burke is still a finer-looking young fellow than Hycy. Now, Kathleen," she added, laughing, "if you should spoil a priest afther all! Well! un-likelier things have happened."
"That may be," replied Kathleen, "but this won't happen for all that, Hanna. Go, there he's calling for you again."
"Yes—yes," she shouted; "throth, among you all, Kathleen, you're making a regular go-between of me. My father thinks I can turn you round my finger, and Bryan M'Mahon thinks—yes, I'm goin'," she answered again. "Well, keep up your spirits; I'll soon have news for you about this spoiled priest."
"Poor Hanna," thought Kathleen; "where was there ever such a sister? She does all she can to keep my spirits up; but it can't be. How can I see him ruined and beggared, that had the high spirit and the true heart?"
Hanna, her father, and mother, held a tolerably long discussion together, in which Kathleen could only hear the tones of their voices occasionally. It was evident, however, by the emphatic intonations of the old couple, that they were urging some certain point, which her faithful sister was deprecating, sometimes, as Kathleen could learn, by seriousness, and at other times by mirth. At length she returned with a countenance combating between seriousness and jest; the seriousness, however, predominating.
"Kathleen," said she, "you never had a difficulty before you until now. They haven't left me a leg to stand upon. Honest Jemmy never had any wish to make Edward a priest, and he tells my father that it was all a trick of the wife to get everything for her favorite; and he's now determined to disappoint them. What will you do?"
"What would you recommend me?" asked Kathleen, looking at her with something of her own mood, for although her brow was serious, yet there was a slight smile upon her lips.
"Why," said the frank and candid girl, "certainly to run away with Bryan M'Mahon; that, you know, would settle everything."
"Would it settle my father's heart," said Kathleen, "and my mother's?—would it settle my own character?—would it be the step that all the world would expect from Kathleen Cavanagh?—and putting all the world aside, would it be a step that I could take in the sight of God, my dear Hanna?"
"Kathleen, forgive me, darlin'," said her sister, throwing her arms about her neck, and laying her head upon her shoulder; "I'm a foolish, flighty creature; indeed, I don't know what's to be done, nor I can't advise you. Come out and walk about; the day's dry an' fine."
"If your head makes fifty mistakes," said her sister, "your heart's an excuse for them all; but you don't make any mistakes, Hanna, when you're in earnest; instead of that your head's worth all our heads put together. Come, now."
They took the Carriglass road, but had not gone far when they met Dora M'Mahon who, as she said, "came down to ask them up a while, as the house was now so lonesome;" and she added, with artless naivete, "I don't know how it is, Kathleen, but I love you better now than I ever did before. Ever since my darlin' mother left us, I can't look upon you as a stranger, and now that poor Bryan's in distress, my heart clings to you more and more."
Hanna, the generous Hanna's eyes partook of the affection and admiration which beamed in Dora's, as they rested on Kathleen; but notwithstanding this, she was about to give Dora an ironical chiding for omitting to say anything gratifying to herself, when happening to look back, she saw Bryan at the turn of the road approaching them.
"Here's a friend of ours," she exclaimed; "no less than Bryan M'Mahon himself. Come, Dora, we can't go' up to Carriglass, but we'll walk back with you a piece o' the way."
Bryan, who was then on his return from Chevydale's, soon joined them, and they proceeded in the direction of his father's, Dora and Hanna having, with good-humored consideration, gone forward as an advanced guard, leaving Bryan and Kathleen to enjoy their tete-a-tete behind them.
"Dear Kathleen," said Bryan, "I was very anxious to see you. You've h'ard of this unfortunate business that has come upon me?"
"I have," she replied, "and I need not say that I'm sorry for it. Is it, or will it be as bad as they report?"
"Worse, Kathleen. I will have the fine for all Ahadarra to pay myself."
"But can nothing be done. Wouldn't they let you off when they come to hear that, although the Still was found upon your land, yet it wasn't yours, nor it wasn't you that was usin' it?"
"I don't know how that may be. Hycy Burke tells me that they'll be apt to reduce the fine, if I send them a petition or memorial, or whatever they call it, an' he's to have one Written for me to-morrow."
"I'm afraid Hycy's a bad authority for anybody, Bryan."
"I don't think you do poor Hycy justice, Kathleen; he's not, in my opinion, so bad as you think him. I don't know a man, nor I haven't met a man that's sorrier for what has happened me; he came to see me yesterday, and to know in what way he could serve me, an' wasn't called upon to do so."
"I hope you're right, Bryan; for why should I wish Hycy Burke to be a bad man, or why should I wish him ill? I may be mistaken in him, and I hope I am."
"Indeed, I think you are, Kathleen; he's wild a good deal, I grant, and has a spice of mischief in him, and many a worthy young fellow has both."
"That's very true," she replied; "however, we have h'ard bad enough of him. There's none of us what we ought to be, Bryan. If you're called upon to pay this fine, what will, be the consequence?"
"Why, that I'll have to give up my farm—that I won't be left worth sixpence."
"Who put the still up in Ahadarra?" she inquired. "Is it true that it was the Hogan's?"
"Indeed I believe there's no doubt about it," he replied; "since I left the landlord's, I have heard what satisfies me that it was them and Teddy Phats."
Kathleen paused and sighed. "They are a vile crew," she added, after a little; "but, be they what they may, they're faithful and honest, and affectionate to our family; an' that, I believe, is the only good about them. Bryan, I am very sorry for this misfortune that has come upon you. I am sorry for your own sake."
"And I," replied Bryan, "am sorry for—I was goin' to say—yours; but it would be, afther all, for my own. I haven't the same thoughts of you now, dear Kathleen."
She gazed quickly, and with some surprise at him, and asked, "Why so, Bryan?"
"I'm changed—I'm a ruined man," he replied; "I had bright hopes of comfort and happiness—hopes that I doubt will never come to pass. However," he added, recovering himself, and assuming a look of cheerfulness, "who knows if everything will turnout so badly as we fear?"
"That's the spirit you ought to show," returned Kathleen; "You have before you the example of a good father; don't be cast down, nor look at the dark side; but you said you had not the same thoughts of me just now; I don't understand you."
"Do you think," he replied, with a smile, "that I meant to say my affection for you was changed? Oh, no, Kathleen; but that my situation is changed, or soon will be so; and that on that account we can't be the same thing to one another that we have been."
"Bryan," she replied, "you may always depend upon this, that so long as you are true to your God and to yourself, I will be true to you. Depend upon this once and forever."
"Kathleen, that's like yourself, but I could not think of bringing you to shame." He paused, and turning his eyes full upon her, added—"I'm allowin' myself to sink again. Everything will turn out better than we think, plaise God."
"I hope so," she added, "but whatever happens, Bryan do you always act an open, honest, manly part, as I know you will do; act always so as that your conscience can't accuse you, or make you feel that you have done anything that is wrong, or unworthy, or disgraceful; and then, dear Bryan, welcome poverty may you say, as I will welcome Bryan M'Mahon with it."
Both had paused for a little on their way, and stood for about a minute moved by the interest which each felt in what the other uttered. As Bryan's eye rested on the noble features and commanding figure of Kathleen, he was somewhat started by the glow of enthusiasm which lit both her eye and her cheek, although he was too unskilled in the manifestations of character to know that it was enthusiasm she felt.
They then proceeded, and after a short silence Bryan observed—"Dear Kathleen, I know the value of the advice you are giving me, but will you let me ask if you ever seen anything in my conduct, or heard anything in my conversation, that makes you think it so necessary to give it to me?"
"If I ever had, Bryan, it's not likely I'd be here at your side this day to give it to you; but you're now likely to be brought into trials and difficulties—into temptation—and it is then that you may think maybe of what I'm sayin' now."
"Well, Kathleen," he replied, smiling, "you're determined at all events that the advice will come before the temptation; but, indeed, my own dearest girl, my heart this moment is proud when I think that you are so full of truth, an' feelin', and regard for me, as to give me such advice, and to be able to give it. But still I hope I won't stand in need of it, and that if the temptations you spoke of come in my way, I will have your advice—ay, an' I trust in God the adviser, too—to direct me."
"Are you sure, Bryan," and she surveyed him closely as she spoke—"are you sure that no part of the temptation has come across you already?"
He looked surprised as she asked him this singular question. "I am," said he; "but, dear Kathleen, I can't rightly understand you. What temptations do you mane?"
"Have you not promised to vote for Mr. Vanston, the Tory candidate, who never in his life voted for your religion or your liberty?"
"Do you mane me, dearest Kathleen?"
"You, certainly; who else could I mean when I ask you the question?"
"Why, I never promised to vote for Vanston," he replied; "an' what is more—but who said I did?"
"On the day before yesterday," she proceeded, "two gentlemen came to our house to canvass votes, and they stated plainly that you had promised to vote for them—that is for Vanston."
"Well, Kathleen, all I can say is, that the statement is not true. I didn't promise for Vanston, and they did not even ask me. Are you satisfied now? or whether will you believe them or me?"
"I am satisfied, dear Bryan; I am more than satisfied; for my heart is easy. Misfortune! what signifies mere misfortune, or the loss of a beggarly farm?"
"But, my darling Kathleen, it is anything but a beggarly farm."
Kathleen, however, heard him not, but proceeded. "What signifies poverty, Bryan, or struggle, so long as the heart is right, and the conscience clear and without a spot? Nothing—oh, nothing! As God is to judge me, I would rather beg my bread with you as an honest man, true, as I said awhile ago, to your God and your religion, than have an estate by your side, if you could prove false to either."
The vehemence with which she uttered these sentiments, and the fire which animated her whole mind and manner, caused them to pause again, and Bryan, to whom this high enthusiasm was perfectly new, now saw with something like wonder, that the tears were flowing down her cheeks.
He caught her hand and said "My own darling Kathleen, the longer I know you the more I see your value; but make your mind easy; when I become a traitor to either God or my religion, you may renounce me!"
"Don't be surprised at these tears, Bryan; don't, my dear Bryan; for you may look upon them as a proof of how much I love you, and what I would feel if the man I love should do anything unworthy, or treacherous, to his religion or his suffering country."
"How could I," he replied, "with my own dear Kathleen, that will be a guardian angel to me, to advise and guide me? Well, now that your mind is aisy, Kathleen, mine I think is brighter, too. I have no doubt but we'll be happy yet—at least I trust in God we will. Who knows but everything may prove betther than our expectations; and as you say, they may make a poor man of me, and ruin me, but so long as I can keep my good name, and am true to my country, and my God, I can never complain."
CHAPTER XVII.—Interview between Hycy and Finigan
—The Former Propones for Miss Clinton—A love Scene
Hycy, after his conversation with Bryan M'Mahon, felt satisfied that he had removed all possible suspicion from himself, but at the same time he ransacked his mind in order to try who it was that had betrayed him to Bryan. The Hogans he had no reason to suspect, because from experience he knew them to be possessed of a desperate and unscrupulous fidelity, in excellent keeping with their savage character; and to suspect Teddy Phats, was to suppose that an inveterate and incurable smuggler would inform upon him. After a good deal of cogitation, he at length came to the conclusion that the school-master, Finigan, must have been the traitor, and with this impression he resolved to give that worthy personage a call upon his way home. He found him as usual at full work, and as usual, also, in that state which is commonly termed half drunk, a state, by the way, in which the learned pedagogue generally contrived to keep himself night and day. Hycy did not enter his establishment, but after having called him once or twice to no purpose—for such was the din of the school that his voice could not penetrate it—he at length knocked against the half open door, which caused him to be both seen and heard more distinctly. On seeing him, the school-master got to his limbs, and was about to address him, when Hycy said—
"Finigan, I wish to speak a few words to you."
"O'Finigan, sir—O'Finigan, Mr. Burke. It is enough, sir, to be deprived of our hereditary territories, without being clipped of our names; they should lave us those at all events unmutilated. O'Finigan, therefore, Mr. Burke, whenever you address me, if you plaise."
"Well, Mr. O'Finigan," continued Hycy, "if not inconvenient, I should wish to speak a few words with you."
"No inconvenience in the world, Mr. Burke; I am always disposed to oblige my friends whenever I can do so wid propriety. My advice, sir, my friendship, and my purse, are always at their service. My advice to guide them—my friendship to sustain—and my purse—hem!—ha, ha, ha—I think. I may clap a payriod or full stop there," he added, laughing, "inasmuch as the last approaches very near to what philosophers term a vacuum or nonentity. Gintlemen," he proceeded, addressing the scholars, "I am going over to Lanty Hanratty's for a while to enjoy a social cup wid Mr. Burke here, and as that fact will cause the existence of a short interegnum, I now publicly appoint Gusty Carney as my locum tenens until I resume the reins of government on my return. Gusty, put the names of all offenders down on a slate, and when I return 'condign' is the word; an' see, Gusty—mairk me well—no bribery—no bread nor buttons, nor any other materials of corruption from the culprits—otherwise you shall become their substitute in the castigation, and I shall teach you to look one way and feel another, my worthy con-disciple."
"Now, Finigan—I beg your pardon—O'Finigan," said Hycy, when they were seated in the little back tap-room of the public-house with refreshments before them, "I think I have reason to be seriously displeased with you."
"Displeased with me!" exclaimed his companion; "and may I take the liberty to interrogate wherefore, Mr. Hycy?"
"You misrepresented me to Bryan M'Mahon," said Hycy.
"Upon what grounds and authority do you spake, sir?" asked Finigan, whose dignity was beginning to take offence.
"I have good grounds and excellent authority for what I say," replied Hycy. "You have acted a very dishonorable part, Mr. Finigan, and the consequence is that I have ceased to be your friend."
"I act a dishonorable part. Why, sir, I scorn the imputation; but how have I acted a dishonorable part? that's the point."
"You put Bryan M'Mahon upon his guard against me, and consequently left an impression on his mind that I was his enemy."
"Well," said the other, with a good deal of irony, "that is good! Have I, indeed? And pray, Mr. Burke, who says so?"
"I have already stated that my authority for it is good."
"But you must name you authority, sir, no lurking assassin shall be permitted wid impunity to stab my fair reputation wid the foul dagger of calumny and scandal. Name your authority, sir?"
"I could do so."
"Well, sir, why don't you? Let me hear the name of the illiterate miscreant, whoever he is, that has dared to tamper with my unblemished fame."
"All I ask you," continued Hycy, "is to candidly admit the fact, and state why you acted as you did."
"Name your authority, sir, and then I shall speak. Perhaps I did, and perhaps I did not; but when you name your authority I shall then give you a more satisfactory reply. That's the language—the elevated language—of a gentleman, Mr. Burke."
"My authority then is no other than Bryan M'Mahon himself," replied Hycy, "who told me that he was cautioned against me; so that I hope you're now satisfied."
"Mr. Burke," replied Finigan, assuming a lofty and impressive manner, "I have known the M'Mahons for better than forty years; so, in fact, has the country around them; and until the present moment I never heard that a deliberate falsehood, or any breach of truth whatsoever, was imputed to any one of them. Tom M'Mahon's simple word was never doubted, and would pass aquil to many a man's oath; and it is the same thing wid the whole family, man and women. They are proverbial, sir, for truth and integrity, and a most spontaneous effusion of candor under all circumstances. You will pardon me then, Mr. Hycy, if I avow a trifle of heresy in this matter. You are yourself, wid great respect be it spoken, sometimes said to sport your imagination occasionally, and to try your hand wid considerable success at a lapsus veritatis. Pardon me, then, if I think it somewhat more probable that you have just now stated what an ould instructor of mine used to call a moral thumper; excuse me, I say; and at all events I have the pleasure of drinking your health; and if my conjecture be appropriate, here's also a somewhat closer adhesion to the veritas aforesaid to you!"
"Do you mean to insinuate that I'm stating what is not true?" said Burke, assuming an offended look, which, however, he did not feel.
"No, sir," replied Finigan, retorting his look with one of indignant scorn, "far be it from me to insinuate any such thing. I broadly, and in all the latitudinarianism of honest indignation, assert that it is a d—d lie, begging your pardon, and drinking to your moral improvement a second time; and ere you respond to what I've said, it would be as well, in order to have the matter copiously discussed, if you ordhered in a fresh supply of liquor, and help yourself, for, if the proverb be true—in vino veritas—there it is again, but truth will be out, you see—who knows but we may come to a thrifle of it from you yet? Ha! ha! ha! Excuse the jest, Mr. Hycy. You remember little Horace,—
"'Quid vetat ridentem dicere verum?'"
"Do you mean to say, sirra," said Hycy, "that I have stated a lie?"
"I mean to say that whoever asserts that I misrepresented you in any way to Bryan M'Mahon, or ever cautioned him against you, states a lie of the first magnitude—a moral thumper, of gigantic dimensions."
"Well, will you tell me what you did say to him?"
"What I did say," echoed Finigan. "Well," he added, after a pause, during which he I surveyed Hycy pretty closely—having now discovered that he was, in fact, only proceeding upon mere suspicion—"I believe I must acknowledge a portion of the misrepresentation. I must, on secondary consideration, plead guilty to that fact."
"I thought as much," said Hycy.
"Here then—," proceeded Finigan, with a broad and provoking grin upon his coarse but humorous features, "here, Mr. Hycy, is what I did say—says I, 'Bryan, I have a word to say to you, touching an accomplished young gentleman, a friend of yours.'
"'What is that?' asked the worthy Beit-nardus.
"'It is regarding the all-accomplished Mr. Hyacinthus Burke,' I replied, 'who is a homo-factus ad unguem. Mr. Burke, Bryan,' I proceeded, 'is a gentleman in the—hem—true sense of that word. He is generous, candid, faithful, and honest; and in association wid all his other excellent qualities, he is celebrated, among the select few who know him best, for an extraordinary attachment to—truth.' Now, if that wasn't misrepresentation, Mr. Hycy, I don't know what was. Ha! ha! ha!"
"You're half drunk," replied Hycy, "or I should rather say whole drunk, I think, and scarcely know what you're saying; or rather, I believe you're a bit of a knave, Mr. O'Finigan."
"Thanks, sir; many thanks for the prefix. Proceed."
"I have nothing more to add," replied Hycy, rising up and preparing to go.
"Ay," said Finigan, with another grin, "a bit of a knave, am I? Well, now, isn't it better to be only a bit of a knave than a knave all out—a knave in full proportions, from top to toe, from head to heel—like some accomplished gentlemen that I have the! honor of being acquainted wid. But in the I meantime, now, don't be in a hurry, man alive, nor look as if you were fatted on vinegar. Sit down again; ordher in another libation, and I shall make a disclosure that will be worth your waiting for."
"You shall have the libation, as you call it, at all events," said Hycy, resuming his seat, but feeling, at the same time, by no means satisfied with the lurking grin which occasionally played over Finigan's features.
After much chat and banter, and several attempts on the part of Hycy to insinuate himself into the pedagogue's confidence, he at length rose to go. His companion was now in that state which strongly borders on inebriety, and he calculated that if it were possible to worm anything out of him, he was now in the best condition for it. Every effort, however, was in vain; whenever he pressed the schoolmaster closely, the vague, blank expression of intoxication disappeared for a moment, and was replaced by the broad, humorous ridicule, full of self-possession and consciousness, which always characterized Finigan, whether drunk or sober. The man was naturally cunning, and ranked among a certain class of topers who can be made drunk to a certain extent, and upon some particular subjects, but who, beyond that, and with these limitations, defy the influence of liquor.
Hycy Burke was one of those men who, with smart and showy qualities and great plausibility of manner, was yet altogether without purpose or steadfast principle in the most ordinary affairs of life. He had no fixed notions upon either morals, religion, or politics; and when we say so, we may add, that he was equally without motive—that is, without adequate motive, in almost everything he did.
The canvass was now going on with great zeal on the part of Chevydale and Vanston. Sometimes Hycy was disposed to support the one and sometimes the other, but as to feeling a firm attachment to the cause or principles of either, it was not in his nature.
Indeed, the approach of a general election was at all times calculated to fill the heart of a thinking man with a strong sense of shame for his kind, and of sorrow for the unreasoning and brutal tendency to slavery and degradation which it exhibits. Upon this occasion the canvass, in, consequence of the desperate struggle that must ensue, owing to the equality of the opposing forces, was a remarkably early one. Party feeling and religious animosity, as is usual, ran very high, each having been made the mere stalking-horse or catchword of the rival candidates, who cared nothing, or at least very little, about the masses on either side, provided always that they could turn them to some advantage.
It was one morning after the canvass had been going forward with great activity on both sides for about a week, that Hycy, who now felt himself rather peculiarly placed, rode down to Clinton's for the purpose of formally paying his addresses to the gauger's interesting niece, and, if possible, ascertaining his fate from her own lips. His brother Edward had now been brought home in accordance with the expressed determination of his father, with whom he was, unquestionably, a manifest favorite, a circumstance which caused Hycy to detest him, and also deprived him in a great degree of his mother's affection. Hycy had now resolved to pay his devoirs to Kathleen Cavanagh, as a dernier resort, in the event of his failing with Miss Clinton; for, as regarding affection, he had no earthly conception what it I meant. With this view he rode down to Clinton's as we said, and met Harry coming out of the stable.
"Harry," said he, after his horse was put I up, "I am about to ask an interview with your sister."
"I don't think she will grant it," replied her brother, "you are by no means a favorite; with her; however, you can try; perhaps she may. You know the old adage, 'varium et imutabile semper.' Who knows but she may have changed her mind?"
"Is your uncle within?" asked Hycy.
"No," replied his nephew, "he's gone to Fethertonge's upon some election business."
"Could you not contrive," said Hycy, "to leave her and me together, then, and allow me to ascertain what I am to expect?"
"Come in," said Harry—"never say it again. If I can I will."
Hycy, as we have stated before, had vast confidence in his own powers of persuasion; and general influence with women, and on this occasion, his really handsome features were made vulgar by a smirk of self-conceit which he could not conceal, owing to his natural vanity and a presentiment of success that is almost inseparable from persons of his class, who can scarcely look even upon the most positive and decided rejection by a woman as coming seriously from her heart. Even Harry Clinton himself, though but a young man, thought, as he afterwards stated to his sister, that he never saw Hycy have so much the appearance of a puppy as upon that occasion. As had been proposed, he withdrew, however, and the lover being left in the drawing-room with Miss Clinton began, with a simper that was rather coxcombical, to make allusions to the weather, but in such a way as if there was some deep but delightful meaning veiled under his commonplaces. At length he came directly to the 'point.
"But passing from the weather, Miss Clinton, to a much more agreeable topic, permit me to ask if you have ever turned your thoughts upon matrimony?"
The hectic of a moment, as Sterne. says, accompanied by a look that slightly intimated displeasure, or something like it, was the only reply he received for a quarter of a minute, when she said, after the feeling probably had passed away—"No, indeed, Mr. Burke, I have not."
"Come, come, Miss Clinton," said Hycy, with another smirk, "that won't pass. Is it not laid down by the philosophers that you think of little else from the time you are marriageable?"
"By what philosophers?"
"Why, let me see—by the philosophers in general—ha! ha! ha!"
"I was not aware of that," she replied; "but even if they have so ruled it, I see no inference we can draw from that, except their ignorance of the subject."
"It is so ruled, however," said Hycy, "and philosophy is against you."
"I am willing it should, Mr. Burke, provided we have truth with us."
"Very good, indeed, Miss Clinton—that was well said; but, seriously, have you ever thought of marriage?"
"Doesn't philosophy say that we seldom think of anything else?" she replied, smiling. Ask philosophy, then."
"But this really is a subject in which I feel a particular interest—a personal interest; but, as for philosophy, I despise it—that is as it is usually understood. The only philosophy of life is love, and that is my doctrine."
"Is that your only doctrine?"
"Pretty nearly; but it is much the same as that which appears in the world under the different disguises of religion."
"I trust you do not mean to assert that love and religion are the same thing, Mr. Burke?"
"I do; the terms are purely convertible. Love is the universal religion of man, and he is most religious who feels it most; that is your only genuine piety. For instance, I am myself in a most exalted state of that same piety this moment, and have been so for a considerable time past."
Miss Clinton felt a good deal embarrassed by the easy profligacy that was expressed in these sentiments, and she made an effort to change the subject.
"Are you taking part in the canvass which is going on in the country, Mr. Burke?"
"Not much," said he; "I despise politics as much as I cherish the little rosy god; but really, Miss Clinton, I feel anxious to know your opinions on marriage, and you have not stated them. Do you not think the nuptial state the happiest?"