How the Friends Parted
"Is who up?" exclaimed a shrill voice which proceeded from the grated windows of the dairy. It was that of the industrious Mrs. Frawley, who, as early, if not as brisk and sprightly as the lark, was already employed in setting her milk in the keelers.
"Fighting Poll of the Reeks," replied Lowry, turning toward the wire grating, through which he beheld the extensive figure of the dairy-woman, as neat as a bride, employed in her health-giving, life-prolonging, avocations.
"Who is she, why?" said Mrs. Frawley.
"Don't you know the girl that come in the boat with Misther Cregan, and slep in the room outside you?"
"Oyeh! I did n't know who you meant. The boatman's handsome little sister?" "
"Yes, then, handsome. She has the dawniest little nose I think I ever laid my two eyes on.
"Why then 'tis a new story with it for a nose. Formerly, when I knew it, it was more like a button musharoon than any thing else, and the colour of a boiled carrot. Good raisun it had for that, as the publicans could tell you."
"Hold your tongue, man. Is it to drink you say she used?"
"A thrifle, I'm tould."
"F' then, I never see one that has less the sign of it than what she has."
"She's altered lately, Danny Mann tells me. Nelly, eroo," he added, changing his tone, "Sonuher* to you, now, an' get me a dram, for its threatening to be a moist foggy mornen', an' I have a long road before me." Nelly was occupied in liberating a whole regiment of ducks, hens, pouts, chicks, cocks, geese and turkies; who all came quacking, clucking, whistling, chirping, crowing, cackling, and gobbling, through the opened fowl-house door into the yard; where they remained shaking their wings on tiptoe, stretching their long necks over the little pool, the surface of which was green, and covered with feathers; appearing to congratulate each other on their sudden liberation, and seeming evidently disposed to keep all the conversation to themselves.
"What is it you say, Lowry? Choke ye, for ducks, will ye let nobody spake but ye'rselves? What is it, Lowry?"
Lowry repeated his request, making it more intelligible amid the clamour of the farm-yard, by using a significant gesture. He imitated the action of one who fills a glass and drinks it. He then laid his hand upon his heart and shook his head, as if to intimate the comfort that would be produced about that region by performing in reality what he only mocked at present.
Nelly understood him as well as if he had spoken volumes. Commissioned by Mrs. Frawley, she supplied him with a bottle of spirits and a glass, with the use of which, let us do Lowry the justice to say, there was not a man in the barony better acquainted.
While he dashed from his eyes the tears which were produced by the sharpness of the stimulus, he heard footsteps behind him, and looking round, beheld Danny, the Lord, and the soi-disant Mrs. Naughten, still muffled in her blue cloak and hood, and occupying a retired position near the kitchen door.
"I'll tell you what it is, Nelly," said Lowry with a knowing wink to thc soubrette. "Poll Naughten lives very convanient on the Cork road, or not far from it, an' I do be often goen' that way of a lonesome night. I'll make a friend o' Poll before she leaves this, so as that she'll he glad to see me another time. I'll go over an' offer her a dhram. That I may be blest, but I will."
So saying, and hiding the bottle and glass under the skirt of his coat, he moved toward the formidable heroine of the mountains with many respectful bows and a smile of the most winning cordiality. "A fine, moist mornen' Mrs. Naughten. I hope you feel no fatague after the night, ma'am. Your sarvant, Misther Mann. I hope you didn't feel us in the yard, ma'am. I sthrove to keep 'em quiet, o' purpose. Tisn't goen' ye are so airly, Misther Mann?"
Danny, who felt all the importance of diverting Lowry Looby's attention from his fair charge, could find no means so effectual as that of acknowledging the existence of a mystery, and admitting him into a pretended confidence. Advancing, therefore, a few steps to meet him, he put on a most serious countenance and laid his finger warily along his nose.
"What's the matther?" whispered Lowry, bending down in the eagerness of curiosity.
Danny the Lord repeated the action with the addition of a cautionary frown.
"Can't she talk of a Friday either?" said Lowry, much amazed. "I undherstand, Misther Mann. Trust me for the hare life. A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse."
"Or ass eider," muttered the hunch-hack as he turned away. "But, Misther Mann!" cried Lowry, laying his immense claw upon his Lordship's shoulder. "Listen hether. The mornen' will be smart enough; and maybe I'd betther offer her a dhram, and she goen' upon the wather?
He strode past the Lord and was close to the muffled fair one, when Danny pulled him back by the skirt.
"Didn't I tell you before," said he, "dat Poll never drank?"
"'Iss, of a Thursday you said."
"Or a Friday, or any day. Oh den, oh den, Lowry!"
"Well, I meant no harm. May be you'd have no vow yourself on the head of it any way, sir?" And he displayed the bottle.
"Dere are tree kinds of oats, Lowry," responded Danny Mann, as he twined his bony fingers fondly around the neck of the bottle; "Dere are tree kinds of oats dat are forbidden to be tuk as unlawful. Dey are false oats, rash oats, and unjust oats. Now do you see me, Lowry," he continued, as he filled his glass—"if I made a vow o' dat kind, it would he an unjust oat, for it would be traiten' myself very bad, a poor boy dat's night and day at sech cold work as mine, an' it would be a rash oat, Lowry, for—" (here he tossed off the spirits) "I'm blest but it wouldn't be long before I'd make it a false oat." Lowry was greatly shocked at this unprincipled speech. "That's a nate youth," he said privately to Nelly. "That's a nice poet, not judging him. If that lad doesn't see the inside of the Stone Jug *for some bad business one time or another, I'll give you lave to say black is the white o' my eye. If the gallows isn't wrote upon his face, there's no mait in mutton. Well, good mornen to you, Nelly, I see my load is ready. I have every thing now, I suppose, Mrs. Frawley. Whup, get up here, you old garron! Good mornen' to you, Mrs. Naughten, an' a fair wind after you. Good mornen', Misther Mann." He cracked his whip, tucked the skirt of his riding coat under his arm, as usual, threw his little head back, and followed the car out of the yard, singing in a pleasant contented key:—
"Don't you remember the time I gave you my heart?
You solemnly swore from me you never would part.
But your mind's like the ocean,
Has now taken flight,
And left me bemoaning the loss of the red-haired man's wife."
Kyrle Daly and his young friend were meanwhile exchanging a farewell upon the little gravel plot before the front door.
"Come, come, go in out of the air," said Hardress, "you shall not come down to the shore in that slight dress. Rememher what I have told you, and sustain your spirits. Before another month shall pass, I pledge myself to become master, for your sake, of Anne Chute's secret."
"And to honour it?" said Kyrle, smiling as he gave him his hand.
"According to its value," replied Hardress, tossing his head, "Good bye; I see Danny Mann and his sister coming round, and we must not lose the morning's tide."
They shook hands and parted. It was one of those still and heavy mornings which are peculiar to the close of summer in this climate. The surface of the waters was perfectly still, and a light wreath of mist steamed upward from the centre of the channel, so as to veil from their sight the opposite shores of Clare. This mist, ere long, became a dense and blinding fog, that lasted until noon, and together with the breathless calm that lay upon the land and water, prevented their reaching Ballybunion until sunset. In one of those caverns which are hollowed out of the cliffs on this shore, the traveller may discern the remains of an artificial chamber. It was used at the period of which we write, as a kind of ware-room for contraband goods; a species of traffic which was freely engaged in by nearly all the middling gentry and small farmers along the coast. A subterraneous passage, faced with dry stone work, opened into the interior of the country; and the chamber itself, from constant use, was become perfectly dry and habitable. In this place Hardress proposed to Eily that they should remain, and take some refreshment, while Danny the Lord was dispatched to secure a better lodging for the night, at some retired farm-house in the neighbourhood.
A small canvass-built canoe, summoned from the interior of the cave by a whistle from the Lord, was employed to convey them from the pleasure-boat into the gloomy porch of this natural souterrain. Before the fragile skiff had glided into the darkness, Eily turned her head to catch a parting look of the descending sun. The scene which met her gaze, would have appeared striking, even to an accustomed eye; and to one like hers, acquainted only with the smoky splendour of a city sunset, it was grand and imposing in the extreme. Before her lay the gigantic portals of the Shannon, through which the mighty river glided forth with a majestic calmness, to mingle with the wide and waveless ocean that spread beyond and around them. On her right arose the clifted shores of Clare, over which the broad ball of day, although some minutes hidden from her sight, seemed yet, by refraction, to hold his golden circlet suspended amid a broken and brilliant mass of vapours. Eily kept her eyes fixed in admiration on the dilated orb, until a turn in the cave concealed the opening from her view, and she could only see the stream of light behind, as it struck on the jagged and broken walls of the orifice, and danced upon the surface of the agitated waters.
The place to her seemed terrible. The hollow sound of the boatman's voice, the loud plash of the oars, and the rippling of the water against the vessel's prow, reverberating through the vaulted chambers; the impenetrable darkness into which they seemed to plunge headlong, and reckless of danger or impedinsent; all united, constituted a scene so new to the simple Fily, that she grasped close the arm of her husband, and held her breath for some moments, as if in expectation of some sudden and terrific encounter. In a little time the boatman rested on his oars, and a voice from the interior of the cave was heard exclaiming in Irish, "Is it himself?"
"It is," said the boatman in the same language. "Light up the fire at once, and put down a few of the fresh herrings. The lady is hungry."
"You will join for the first time, Eily," said Hardress, "in a fisherman's supper. Well, Larry, had you much luck last night?"
"Poor enough, masther;" said the same oracular voice, which Eily now recognized as that of the man to whose escort she had been entrusted by Lowry Looby on the previous evening. "We left Misther Daly's point as soon as ever the wind fell, and come down as far as Kilcordane, thinking we might come across the scull; but, though we were out all night, we took only five hundhert, more or less. A' why don't you light up the fire, Phaudhrig? And 'twasnt that the herrings didn't come into the river either, for when the moon shone out we saw the scull to the westward, making a curl on the waters, as close an' thick as if you threw a shovel full o' gravel in a pond."
The fire now blazed suddenly upward, revealing the interior of the apartment before alluded to, and the figure of the rough old boatman and his boy. The latter was stooping forward on his hands, and kindling the fire with his breath, while Larry Kett himself was rinsing a small metal pot at the water-side. The effect of the smoky and subterraneous light upon those uncouth and grisly figures, and on the rude excavation itself, impressed the timid EiIy with a new and agitating sensation, too nearly allied to fear to leave her mind at ease.
In a few minutes she was seated on a small keg near the fire, while Hardress hurried the men who were preparing dinner. Larry Kett was not so proficient in the science of gastronomy as the celebrated Louis of Crockford's, and yet it is to be questioned, whether the culinary preparations of the latter were ever dispatched with more eagerness and satisfaction. Eily, indeed, ate only a heroine's proportion; but she wondered at the voracity of the boatmen, one of whom placing a raw onion on an unpeeled potatoe, swallowed both at a mouthful, almost without employing a single masticatory action.
Danny Mann in the meantime was occupied in procuring a more eligible lodging for the night. He returned when they had concluded their unceremonious meal, to say that he had been successful in procuring two rooms, in the house of "a little 'oman dat kep a private bottle between dat an' Beale."
"A private bottle?" exclaimed Hardress; "what do you mean by a private bottle?"
"I mean," replied the little lord, "dat she sells as good a drop as if she paid license for it; a ting she never was fool enough to do."
"Where does she live?" "
Close to de road above. She told me," [here he drew Hardress aside] "when I axed her, dat Myles of de ponies, and de master, an' a deal o' gentlemen went de road westwards yesterday, an' dat Phil Naughten, (Poll's Phill was in Beale waiten' for you dese two days wit de horse an' jauntin' car."
"I am glad to hear it. Step over there to-night, and tell him to be at the door before day-break to-morrow morning. Tell him I will double his fare if he uses diligence."
"Why din, indeed," said Danny, "I'll tell him notin' o' de sort. 'Twould be de same case wit him still, for he's a boy dat if you gave him England, Ireland, an' Scotland for an estate, he'd ax de Isle o' Man for a kitchen garden."
"Well, well, do as you please about it, Danny, but have him on the spot. That fellow," he continued, speaking to Eily as he conducted her out of the cavern, "that fellow is so impudent sometimes, that nothing but the recollection of his fidelity and the honesty of his motive keeps my hand at rest. He is my foster brother, and, you may perceive, with the exception of one deformity, a well looking man."
"I never observed any thing but the hunch," said Eily. "For which," added Hardress with a slight change in his countenance, "he has to thank his master."
"You, Mr. Hardress!"
"Even so, Eily. When we were both children, that young fellow was my constant companion. Familiarity produced a feeling of equality, on which he presumed so far as to offer a rudeness to a little relative of mine, a Miss Chute, who was on a visit at my mother's. She complained to me, and my vengeance was summary. I met him at the head of the kitchen stairs, and without even the ceremony of a single question or preparatory speech, I seized him by the collar and hurled him with desperate force to the bottom of the flight. He was unable to rise as soon as I expected, and on examination it was discovered that an injury had been done to the spine, which, notwithstanding all the exertions that were employed to repair it, had its result in his present deformity."
"It was shocking," said Eily, with much simplicity of feeling. "No wonder you should be kind to him."
"If I were a mere block," said Hardress, "I could not but be affected by the goodnature and kindly feeling which the poor fellow showed on the occasion, and indeed down to the present moment. It seemed to be the sole aim and study of his life to satisfy me that he entertained not even a sentiment of regret for what had happened; and his attachment ever since has been the attachment of a zealot. I know he cannot but feel that his own prospects in life have been made dark and lonely by that accident; and yet he is congratulating himself whenever an opportunity occurs, on his good fortune, in being provided with a constant service, as if (poor fellow!) that were any compensation to him. I have been alarmed to observe that he sometimes attaches even a profane importance to his master's wishes, and seems to care but little what laws he may transgress when his object is the gratification of my inclinations. I say, I am alarmed on this subject, because I have taken frequent occasion to remark that this injury to his spine has in some degree affected his head, and left him less able to discern the impropriety of such a line of conduct than people of sounder minds."