How the Two Friends Hold a Longer Conversation Together Than the Reader May Probably Approve
Having supplied the counterfeit Poll with every thing necessary for her immediate uses, Mrs. Frawley left her to make what changes she pleased in her dress, and went to look after the young gentlemen's dinner: as well as to prepare some refreshment for the weary Mrs. Naughten herself.
Scarcely had Mrs. Frawley departed, when a soft tapping at the room door announced the approach of another visitor. The lovely inconnue, whn was employed at the moment in arranging and drying her hair, felt her heart beat somewhat quickly and strongly at the sound. She threw back from her temples the wavy mass of gold that hung around them, and ran to the door with lips apart, and a flushed and eager cheek. "It is he!" she exclaimed to her own breast as she undid the bolt.
It was not he. The weather-worn, freckled face of the little hunch-back, was the first object that met her eyes. Between his hands he held a small trunk, the lid of which was studded with brass nails, forming the letters E. O'C.
"By a dale to do, Miss, I laid hoult o' dis," said Danny; "Lowry said, de letters didn't stand for Mr. Hardress at all, only one of 'em."
"Thank you, Danny. Where is your master?"
"Aten his dinner in de parlour wit Mr. Daly before a tunderen' big fire."
"Was Lowry speaking to you?"
"Did any body ever see him oderwise? I'll be bail he was so."
"But does he know——"
"I didn't hear him say a word about it," replied the little Lord, "an' I tink, if he knew, he'd tell."
"Well, Danny, will you find an opportunity of speaking to your master without being observed, and tell him that I wish to see him very much indeed. I am very uneasy, and he has not told me how long we are to stay here, or where we are to go next, or any thing. I feel quite lonesome, Danny, for it is the first evening I have ever spent alone in my life, I think." Here the poor young creature's lip quivered a little, and the water started into her eye.
"Never fear, ma gra hu! ma grein chree ho!" said Danny in a soothing tone, "I'll speak a word in his ear, an' he'll come to you. Dat I may never die in a frost if I wouldn't go from dis to Dublin to sarve you, next to Mr. Hardress himself."
He was as good as his word; and took an opportunity, while Hardress was giving him some directions about the boat, to mention the request of their gentle companion in the storm. The young gentleman enquired the situation of her room, and bade his servant say, that he would not fail to visit her, if only for a few minutes, before he retired to rest. It was necessary that the utmost caution should be observed to avoid awakening suspicion.
Kyrle Daly, in the mean time, was employed in manufacturing a capacious bowl of whiskey-punch by the parlour fire-side. Instead of the humble but capacious tumbler, or still more modern, small stone-china jug, over which, you, good Irish reader, are, probably, accustomed to solace your honest heart in a winter's evening, two glasses, more than a foot in height, were displayed upon the board, and seemed intended to meet the lips without the necessity of any assistance from the hand.
By one of those inconsistencies in our nature, on which it is idle to speculate, Kyrle Daly found a difficulty in getting into conversation with his friend, upon the very subject, on which, a few minutes before, he had longed for his advice and assistance. Hardress appeared to be in high, noisy, and even exulting spirits, the sound of which rang jarringly and harsh upon the ear of the disappointed lover. The uproar of his happy heart offended the languor of his young companion's mind, as the bustle of the city noon sounds strange and unfamiliar on a sick man's hearing.
Neither, perhaps, is there any subject to which young men of equal pretensions have a greater distaste than that of love-confidences one with another. If the tale be of a past and unhappy attachment, it is wearisome and annoying; and if it relate to a present and successful passion, a sentiment of jealousy is apt to invade the heart of the listener, while he is made to contemplate a picture of happiness, which, perhaps, the sternness of his own destiny has allowed him to contemplate as a picture only. A better test could scarcely be adopted, to distinguish a sincere and disinterested friendship from one of mere convenience, than a trial of patience on such a topic. It is true, indeed, that the incidents lately recorded afford reason to believe that Hardress Cregan was not one of those forlorn beings who are made:
"to love, and not to be loved again;"
but it is certain, nevertheless, that when Kyrle Daly first mentioned his having been at Castle-Chute, and driving Anne to the race-course, his manner was rather reserved and discouraging, than otherwise.
"The longer I live," Kyrle said at length with some hesitation in his manner, "the longer I live in this luckless condition, and the oftener I think of that excellent girl, the more deep and settled is the hold which she has taken of my imagination. I wonder, Hardress, how you can be so indifferent to her acquaintance. Placing my own unfortunate affection altogether out of view, I can scarcely imagine an enjoyment more desirable than that of cultivating the society of so amiable a creature."
Here he drew a long sigh, and replenished the void thus occasioned, by having recourse to the bowl and ladle.
"I am not of the same opinion, Kyrle," said Hardress, "Anne Chute is unquestionably a very fine girl, but she is too highly educated for me."
"Too highly educated!"
"Echo me not. The words are mine. Yes. Kyrle, I hold that this system of polishing girls ad unguem, is likely to be the destruction of all that is sincere and natural and unaffected in the sex. It is giving the mind an unwholesome preponderance over the heart, occasioning what an astronomer would call an occultation of feeling, by the intervention of reason."
"I cannot imagine a case," said Kyrle, "in which the exercise of reason can ever become excessive; and there are sneerers under the sun, Hardress, who will tell you, that this danger is least of all to be apprehended among the lovely beings of whom you are speaking."
"I think otherwise. As I prefer the works of nature to the work of man, the fresh river breeze to the dusty and smoaky zephyr of Capel-street, the bloom on a cottage cheek to the crimson japan that blazes at the Earl of Buckinghamshire's drawing-rooms; as I love a plain beef-steak before a grilled attorney,* this excellent whiskey punch before my mother's confounded currant wine, and any thing else that is pure and natural before any thing else that is adulterated and artificial; so do I love the wild hedge-flower simplicity before the cold and sapless exotic, fashion; so do I love the voice of affection and of nature before that of finesse and affectation."
"Your terms are a little too hard, I think," said Kyrle, "elegance of manner is not finesse, nor at all the opposite of simplicity; it is merely simplicity made perfect. I grant you, that few, very few, are successful in acquiring it; and I dislike its ape, affectation, as heartily as you do. But we find something that is conventional in all classes, and I like affectation better than vulgarity, after all."
"Vulgarity of manner, " said Hardress, "is more tolerable than vulgarity of mind."
"One is only offensive as the indication of the other, and I think it not more tolerable, because I prefer ugliness masked to ugliness exposed."
"Why, now, Daly, I will meet you on tangible ground. There is our friend Anne Chute, acknowledged to be the loveliest girl in her circle, and one whom I remember a charming good-natured little hoyden in her childhood. And see what high education has done for her.—She is cold and distant, even to absolute frigidity, merely because she has been taught that insensibility is allied to elegance. What was habit, has become nature with her; the frost which she suffered to lie so long upon the surface, has at length penetrated to her affections, and killed every germ of mirth and love and kindness, that might have made her a treasure to her friends and an ornament to society."
"Believe me—Hardress—believe me, my dear Hardress, you do her wrong," exclaimed Kyrle with exceeding warmth. "It is not that I love Anne Chute, I speak—but because I know and esteem her. If you knew her but for three days, instead of one hour, you never would again pronounce so harsh a sentence. All that is virtuous—all that is tender and affectionate—all that is amiable and high-principled may be met with in that admirable woman. Take the pains to know her—visit her—speak of her to her friends—her dependants—to her aged mother—to any one that has observed her conduct, and you will be undeceived. Why will you not strive to know her better?"
"Why, you must consider that it is not many months since I returned from Dublin; and to say a truth, the single visit I paid at Castle-Chute was not calculated to tempt me to a second. Considering that I was an old play-fellow, and a kind of cousin, I thought Anne Chute need not have received me as if I were a tax-gatherer, or a travelling dancing-master."
"Why what would you have her do? Throw her arms about your neck and kiss you, I suppose?"
"Not exactly. You know the class of people of whom little Flaccus said, Quam vitia vitant in contraria currunt, and, after all, I think Anne Chute is not one of those. Her education is little worth if it could not enable her to see a medium between two courses so much at variance."
"But will you allow a friend to remind you, Hardress, that you are a little overapt to take exception in matters of this kind. And notwithstanding all that you have been saying against the polite world, I will venture to prophecy this—that when circumstances shall more frequently thrust you forward on the stage, and custom shall make you blind to the slight and formal insincerities that grieve you at present, your ideas on fashion and elegance and education will undergo a change. I know you, Hardress; you are not yet of age. The shadow of a repulse is now to you a sentence of banishment from any circle in which you suppose it is offered; but when you shall be courted, when mothers shall dress their daughters at you, and daughters shall shower down smiles upon your paths; when fathers shall praise your drinking, and sons shall eulogize your horses; then, Hardress, look to it. You will be then as loud and talkative before the whole world as now in presence of your humble friend. You will smile and smile a hundred times over at your young philosophy."
"Oh, 'never shall sun that morrow see'" cried Hardress, throwing himself back in his chair, and raising his hands in seeming deprecation—"I perceive what you are hitting at, Kyrle," he continued, reddening a little. "You allude to my—my—timidity—bashfulness—what you will, my social cowardice. But I disclaim the petty, paltry failing. The feeling that unnerves me in society is as widely different from that base consciousness of inferiority or servile veneration of wealth, rank or power, as the anger of Achilles from the spite of Thersites. You may laugh, and call me self-conceited, but, upon my simple honour, I speak in pure sincerity. My feeling is this, my dear Kyrle. New as I was to the world after leaving college, (where you know I studied pretty hard) the customs of society appeared to wear a strangeness in my sight that made me a perfect and a competent judge of their value. Their hollowness disgusted, and their insipidity provoked me. I could not join with any ease in the solemn folly of bows and becks and wreathed smiles that can be put on or off at pleasure. The motive of the simplest forms of society stared me in the face when I saw them acted before me, and if I attempted to play a part among the hypocrites myself, I supposed that every eye around me was equally clear-sighted—saw through the hollow assumption, and despised it as sincerely in me, as I had done in others. The consciousness of guilt was evident in my manner, and I received the mortification which ensued as the just punishment of my meanness and hypocrisy."
"You do express yourself in sufficiently forcible terms when you go about it," said Daly, smiling. "What great hypocrisy or meanness can there be in remarking that it is a fine day, or asking after the family of an acquaintance, even though he should know that the first was merely intended to draw on a conversation, and the second to show him a mark of regard?"
"Which I did not feel."
"Granted. Let him perceive that never so clearly, there is still an attention implied in your putting the question at all with which he cannot be disobliged. It is flattering to acknowledge the necessity of such a deference. And, my dear Hardress, if you were never to admit of ceremony as the deputy of natural and real feeling, what would become of the whole social system? How soon the mighty vessel would become a wreck! how silent would be the rich man's banquet! how solitary the great man's chambers! how few would bow before the throne! how lonely and how desolate would be the temples of religion!"
"You are the more bitter satirist of the two," said Hardress.
"No, no," exclaimed Kyrle. "I merely reminded you of an acknowledged fact, that when you enroll your name on the social list, you pledge yourself to endure as well as to enjoy. As long as ever you live, Hardress, take my word for it, you never will make, nor look upon a perfect world. It is such philosophy as yours that goes to the making of misanthropes. The next time you go into society, resolve to accept any mortifications you shall endure as a punishment for your sins, and so think no more of them. This indifference will become habitual and while it does so, those necessary hypocrisies of which you speak, will grow familiar and inoffensive."
"I see no occasion," said Hardress, "to make the trial. Plain human nature is enough for me. If I were to choose a companion for life, I should rather hope to cull the sweet fruit of conjugal happiness in the wild orchard of nature than from the bark-beds and hot-walls of society."
"I advise you, however," said Kyrle, "not to make the choice until you have greater opportunities of observing both sides of the question. Trust not to the permanence of your present feelings, nor to the practical correctness of your curious theories. It would be too late, after you had linked yourself to—to—simplicity, I shall call it, to discover that elegance was a good thing, after all."
Hardress did not appear to relish this speech, and the conversation, in consequence, was discontinued for some minutes. Young Cregan was indeed as incapable of calculating on his future character as Kyrle Daly asserted. He was in that period of life, (the most critical perhaps of all,) when the energies of the mind, as well as of the frame, begin to develope themselves, and exhibit in irregular out-breaks, the approaching vigour and fire of manhood. A host of new ideas, at this time, crowd in upon the reason, distinguished rather by their originality and genius, than by that correctuess and good order which is derivable from instruction or experience alone; and it depends upon the circumstances in which the young thinker is placed, whether his future character shall be that of a madman or a sage. It was, perhaps, a knowledge of this inventive pride in youth that made the Stagirite assert that men should not look into philosophical works before the age of five-and-twenty.
Hardress, however, although very sensitive, was not one of those who can brood a long time over an evil feeling. "Well, Daly," he exclaimed, starting from a reverie, "we will each of us pursue our inclinations on this subject. Leave me to the indulgence of my theories, and I will wish you joy of your Anne Chute."
"My Anne Chute!" echoed Daly, sipping his punch with a sad face. "I have no lien upon that lady, as the counsellors say. She may sue as a feme sole for me in any court in Christendom." Hardress turned on him a look of extreme surprise, in answer to which Kyrle Daly furnished him with an account of his unsuccessful suit to Anne, as also with his suspicions as to another attachment. The deep feeling of disappointment under which he laboured, became apparent, as he proceeded in his discourse, in the warmth and eagerness of his manner, the frequent compression of his lips, and clenching of his trembling hands, the dampness of his forehead, and the sparkling of his moistened eye-balls. The sight of his friend, in suffering, turned the stream of Hardress Cregan's sympathies into another channel, and he employed all his eloquence and ingenuity in combatting the dangerous dejection which was hourly gaining upon his spirit. He declared his disbelief in the idea of another attachment, and recommended perseverance by every argument in his power.
"But the state of her mind," he continued, "shall not remain long a secret to you. They have been both (Anne and her mother) invited to spend a part of the autumn with us at Dinis cottage. My mother is a great secret-hunter, and I need only tell her where the game lies, to make certain that it will be hunted down. Trust every thing to me;—for your sake I will take some pains to become better known to this extraordinary girl; and you may depend upon it, if she will suffer me to mount above Zero, you shall not suffer in my good report."
When the conversation had reached this juncture, the silence which prevailed in the cottage showed that the night was already far advanced. The punch had descended so low, as to leave the bowl of the ladle more than half visible; the candles seemed to meditate suicide, while the neglected snuff, gathering to a pall above the flame, threw a gloomy and flickering shadow on the ceiling; the turfen-fire was little more than a heap of pale ashes, before which the drowsy household cat, in her Sphynx-like attitude, sat winking, and purring her monotonous song of pleasure; the abated storm, (like a true Irish storm) seemed to mourn with repentant howlings over the desolating effects of its recent fury; the dog lay dreaming on the hearth, the adjoining farm-yard was silent, all but the fowl-house, where some garrulous dame Partlet, with female pertinacity, still maintained a kind of drowsy clucking on her roost; the natural hour of repose seemed to have produced its effect upon the battling elements themselves; the tempest had folded his black wings upon the ocean, and the waters broke upon the shore with a murmur of expiring passion. Within doors or without, there was no sight nor sound that did not convey a hint of bed-time to the watchers.
To make this hint the stronger, Mrs. Frawley showed the disk of her full-blown countenance at the door, as round as the autumnal moon, and like that satellite, illuminated by a borrowed light, namely, the last inch of a dipped candle which burned in her hand. "Masther Kyrle, darling," she exclaimed in a tone of tender remonstrance, "won't you go to bed to-night, child? 'Tis near morning, dear knows."
"Is Lowry Looby in bed?"
"No, sir, he's waiting to know have you any commands to Cork, he's going to guide the car in the morning with the firkins."
Lowry here introduced his person before that of the dairy-woman, causing however rather a transit than an eclipse of that moon of woman-hood.
"Or Misther Cregan?" he exclaimed, "may be he'd have some commands westwards? Because if he had, I could have 'em at the forge at the cross, above, with directions to have 'em sent down to the house."
"I have no commands," said Hardress, "except to say that I will be at home on next Friday."
"And I have none whatever," said Kyrle Daly, rising and taking one of the candles. "Hardress, mind you don't give me the counterfeit, the slip, in the morning."
This caution produced a hospitable battle which ended in Hardress Cregan's
maintaining his purpose of departing with the dawn of day. The friends
then shook hands and separated for the night.