How Hardress Had a Strange Dream of Eily
They stood at the open door, Eily being yet encircled by the arm of her husband, and gazing on his face, while the expression of rapture that had illumined the countenances of both, faded gradually away into a look of calm and settled joy. On a sudden, their ears were startled by a hoarse, husky, and yet piercing voice, which seemed to proceed from a crag, that sheltered the cottage on the left side. Looking upward, Hardress beheld a woman standing on the turf, whose gesture and appearance showed her to be one of a race of viragos who are now less numerous in the country parts of Ireland, than they were some twenty years since. Her face and hair announced a Spanish origin; her dress consisted of a brown stuff garment, fastened up at the back with a row of brass buttons, and a muslin cap and ribbon, considerably injured by the effect of long possession. An old drab jock, soiled and stained by many a roll in the puddle of the mountain fairs, was superadded; and in her right hand she grasped a short, heavy oak stick; which, if one might judge by the constant use she made of it in enforcing her gestures, was as necessary to her discourse as the famous thread of Lord Chesterfield's orator. Her eyes were bloodshot from watching and intemperance; and the same causes, joined to a habitual violence of temper, had given to her thin, red and streaky countenance, a sudden and formidable turn of expression.
"Ha! ha! my children! my two fine, clever children, are ye there? Oh, the luck o' me, that it wasn't a lad like you I married; a clever boy, with the red blood running under his yellow skin, like that sun over behind the clouds, instead of the mane, withered disciple that calls my house his own this day. Look at the beauty of him! look at the beauty of him! I might have been a lady if I liked. Oh, the luck o' me! the luck o' me! Five tall young men, every one of 'm a patthern for a faction, and all, all dead in their graves, down, down, an' no one left but that picthur o' misery, that calls himself my husband. If it wasn't for the whiskey," she added, while she came down the crags, and stood before the pair, "my heart would break with the thoughts of it. Five tall young men, brothers every one, an' they to die, an' he to live! Would n't kill the Danes to think of it! Five tall young men! Gi' me the price of the whiskey."
"Indeed I will not, Poll. You have had enough already."
"No, nor half!" shouted the Amazon. "A dhram is enough, but two dhrams isn't half enough, an' I had only two. Coax him, ma chree, ma lanuv, to gi' me the price o' the whiskey."
Eily, who stood in great terror of this virago, turned a supplicating glance on Hardress.
"Your young mistress," said the latter, "would not become a participator in the sin of your drunkenness."
"My Mistress! The rope-maker's daughter! My Mistheess! Eily-na-thiadarucha! Welcome from Gallow's Green, my misthress! The poor silly crathur! Is it because I call you with the blood of all your fathers in your veins, a gentleman, my masther, that I'd call her a lady, and my mistress? Gi' me the price o' the whiskey!"
"I shall not, Poll. Go back."
"Gi' me the price o' the whiskey, or I'll tear the crooked eyes out o' your yellow face! Gi' me it, I tell you, or I'll give my misthress more kicks than ha'-pence, the next time I catch her alone in the house, an' you away coorting an' divarting at Killarney."
"Cool yourself, Poll, or I'll make you cool."
"You a gentleman! There isn't a noggin o' genteel blood in the veins o' your whole seed, breed, an' generation. You have a heart! you stingy bone-polishing, tawny faced, beggarly, mane spirited mohawk, that hadn't the spirit to choose between poverty an' dignity! You a gentleman! The highest and the finest in the land was open to you, an' you hadn't the courage to stand up to your fortune. You a heart! Except a lady was to come an' coort you of herself, sorrow chance she'd ever have o' you or you of her. An' signs on, see what a misthress you brought over us! I wondher you had the courage to spake to her itself. While others looked up, you looked down. I often seen a worm turn to a buttherfly, but I never heerd of a buttherfly turning to a worm in my life before. You a heart! I'll lay a noggin, if the docthors open you when you die, they won't find such a thing as a bean in your whole yellow carcass, only a could gizzard, like the turkies."
Hardress turned pale with anger at this coarse, but bitter satire. "Do stop her mouth, my dear Hardress," murmured Eily, whose total want of pride rendered her almost incapable of resentment. "Do silence her. That woman makes me afraid for my very life."
"Never entertain the least apprehension on that subject, Eily. There is one key to the good will of Fighting Poll, by which you may be always certain of keeping your place in her affections. It is whiskey. Keep her in whiskey, and you keep her faithful. Nor need you ever fear to be out-purchased; for Poll has just good principle enough to prefer a little whiskey with honesty, to a great deal obtained as the wages of treason. Well, Poll," he continued, turning to that Amazon, "you are too many for me. Here is half-a-crown to drink my health, and be a good girl."
"Half-a-crown!" shouted the woman, catching the glittering coin as Hardress sent it twirling through the air. "I knew you were your father's son, for all! I knew 'tis o' purpose you were. I knew you had the nature in you, after all! Ha! here comes Phil and Danny at last. Come, sthrip, now, Phil! Sthrip off the coat at once, an' let us see if McDunough laid the horsewhip over your shoulders today."
The man only returned her a surly glance in answer to this speech.
"What McDunough is this, Phil," said Hardress, "what horsewhipping do you speak of, Poll?"
"I'll tell you, sir." returned Phil, "He is our landlord, an' the owner of all the land about you, as far as you can see, an' farther. He lives about a mile away from us, an' is noted for being a good landlord to all, far an' near. Only there's one fashion he has, and that's a throublesome one to some of his people. As he gives all manner of lases at a raisonable rent himself, he wishes that his land should be sublet raisonable also, which makes him very contrairy whenever there's does be any complaints of hard usage from the undher tenants. I'll tell you his plan when he finds any thing o' the sort afther his head tenants. He doesn't drive 'em, nor be hard upon em, nor ax for the arrears, nor one ha'p'orth, only sends his sarvant boy down to their house with a little whip-handle, about so big, that's as well known upon his estate, as the landlord's own face. Well, the sarvant boy comes in, as it might be to my cabin there, (if he hard any thing again' me) and without ever saying one word, he walks in to the middle o' the floore, an' lays the whip handle upon the table, and walks out again without ever saying' one word. Very well, the tenant knows when he sees the whip, that he must carry it up to his landlord next morning, as sure as he has a head upon his shoulders; an' take it from me, there's many lads among 'em have no great welcome for the sighth of it. Well, up they go to the great house, an' there they ax for the masther, an' they carry the whip handle into his parlour, where he locks the door upon 'em, an' if they can't well account for what they done, he makes 'em sthrip, and begins flaking 'em with a horsewhip until their back is all one griskin; an' then he tells 'em to go about their business, an' let him hear no more complaints in future. I thought it was a ghost I seen myself, last night when I found the whip handle on my own table. But I made all clear when I seen the master."
"That is pushing his authority to a feudal extent," said Hardress.
"A what, sir?" asked Phil, looking puzzled.
"Nothing, Phil, nothing. Poll, go in now, and get supper ready in your mistress's "
"Let Phil get it," returned the amazon, "I want to step over to the sthreet* for a pound o' candIes."
"A pound o' candles!" echoed her helpmate with a sneering emphasis.
"'Iss, what else?" exclaimed Poll, grasping her baton, and looking back on him with a menacing gesture.
"You know best what else, yourself," said the husband. "We all know what sort o' candles it is you're going for. I lay my life you're afther gettin' money from the masther. But away with you, don't think I wan't to stop you. Your absence is betther company than your presence any day in the year. So saying he preceded our hero and heroine into the cottage, muttering, in a low voice, a popular distich:
Joy be with you, if you never come back,
Dead or alive, or o' horseback."
In the course of this evening, Eily remarked that her husband, though affectionate as she could desire, was more silent and abstracted than she had ever seen him, and that he more frequently spoke in correction of some little breach of etiquette, or inelegance of manner, than in those terms of eloquent praise and fondness which he was accustomed to lavish upon her. One advantage, however, of Eily's want of penetration was, that the demon of suspicion never disturbed the quiet of her soul; and it required the utmost, and the most convincing, evidence of falsehood, to shake the generous and illimitable confidence which she reposed in any person who was once established in her affections. While she felt therefore some little pain on her husband's account, she never experienced the slightest trouble on her own. She endeavoured with cheerfulness to adapt herself to his wishes, and though in this she could not become immediately successful, he would have owned a rigid temper, indeed, if it had not been softened by the submissive sweetness of her demeanour.
And Hardress was softened, though not satisfied by her gentle efforts. He observed on this evening a much more considerable number of those unpleasing blemishes than he had on any other, and the memory of them pursued him even into his midnight slumbers, where Fancy, as usual, augmented their effect upon his mind. He dreamed that the hour had come on which he was to introduce his bride to his rich and fashionable acquaintances, and that a large company had assembled at his mother's cottage to honour the occasion. Nothing however could exceed the bashfulness, the awkwardness, and the homeliness of speech and accent, with which the rope-maker's daughter received their compliments; and to complete the climax of his chagrin, on happening to look round upon her during dinner, he saw her in the act of peeling a potatoe with her fingers! This phantom haunted him for half the night. He dreamed, moreover, that, when he reasoned with her on this subject, she answered him with a degree of pert vulgarity and impatience which was in "discordant harmony" with her shyness before strangers, and which made him angry at heart, and miserable in mind.
The dreams of passion are always vivid, distinct, and deeply impressive. The feeling of anger and annoyance remained on the mind of Hardress even after he awoke, and although he never failed to correct and dispel the sensation, whenever it arose, yet throughout the whole of the following morning, a strong and disagreeable association was awakened whenever he looked upon Eily.
Before he again left her, Hardress explained the nature of his present position with respect to his mother, and informed his wife of the necessity which existed for spending a considerable portion of the month which was to come at his father's cottage. Eily heard this announcement with pain and grief, but without remonstrance. She cried, like a child, at parting with him; and after he had ridden away, remained leaning against the jamb of the door with her moistened handkerchief placed against her check, in an attitude of musing sorrow. He had promised to return on the second day after, but how was she to live over the long, long interval? A lonesomeness of heart, that was in mournful accordance with the mighty solitudes in which she dwelt, fell down and abode upon her spirit.
On that night Hardress was one of the gayest revellers at his mother's ball. Anne Chute, who was, beyond all competition, the star of the evening, favoured him with a marked and cordial distinction. The flattering deference with which he was received, by all with whom he entered into conversation during the night, surprized him into ease and fluency; and the success of his own eloquence made him in love with his auditory. When it is considered that this was the very first ball he had ever witnessed since his boyhood, and that his life, in the interim had been the life of a recluse, its effect upon his mind will cease to be a matter of surprize. The richness of the dresses葉he liveliness of the music葉he beauty of the fair dancers葉he gaiety of their young partners葉he air of elegant mirth that filled the whole apartment用roduced a new and delicious sensation of happiness in the susceptible temper of Hardress. Our feelings are so much under the government of our habits, that a modern English family in the same rank might have denied the praise of comfort to that which in the unaccustomed eyes of Hardress wore the warmer hue of luxury; for he lived at a time when Irish gentlemen fostered a more substantial pride than at present; when appearances were comparatively but little consulted, and the master of a mansion cared not how rude was the interior, or how ruinous the exterior of his dwelling, provided he could always maintain a loaded larder, and a noisy board. The scene around him was not less enervating to the mind of our hero because the chairs which the company used were of plain oak, and the light from the large glass lustre fell upon coarse unpapered walls, whose only ornament consisted of the cross-barred lines drawn with the trowel in the rough grey mortar. Many of those who are accustomed to scenes of elegant dissipation, might not readily give credence to the effect which was wrought upon his feelings by circumstances of comparatively little import. The perfumed air of the room, the loftiness of the ceiling, the festooning of the drapery above the windows, the occasional pauses and changes in the music, all contributed to raise his mind into a condition of peculiar and exquisite enthusiasm, which made it susceptible of deep, dangerous, and indelible impressions. The wisdom of religion, in prescribing a strict and constant government of the senses, could not be more apparent than on an occasion like this, when their influence upon the reason became almost as potent and absorbing as that of an internal passion.
In the midst of this gaiety of heart and topping fullness of mind, a circumstance occurred to throw it into a more disturbed and serious, but scarce less delightful, condition. The intervals in the dancing, were filled up by songs from the company, and Anne Chute in her turn was called on for her contribution of melody. Hardress was leaning over her chair, and looking at the music-book, which she was turning over leaf after leaf, as if in search of some suitable piece for the occasion.
"Ah, this will do I think," said Anne, pausing at a manuscript song, which was adapted to an old air, and running a rapid prelude along the keys of the instrument. The letters H. C. were written at the top of the page, and Hardress felt a glow like fire upon his brow the instant he beheld them. He drew back a little out of the light, and listened, with an almost painful emotion, to the song which the fair performer executed with an ease and feeling that gave to the words an effect beyond that to which they might themselves have pretended. They were the following:
A place in thy memory, dearest,
Is all that I claim,
To pause and look back when thou hearest
The sound of my name.
Another may woo thee, nearer,
Another may win and wear;
I care not though he be dearer,
If I am remembered there.
Remember me溶ot as a lover
Whose hope was cross'd,
Whose bosom can never recover
The light it hath lost.
As the young bride remembers the mother
She loves, though she never may see;
As a sister remembers a brother.
O, dearest! remember me.
Could I be thy true lover, dearest,
Could'st thou smile on me,
I would he the fondest and nearest
That ever loved thee!
But a cloud on my pathway is glooming
That never must burst upon rhine;
And Heaven, that made thee all blooming,
Ne'er made thee to wither on mine.