How Hardress Consoled Himself During His Separation from Eily
"Oh, did you not hear of Kate Kearney?
Who lives on de Banks of Killarney,
From the glance of her eye,
Shun danger and fly,
For fatal's de glance of Kate Kearney."
He had turned in upon the road which led to Aghadoe, and beheld at a short distance the ruined church, and the broken grave-stones which were scattered around its base. Danny, with the caution which he had learned from his infancy, suppressed his unhallowed song as he approached this mournful retreat, and stepped along with a softer pace, in order to avoid attracting the attention of any spiritual loiterers in his neighbourhood The grave of poor Dalton, the huntsman, was amongst the many which he beheld, and Danny knew that it was generally reported, amongst the peasantry, that his ghost had been frequently seen in the act of exercising, after death, that vocation to which, during life, he had been so ardently attached. Danny, who had no ambition to become a subject for the view-halloo to his sporting acquaintance, kept on the shady side of the road, in the hope that by this means he might be enabled to "stale by, onknownst."
Suddenly, the night wind, which hurried after, bore to his ear the sound of several voices, which imitated the yelling of hounds in chase and the fox-hunters' cry. Danny started aghast with terror, a heavy and turbid sensation pressed upon his nerves, and all his limbs grew damp. He crossed himself, and drew close to the dry-stone wall which bounded the road side.
"Hoicks! Come!—Come!—Come away! Come away! Hoicks!" was shouted at the top of a voice that, one might easily judge, had sounded the death-knell of many a wily reynard. The cry was caught up and echoed at various distances by three less practiced voices. The ringing of horses' hoofs against the hard and frosty road, was the next sound that encountered the ear of the little Lord. It approached rapidly nearer, and grew too sharp and hard to suppose that it could be occasioned by any concussion of immaterial substances. It proved, indeed, to be a danger of a more positive and actual kind. Our traveller perceived, in a few minutes, that the noise proceeded from three drunken gentlemen who were returning from a neighbouring debauch, and urging their horses forward to the summit of their speed, with shouts and gestures which gave them the appearance of demoniacs.
The foremost, perceiving Danny Maun, pulled up his horse, with a violent check, and the others, as they approached, irnitated his example. The animals (who were worthy of kinder masters) appeared to participate in the intoxication of their riders. Their eyes flared, their mouths were hid in foam and they snorted in impatient scorn of the delay to which they were subjected.
"Tally!" cried the first who gallopped up. "Ware bailiff! Who are you?"
"A poor man, sir, dat's going de road to—"
"Hoicks! A bailiff! Come, come away! Don't I know you, you limb of mischief? Give me out your processes, or I'll beat you into a jelly. Kneel down there, on the road, until I ride over you!"
"Dat de hands may stick to me, sir, if I have a process in de world."
"Kneel down, I say!" repeated the drunken horseman, shaking his whip loose, and applying it, several times, with all his might, to the shoulders of the recusant. "Lie down on the road, until I ride over you and trample your infernal brains out!"
"Pink him! Sweat him! Pink the rascal!" cried another horseman, riding rapidly up, and flourished a naked sword. "Put up your whip, Connolly, out with your sword, man, and let us pink the scoundrel."
"Do as Creagh bids you, Connolly," exclaimed a third, who was as drunk again as the other two. "Out with your blade and pi—pink the ras—rascal."
There was nothing for it but a run, and Danny took to his heels like a fawn. This measure, however, gave a new zest to the sport. The gentlemen gallopped after him, with loud shouts of "Hoicks!" and "Tally!" and overtook him at a part of the road which was enclosed by hedges, too close and high to admit of any escape into the fields. Knowing well the inhuman desperation with which the gentlemen of the day were accustomed to follow up freaks of this kind, Danny felt his heart sink as low as if he had been pursued by a rooted enemy. While he glanced in terror from one side to another, and saw himself cut off from all chance of safety, he received a blow on the head from the loaded handle of a whip, which stunned, staggered, and finally laid him prostrate on the earth.
"I have him!" shouted his pursuer. "Here he is, as cool as charity. I'll trample the rascal's brains out!"
So saying, he reined up his horse, and endeavoured, by every species of threat and entreaty, to make the chafed and fiery steed set down his iron hoof upon the body of the prostrate Lord. But the animal, true to that noble instinct which distinguishes the more generous individuals of his species, refused to fall in with the bloody humour of his rider. He set his feet apart, demi-volted to either side, and would not, by any persuasion or sleight of horsemanship, be prevailed upon to injure the fallen man.
Danny, recovering from the stunning effects of the blow, and perceiving the gentlemen hemming him round with their swords, now sought, in an appeal to their mercies, that security which he could not obtain by flight. He knelt before them, lifted up his hands, and implored compassion in accents which would have been irresistible by any but drunken gentlemen on a pinking frolic. But his cries were drowned in the savage shouts of his beleaguerers. Their swords gathered round him in a fearful circle, and Creagh commenced operations by a thrust in the arm, which left a gash of nearly half an inch in depth. His companions, who did not possess the same dexterity in the exercise of the weapon, and were nevertheless equally free of its use, thrust so frequently, and with so much awkwardness, that the unfortunate deformed ran a considerable risk of losing his life. He had already received several gashes in the face and limbs, and was growing faint with pain and anxiety, when the voice of a fourth horseman was heard at a little distance, and young Hardress Cregan, as little self-possessed as the rest, gallopped into the group. He drew his small sword, flourished it in the moonlight with a fierce halloo! that was echoed far away among the lakes and mountains, and prepared to join in the fun. But one glance was sufficient to enable him to recognize his servant.
"Connolly, hold! Hold off, Creagh! Hold, or I'll stab you!" he cried aloud while he struck up their swords with passion, "How dared you set upon my servant? You are both drunk! go home or I'll hash you!"
"Drunk!" said his father, "pup—Puppy! wha—what do you call d—d—drunk? D—d—d'you say I'm drunk? Eh?" And he endeavoured, but without much success, to assume a steady and dignified posture in his saddle.
"No sir," said Hardress, who merited his own censure as richly as any one present, "But—a— th—these two gentlemen are."
"D'ye hear that, Creagh?" said Connolly, "Come along and show him if we're drunk. Look here, Mister Slender-limbs! Do you see that road?"
"I—I do," said Hardress, who might have conscientiously sworn to the seeing more than one.
"And do you—(look here!)—do you see this horse?"
"I do," said Hardress, with some gravity of deliberation.
"And do you see me?" shouted the querist,
"And raised upon his desperate foot
On stirrup-side, he gazed about."
"Ve—very—well! You see that road, and you see my horse, and you see me! Ve—very well. Now could a drunken man do this? Yo—hoicks! Come! come! come away! hoicks!" And, so saying, he drove the rowels into his horse's flank, stooped forward on his seat and gallopped away with a speed that made the night air whistle by his ears. He was followed, at an emulative rate, by Hyland Creagh and the elder Cregan.
Hardress now assisted the afflicted Danny to mount behind him, and putting spurs to his horse, rode after his companions, at a pace but little inferior, in point of speed, to that which they had used.
Arrived at the cottage, he bade Danny follow him into the drawing room, where there was a cheerful fire. The other gentlemen, in the mean time, had possessed themselves of the dining parlour, and were singing in astounding chorus the melody which begins with this verse:
"Come! each jolly fellow
That loves to be mellow,
Attend unto me and sit easy;
One jorum in quiet,
My boys we will try it,
Dull thinking will make a man crazy.
The ladies, who had spent the evening out were not yet returned, and Hardress, much against the will of the affrighted boatman, insisted upon Danny's taking his seat, before the fire, in Mrs. Cregan's arm-chair.
"Sit down there!" he exclaimed, with violence, seizing him by the collar, and forcing him into the seat. "Know, fellow, that if I bid you sit on a throne you are fit to fill it!—You are a king, Danny!" he added, standing unsteadily before his servant, with one hand thrust between his ample shirt frills and the other extended in an oratorical attitude, "you are a king, in heart, though not in birth. But, tush! as Sterne says—Are we not all relations? Look at this hand! I admire you, Danny Mann! I respect—I venerate you—I think you a respectable person, in your class, respectable in your class, and what more could be expected from a king?—I admire—I love you, Danny!—You are a king in heart! though not," he repeated, lowering the tone of his eulogy while he fixed his half-closed eyes upon the deplorable figure of the little Lord, "though not in appearance."
Any body, who could contemplate Danny's person, at this moment, might have boldly joined in the assertion that he was not "a king, in appearance." The poor little hunch-back sat forward in the chair, in a crouching attitude, half terrified, and abashed by the finery with which he was surrounded. His joints were stiffening from the cold, his dress sparkling with a hoar frost, and his face of a wretched white wherever it was not discoloured by the clotted blood. At every noise he half started from his seat with the exclamation, "Tunder alive! its de missiz!"
"Nancy!" Hardress said, addressing the old woman who came to answer the bell. "Nancy, draw that table near the fire, there, and slip into the dining parlour, do you hear? and bring me here the whiskey, a jug of hot water, a bowl, two glasses, and a lemon—Don't say a word to the gentlemen—I'll take a quiet glass here in comfort with Danny—"
"With Danny!" exclaimed the old woman, throwing up her hands.
"Oh, dat I mightn't sin, master, if I daare do it!" said Danny, springing out of the chair. "I'll be kilt be de missiz."
"Stay where you are!" said Hardress, "and you, woman! do as you're bid!"
He was obeyed. The Lord, in vain ennobled, returned to his seat; and the bewildered Nancy laid on the table the materials in demand.
"Danny," said Hardress, filling out a brimming glass to his dependant, "when the winds of autumn raved, and the noble Shannon ruffled his grey pate against the morning sun, when the porpoise rolled his black bulk amid the spray and foam, and the shrouds sung sharp against the cutting breeze—do you understand me?"
"'Iss, partly sir."
"In those moments, then, of high excitement and of triumph, with that zest which danger gives to enjoyment, when every cloud that darkened on the horizon sent forth an additional blast, a fresh trumpeter amongst the Tritons to herald our destruction; when our best hope was in our own stout hands, and our dearest consolation that of the Trojan leader—
Hæc olim meminisse juvabit!
Do you understand that?"
"It's Latin, sir, I'm thinking."
"Probatum est! When the struggle grew so close between our own stout little vessel and her invisible aerial foe, as to approach the climax of contention, the point of contact between things irresistible, and things immovable, the—Do you understand?"
"More Latin, sir?"
"That's Greek, you goose."
"It's all Greek to me," said Danny.
"But in those moments, my fidus Achates, you often joined me in a simple aquatic meal, and why not now? This is my conclusion. Why not now? Major—We used to eat together—minor—We wish to drink together—conclusion—We ought to drink together." And following up, in act a conclusion so perfectly rational, the collegian, (who was only pedantic in his maudlin hours) hurried swiftly out of sight the contents of his own lofty glass.
Danny timidly imitated his example, at the same time drawing from inside the lining of his hat, the letter of the unhappy Eily. Intoxicated as he was, the sight of this well-known hand produced a strong effect upon her unprincipled husband. His eye-lid quivered, his hand trembled, and a black expression swept across his face. He thrust the letter, opened, but still unread, into his waistcoat pocket, refilled his glass, and called on Danny for a song.
"A song, Master Hardress! Oh, dat I may be happy, if I'd raise my voice in dis room for all Europe!"
"Sit in that chair, and sing!" exclaimed Hardress, clenching his hand, and extending it towards the recusant, "or I'll pin you to that door!"
Thus enforced, the rueful Danny returned to the chair which he had once more deserted, and after clearing his throat by a fresh appeal to the glass, he sang a little melody which may yet be heard at evening in the western villages. Hardress was enchanted with the air, the words, and the style of the singer. He made Danny repeat it, until he became hoarse, and assisted to bear the burthen himself with more of noise than good taste or correctness. The little Lord, as he dived deeper into the bowl, began to lose his self-restraint, and to forget the novelty of his situation. He rivalled his master in noise and volubility, and no longer showed the least reluctance or timidity when commanded to chaunt out the favourite lay for the seventh time, at least:
My mamma she bought me a camlet coat-gown,
Made in de fashion, wit de tail of it down,
A dimity petticoat whiter dan chalk,
An' a pair o' bow slippers to help me to walk.
An' its Oro wisha, Dan'el asthore!
I've a nice little dog to bark at my doore,
A nate little besom to sweep up de floore,
Every ting else dat is fit for good use,
Two ducks and a gander, besides an old goose.
An' its Oro wisha, Dan'el asthore."
"Well, why do you stop? What do you stare at?" Hardress asked, perceiving the vocalist suddenly lower his voice, and slinge away from the table, while his eyes were fixed on the farther end of the room. The collegian looked in the same direction, and beheld the figure of a young female, in a ball dress of unusual splendour, standing as if fixed in astonishment. Her black hair, which was decorated with one small sprig of pearls, hung loose around her head, a necklace of the same costly material rested on her bosom, and was, in part, concealed by the bright coloured silk kerchief which was drawn around her shoulders. On one arm she held the fur- trimmed cloak and heavy shawl which she had just removed from her person, and which were indicative of a recent exposure to the frosty air. Indeed, nothing but the uproarious mirth of the ill-assorted revellers, could have prevented their hearing the wheels of the carriage as they grated along the gravel—plat before the hall door. This venerable vehicle was sent to set the ladies down by the positive desire of their hostess, and Mrs. Cregan accepted it in preference to her open curricle, although she knew that a more crazy and precarious mode of conveyance could not be found, even among the ships marked with the very last letter on Lloyd's list.
Recognizing his cousin, Hardress endeavoured to assume towards Danny Mann, an air of dignified condescension and maudlin majesty, which formed a ludicrous contrast to the convivial freedom of his manner a few moments before.
"Very well, my man," he said, liquifying the consonants in every word. "Go out now, go to the kitchen, and I'll hear the remainder of your story in the morning." Danny fell cunningly into the deception of his master, to whom he now evinced a profundity of respect, as if to banish the idea of equality, which the foregoing scene might have suggested.
"Iss, plase your honour!" he said, bowing repeatedly down to his knees, and brushing his hat back, until it swept the floor, "long life and glory to your honour, master Hardress, an' tis I dat would be lost, if it wasn't for your goodness. Oh, murder, murder!" he added, to himself, as he scoured out of the room, describing a wide circuit to avoid Miss Chute, "I'll be fairly flayed alive on de 'count of it."
"Well, Anne?" said Hardress, rising and moving towards her with some unsteadiness of gait. "I—I'm glad to see you, Anne, we're just come home: very pleasant night, pleasant fellows, very, very pleasant fellows, some cap—capital songs, I was wishing for you, Anne. Had you a pleasant night where you were? Who—who did you dance with? Come, Anne, we'll dance a minuet—min—minuet de la cour."
"Excuse me," said Anne, coldly, as she turned towards the door, "not at this hour, certainly."
"A fig for the hour, Anne. Hours were made for slaves. Anne, oh, Anne! You look beautiful—beautiful to-night! Oh, Anne! Time flies, youth fades, and age, with slow and withering pace, comes on, before we hear his footfall!" Here he sang in a loud, but broken voice—
"Then follow, follow,
Follow, follow pleasure!
There's no drinking in the grave!"
"Oh, Anne! that's as true as if the Stagyrite had penned it. Worms, Anne, worms and silence! Come, one minuet! Lay by your cloak—
"And follow, follow,
Follow, follow pleasure!
There's no dancing in the grave!"
"Let me pass, if you please," said Miss Chute, still cold and lofty, while she endeavoured to get to the door.
"Not awhile, Anne," replied Hardress, catching her hand.
"Stand back, sir!" exclaimed the offended girl, drawing up her person into the attitude of a Minerva, while her forehead glowed, and her eye flashed with indignation. "If you forget yourself, do not suppose that I am inclined to commit the same oversight." Saying this, she walked out of the room, with the air of an offended princess, leaving Hardress a little struck and sobered by the sudden change in her manner.
Lifting up his eyes, after a pause of some moments, he beheld his mother standing near, and looking on him with an eye in which the loftiness of maternal rebuke was mingled with an expression of sneering and satirical reproach.
"You are a wise young gentleman," she said, "you have done well. Fool that you are, you have destroyed yourself." Without bestowing another word upon him, Mrs. Cregan took one of the candles in her hand, and left the room.
Hardress had sufficient recollection to follow her example. He took the other light, and endeavoured, but with many errors, to navigate his way towards the door. "Destroyed myself!" he said, as he proceeded, "Why where's the mighty harm of taking a cheerful glass on a winter's night with a friend? A friend, Hardress? Yes, a friend, but what friend? Danny Mann, alias Danny the Lord, my boatman. It won't do! (shaking his head.) It sounds badly. I'm afraid I did something to offend Anne Chute. I'm sorry for it, because I respect her; I respect you, Anne, in my very, very heart. But I'm ill used, and I ought to have satisfaction; Creagh has pinked my boatman. I'll send him a message, that's clear; I'll not be hiring boatmen for him to be pinking for his amusement. Let him pink their master if he can. That's the chat! (snapping his fingers,) Danny Mann costs me twelve pounds a year, besides his feeding and clothing, and I'll not have him pinked by old Hyland Creagh, afterwards. Pink me, if he can: let him leave my boatman alone! That's the chat! This floor goes starboard and larboard, up and down, like the poop of a ship; up and—Hallo! Who are you? oh, its only the door. I have broke my nose against it. And if I break my own nose without any reason at this time o' day, what usage can I expect from Creagh, or any body else?"
Having arrived at this wise conclusion, he sallied out of the room, rubbing with one hand the bridge of the afflicted feature, and elevating, in the other, the light, which he still held with a most retentive grasp. As the long and narrow hall, which lay between him and his bed-chamber formed a direct rail-road way, which it was impossible even for a drunken man to miss, he reached the little dormitory without farther accident. The other gentlemen had been already borne away unresisting from the parlour, and transmitted from the arms of Mike to those of Morpheus.