23

How an Unexpected Visitor Arrived in Eily's Cottage

TOWARDS NIGHT-FALL, Eily awoke with that confused and strange feeling which a person experiences, who has slept at an unaccustomed hour. The sun had already set; but the red and faintly lustrous shadow of her window, which was thrown on the opposing wall, showed that his refracted light was yet strong and bright on the horizon. While she lay hack, endeavouring to recall the circumstances which brought her into her present situation, a voice assailed her ear which made her start in sudden alarm from her reclining posture. It was that of a person singing in a low voice outside her window the following words:—

    "As I roved out on a fine summer morning,
        A speculating most curiously,
    To my surprise I soon espied
        A charming fair one approaching me.
    I stood awhile—

    here the melodist knocked gently at the door of the cottage—


    I stood awhile in deep meditation,
        Contemplating what I should do;
    Till, at length, recruiting all my sensations,
        I thus accosted the fair Colleen rue."*

    At the close of the verse, which was prolonged by the customary nasal twang, the singer knocked a little more loudly with the knuckle of his fore-finger;—


    "Oh, was I Hecthor, that noble victhor,
        Who died a victim to the Grecian skill;
    Or was I Paris, whoase deeds were vaarious,
        As an arbithraator on Ida's hill.
    I'd roam through Asia, likewise Arabia,
        Or Pennsylvania—

    here he knocked again—


        Or Pennsylvania looking for you,
    Through the burning ragions, like famed Orpheus,
        For one embrace of you, Colleen rue."

    "I am ruined! I am undone!" thought Eily, as she listened in deep distress and fear, "my father has found me out, and they are all come to look for me! Oh, Hardress! Hardress!"

    "They're all dead, or dhraming here, I believe," said the singer; "I'm in fine luck, if I have to go down the ould gap again afther night-fall." Stimulated by this reflection, he turned his back to the door, and began kicking against it with his heel, while he continued his song:


    "And are you Aurora, or the goddess Flora,
        Or Eutherpasia, or fair Vanus bright?
    Or Halen fair, beyond compare,
        Who am Paris stole from the Grecian's sight?
    Thou fairest creature, how you've inslaved me!
        I'm intoxicated by Cupid's clue,
    Whoase golden notes and infatuations,
    Have deranged my ideas for you, Colleen rue.

    Here the same air was taken up by a shrill and broken female voice, at a little distance from the house, and in the words which follow:—


    "Sir, I pray be aisy, and do not tease me
        With your false praises most jestingly;
    Your golden notes and insiniwayshuns
        Are vaunting speeches decaiving me.
    I'm not Aurora, nor the goddess Flora,
        But a rural female to all men's view,
    Who's here condoling my situation,
    And my appellation is the Colleen rue."

    "You're not Aurora?" muttered the first voice. "Wisha, dear knows, it isn't aisy to conthradict you. They'd be the dhroll Auroras an' Floras, if that's the figure they cut. Ah! Mrs. Naughten!" he added, raising and changing his voice as the shadow of the female figure crossed the window of Eily's apartment, "How are you this evening ma'am? I hope you got well over your voyage that morning?"

    "What voyage? Who is it I have there at all?" said Poll in a tone of surprise. "Oh, Lowry Looby! Oh, ma gra hu! how is every inch of you, Lowry? It raises the very cockles o' my heart to see you."

    "Purty well, indeed, as for the health, Mrs. Naughten, we're obleest to you."

    "Oh, vo, vo! An' what brought you into this part of the world, Lowry? It's a long time since you an' I met."

    "'Tis as good as two months, a' most, I b'lieve."

    "Two months, eroo? 'Tis six years if its a day."

    "Oh 'iss, for good; but I mane the time we met in the cottage behind at the dairy farm, the night o' the great starm, when ye were near being all lost, in the boat, if it wasn't the will o' Heaven."

    "The dairy farm! lost in the boat! I don't know what is it you're talken' about at all, man. But come in, come in, Lowry, and take a sate. Stop, here's Phil. Phil, eroo, this is Lowry Looby, that you heard me talk of being a friend o' the Hewsans, formerly."

    Thus introduced, Phil and Lowry both took off their hats, and bowed repeatedly, and with a most courteous profundity of obeisance. The door was then opened, and a polite contest arose as to the right of precedence between the gentlemen, which was finally decided in favour of Lowry, as the visitor.

    "Well, Lowry, what news eastwards?" was the next question.

    "Oh, then nothing sthrange, Mrs. Naughten. I was twice by this way, since I seen you that night. Coming from Cork I was to-day, when I thought I'd step over, and see how you wor, afther the voyage. I left the horse an' car over, in Mr. Cregan's yard."

    "I believe you're lost with the hunger. Phil, stir yourself, an' put down something for supper."

    "Don't hurry yourself on my account," said Lowry, affecting an indifference which he did not feel, "I took something at Mr. Cregan's. I saw Masther Hardeess there in the parlour windee, playin' chests (I think it is they called it) with Miss Anne Chute. Oh, murder, that's a darling, a beautiful lady! Her laugh is like music. Oh, dear! oh, dear! To see the smile of her, though, an' she looking at him! It flogged the world! Mike, the boy, they have there, an' old Nancy, told me, she's greatly taken with the young masther."

    "Why then, she may as well throw her cap at him."

    "Why so, eroo?" "Oh—for raisons.

    "There's one thing Mike told me, an' I'm sure I wondher I never heerd a word of it before; that there was some talks of herself and my young masther, Mr. Kyrle Daly. I know he used to be going there of an odd time, but I never heerd any thing that way. There's a dale that's looking afther her, Mike tells me. Whoever gets her, they say, he'll have as much jewels to fight, as will keep him going for the first quarther, any way."

    "Tha go bragh!" said Phil, tossing his head, "that's what bothers the gentlemen. Jewels, jewels, always."

    "Jewels always, then, just as you say, Misther Naughten," said Lowry. "Its what ruins 'em, body and soul. At every hand's turn nothing but a jewel! Let there be a conthrairy look, and pistols is the word at once."

    "An' if a poor boy is reflected upon, an' goes to a fair to thry it out, with an innocent little kippen, O the savages! the gentlemen cry at once. O the blood thirsty villyans! And they'll go themselves and shoot one another like dogs for less raison."

    "It's thrue, for you," returned Lowry. "Sure 'twould be a blessing for a man to be airtng a dhry piatie from morning till night, an' to have quietness. I'll tell you what it is, Misther Naughten. I spake for myself, of all things going, I wouldn't like to be born a gentleman. They're never out o' throuble, this way, or that way. If they're not fighting, they have more things upon their mind, that would bother a dozen poor men; an' if they go divarting, ten to one they have a jewel before the day is over. Sure if it was a thing, two gentlemen axed a lady to dance, an' she gave in to one of 'em, the other should challenge him for to go fighting! Sure, that flogs Europe! And they have so much books to read, to be able to convarse genteel before the ladies. I'm told, a gentleman isn't fit to shew his face in company, till he reads as much books as would sthretch from this to the doore over. And then to be watching yourself, an' spake Englified, an' not to ate half your 'nough at dinner, an' to have 'em all looking at you, if you took too big a bit, or done any thing again' manners, and never to have your own fling, an' let you do what you liked yourself! I wouldn't lade such a life, if I got Europe. A snug stool by the fireside, a boiled piatie in one hand, a piggin o' milk in the other, and one (that I won't name now) smiling overright me, that's all the gentility I'd ever ax for this world, any way. I'd a'most as lieve be born a female as a gentleman, manning no offence to the ladies, Mrs. Naughten."

    "Every one to his taste, Lowry. Many men have many minds. Phil, will you go out now, and help Danny to put up them goats, not to have them straying over on Myles Murphy's ground as they wor o' Chuesday week. I see Danny coming down the mountain."

    The obedient husband did as he was commanded, and Lowry took advantage of his absence, to enter into a more confidential communication with his formidable hostess.

    "Well, Mrs. Naughten, if I was to hear a person swear this upon a book, I'd say 'twas a lie he was telling me, if I didn't see it with my own eyes.

    "What is it you see?"

    "Oh, then, nothing but what I'm well pleased to see. Well, I thought one that once gave themselves a bad habit, could never be broke of it again, no more than a horse could be broke of starting."

    At this the virago fixed upon him a kindling and suspicious eye.

    "And tell me now, Mrs. Naughten," continued Lowry, not perceiving the indication of incipient wrath, "how did it come on you first when you dhropt the cursing that way entirely? I think I'd feel a great loss for the first week or fortnight."

    "Folly on! Misther Looby, folly on! You're welcome to your sport this evening."

    "Sport? Faiks it's no sport to me, only an admiration. All the people that ever I heerd of making a vow o' the kind wor sure to break it again, if they didn't get inside of it, one way or another by shkaming. Sure there was, to my own knowledge, John O'Reilly, the blacksmith near Castle Chute, made as many vows as I have fingers an' toes again' the dhrink, an there isn't one of 'em but what he got the advantage of. First he med a vow he wouldn't dhrink a dhrop for six months to come, any way, either in a house or out of a house. An' sore 'tis where I found him the fortnight afther was at Mick Normile's, an' he dhrinkin' as if it was for bets, an' he sitting in a chair upon the threshold o' the doore with a leg at this side and a leg at that. 'Is that the way you're keeping your vow, Misther O'Reilly?' says I, when I seen him. "Tis,' says he 'what else? sure I can dhrink here,' says he, 'an' no thanks, while I'm neither in the house nor out of it.' And sure 'twas thrue for him. Well, there's no use in talking, but some people would live where a fox would starve. Sure, of another time, he med a vow he wouldn't dhrink upon Ireland ground, an' where do you think did I get him afther only sitting cross legs upon a branch o' the big beech tree near Normile's, an' he still at the ould work, dhrinking away! Wisha, long life to you says I, if that's the way; a purty fruit the tree bears in you, says I, this morning. People o' that kind, Mrs. Naughten, has no business making vows at all, again' the dhrink, or the cursing either."

    "I'm hearing to you, Lowry," said Fighting Poll, with an ominous sharpness in her accent.

    "An' do you hould to the same plan, still, ma'am?"

    "What plan do you mane?"

    "The same plan as when I met you that night at the Dairy Cottage. Not to be talking, nor drinking, nor cursing, nor swearing, nor fighting, nor——Oh, murther, Mrs. Naughten, sure you're not going to sebrike me inside your own doore?"

    "To be sure I would, when I see you daar make a hand o' me!"

    "Me make a hand o' you, woman! What hand am I making?"

    "Every hand!" exclaimed the Penthesile, raising her voice. So saying, and with the accustomed yell of onset, she flourished her short stick, and discharged a blow at Lowry's little head, which, if it had not been warded off by a dexterous interposition of the chair on which he had been sitting, would have left him something to think of for a week to come.

    The scuffle waxed hot, and would doubtless have terminated in some serious bodily injury to the party assailed, but that the sudden re-entrance of Phil, with his brother-in-law, Danny Mann, brought it to a premature termination.

    "Poll! Poll, ayeh! Misther Looby! What's the mather? Worn't ye as thick as cousins this moment?"

    "A' Lowry, is dat you? What's all dis about?"

    "Don't hould me Phil, an' I'll bate him while bating is good for him! an' that's from this till morning."

    "Here's usage, Mr. Naughten! Mr. Mann, here's thratement! Gi' me my ould hat an' let me be off, I was a fool to come at all! And after my civility eastwards, when you come dhripping wet into the cottage! Well, it's all one." "Whisht eroo!" said Danny Mann, in a conciliating tone, "Come dis way, Lowry, I want to talk to you." And he led him out of the cottage.

    Eily, who was perfectly aware of the cause of this misconception, had listened to the whole scene, at one time with intense and painful anxiety; and at another with an inclination to laugh in spite of all the difficulties and dangers by which she was surrounded. Before long, however, an idea entered her mind, which wholly detached her attention from the melay in the kitchen. She resolved to write to her father by Lowry, to make him aware, at least, of her safety and of her hope to meet him again in honour, if not in happiness. This would at least remove one great load from her mind, and prepare him for her return. While she arranged her writing materials at the small table, the thoughts of home came crowding on her, so thick and fast, that she found a difficulty in proceeding with her task. It was an humble home, to be sure, but yet it was her home. He was an humble father, but he was her father. She painted a little picture, unconsciously, to her own mind, of that forsaken dwelling. She saw her father sitting by the turf fire, leaning forward with his elbow resting on his knee, a finger beneath his temple, and his grey watery eye fixed on her accustomed chair, which stood empty, on the opposite side. His hair had received another shower of silver since they parted. She scarcely dared to breathe aloud, lest she should disturb the imagined loneliness of his condition. On a sudden she figured to herself the latched door put gently back, and the form of Lowry Looby entering, with her letter in his hand. She marked the air of cold and sad indifference with which the old man recognized him, and received the letter. He looked at the direction—started—tore off the seal and looked within, while his whole frame trembled until the gray hairs were shaken loose upon his temples. She saw the passion struggling in his throat, and her own eyes were blinded by tears; the picture here became too vivid for her feelings, and pushing the little desk aside, she sank down into her chair in a violent fit of sobbing.

    While she remained in this condition, Poll Naughten entered the room, arranging her disordered head-dress, and bearing still upon her countenance the traces of the vanished storm. Its expression, however, was completely altered, when she observed the situation of Eily.

    "What ails you, a ra gal?" she asked in a softened voice, "Arn't you betther afther the sleep at all?"

    "Poll, do you know that man who is in the kitchen?"

    "Is it Lowry Looby? Ah ha! the scoundhril! 'tis I that do, an' I'll make him he'll know me too before I part him."

    "Hush! Poll, come hither. I want you to do me a service. I know this man, too."

    "Why then he's little credit to you, or any one else."

    "I want to caution you against saying a word of my name, while he is in the house. It would be ruinous both to your master and myself."

    "Faiks, I'll engage he won't be a bit the wiser of it for Poll Naughten."

    "And I wished besides, that you would give him, if he intends going to Limerick, a letter, which I will have for you in a few minutes. You need not tell him from whom it comes, do not even let him know that it is from a person in the house. And now, Poll, will you light me one of those candles, and close the window-shutters?"

    This was done, and Eily commenced her letter. Before she proceeded far, however, it occurred to her, that the superscription might awaken the suspicions of Lowry, and besides, she felt a very accountable difficulty about the manner of addressing her offended parent. Finally she decided on forwarding a brief and decorous note, to "Mr. Donat O'Leary, Hair-cutter, Garryowen;" in which she requested him to communicate, to his old neighbour, the circumstances of which she desired the latter should be made aware.

    While she folded the letter, she heard the cottage door once more open, and two persons enter the kitchen. A stillness ensued, which was first broken by the voice of Danny Mann.

    "I was spaking to this boy here, Poll," he said, "an' I see 'tis all rising out of a mistake betune de two o' ye. He didn't mane any thing by it, he tells me. Eh, Lowry?"

    "It would be long from me, Mrs. Naughten, to say any thing offensive to you, or any o' your people. Misther Mann, here, explained to me the nature of the matther. I own I didn't mane a ha'p'worth."

    "Well, that's enough, that's enough. Give him the hand now, Poll,' said her husband, "and let us ate our little supper in pace."

    Eily heard no more, and the clatter of knives and forks, soon after, informed her that the most perfect harmony had been re-established amongst the parties. Nothing farther occurred to disturb the good understanding which was thus fortunately restored, or to endanger the secret of our heroine, although Lowry was not without making many enquiries as to the name and quality of the lodger in the inner room. It was a long time too, before he ceased to speculate on the nature of the letter to Foxy Dunat. On this his hostess would give him no information, although he threw out several hints of his anxiety to obtain it, and made many conjectures of his own, which he invariably ended by tossing the head, and declaring that "It flogged the world."







 







* Red little girl.