How Hardress Got His Hair Dressed in Listowel, and Heard a Little News
Hardress had just taken his seat in the vehicle beside his mother, when a servant in livery rode up to the door, and touching his hat, put a letter into his hand. It contained an invitation from Hepton Connolly, to a hunting dinner, which he was about to give in the course of the month. Hardress remained for a moment in meditation.
"Well, how long am I to stop here waiting for my answer?" asked the messenger (the insolent groom alluded to in an early portion of the narrative). Hardress stared on him, in silence, for some moments. "You had better go in and breakfast, I think;" he said, "you don't intend to return without alighting?"
"Is it for Hepton Connolly? Why then you may take your vido, I don't, nor for any other masther under the sun. I was going to take my breakfast over at the Inn, but as you make the offer, I'll not pass your doore."
"You do me a great deal of honour. When does the hunt take place?"
"In three weeks time, I believe, or something thereabouts."
"No. I wanted him to have it at once, for he couldn't have finer weather, an' the mare is in fine condition for it. But when Connolly takes a thing into his head, you might as well be talking to an ass."
"Well," said Hardress, "tell your master, that you found me just driving from home, and that I will come."
Saying this he drove away, while his mother remained still wrapt in silent astonishment at the fellow's impudence.
"Such," said Hardress, "is the privilege of a clever groom. That rogue was once a simple, humble cottager, but fortune favoured him. He assisted Connolly to win a sweepstakes, which gained him a reputation on the turf; and fame has since destroyed him. You would not know whether to choose between indignation and laughter, if you were present at the conversations that sometimes take place between him and his master."
"If, instead of winning me the King's plate, he could win me the King's crown, I could not endure him," said the proud mother.
"Nor I," returned her prouder son. "Nor I, indeed."
About noon, they stopped to bait and hear mass, at the town of Listowel. Mrs. Cregan and her son were shown into a little parlour at the Inn, the window of which looked out upon the square. The bell of the Chapel was ringing for last mass on the other side, and numbers of people, in their holiday attire, were seen in the wide area, some hurrying toward the Chapel gate, some loitering in groups about the square, and some sitting on the low window-sill stones.
The travellers joined the first mentioned portion of the crowd, and performed their devotions;—at least, they gave the sanction of their presence to the ceremonial of the day. When they had returned to the Inn, and takentheir places in the little parlour, Mrs. Cregan, after fixing her eyes for a moment on her son, exclaimed:
"Why, Hardress, you are a perfect fright. Did you dress to-day?"
"Do you intend to call in at Castle-Chute?"
"Just to visit in passing."
"Then I would advise you, by all means, to do something at your toilet before you leave this."
Hardress took up a mirror, which lay on the wooden chimney-piece, and satisfied himself, by a single glance, of the wisdom of his mother's suggestion. His eyes were blood-shot, his beard grown and grisly, and his hair hanging about his temples in most ungraceful profusion. He rang the little bell which lay on the table, and summoned the landlady to his presence.
It would be difficult, she told him, to procure a hair-cutter to-day, being holiday, but there was one from Garryowen, below, that would do the business as well as any one in the world, if he had only got his scissors with him.
Hardress started at the name of Garryowen; but, as he did not remember the hair cutter, and felt an anxiety to hear news from that quarter, he desired the stranger to be shown into another room, where he proposed effecting the necessary changes in his attire.
He had scarcely taken his seat before the toilet, when a soft tap at the door, and the the sound of a small, squeaking voice, announced the arrival of the hair cutter. On looking round him, Hardress beheld a small, thin faced, red haired little man, with a tailor's shears dangling from his finger, bowing and smiling with a timid and conciliating air. In an evil hour for his patience, Hardress consented that he should commence operations.
"The piatez were very airly this year, sir," he modestly began, after he had wrapped a check apron about the neck of Hardress, and made the other necessary arrangements.
"Very early indeed. You needn't cut so fast."
"Very airly, sir. The white eyes especially. Them white eyes are fine piatez. For the first four months I wouldn't ax a better piatie than a white eye, with a bit o' butter, or a piggin of milk, or a bit o' bacon, if one had it; but after that the meal goes out of 'em, and they gets wet and bad. The cups ar'nt so good in the beginnen o' the saison, but they hould better. Turn your head more to the light, sir, if you please. The cups indeed are a fine substantial lasting piatie. There's great nutriment in 'em for poor people, that would have nothen else with them but themselves, or a grain o' salt. There's no piatie that eats better, when you have nothen but a bit o' the little one (as they say) to eat with a bit o' the big. No piatie that eats so sweet with point."
"With point?" Hardress repeated, a little amused by this fluent discussion of the poor hair-cutter, upon the varieties of a dish, which, from his childhood, had formed almost his only article of nutriment; and on which he expatiated with as much cognoscence and satisfaction, as a fashionable gourmand might do on the culinary productions of Eustache Ude. "What is point?"
"Don't you know what that is, sir? I'll tell you in a minute. A joke that them that has nothen to do, an plenty to eat, make upon the poor people that has nothen to eat, and plenty to do. That is, when there's dry piatez on the table, and enough of hungry people about it, and the family would have, may be, only one bit of bacon hanging up above their heads, they'd peel a piatie first, and then they'd point it up at the bacon, and they'd fancy within their own minds, that it would have the taste o' the mait when they'd be aten it, after. That's what they call point, sir. A cheap sort o' diet it is, lord help us, that's plenty enough among the poor people in this country. A great plan for making a small bit of pork go a long way in a large family."
"Indeed it is but a slender sort of food. Those scissars you have are dreadful ones."
"Terrible, sir. I sent my own over to the forge before I left home, to have an eye put in it; only for that I'd be smarter, a deal. Slender food it is, indeed! There's a deal o' poor people here in Ireland, sir, that are run so hard at times, that the wind of a bit o' mait is as good to 'em, as the mait itself to them that would be used to it. The piatez are every thing, the kitchen* little or nothing. But there's a sort o' piatez, (I don't know did your honour ever taste 'em?) that's getten greatly in vogue now among 'em, an' is killing half the country; the white piaties, a piatie that has great produce, an' requires but little manure, an' will grow in very poor land; but has no more strength, or nourishment in it, than if you had boiled a handful o' saw-dust and made gruel of it, or put a bit of a deal boord between your teeth, and thought to make a breakfast of it. The black bulls themselves are better. Indeed the black bulls are a deal a better piaitie than they're thought. When you'd peel 'em, they look as black as Indigo, an' you'd have no mind to 'em at all; but I declare they're very sweet in the mouth, an' very strengthening. The English reds are anate piaitie, too, and the apple piatie, (I don't know what made 'em be given up) an' the kidney, (though delicate of rearing) but give me the cups for all, that will hould the meal in 'em to the last, and won't require any inthricket tillage. Let a man have a middling sized pit o' cups again' the winter, a small caish (pig) to pay his rent, an' a handful o' turf behind the doore, an' he can defy the world."
"You know as much, I think," said Hardress, "of farming, as of hair-cutting."
"Oyeh, if I had nothen to depend upon but what heads come across me this way, sir, I'd be in a poor way, enough. But I have a little spot o' ground besides."
"And a good taste for the produce."
"Twas kind father for me to have that same. Did you ever hear tell, sir, of what they call lime-stone broth?"
"'Twas my father first made it. I'll tell you the story, sir, if you'll turn your head this way a minute."
Hardress had no choice but to listen.
"My father went once upon a time about the country, in the idle season, seeing would he make a penny at all by cutting hair, or setting razhurs and penknives, or any other job that would fall in his way. Well, an good—he was one day walking alone in the mountains of Kerry without a hai'p'ny in his pocket, (for though he travelled a foot it cost him more than he earned) an knowing there was but little love for a County Limerick man in the place where he was, an being half perished with the hunger, an' evening drawing nigh, he didn't know well what to do with himself till morning. Very good, he went along the wild road, an if he did he soon see a farm house, at a little distance, o' one side; a snug looking place with the smoke curling up out of the chimney an all tokens of good living inside. Well, some people would live where a fox would starve. What do you think did my father do? He wouldn't beg, (a thing one of our people never done yet, thank heaven!) an he hadn't the money to buy a thing, so what does he do? He takes up a couple o' the big lime-stones, that were lying on the road, in his two hands, an away with him to the house. 'Lord save all here!' says he, walken in the doore. 'And you kindly,' says they. 'I'm come to you' says he, this way, looking at the two lime-stones, 'to know would you let me make a little lime-stone broth over your fire, until I'll make my dinner?' 'Lime-stone broth!' says they to him again, 'what's that eroo?' 'Broth made o' lime-stones,' says he, 'what else?'—'We never heard of such a thing,' says they, 'Why then you may hear it now,' says he, 'and see it also, if you'll gi' me a pot an a couple o' quarts o' soft water.' 'You can have it an welcome,' says they. So they put down the pot an the water, an my father went over, an tuk a chair hard by the pleasant fire for himself, an put down his two lime-stones to boil, an kep stirring them round like stirabout. Very good, well, by an by when the wather began to boil, "Tis thickening finely,' says my father; 'now if it had a grain o' salt at all, 't would be a great improvement to it.' 'Raich down the salt box, Nell,' says the man o' the house to his wife. So she did. 'O, that's the very thing just,' says my father, shaking some of it into the pot. So he stirred it again a while, looking as sober as a minister. By an by, he takes the spoon he had stirring it, an tastes it. 'It is very good now,' says he 'although it wants something yet.' 'What it is?' says they. 'Oyeh, wisha nothing,' says he, 'may be 'tis only fancy o' me.' 'If it's any thing we can give you,' says they, 'you're welcome to it.' "Tis very good as it is,' says he, 'but when I'm at home, I find it gives it a fine flavour just to boil a little knuckle o' bacon, or mutton trotters, or any thing that way along with it.' 'Raich hether that bone o' sheep's head we had at dinner yesterday, Nell,' says the man o' the house. 'Oyeh don't mind it,' says my father, 'let it be as it is.' 'Sure if it improves it, you may as well,' says they. 'Baithershin!'* says my father, putting it down. So after boiling it a good piece longer, "Tis as fine lime-stone broth,' says he 'as ever was tasted, an if a man had a few piatez,' says he, looking at a pot of 'm that was smoking in the chimney corner, 'he couldn't desire a better dinner.' They gave him the piatez, and he made a good dinner of themselves, an the broth, not forgetting the bone, which he polished equal to chaney, before he let it go. The people themselves tasted it, an thought it as good as any mutton broth in the world."
"Your father, I believe, knew how to amuse his friends after a short journey as well as any other traveller."
The fellow leered at Hardress, thrust out his lips, and winked with both eyes, in a manner which cannot be expressed. "He was indeed a mighty droll, funny man. Not interrupting you, sir, I'll tell you a thing that happened him in the hair-cutting line that flogs all Munster, I think, for 'cuteness."
"I am afraid I cannot wait to hear it. I have a great way to go to-day, and a great deal to do before I set off."
"That's just bidden me go on with my story, sir, for the more I talk the faster I work, for ever. Just turn your head this way, sir, if you please. My father—a little more to the light, sir—my father was sitting one fine morning in his little shop, curling a front curl belonging to a lady (we wont mention who) in the neighbourhood, with the sun shining in the doore, an he singing a little song for himself; an meself, a craithur, sitting by the fire, looking about me and sayen nothing. Very well, all of a sudden, a gentleman tall and well mounted rode up to the doore, an—— 'Hello!' says he, calling out, 'can I get myself shaved here?' says he. 'Why not, plase your honour?' says my father, starting up, an laying by the front out of his hand. So he 'lit off his horse an come in. He was a mighty bould fierce looking gentleman, with a tundhering long sword be his side, down, an a pair o' whiskers as big an as red as a fox's brush, and eyes as round as them two bull's eyes in the window panes,—an they having a sthrange twisht in 'em, so that when he'd be looking you sthraight in the face, you'd think it's out at the doore he'd be looking. Besides that, when he'd spake, he used to give himself a loud roistering way, as if you were a mile off, an not willing to come nearer or to be said by him. 'Do you mind, now,' says he, an he taking a chair oppozzite the windee, while my father smartened himself an' bate up a lather. 'Ever and always, since I was the heighth of a bee's knee,' says he, 'I had a mortal enmity to seeing a drop o' my own blood, an' I'll tell you what it is,' says he. 'What is it, sir?' says my father. 'I'll make a clear bargain with you now,' says the gentleman. So he took out a half crown an' laid it upon the table, an' after that he drew his sword, and laid it hard by the half crown. 'Do you see them two now?' says he, 'I do, surely,' says my father. 'The half crown will be yours,' says the gentleman, if you'll shave me without drawen my blood, but if I see as much as would make a breakfast for—— (he named an animal that I won't mention after him now) if I see so much after you,' says he, 'I'll run this swoord through your body, as sure as there's mait in mutton. So look, before you lep, if you won't take the bargain, say it, and let me ride away,' says he. This was in times when a gentleman, that way, would think as little a'most of doing a thing o' the kind to a poor Catholic, as he would now of saying it,—so well became my father to look to himself. 'You'll never have it to say o' me,' says my father, 'that I wouldn't trust my hand so far at any rate in the business I was bred to.' So to it they fell, an' as Providence ordered it, my father shaved him without one gash, an' put the half-crown in his pocket. 'Well, now 'tis done,' says the gentleman, 'but you're a foolish man.' 'How so sir?' says my father. 'Because so sure as I saw the blood,' says the other, 'I'd make my word good.' 'But you never would see the blood, sir,' says my father quite easy, 'because I'd see it before you, an' I'd cut your throath with the razhur.' Well, 'twas as good as a play to see the look the gentleman gave him when he said that. He didn't answer him a word but mounted his horse and rode away."
"He found his match in the hair-cutter," said Hardress, rejoiced as the story ended.
"I'll be bound, sir, he was in no hurry to make bargains o' that kind any more. 'T was a mighty good answer, sir, wasn't it?"
"A desperate one at all events."
"Ah, desperate, you may say that; but my father was sure of his hand. I'll tell you another droll thing that happened my father, once when——"
But the patience of his listener was here completely stranded. The hair-cutter had got such a miserable pair of shears that he was obliged to use as much exertion in clipping the hair, as a tinker or a plumber might do in cutting sheet lead. Besides, being accustomed to that professional flippancy of movement which, with proper instruments, might have expedited the operation, he made no allowance for the badness of his scissors, but clipped and plucked away as fast as usual; thus contriving to tear up half as much by the roots as he removed in the usual course of business. This, and other circumstances, induced Hardress to place a decided negative in the way of his anecdotes, until he had concluded his task.
This being accomplished, Hardress raised his hand to his head, and experienced a sensation on the palm, somewhat similar to that which would be produced by placing it on an inverted hair brush. On looking in the glass, he discovered that his hair had been cut into a fashion which enjoys a lasting popularity at fairs and cottage merry-makings; but, however consistent with the interests of persons who only employed a barber once in a quarter, and then supposed that the closer he cut the better value he gave for the money, it was by no means in accordance with the established notions of good taste. There were indeed no gaps, as he boasted, for he had cut it almost as bare as a wig-block, leaving only a narrow fringe in front, from ear to ear, like the ends of a piece of silk. There was no help, however, for mischief once effected, so that Hardress paid him without remark, and paid him liberally.
The little hair-cutter took it for granted, by the handsome manner in which his customer had compensated for his services, that he was highly gratified with the manner in which they had been performed.
"If your honour," he said, bowing very low, "would be passing through Garryowen, an' would be inclined to lave any o' your hair behind you, may be you'd think of Dunat O'Leary's shop, on the right hand side o' the sthreet, three doores down from Mihil O'Connor's, the rope-maker's?"
"I will, I will," said Hardress, turning suddenly away.
Mr. O'Leary walked slowly to the door, and again returned.
"There's a great set o' lads about the place, sir," he said, in his usual shrill voice, while a slight degree of embarrassment appeared in his manner, "an' they're for ever christenin' people out o' their names, till a man is better known by a nick name than by his own. 'Tis ten to one, plase your honour, that you'll be the surer of finding me by asking for Foxy Dunat, than for my own lawful name, they're such a set o' lads."
"Very well, I will. Good morning. Foxy Dunat?"
"Yes sir, Foxy, in regard of the red hair that's on me. Ah, there's no standing them lads."
"Very well, good morning Foxy Dunat. I'll remember."
"Good morning to your honour. Stay!" he once more returned from the door. "See what I was doing; carrying your honour's hair away with me."
"Well, and what business do you suppose I have of it now?—I am not a wig-maker."
"I don't know, sir, but people mostly likes to put it up in some safe place again' the day of judgment, as they say."
"The day of judgment!"
"Yes, plase your honour. We must have every thing about us then, that ever belonged to us, and a man would look droll that time without his hair."
Hardress was not in a humour for jesting, but he could not avoid smiling in secret at this conceit.
"Very well;" he said, tapping the hair-cutter on the shoulder, and looking gravely in his face. "As I am going a long journey at present, I will feel obliged by your keeping it for me until then, and I will call to you if I want it."
"As your honour feels agreeable," said Dunat, again bowing low, and moving towards the door. Nevertheless, he did not leave the room, until he had made the young gentleman acquainted with all the circumstances that occasioned his absence from home at this moment. In doing so, he unwarily touched Hardress to the life. He had come, he said, in consequence of a letter he had received from a neighbour's daughter that had run away from her father, and was hid somewhere among the Kerry mountains.
"A letter which you received!" exclaimed Hardress, in strong surprize.
"Yes, sir; telling me she was alive, and bidding me let the old man know of it; the old rope-maker I mentioned a while ago. Since I came, I heard it reported at Castle Island, this morning, that she was drownded somewhere in the Flesk."
"Drowned! Eily drowned!" Hardress suddenly exclaimed, starting from a reverie, as the single word struck upon his hearing.
"Eily was her name, sure enough," replied O'Leary staring on him, "howsomdever you come to know it."
"I—I—you mentioned that name, I think, did you not?"
"May be it slipped from me, sir. Well, as I was saying, they thought she was drown'ded there, an' they wor for having a sheef o' reed, with her name tied upon it, put out upon the sthrame, for they say, when a person dies by water, the sheef o' reed will float against the sthrame, or with the sthrame, until it stops over the place where the body lies, if it had to go up O'Sullivan's Cascade itself. But Father Edward O'Connor desired 'em to go home about their business, that the sheaf would go with the current, an' no way else, if they were at it from this till Doomsday. To be sure he knew best."
At this moment, the landlady knocked at the door, to inform our collegian
that Mrs. Cregan was expecting him without. Having concluded his toilet,
he hurried out of the room, not displeased at his release from the observation
of this stranger, at a moment when he felt his agitation encreasing to
an extent that was almost ungovernable.