How Mr. Daly The Middleman Sat Down to Breakfast
They had assembled, on the morning of Eily's disappearance, a healthy and blooming household of all sizes, in the principal sitting room for a purpose no less important than that of dispatching breakfast. It was a favourable moment for any one who might be desirous of sketching a family picture. The windows of the room, which were thrown up for the purpose of admitting the fresh morning air, opened upon a trim and sloping meadow that looked sunny and cheerful with the bright green aftergrass of the season. The broad and sheety river washed the very margin of the little field, and bore upon its quiet bosom, (which was only ruffled by the circling eddies that encountered the advancing tide,) a variety of craft, such as might be supposed to indicate the approach to a large commercial city. Majestic vessels, floating idly on the basined flood, with sails half furled, in keeping with the languid beauty of the scene; lighters burthened to the water's edge with bricks or sand; large rafts of timber, borne onward towards the neighbouring quays under the guidance of a shipman's boat-hook; pleasure-boats, with gaudy pennons hanging at peak and topmast; or turf boats with their unpicturesque and ungraceful lading, moving sluggishly furward, while their black sails seemed gasping for a breath to fill them; such were the incidents that gave a gentle animation to the prospect immediately before the eyes of the cottage-dwellers. On the farther side of the river arose the Cratloe hills, shadowed in various places by a broken cloud, and rendered beautiful by the chequered appearance of the ripening tillage, and the variety of hues that were observable along their wooded sides. At intervals, the front of a handsome mansion brightened up in a passing gleam of sunshine, while the wreaths of blue smoke, ascending at various distances from amongst the trees, tended to relieve the idea of extreme solitude which it would otherwise have presented.
The interior of the cottage was not less interesting to contemplate than the landscape which lay before it. The principal breakfast table (for there were two spread in the room) was placed before the window, the neat and snow white damask cloth covered with fare that spoke satisfactorily for the circumstances of the proprietor, and for the housewifery of his helpmate. The former, a fair, pleasant faced old gentleman in a huge buckled cravat and square-toed shoes, somewhat distrustful of the meagre beverage which fumed out of Mrs. Daly's lofty and shining coffee-pot, had taken his position before a cold ham and fowl which decorated the lower end of the table. His lady, a courteous old personage, with a face no less fair and happy than her husband's, and with eyes sparkling with good nature and intelligence, did the honours of the board at the farther end. On the opposite side, leaning over the back of his chair with clasped hands in an attitude which had a mixture of abstraction and anxiety, sat Mr. Kyrle Daly, the first pledge of connubial affection that was born to this comely pair. He was a young man already initiated in the rudiments of the legal profession; of a handsome figure; and in manner—but something now pressed upon his spirits which rendered this an unfavourable occasion for describing it.
A second table was laid in a more retired portion of the room, for the accommodation of the younger part of the family. Several well burnished goblets, or porringers, of thick milk flanked the sides of this board, while a large dish of smooth-coated potatoes reeked up in the centre. A number of blooming boys and girls, between the ages of four and twelve, were seated at this simple repast, eating and drinking away with all the happy eagerness of youthful appetite. Not, however, that this employment occupied their exclusive attention, for the prattle which circulated round the table frequently became so boisterous as to drown the conversation of the older people, and to call forth the angry rebuke of the master of the family.
The furniture of the apartment was in accordance with the appearance and manners of its inhabitants. The floor was handsomely carpetted, a lofty green fender fortified the fire-place, and supplied Mr. Daly in his facetious moments with occasions for the frequent repetition of a favorite conundrum——"Why is that fender like Westminster Abbey?" a problem with which he never failed to try the wit of any stranger who happened to spend a night beneath his roof. The wainscoated walls were ornamented with several of the popular prints of the day, such as Hogarth's Roast Beef— Prince Eugene—Schomberg at the Boyne—Mr. Betterton playing Cato in all the glory of
or the royal Mandane, in the person of Mrs. Mountain, strutting among the arbours of her Persian palace in a lofty tête and hooped petticoat. There were also some family drawings, done by Mrs. Daly in her school-days, of which we feel no inclination to say more than that they were very prettily framed. In justice to the fair artist it should also be mentioned that, contrary to the established practice, her sketches were never re-touched by the hand of her master; a fact which Mr. Daly was fond of insinuating, and which no one, who saw the pictures, was tempted to call in question. A small book case, with the edges of the shelves handsomely gilded, was suspended in one corner of the room, and on examination might be found to contain a considerable number of works on Irish History—for which study Mr. Daly had a national predilection, a circumstance much deplored by all the impatient listeners in his neighbourhood, and (some people hinted) in his own household; some religious books; and a few volumes on cookery and farming. The space over the lofty chimney piece was assigned to some ornaments of a more startling description. A gun rack, on which were suspended a long shore gun, a brass barrelled blunderbuss, a cutlass, and a case of horse pistols, manifested Mr. Daly's determination to maintain, if necessary, by force of arms, his claim to the fair possessions which his honest industry had acquired.
"Kyrle" said Mr. Daly, putting his fork into a breast of cold goose, and looking at his son—" you had better let me put a little goose" [with an emphasis] "on your plate. You know you are going a wooing to day."
The young gentleman appeared not to hear him. Mrs. Daly, who understood more intimately the nature of her son's reflections, deprecated, by a significant look at her husband, the continuance of any raillery upon so delicate a subject.
"Kyrle, some coffee?" said the lady of the house; but without being more successful in awakening the attention of the young gentleman.
Mr. Daly winked at his wife.
"Kyrle!" he called aloud, in a tone against which even a lover's absence was not proof—"Do you hear what your mother says?"
"I ask pardon sir—I was absent, I—what were you saying, mother?"
She was saying" continued Mr. Daly with a smile "that you were manufacturing a fine speech for Anne Chute, and that you were just meditating whether you should deliver it on your knees, or out of brief, as if you were addressing the Bench in the Four Courts.
"For shame, my dear!—Never mind him, Kyrle, I said no such thing. I wonder how you can say that, my dear, and the children listening.
"Pooh! the little angels are too busy and too innocent to pay us any attention," said Mr. Daly, lowering his voice however. "But speaking seriously, my boy, you take this affair too deeply to heart; and whether it be in our pursuit suit of wealth—or fame—or even in love itself, an extreme solicirtide to be successful is the surest means of defeating its own object. Besides, it argues an unquiet and unresigned condition. I have had a little experience, you know, in affairs of this kind," he added, smiling and glancing at his fair helpmate, who blushed with the simplicity of a young girl.
"Ah, sir," said Kyrle, as he drew nearer to the breakfast table with a magnanimous affectation of cheerfulness. "I fear I have not so good a ground for hope as you may have had. It is very easy, sir, for one to be resigned to disappointment when he is certain of success."
"Why, I was not bidden to despair, indeed," said Mr. Daly, extending his hand to his wife, while they exchanged a quiet smile, which had in it an expression of tenderness and of melancholy remembrance. "I have, I believe, been more fortunate than more deserving persons. I have never been vexed with useless fears in my wooing days, nor with vain regrets when those days were ended. I do not know, my dear lad, what hopes you have formed, or what prospects you may have shaped out of the future, but I will not wish you a better fortune than that you may as nearly approach to their accomplishment as I have done, and that Time may deal as fairly with you as he has done with your father." After saying this, Mr. Daly leaned forward on the table with his temple supported by one finger, and glanced alternately from his children to his wife; while he sang in a low tone the following verse of a popular song:
with a glance at Kyrle—
And this, thought young Kyrle, in the affectionate pause that ensued, this is the question which I go to decide upon this morning; whether my old age shall resemble the picture which I see before me, or whether I shall be doomed to creep into the winter of my life, a lonely, selfish, cheerless, money-hunting old bachelor. Is not this enough to make a little solicitude excusable, or pardonable at least?
"It is a long time now," resumed Mr. Daly "since I have had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Chute. She was a very beautiful but a very wild girl when I knew her. Nothing has ever been more inexplicable to me than the choice she made of a second husband. You never saw Anne's step- father, Tom Chute, or you would be equally astonished. You saw him, my love, did you not?"
Mrs. Daly laughed and answered in the affirmative.
"It shewed indeed a singular taste said Mr. Daly. They tell a curious story too, about the manner of their courtship. "
"What was that sir?" asked Kyrle, who felt a strong sympathetic interest in all stories connected with wooers and wooing.
"I have it, I confess, upon questionable authority—but you shall hear it, such as it is—Now, look at that young thief!" he added laughing, and directing Kyrle's attention to one of the children, a chubby young fellow, who, having deserted the potato-eating corps at the side-table, was taking advantage of the deep interest excited by the conversation, to make a sudden descent upon the contents of the japanned bread basket. Perceiving that he was detected, the little fellow relaxed his fingers, and drew back a little, glancing, from beneath his eye-lashes, a half dismayed and bashful look at the laughing countenance of his parent.
"Charles is not well to-day" said the mother, in a compassionate tone, and cutting him a large wedge of her best home-made bread, which the lad began to demolish with a degree of rapidity that scarcely corroborated the assertion.
"But the story sir?" said Kyrle.
"But the story—Well, little Tom Chute, (he might have been better called little Tom-tit, only that he was not half so sprightly) was a very extraordinary man, for although he was small and fat, he was not merry, nor talkative. You would have pitied him to see him walking about a ball room with ruffles that looked like small buckles, and a queue half as long as himself, reminding one of the handle of a pump when the sucker is up—with the most forlorn aspect in the world, as if he were looking for a runaway wife. It was a curious anomaly in his character that although he—(Silence, there! my dear, will you speak to those children)—that although he always looked miserable in the midst of society, he really was so when out of it, as if the continued embarrassment and mortification which he experienced were a stimulus which he could not do without. Round, fat, shy, awkward, and oily, as he was, however, he tumbled his little rotund figure into the heart of Mrs. Trenchard, who was at that time, though a widow, one of the leading belles in Munster. A fair friend was the first to disclose this rapturous secret to poor Tom, for he might have known Mrs. Trenchard for a century without being able to make it out himself. He did not know whether he should be most frightened or pleased at the intelligence—but certain it is that in the warmth of his first feelings, he made a tender of his hand to the lady, and was instantly accepted. A dashing, handsome fellow who had been rejected by her some time before, and who knew Chute's irresolute temper, resolved to indemnify himself for the mortification he had received by throwing some embarrassment in the way of the nuptials, and effected it simply enough. It seems the lady's accomplishments were of a very general description, for besides playing the harpsichord to admiration, she could manage a horse with any hero of the County Club, and was known to join their hunting parties, and even to ride a steeple chase with eclat. Indeed it was generally admitted that she possessed more spirit than might have answered her purposes, or her husband's either. What fancy she could have taken to Tom Chute, I cannot for my life conceive. Well, this fellow met Tom going to her house one evening, as spruce as a water wagrail, with his queue poking up behind like the flag staff in the stern of a privateer. They got into conversation about the widow. "Beautiful creature, isn't she?" simpered Tom, blushing up to the eyes, for it was another funny foible of Tom's, to redden up like a rose whenever there was any discourse of ladies; even when nobody dreamed of any thing like raillery. "Beautiful creature, isn't she?" says Tom. "Beautiful indeed" replied the other. And Tom stood on his toes, threw out his right elbow and took snuff. "And accomplished, I think?" "And very sensible" says the other. "And lively" says Tom. "And high spirited" says the other. "So they say, her late husband found, poor man, to his cost." Tom dropped his jaw a little, and looked inquisitive. But the other, who saw that his business was done, declined all explanation, and hurried off with a concluding remark, that "the lady was unquestionably a capital whip." Well, Tom got a sudden attack of—I don't know what complaint, went home that night, and sent an apology to the widow. He was not seen near her house for a fortnight after, and a report reached her ears that he had some notion of quitting the country. But if he had, she put a stop to it. One morning when Tom was looking over his books, he was startled by the apparition of a tall woman in a riding dress, with a horsewhip in one hand, and a case of duelling pistols in the other. She nodded to Tom. "I understand" said she—
At this moment, a potatoe peel, flung from the side-table, whisked past Mr. Daly's nose, and with happier aim, lighted on that of Prince Eugene in the print before mentioned. The venerable, but too little venerated, story teller, who had been for the last few minutes endeavouring to raise his voice, so as to make it audible above the encreasing uproar of the young people, now turned round, at this unparalleled and violent aggression, and confronted the daring group in awful silence. Satisfied, however, with the sudden hush of terror which this action occasioned, and willing to reserve the burst of wrath for a future transgression, he turned again in silence; and directing the servant girl who was in the room, to take the potatne peel off Prince Eugene's nose, he resumed the thread of his narrative.
"I understand," said Mrs. Trenchard—for it was no other than the widow—" that you intend leaving Ireland?" Tom stammered and hesitated.—"If my brother were living," continued the lady, "he would horsewhip you—but although he is not, Hetty Trenchard is able to fight her own way. Come, sir, my carriage is at the door below; either step into it with me this minute, or take one of those pistols, and stand at the other end of the room." Well, Tom looked as like a fool as any man in Ireland. He wouldn't fight, and he wouldn't be horsewhipped; so that the business ended in his going into the carriage and marrying the lady, some persons indeed insinuated that Tom was observed in the course of the day to chafe his shoulders two or three times with an expression of pain, as if his change of condition had been the result of a still harsher mode of reasoning than I have mentioned; but this part of the story is without foundation.
"What a bold creature!" said the gentle Mrs. Daly.
"And is it possible, sir," asked Kyrle, "that this amazon is the kind old lady whom Anne Chute attends with so much affection and tenderness in her infirmity?"
"Ah, ha! Kyrle, I see the nature of the bolt that has wounded you, and I like you the better for it, my boy. A good face is a pippin that grows on every hedge, but a good heart, that is to say, a well regulated one, is the apple of the Hesperides, worth even the risk of ease and life itself."
Kyrle assented to this sagacious aphorism with a deep sigh.
"Are the Cregans and they on terms now?" asked Mrs. Daly.
"As much on terms as two families of such opposite habits can be. The Chutes invite the Cregans to a family dinner once or twice in the year, and the Cregans ask the Chutes to their Killarney cottage; both of which invitations are taken as French compliments, and never accepted. Cregan himself hates going to Castle Chute, because he has nobody there to make the jovial night with him, and young Hardress, (your friend, Kyrle,) is too wild a lad to confine himself to mere drawing room society. Apropos, talk of—, 'tis a vulgar proverb, and let it pass; but there goes his trim pleasure boat, the Nora Creina, flying down the river, and there sits the youth himself, tiller in hand, as usual. Patcy, bring me the telescope; I think I see a female dress on board."
The telescope was brought, and adjusted to the proper focus, while a dozen eager faces were collected about the small window, one over another, in the manner of those groups in painting called "Studies of Heads."
"That is he, indeed," continued Mr. Daly, resting the glass on the window-frame, and directing it towards the object of their attention— "there is no mistaking that dark and handsome face, buried up as it is in his huge oiled penthouse hat, and there is his hunch-backed boatman, Danny Mann, or Danny the Lord, as the people call him since his misfortune, tending the foresheet in the bow. But that female—there is a female there, unquestionably, in a blue mantle, with the hood brought low over her eyes, sitting on the ballast. Who can she be?"
"Perhaps, Danny Mann's cousin, Cotch Coonerty?" said Mrs. Daly.
"Or some western dealing woman who has come up to Limerick to purchase a reinforcement of pins, needles, whiskey, and Reading-made-easys, for her village counter, and is getting a free passage home from young master Hardress."
"Like enough, like enough; it is just his way.—Hillo! the fellow is going to run down that fishing cot, I believe!"
A hoarse cry of "Bear away! Hold up your hand!" was heard from the water; and reiterated with the addition of a few expletives, which those who know the energy of a boatman's dialect will understand without our transcribing them here. The pleasure-boat, however; heedless of those rough remonstrances, and apparently indisposed to yield any portion of her way, still held her bowsprit close to the wind, and sailed on, paying no more regard to the peril of the plebeian craft, than a French aristocrat of the vielle cour might be supposed to exhibit for that of a sans culottes about to be trodden down by his leaders in the Rue St. Honoré. The fishermen, with many curses, backed water; and put about as rapidly as possible; but without being able to avoid the shock of the Nora Creina, who just touched their stern with sufficient force to make the cot dart forward nearly an oar's length through the water; and to lay the rowers sprawling on their backs in the bottom. Fortunately the wind, which had sprung up with the returning tide, was not sufficiently strong to render the concussion more dangerous.
"Like his proud mother in every feature," said Mr. Daly—" Is it not singular that while we were speaking of the characters of the family, he could not pass our window without furnishing us with a slight specimen of his own. See how statelily the fellow turns round and contemplates the confusion he has occasioned. There is his mother's grandeur blended with the hair-brained wildness and idle spirit of his father."
"Hardress Cregan's is the handsomest boat in the river," said Patcy, a stout sunburnt boy—"She beat all the Galway hookers from this to Beale. What a nice green hull!—and white sails and beautiful green colours flying over her peak and gaff-topsail! Oh! how I'd like to be steering her!"
Mr. Daly winked at his wife, and whispered her that he had known Rear-Admirals come of smaller beginnings. Mrs. Daly, with a little shudder, replied that she should not wish to see him a Rear-Admiral, the navy was so dangerous a service. Her husband, in order to sooth her, observed that the danger was not very near at hand.
In the meantime, Hardress Cregan became a subject of vehement debate at the side-table, to which the juvenile squadron had returned. One fair haired little girl declared that she was his " pet. " A second claimed that distinction for herself.
"He gave me an O'Dell-cake when he was last here," said one.
"And me a stick of peppermint."
"He gave me a——" in a whisper—" a kiss."
"And me two."
"I'll tell dadda it was you threw the potatoe peel while ago."
"Ah ha, tattler-tell-tale!"
"Silence there! fie! fie! what words are these?" said Mrs. Daly, "come, kiss and be friends, now, both of you and let me hear no more."
The young combatants complied with her injunction, and, as the duelling paragraphs say, "the affair terminated amicably."
"But I was speaking," Mr. Daly resumed, "of the family pride of the Cregans. It was once manifested by Hardress's father in a manner that might make an Englishman smile. When their little Killarney property was left to the Cregans, amongst many other additional pieces of display that were made on the occasion, it behoved Mr. Barny Cregan to erect a family vault and monument in his parish churchyard. He had scarcely however given directions for its construction when he fell ill of a fever, and was very near enjoying the honour of hanselling the new cemetery himself. But he got over the fit, and made it one of his first cares to saunter out as far as the church, and inspect the mansion which had been prepared for his reception. It was a handsome Gothic monument occupying a retired corner of the churchyard, and shadowed over by a fine old sycamore. But Barny, who had no taste for the picturesque, was deeply mortified at finding his piece of sepulchral finery thrown so much into the shade. "What did I or my people do, he said to the architect, that we should be sent skulking into that corner? I paid my money and I'll have my own value for it.,' The monument was accordingly got rid of, and a sporting, flashy one erected opposite the gateway with the Cregan crest and shield, (in what herald's office it was picked up I cannot take upon me to say,) emblazoned on the frontispiece. Here, it is to be hoped, the aspiring Barnaby and his posterity may one day rest in peace.
"That would be a vain hope, I fear," said Kyrle, "at least so far as Mr. Cregan is concerned, if it were true, as our peasantry believe, that the churchyard is frequently made a scene of midnight mirth and revel, by those whose earthly carousals are long concluded. But what relationship is there between that family and Mrs. Chute?"
"She is step sister to Mrs. Cregan."
"Indeed? So near?"
"Most veritable, therefore look to it. They tell a story—"
But the talkative old gentleman was interrupted in his anecdotical career by the entrance of a new actor on the scene.