11

How Kyrle Daly Has the Good Luck to See a Staggeen-Race

THE SIGNAL was given—and the six horsemen started in good order, and with more zeal and eagerness in their faces than was to be found in the limbs of the animals which they bestrode. For a few moments the strife seemed doubtful, and Victory hovered, with an indecisive wing, now over one helmet, and now over another. The crowd of spectators, huddling together on a heap, with faces that glowed and eyes that sparkled with intense interest, encouraged the riders with shouts and exclamations of hoarse and vehement applause. "Success! success, Jerry!" "Its done; a half-pint wit you, Dan Hogan wins!" "I depend my life upon John O'Reilly." "Give her a loose, Lowry:" and other expressions of a similar nature.

    But ere they again came round the winning-post, the position of the horses was altered. O'Reilly rode in front, lashing his horse in the flank with as much force as if he were pounding on his own anvil. Dooley the nailer came close behind, drubbing his black mare's lean ribs with the calves of his legs as if designing to beat the poor beast out of the last remnant of her wind. The others followed, lashing their horses and one another, each abusing his neighbour in the grossest terms, all except Lowry Looby, who prudently kept out of harm's way, keeping a loose in his hand, and giving the hair-cutter's mare the advantage of what jockies term a sob, a relief, indeed, of which the poor creature stood in the utmost need. He was thus prepared to profit by the accident which followed. The blacksmith's grey horse started at a heap of sea-weed, and suffered the nailer's mare to come down like a thunderbolt upon his haunches. Both steeds fell, and the process-server, who rode on their heels, falling foul of them as they lay kicking on the sand, was compelled to share in their prostration. This accident produced among the fallen heroes a series of kicks and bruises in which the horses were not idle. O'Reilly, clenching his hand, hit the nailer a straight-forward blow between the eyes, which so effectually interfered with the exercise of those organs, that he returned the favour with a powerful thrust in the abdomen of his own prostrate steed. For this good office he was rewarded by the indignant quadruped with a kick over the right ear which made it unnecessary to inflict a second, and the quarrel remained between the process-server and blacksmith, who pummelled one another as if they were pounding flax, and with as much satisfaction as if they had never got drunk together in their lives. They were at length separated, and borne from the ground all covered with blood and sand, while their horses with much difficulty were set upright on their legs, and led off to the neighbouring slope.

    In the meantime, our party observed Lowry Looby returning from the winning-post under the protection of Mr. Cregan, with the saddle torn to fritters between his hands, and his person exhibiting tokens of severe ill-usage. He had contrived to outstrip the mountaineers, and obtained the prize; but the adverse factions, irritated at beholding their laurels flourishing on a stranger's brow, had collected around and dragged him from his horse, alleging that it was an unfair heat, and that there should be a second trial. Mr. Cregan, however; with some exertion succeeded in rescuing Lowry from their hands; but not until every man in the crowd had put a mark upon him by which he might be easily distinguished at any future meeting.

    Tired of the deafening uproar that surrounded him, and longing for retirement, that he might brood at leisure over his disappointment, Kyrle Daly now left the course, notwithstanding the invitation of Anne Chute, that he would return and dine at the Castle. His intention was, to spend the night at the Cottage on one of his father's dairy-farms, which lay at the distance of a few miles lower on the river side; and where one neat room was always kept in order for his use, whenever he joined Hardress Cregan in a shooting excursion towards the mouth of the stream. Hardress had promised to visit him at this cottage, a few weeks before, and as he knew that his young friend must have come to an anchor in waiting for the tide, he judged it not unlikely that he might see him this very night. He had now an additional reason for desiring to hold conversation with Hardress, in order that he might receive the consolations of his friendship, under his own disappointment; and, if possible, obtain some knowledge of the true condition of his mistress's affections.

    Lowry Looby, once more reduced to his legs, followed him at a distance somewhat more considerable than that recommended by Dean Swift as proper to be observed by gentlemen's gentlemen. He lingered only to restore the mare to Foxy Dunat, presenting him at the same time with the mutilated saddle, and obstinately declining the hair-cutter's proposal of "trating him to the best that the Cat an' Bagpipes could afford." After which conversatiun the two friends threw their arms about each other's neck, kissed, as in France, and separated.

    The night had fallen before Kyrle alighted at the cottage door. Mrs. Frawley, the dairy-woman, had been provident enough to light a fire in the little yellow room, and to place beside it the arm-chair and small painted table, with the volume of Blackstone which her young master was accustomed to look into in the evening. The night, she observed "was smart enough to make an air o' the fire no unpleasant thing; and even if it were not cold, a fire was company when one would be alone that way." With equal foresight, she had prepared the materials for a tolerable dinner, such as a hungry man might not contemn without trial. Whether it were the mere effect of custom, or an indication of actual and unromantic appetite, the eye of our desponding lover was not displeased, on entering the little parlour, to see the table decorated with a snow-white damask cloth, a cooler of the sweetest butter, a small cold ham, and an empty space which he knew to be destined for a roast duck or chickens. There is no time at which the heart is more disposed to estimate in a proper light the comforts of home and a quiet fire-side, than when it has experienced some severe rejection in society, and it was with the feeling of one who after much and harrassing annoyance, encounters a sudden refuge, that our drooping traveller flung himself into the chair, and exclaimed in the words of Oriana:


    "Though but a shadow, but a sliding.
        Let me know some little joy,
        We that suffer long annoy,
        Are contented with a thought,
        Through an idle fancy wrought,
    Oh, let my joys have some abiding!"

    While Mrs. Frawley superintended the dressing of the fowl in the kitchen, much wondering at the forlorn and absent air with which her officious attentions were received by the young collegian, that meditative gentleman was endeavouring to concentrate his attention on the pages of the learned work that lay before him. His eyes wandered over the concise and lucid detail of the reciprocal rights and duties of baron and feme; but what purpose could this answer, except to remind him that he could never claim the lovely Anne Chute as his femme, nor would the lovely Anne Chute consent to acknowledge him as her baron. He closed the volume, and laying it on the little chimney-piece resumed his mood of settled meditation by the fire.

    The silence of the place was favourable to that sort of drowsy musing in which the mind delights to repose its energies after any strong and passionate excitement. There was no effort made to invite or pursue a particular train of reflection; but those thoughts which lay nearest to the heart, those memories, hopes, fears, and wishes, with which they were most intimately associated passed in long and still procession before his mind. It was a dreary and funereal train to witness, but yet the lover found a luxurious indulgence in its contemplation. He remained gazing on the fire, with his hand supporting his temple, until every crackling turf and fagot became blended in his thoughts with the figures which his memory called up from the past, or his fancy created for the future.

    While he leaned thus silent in his chair, he overheard in the adjoining kitchen a conversation, which for the moment diverted his attention from the condition of his own fortunes.

    "Whereto are you running in such a hurry, Mary?" said Mrs. Frawley, "One would think it was for the seed o' the fire you come. Sit down again."

    "O wisha," said a strange voice, "I'm tired from sitting. Is it to look after the butter Mr. Kyrle is come down to ye?"

    "Oyeh, no. He doesn't meddle in them things at all. If he did, we'd have a bad story to tell him. You'll burn that dock, Nelly, if you don't mind it."

    "Why so, a bad story, Mrs. Frawley?"

    "I'll tell you, Mary. I don't know what the reason of it is, but our butter is going from us this two months now. I'd almost take the vestment* of it, that Mr. Euright's dairyman, Bill Noonan, made a pishog* and took away' our butter."

    "Oyeh!"

    "What else, what would become of it? Sure Bill himself told me they had double their compliment last week, at a time when, if we were to break our hearts churning from this till Doomsday, we could get nothing but the buttermilk in the latter end."

    "Did you watch your cows last May-eve, to see that nobody milked 'em from you?"

    "I did to be sure. I sat up until twelve o'clock, to have the first milk myself: for Shaun Lauther, the fairy doctor; told me that if another milked 'em that night, she'd have their butter the whole year round. And what good was it for me? I wouldn't wonder if old Moll Noonan had a hand in it."

    "Nor I neither. They say she's a witch. Did I ever tell you what Davy Neal's wife did to her of a time?"

    "Not as I know."

    "The same way as with yourself, the butter, no, 'tisn't the butter, but the milk itself, was going from Katty Neal, although her little cow was a kind Kerry, and had the best of grazing. Well, she went, as you done, to Shaun Lauther, the knowledgeable man, and put a half-a-crown into his hand, and asked his advice. Well! 'Tell me,' says Shaun, 'were you at Moll Noonan's yesterday?' 'I was,' says Kate. 'And did you see a hair spancel hanging over the chimney?' says he. 'I did see that too,' says Kate. 'Well,' says Shaun, 'tis out of that spancel that Mull do be milking your cows every night, by her own chimney corner, and you breaking your heart at a dry udder the same time.' 'And what am I to do?' says Kate; 'I'll tell you,' says he. 'Go home and redden this horse-shoe in the fire, and observe when you're milking, that a grey cat will sit by you on the bawn. Just strike her with the red shoe, and your business will be done.' Well, she did his bidding. She saw the grey cat, and burnt her with the shoe, till she flew screeching over the hedge.

    "O, murther, hadn't she the courage?"

    "She had. Well, the next day she went to Moll Noonan's, and found her keeping her bed, with a great scald, she said she got from a pot of boiling water she had down for scalding the keelers. Ayeh, thought Kate, I know what ails you well, my old lady. But she said nothing, and I'll engage she had the fine can o' milk from her cows next morning."

    "Well, she was a great girl."

    "A', what should ail her?" said Nelly, the servant wench, who was employed in turning the duck, "I remember Jug Flannigan, the cooper's wife, above, was in the same way', losing all her butter, and she got it again, by putten' a taste o' the last year's butter into the churn, before churning, along with the crame, and into every keeler in the house. Here, Mrs. Frawley, will you have an eye to the spit a minute, while I go look at them hens in the coob abroad? Master Kyrle might like a fresh egg fur his tay, an' I hear them clockin'."

    "Do then, Nell, a'ragal, and, as you're going, turn in the turkeys, for the wind is rising, and I'm in dread it will be a bad night."

    A loud knocking at the door was the next sound that invaded the ear of Kyrle Daly. The bolt flew back, and a stranger rushed in, while at the same moment, a gust of wind and rain dashed the door with violence against the wall, and caused a cloud of smoke and ashes to penetrate even to the room in which he sat.

    "Shut out the doore! shut out the doore!" screamed Mrs. Frawley, "The duck will be all destroyed from the ashes. A', Lowry, what kep you till now?"

    "Oh, let me alone woman,' exclaimed Lowry, in a loud and agitated voice,

    "Where's himself? Where's Master Kyrle?"

    "Sitting in the parlour within.—"What's the matter, eroo?"

    Without making any reply, Lowry Louby presented himself at the parlour door, and waving his hand with much force, exclaimed, "Come out! come out, Masther Kyrle! There's the Nora Creina abroad just going down, an' every soul aboard of her. She never will retch the shore! O vo! vo! 'tis frightful to see the swell that's round her. The Lord in his mercy sthretch out his hand upon the wathers, this fearful night!"

    Kyrle started up in alarm, snatched his hat, and rushed out of the room, not paying any attention to the recommendation of Mrs. Frawley, that he would throw the frieze riding coat over his shoulders before he went out in the rain. Lowry Looby, with many ejaculations of terror and of compassiun, followed his master to the shore, within a gun-shot of which the cottage was situated. They arrested their steps on a rocky point, which, jutting far into the river, commanded a wide prospect on either side. It was covered with wet sea-weed and shell-fish, and afforded a slippery footing to the young collegian and his squire. A small fishing-boat lay at anchor on the leeward side of the point, and her crew, consisting of a swarthy old man and a youth, were standing on the shore, and watching the pleasure-boat with much interest.










 







*Swear on the priest's vestment.

















* A mystic rite, by which one person is enabled to make a supernatural transfer of his neighbour's butter into his own churns. This failure and diminution of butter at different times, from the poverty of the cream, appears so unaccountable, that the country people can only attribute it to witchcraft; and those dairy superstitions have prevailed to a similar degree in the country parts of England. In The Devil is an Ass, his Satanic Majesty is thus made to jest on the petty mischief of his imp, Pug, who seeks a month's furlough to the earth:


    ______"You have some plot now,
    Upon a tunning of ale, to stale the yeast,
    Or keep the churn so that the earth come not,
    Spite of the housewife's cord and her hot spit."