14

How Lowry Becomes Philosophical

AS LOWRY Looby returned to the kitchen he was met by Nelly the housemaid, who reminded him that he would he obliged to start before the potatoes could he boiled in the morning, and recommended, as a preparatory measure, that he should take his breakfast overnight. Secure of his indulging her in so reasonable a request, she had already, under Mrs. Frawley's favour, laid on a little table before the kitchen fire, the remains of the roast ducks (so often commemorated in this narrative,) a plate of "re-heaters," (such was Nelly's term for potatoes suffered to cool and warmed again in the red-turf ashes,) as also a piece of pork, four inches in depth and containing no lean that was visible on a cursory inspection. This last was a dish for which Nelly knew Lowry Looby to entertain a fondness worthy of his ancient Irish descent. Indeed on all occasions Nelly was observed to take an interest in consulting the inclinations of this long-legged person; a kindness upon her part which the ungrateful Lowry seemed little inclined to appreciate.

    The present proposal however harmonized so sweetly with his own feelings, at the moment, that he signified a speedy compliance, and followed the nymph into her culinary retreat. The kitchen presented a scene no less drowsy than the parlour. Mrs. Frawley was saying her prayers by the fire-side, with a string of beads that hung down to the ground, now and then venting a deep sigh, then "running her godly race," through a fit of yawning, and anon casting a glance over her shoulder at the proceedings of the two domestics, while every new distraction was followed by a succession of more audible groans, and more vehement assaults with the closed hand upon her bosom. Danny Mann was sleeping heavily on the other side of the fire, with his red woollen comforter drying on his knee. In order to avoid disturbing either the slumbers of the one, or the devotions of the other, Nelly and her swain were obliged to carry on their conversation in a low whispering voice which gave additional effect to the sleepy tone of the entire scene. The shadows of the whole party, like the fame of genius magnified by distance, were thrown in gigantic similitude upon the surrounding walls. There Mrs. Frawley dilated to the dimensions of an ogre's wife, and here Danny Mann's hunch became to the original as Ossa to Knock Patrick. Looby's expanded mouth showed like the opening to Avernus, and the tight little Nelly herself, as she sat opposite, assumed the stature of Mr. Salt's black breccia Memnon, which any reader, who is curious about Nelly's personal outline, may behold in the ninth room of the British Museum.

    While Lowry consoled himself with the greasy pork, swallowing it with as lively a relish as if it were the green fat of a Gallipagus turtle, he gave Nelly a history of the day's adventures, not forgetting his own triumph at the staggeen race, and the disappearance of Eily O'Connor. Nelly was the better pleased with his account of these transactions, as he thought fit to abstain, in the first instance, from all mention of Syl Carney; and, in speaking of the rope-maker's daughter, to omit those customary eulogies which he dealt forth whenever her name was brought in question. Emboldened by this circumstance, Nelly did not hesitate to throw out some plain insinuations as to the probable cause of the mystery, which did not much redound to the honour of the charming fugitive, and she became still more impassioned in her invective, after Mrs. Frawley had relieved them from the restraint of her presence, and retired to her sleeping room.

    "Often an' often I told you, Lowry, that it wasn't for you to be looken' afther a girl o' that kind, that thought herself as good as a lady. Great business, indeed, a poor man o' your kind would have of one like her, that would be too grand to put a leg in a skeogh* to wash the potaties, or lay a hand on the pot-hooks to sthrain 'em if they wor broke to tathers."

    "That I may never die in sin if ever I had a thought of her, Nelly, only just divarten' at Batt Coonerty's."

    "What a show the house would be with ye!" continued Nelly still following up the matrimonial picture, an you a hard-worken' boy, obleest to be up early and late at other people's bidden'. I'll be bound that isn't the girl that would be up with the lark an' have a fire made, an' a griddle o' bread down in the morning before you, an' you going a long road; or have the hearth swep, an' your supper ready, an' every thing nate about the place for you, when you'd be coming back at night. But I believe there s a chimaera* before the boys' eyes that they don't know what's good for 'em."

    "Look!" exclaimed Lowry, while he broke a potatoe between his fingers, swallowed one half at a mouthful, and tossed the crisped peel upon the table. "That I may be happy, if she was offered to me this minute if I'd take her. Sure I know I'd have no more business of such a girl upon my floore than I would of Miss Chute herself. But there's no raison for all why I wouldn't be sorry for ould Mihil's trouble. He's gone westwards, Foxy Dunat the hair-cutter tells me, to Castle-island, to his brother, Father Ned, I suppose to get him to publish her from the altar or something. They think 'tis westwards she went."

    Happening at this moment to cast his eyes upon Danny Mann, Lowry perceived, with a sensation of disagreeable surprise, that he was awake, and peering curiously upon him from below the hal£raised lids. The red fire-light which gleamed on the eye-balls gave them a peculiar and equivocal lustre, which added force to their native sharpness of expression. Danny felt the ill effect he had produced, and carried it off with a fit of yawning and stretching, asking Lowry at the same time, with a drowsy air, if he meant to go to bed at all?

    "To be sure I do," said Lowry, "when its pleasing to the company to part. There's a time for all things, as they say in the Reading-made-asy."

    "Surely, surely," returned Danny with a yawn, "Dear knows, den, the Readen-made-asy time is come now, for 'tit a'most mornen'."

    "I always, mostly, smoke a drass before I go to bed of a night," said Lowry, turning towards the fire, and clearing the bowl of his pipe by knocking it gently against the bar of the grate, "I like to be smoaken' an' talken' when the company is agreeable, and I see no rason for bein' in a hurry to-night above all others. Come, Nelly," he added, while he chopped up a little tobacco, and pressed it into the bowl with the tip of his little finger, "Come here, an' sit near me, I want to be talken' to you."

    Saying this, he took a half-burnt sod from the fire, crushed the bowl into the burning portion, and after offering it in vain to Danny, placed it in the corner of his mouth. He then remained for some moments, with his eyes half closed, drawing in the fire with his breath, and coaxing it with hitsfinger, until the vapour flowed freely through the narrow tube, and was emitted at intervals, at the opposite corner of his mouth, in a dense and spiry stream.

    "An' what do you want to be saying?" said Nell, taking her seat between Lowry and the Lord, "I'll engage you have nothing to say to me afther all."

    "Come a little nearer," said Lowry, without changing his position.

    "Well,, there why," returned Nelly, moving her chair a little closer, "will that do?'

    "No, it won't. 'Tis a whisper I have for you. Misther Mann would hear me if I told it to you where you are."

    "Oh, a whisper! Well, now I'm close enough any way," she said, placing her chair in contact with that of Lowry.

    The latter took the pipe from his mouth, and advanced his face to close to that of the expectant house-maid, that she feared he was about to snatch a kiss. Perhaps it was in mere curiosity, to satisfy herself whether in fact he could possess so much audacity, that Nelly did not avoid that danger by moving her head aside; but greatly to her surprise, and doubtless, likewise to her satisfaction, the honest man proved that he had no such insolent intention. When he had attained a convenient proximity, he merely parted his lips a little, and puffed a whole volume of smoke into her eyes. Nelly uttered a gentle scream and covered her face with her hands, while Danny and Lowry exchanged a broad grin of satisfaction.

    "Well, Lowry," exclaimed the girl with much good humour, "you're the greatest rogue going, and that's your name this night." Lowry appeared to muse for a few moments while he continued the enjoyment of his pipe. In a little time he once more took it from his lips, puffed forth the last whiff, and said, Misther Mann, they may say this and that of the world; an' of poverty and riches, an' humility an' gentility, and every thing else they like, but here's my word, ever. If I was a king upon a throne this minute, an' I wanted to have a smoke for myself by the fire-side, why if I was to do my best, what could I smoke but one pen'orth o' tobacco in the night afther all? An' can'nt I have that, at it is, just as asy? If I was to have a bed with down feathers upon it, what could I do more than sleep there? An' sure I can do that in the settle-bed above? If I was able to buy the whole market out an' out, what could I ate of it more than I did to-night of that pork upon the table? Do you tee now, Misther Mann? Do you tee Nelly? Unless he could smoke two pipes of a night instead of one, or sleep more, or ate more without hurt, I don't say what's the advantage a king has over a poor man like myself."

    "A' sure, you know that's foolish talk, Lowry. Sure the King could buy and sell you at the fair if he liked."

    "He couldn't without the Jury," returned Lowry, "the Judge and Jury ever. He couldn't lay a wet finger on me, without the Jury, be coorse of law. The round o' the world is as free to me as it is to him, if the world be round in airnest, as they say it is."

    "Round, ayeh?" said Nell.

    "Iss, to be sure."

    Danny Mann looked at him for a moment. "Is it the world we're walkin' on?" he asked in some surprize.

    "To be sure, what else?"

    "A' don't be talking," returned Danny, turning his head away in perfect scorn of the hypothesis.

    "Faix, I tell you no lie," said Lowry, "'tis printed in all the books in Europe. They say that if it wasn't round, we'd soon be done for. We couldn't keep our hoult upon it at all, only to go flyin' through the elements, the Lord save us!"

    "Oh, vo! vo!" said Nelly, "well, that bates Ireland."

    "Sure there's more says that it isn't the sun above do be moven at all, only we goin' round it."

    "That the sun doesn't stir?"

    "Not a peg.

    "Well, now you may hould your tongue, after dat," said Danny, "after wantin' to take de eye-sight from us. Sure the whole world sees the sun goin', any way.

    "I wouldn't b'lieve that," said Nelly, "if they were to put their eyes upon sticks."

    "I wouldn't be so," returned Lowry, "what business would a poor boy o' my kind have goin' again men that are able to write books, let alone readen 'em. But 'tis the foolishness of the women," he continued, fixing upon Nell" as the least pugnacious opponent, "women are always for foolishness. They'll b'lieve or not b'lieve, just as they like themselves. Equal to Dan Dawley's second wife,—Did you ever hear o' that business, Misther Mann?"

    "Not as I know."

    "Well, stir up the fire, Nelly, an' put down a couple o' sods, an' I'll tell it while I am finishing my pipe, and then we'll all be off to bed. Dan Dawley was married the second time to a very nice girl, one Jug Minaham, (he's the steward at Cattle-Chute, behind.) Well, he was out of a day at work, an' his wife was setten' alone by the fire, a few weeks afther they being married. Now there was one o' the stones in the chimney, (as it might be that stone there,) an' it stood out loose from the morthar a dale beyond the rest. Well, she sat looking at it for a while, and the thought come in her head, 'If I had a child now,' says the, 'an' he was standing a-near that stone, may be 'twould fall out and brain him on me.' An' with the thought o' that, she began roaring and bawling equal to any thing ever you hear."

    "Oh, then, she was a foolish girl," said Nelly."

    "Dear knows that was her name," said Danny.

    "Well, her old Mother heerd her bawling, an' she came in the greatest hurry. 'A' what ails you, Jug?' says she. So Jug up and told her her thought about the stone, an began bawling worse than ever. An' if she did, the mother joined her, and such a pillilu as they raised between 'em was never known. That was well an' good. Well, Dan was abroad in the potatie-garden, an' he heard the work goin' on in his house, crying equal to a funeral. 'What's this about?' says Dan, 'there's somebody murthered, surely.' So he made for the doore, an' in he walked, an' there he found the pair o' ladies. 'A' what ails you, mother?' said he, 'Jug will tell you, agra,' says the mother. So he looked at Jug. 'Thinken' I was,' says she, still crying, 'that if the child was born, an' if that stone there fell upon him, 'twould brain him on me.' Well, Dan stood for a while looken' at her, 'If the sky fell,' says he 'we'd catch larks. An' is that all that happened you?' 'Isn't it enough?' says she again. Well, he stopped a long while thinking in his mind, and then he reached out a hand to her. 'Well,' says he, 'that's the foolishest thing I ever knew in my life, an' I'll tell you what it is, I never 'll take a day with you from this hour, until I'll find a woman,' says he, 'that's foolisher than yourself.' No sooner said than done, out he walked, laving 'em after him to do as they plased. Well, there was a long day before him, an' he walked a dale before night-fall, an' he didn't know where he'd turn to for his bed and dinner. 'But sure I'm asy about it,' says he, 'sure while there's fools of women in the place, I'll engage I needn't starve.' Well, he called a gorçoon that was going the road. 'Whose farm-house,' says he, 'is that I see over there?' 'Its belongin' to a widow woman, sir,' said the boy. 'What sort of a man was her husband?' says Dan. 'A small, dark man, an' wearing top boots,' says the boy. Well became Dan, he made for the house, an' axed for the lone woman. She was standen on the lawn looking at her cows milking, when Dan made towards her. 'Well, where do you come from?' says the widow-woman, 'From heaven, ma'am,' says Dan, making a bow. 'From heaven?' says she, looking at him with her eyes open. 'Yes, ma'am,' says he, 'for a little start. An' I seen your husband there too, ma'am.' 'My husband, inagh,'* says she, looking at him very knowing, 'can you tell me what sort of a man he was?' 'A small dark man,' says Dan, 'an' wearing top boots.' 'I give it in to you,' says she, 'that's the man. Come this way, an' tell me what did he say to you, or did he give any message to me?' Well, Dan put no bounds to his tongue, just to thry her. 'He bid me tell you,' says he 'that he's very badly off for want o' victuals; an' he'd like to have the young grey horse to be ridin' for himself, an' he'd do as much if you could send 'em to him.' 'Why then I'll do that,' says the widow, 'for he was a good husband to me when he lived. What time will you be going back?' 'To-morrow or afther,' says Dan, 'afther I see my people.' 'Well, stay here tonight,' says she, 'an' I'll give you something to take to him in the morning. Well became her, she brought him in, and trated him like a prince that night, with music an' dancing; an' in the morning she had the grey horse at the doore with a bag o' flour, and a crock o' butter, an' a round o' corned beef. Well, Dan mounted the horse, an' away with him home to his wife. 'Well, Jug,' says he, 'I'll take with you all my days, for as bad as you are there's more that's twice worse; an' I believe if I went farther 'tis worse an worse I'd be getting to the world's end.' So he up an' told 'em the whole business, an' they had a merry supper that night, and for weeks afther, on what Dan brought home with him."

    "He was a rogue, for all," said Nelly, "to keep the poor woman's horse upon her.'

    "She deserved it," says Danny, an worse. I never hear o' such a fool. Well, Lowry, will you go to bed now at last?"

    The question was answered in the affirmative; and Danny was at the same time pressed to take a share of the sweets of the table, which he resolutely refused. Soon after, the careful Nelly, having made Lowry turn his head another way, ascended by a ladder to her pallet, on a loft over the parlour; while Lowry and the little lord rolled into the settle-bed together, the one to dream of breakers, raw onions, whiskey, and "Misther Hardress;" the other, of Foxy Dunat's mare, and the black eyes of Syl Carney.

    






 








* Basket.






 








* An optical illusion.







 








* Is it?