How Kyrle Daly Sped in His Wooing
None of the company knew, or indeed cared to be informed, what the nature was of the conversation which had passed between Miss Chute and her young escort, on the road. They observed, however, when the curricle drew up, that Kyrle looked pale and flurried, and that his manner was absent; while that of his fair companion was marked by an unusual degree of seriousness, not unmingled with confusion.
"What!" exclaimed Cregan, "you look as ruffled as if you had been sparring. Get your hutts in order, then, for you must be set again before you come to the ground. You have a quarter of a mile through the fields to travel yet."
"Why, uncle, does not the road sweep by it?"
"No nearer than I tell you; and the curricle can go no farther. Come, Creagh, give my niece her little hunter, and walk with me across the fields. Mr. Daly, I resign your seat to you once more. A pretty stepping thing this is of yours. I'd like to see her tried with ten or twelve stone weight at a steeple chase."
"Do not," said Kyrle, in a low and earnest tone, addressing Anne Chute, "do not I entreat of you, deprive me of this last opportunity. I would give the world for a minute's conversation."
"I believe I shall walk, uncle," said the young lady with some hesitation, "and Mr. Daly is kind enough to say he will accompany me on foot."
"With all my heart," cried the cock-fighter. "I remember the time, Daly, when I would not have given up a walk through the fields with a fine girl on a sunshiny evening, for all the races in Munster. If Hepton Connolly be on the ground, as his insolent groom tells me he is, I will make him keep the Staggeens at the starting post until you come up."
So saying, he rode on with the ci-devant sweater, to overtake the doctor and captain, who he observed, had grown as thick as two pick pockets, since morning. "I am afraid," said Kyrle, with a mixture of dignity and dissappointment in his manner, "I am afraid, Miss Chute, that you will think this importunate, after what you have already told me. But that rejection was so sudden—I will not say so unexpected—that I cannot avoid entering more at length into the subject. Besides, it may, it must be a long time before we shall meet again."
"I am sorry you should think that necessary, Mr. Daly," said Anne, "I always liked you as a friend, and there is not a person I know whose society, in that light, I could prize more highly; but if you think it necessary to your own peace of mind, to remain away from us, it would be very unreasonable in me to murmur. Yet, I think, and hope." she added, affecting a smiling air as she looked round upon him, "that it will not be long before we shall see you again with altered sentiments, and a mind as much at ease as ever."
"You do me wrong, Anne!" said Kyrle with sudden passion. "I am not so ignorant of my own character as to suppose that possible. No, Miss Chute. This is not with me a boyish fancy—a predilection suddenly formed, and capable of being just as suddenly laid aside. If you had said this last summer, a few weeks after I first saw you, the remark perhaps might have been made with justice. I knew little of you then, besides your beauty, your talents, and your accomplishments; and I will say, in justice to myself, that those qualities, in any women, never could so deeply fix or interest me as to produce any lasting disquiet in my mind. But our acquaintance has been since too much prolonged. I have seen you too often—I have known you too well—I have loved you too deeply, and too sincerely, to feel this disappointment as any thing less than a dreadful stroke. Let me entreat of you," he continued with increasing warmth, and disregarding the efforts which Miss Chute made to interrupt him, "let me implore you to recall that hasty negative. You said you were unprepared—that you did not expect such a proposal from me. I do not press you to an answer at this moment; the torture of suspense itself is preferable to absolute despair. Say you will think of it, say anything rather than at once decide on my—destruction, I cannot but call it."
"I must not, I will not act with so much injustice," said Anne, who was considerably distressed by the depth of feeling that was evident in her lover's voice and manner. "I should be treating you most unfairly, Mr. Daly, if I did so. It is true that I did not expect such a declaration as you have made, not in the least; but my decision is taken notwithstanding. It is impossible I can ever give you any other answer than you have already received. Do not, I will entreat of you in my turn, give way to any groundless expectations, any idea of a change in my sentiments on this subject. It is as impossible we should ever be united as if we lived in two separate planets."
The unhappy suitor looked the very image of pale and ghastly despair itself. His eye wandered, his cheek grew wan, and every muscle in his face quivered with passion. His words, for several moments, were so broken as to approach a degree of incoherency, and his knees trembled with a sickly faintness. He continued, nevertheless, to urge his addresses. Might he not be favoured with Miss Chute's reasons? Was there any thing in his own conduct? Any thing that might be altered? The dejection that was in his accents as well as in his appearance, touched and almost terrified his obdurate mistress, and she took some pains to alleviate his extreme despondency, without, however, affording the slightest ground for a hope which she felt could never be accomplished. The consolations which she employed, were drawn rather from the probability of a change in his sentiments than her own.
"You are not in a condition," she said, "to judge of the state of your own mind. Believe me, this depression will not continue as you seem to fear. The Almighty is too just to interweave any passion with our nature which it is not in the power of our reason to subdue."
"Aye, Anne," said Kyrle, "but there are some persons for whose happiness the struggle is quite sufficient. I am not so ignorant as you suppose of the effect of a disappointment like this. I know that it will not be at all times as violent and oppressive as I feel it at this moment; but I know, too, that it will be as lasting as life itself. I have often experienced a feeling of regret that amounted to actual pain, in looking back to years that have been distinguished by little beyond the customary enjoyments of boyhood. Imagine, then, if you can, whether I have not reason to apprehend the arrival of those hours when I shall sit alone in the evening, and think of the time that was spent in your society!"
Miss Chute heard this speech with a feeling of deep, and even sympathetic emotion. As Kyrle ventured to glance at her countenance, and observed the peculiar expression of her sorrow, the idea of a rival, which till that moment had not once occurred to him, now flashed upon his mind, and changed the current of his feelings to a new direction. The sentiment of jealousy was almost an useful stimulus, in the excessive dejection under which he laboured.
"Will you forgive me," he said, "and take the present state of my feelings as an apology, if there should be any thing offensive in the question I am about to ask you? There can be only one reason for my rejection which would save my pride the mortification of believing myself altogether unworthy. I should feel some consolation in knowing that my own misery was instrumental to your happiness; indeed, I should not think of breathing another word upon the subject, if I thought that your affections had been already engaged?"
The agitation seemed now to have passed over to the lady's side. Her brow became dark red, and then returned to more than its accustomed whiteness. "I have no other engagement," she said, after a pause—"If I had, I should think it hardly fair to press such an enquiry. But, I assure you, I have none. And since you have spoken of my own views in life, I will be more explicit and confess to you, that I do not at present think it is likely I shall ever contract any. I love my mother; and her society is all that I desire or hope to enjoy at present. Let me now entreat you, as a friend, for my sake as well as your own, never again to renew any conversation on this subject."
This was said in a tone of such decision, that Kyrle saw it would be impossible, without hazarding the loss of the young lady's friendship, to add another word of remonstrance, or of argument. Both, therefore, continued their walk in silence, nor did they exchange even an indifferent observation until they reached the summit of the little slope from which the course was visible.
Their thoughts, however, were not subjected to the same restriction, and the train of reflection in either case was not calculated to awaken envy.
She received my question with embarrassment, thought Kyrle, and she evaded a reply. I have a rival, it is evident, and a favoured, at least, if not a declared one.—WelI, if she is to be happy, I am content; but unquestionably the most miserable contented man upon the earth.
The lady's meditations also turned upon the same crisis in the conversation. All that I desire? she mentally repeated, quoting her own words to her rejected suitor. And have I so far conquered my own feelings as to be capable with perfect sincerity of making an assertion such as that? Or, if it be sincere, am I sure that I run no risk of disqualifying myself for retaining the same liberty of mind by accepting my uncle's invitation? But it is not possible, surely, that my peace should be endangered in the society of one who treats me with something more, and colder, than indifference itself; and if it were, my part is already taken, and it is now too late to retract. Poor Kyrle, he wastes his eloquence in exciting my commiseration for a state of mind with which I have been long and painfully conversant. If he knew how powerful a sympathy my own experience had awakened for him, he need not use an effort to encrease it.
A loud shout of welcome, sent forth in honour of the heiress of Castle Chute, and the lady patroness of the day's amusements, broke in upon these sombre meditations, and called the attention of that lady, and of her downcast escort, to a novel scene, and new performers.
Clamorem immensum tollit, quo pontus et omnes
Intremuere undae, penitusque exterrita tellus
The sounds of greeting then sank into a babbling murmur, and at last into a hush of expectation, similar to that with which Pasta is welcomed at the Italian opera when she comes forward to stop the mouths of the unintelligible chorus, and to thrill the bright assembly with the frantic sorrows of Medea.
The spot selected for the occasion, was the shore of a small bay, which was composed of a fine hard sand that afforded a very fair and level course for the horses. At the farther end was a lofty pole, on the top of which was suspended by the stirrup a new saddle, the destined guerdon of the conqueror. A red handkerchief, stripped from the neck of Dan Hourigan, the house carpenter, was hoisted over-head, and a crowd of country people, drest, notwithstanding the fineness of the day, in their heavy frieze great coats, stood round the winning-post, each faction being resolved to see justice done to its own representative in the match. A number of tents, composed of old sheets, bags and blankets, with a pole at the entrance, and a sheaf of reed, a broken bottle, or a sod of turf erected for a sign, were discernible among the multitude that thronged the side of the little rising ground before mentioned. High above the rest Mick Normile's sign-board waved in the rising wind. Busy was the look of that lean old man, as he bustled to and fto among his pigs, kegs, mugs, pots and porringers. A motley mass of felt hats, white muslin caps and ribbands, scarlet cloaks, and blue riding jocks, filled up the spaces between the tents, and moved in a continual series of involutions, whirls and eddies, like those which are observable on the surface of a fountain newly filled. The horses were to start from the end of the bay, opposite to the winning-post, go round Mick Normile's tent, and the cowel on the hill side, and returning to the place from whence they came, run straight along the sand for the saddle. This was to be the victor's prize,
Hic, qui fortè velint rapido contendere cursu,
Invitat pretiis animos, et premia ponit.
The solatia victo were to be had at the rate of four-pence a tumbler, at Mick Normile's tent. A rejected lover can hardly be supposed to have any predilection for the grotesque. Kyrle Daly however, observing that Miss Chute made an effort to appear disembarrassed, and feeling, in the sincerity of his affection, a sentiment of grief for the uneasiness he had occasioned her, compelled himself to assume the appearance of his usual good humour, and entered with some animation into the spirit of the scene. Captain Gibson, who now approached them on foot, could not, with the recollections of Ascot and Doncaster fresh in his mind, refrain from a roar of laughter at almost every object he beheld,—at the condition of the horses; the serious and important look of the riders; the Teniers appearance of the whole course; the band, consisting simply of a blind fiddler with a piece of listing about his waist and another about his old hat; the self-importance of the stewards, Tim Welsh the baker, and Batt Kennedy the poet or janius of the village, as they went in a jog trot round the course, collecting shilling subscriptions to the saddle from all who appeared on horseback.
"Well, Anne," said Mr. Cregan, riding up to the group, "we have lost three of our company. Hepton Connolly is gone off to fight a duel with some fellow from the mountains that called him a scoundrel, and taken Creagh with him for a second. That's the lad that'1l see them properly set. Doctor Leake has followed for the purpose of stopping up any holes they may happen to make in one another, so we have all the fun to ourselves. If the doctor had staid, we should have had so many accounts of the sports of Tailton and all that. He is a very learned little man, the doctor, I don't suppose there's so long a head in the county; but he talks too much. Captain, I see you laugh a great deal, but you mustn't laugh at our girls, though; there are some pretty bits o' muslin there, I can tell you."
"I like them uncommonly," said the Captain, "their dress, in particular, I think very becoming. The muslin cap, with a ribband tied under the chin and a pretty knot above, is a very simple and rural head dress. And the scarlet cloak and hood, which seems to be a favourite article of costume, gives a gay and flashy air to their rustic assemblies. Look at that girl, now, with the black eyes, on the bank, what a pretty, modest dress that is! A handkerchief pinned across the bosom, a neat figured gown, and check apron; but what demon whispered her to case her little feet in black worsted stockings and brogues?"
"They are better than the clouted shoes of the continent," said Anne, "and durability must sometimes be preferred to appearance.
"Why that's Syl Carney, Anne," exclaimed Cregan.
"It is, sir. She has seen her beau somewhere on the course, I will venture to say.
A roar of laughter from Captain Gibson here attracted their attention. "Look at that comical fellow on horseback," he cried, "did you ever see such a pair of long legs with so small a head. A fire-tongs would sit a horse as well. And observe the jaunty way he carries the little head, and his nods and winks at the girls. That's an excruciating fellow! And the arms, the short arms, how the fellow gathers up the bridle and makes the lean animal hold up his head and jog airily forward. Is that fellow really going to run for the stake?"
Kyrle Daly ttirned his eyes in the same direction, and suffered them to dilate with an expression of astonishment, when he beheld his own saucy squire seated upon the hair-cutter's mare, and endeavouring to screen himself from his master's observation by keeping close to the side of Batt Kennedy, the janius; while the latter recited aloud a violent satire which he had made upon a rival versifier in the neighbourhood. In fact, Lowry Looby, understanding that Syl Carney was to be at the course, and wishing to cut a figure in her eyes, had coaxed Foxy Dunat "out of the loand of his mare for one hate," while that indifferent equestrian refreshed his galled person with a "soft sate," on the green sod in Mick Normile's tent.
Mr. Cregan here left the party, with the view of assuming his place as judge of the course at the winning-post; while the staggeens with their riders moved forward surrounded by a dense arid noisy crowd to the starting post near the elevation that was occupied by our three friends. "We are at a loss here," said Miss Chute, "for a list, a list of this day's running horses, the colour of the rider and the rider's name!" (Here she imitated, with some liveliness, the accent of the boys who sell those bills at more regular fêtes of the kind.) "But you, Captain Gibson, seem to take an interest in the proceeding, and I am acquainted not only with the characters of the heroes who hold the reins, but with all the secret machinery of intrigue which is expected to interfere with the fair-dealing of the day; I will, therefore, if you please, let you into the most amusing parts of their history as they pass."
Captain Gibson, with a fresh burst of laughter, protested that "he would give the world for a peep into the social policy of an Irish village."
"Well, then," said Anne, assuming a Mock-Ossianic manner, "the first whom you see advancing, on that poor half-starved black mare with the great lump on her knee, and the hay rope for a saddle-girth, is Jerry Dooley, our village nailer, famed alike for his dexterity in shaping the heads of his brads and demolishing those of his acquaintances. Renowned in war is Jerry, I can tell you,—Gurtenaspig and Derrygortnacloghy re-echo with his fame. Next to him, on that spavined grey horse, rides John O'Reilly, our blacksmith, not less esteemed in arms, or rather in cudgels. Not silent, Captain Gibson, are the walks of Garryowen on the deeds of John O'Reilly, and the bogs of Ballinvoric quake when his name is mentioned. A strength of arm, the result of their habitual occupation, has rendered both these heroes formidable among the belligerent factions of the village, but the nailer is allowed a precedence. He is the great Achilles, O'ReilIy the Telemon Ajax of the neighbourhood. And to follow up my Homeric parallels, close behind him on that long-backed, ungroomed creature, with the unnameable colour, rides the crafty Ulysses of the assemblage, Dan Hogan the process-server. You may read something of his vocation in the sidelong glance of his eye and in the paltry deprecating air of his whole demeanour. He starts as if afraid of a blow whenever any one addresses him. As he is going to be married to Dooley's sister, it is apprehended by the O'Reillys that he will attempt to cross the blacksmith's mare, but the smoky Achilles, who gets drunk with him every Saturday night, has a full reliance on his friendship. Whether, however, Cupid or Bacchus will have the more powerful influence upon the process-server, is a question that I believe yet remains a mystery even to himself; and I suspect he will adopt the neutral part of doing all he can to win the saddle for himself. The two who ride abreast behind Hogan are mountaineers, of whose motives or intentions I am not aware; the sixth and last is Lowry Looby, a retainer of my friend Mr. Daly's, and the man whose appearance made you laugh so heartily a little while since. He is the only romantic individual of the match. He rides for love, and it is to the chatty disposition of the lady of his affections, our own housemaid, that I am indebted for all this information."
One would have thought the English officer was about to die with laughter several times during the course of this speech. He leaned, in the excess of his mirth, upon the shoulder of Kyrle Daly, who in spite of all his depression was compelled to join him, and placing his hand against his forehead—
" ——laughed, sans intermission,
An hour by the dial."
The mere force of sympathy compelled the lady and gentleman to lay aside for the moment their more serious reflections, and adapt their spirits to the scene before them. It seemed curious to Kyrle Daly, that slightly as he esteemed this new military acquaintance, he felt jealous for the moment of the influence thus exercised by the latter on the temper of Anne Chute, and wished at the time that it were in his power to laugh as heartily as Captain Gibson. But a huge diaphragm, though an useful possession in general society, is not one that is most likely to win the affections of a fine girl. In affairs of the heart your mere laugher is a fool to your thinker and sentimentalist.
Before the Captain could sufficiently recover himself to make his acknowledgments for the entertainment which Miss Chute had afforded him, a cry of "Clear the coorse! Clear the coorse!" resounded along the sand, and the two stewards, the baker and poet, came galloping round at a furious rate, laying about them stoutly with their cord-whips, while their horses scattered the sand and pebbles in all directions with their hoofs, and the stragglers were seen running off to the main body of the spectators to avoid a fate similar to that sustained by the victims of Jaggernaut, in that pious procession to which his Majesty's non-emancipating government so largely and so liberally contribute. "Clear the coorse!" shouted the baker, with as authoritative an accent as if he were King Pharaoh's own royal doughkneader. "Clear the coorse!" sung the melodious Batt Kennedy, the favourite of the muses, as he spurred his broken-winded Pegasus after the man of loaves; and of course, the course was cleared, and kept clear, less perhaps by the violence of Tim Welsh than the amenity of Batt Kennedy, who, though not a baker, was the more pithy and flowery orator of the two.