How Kyrle Daly Hears of the Handsome Conduct of his Friend Hardress
Fame, who never moves her wings so swiftly as when she has got a tale to tell of death or marriage, soon spread the information far and wide. The manner in which it reached the ears of Kyrle Daly was sudden as it was unwelcome.
He had gone down to the Dairy farm, for the purpose of shore-shooting, and was returning in order to spend the Little Christmas at home. It was about noon when he rode by the gate at Castle Chute. The door of the dwelling house stood open, and several figures appeared on the broad stone steps. They were too distant to be recognized, but Kyrle glanced with a beating pulse towards that part of the building which contained the sleeping chamber of his mistress. The window shutters were unclosed and it was evident that Anne Chute had once more become a resident in the Castle.
In order to be assured of the reality of this belief, young Daly spurred on his horse as far as the caravansary of Mr. Normile, already celebrated in the first volume of our history. That individual, whom he found in the act of liberating an unruly pig, after payment of pound fees, informed him of the arrival at Castle Chute, a fortnight previous, of its young heiress, and her uncle.
He rode on, unwilling to trust himself with any lengthened conversation on this subject, while under the shrewd eye of an Irish peasant. All his former passion returned in an instant, and with an intensity which surprised himself. It had been the labour of his life since his last interview with the young lady above-named, to remove her quietly from his recollection, and he flattered himself that he had, in a great degree, succeeded. He was no believer in the romantic and mischievous supposition, that true love never changes, nor decays, even when hope has left it. He knew that there were many effeminate and sensitive characters who, having once permitted their imaginations to become deeply impressed, are afterwards weak enough to foster that impression, even while it is making inroads upon their health and peace; but such beings were the object of his pity, not of his esteem. He was neither a fanatic, nor a voluptuary, in the passion. If, therefore, he had discovered that any one of those rational considerations, on which his love was founded had been erroneously taken up, if he had discovered that the lady was in reality unworthy of the place to which he had raised her, we do not say he would at once have ceased to love, but he should certainly have experienced much less difficulty in subduing the frequent agitations of the passion. But he had not the assistance of such a conviction, and it was only after a long and vigilant exercise of his habitual firmness, that he had reduced his mind to a state of dormant tranquility.
Opportunity therefore was only needed to rouse it up once more in all its former strength. That opportunity had now arrived, and Kyrle Daly found that the trial was a more searching one than he had been led to think. He yielded for a moment to the recollections which pressed upon him, and slackened the pace of his steed. He looked upon the Castle and its quiet bay, the point, the wood, the waves, and the distant hills of Clare. He passed the little sandy slope on which he had witnessed the festivities of the saddle-race, and which now looked wintry, lone, and bleak, in the December blast. The face of the river was dark and troubled; the long waves of the half flood tide rolled in, and broke upon the sands, leaving a track of foam upon the water's verge, while a long black line of sea-weed marked the height to which it had arisen on the shore. He glanced at the pathway from the road on which his hopes had experienced their last decisive and severe repression. His feelings, at this moment, approached the limits of pain, too nearly, and he spurred on his horse, to hurry away from them, and from the scene on which they had been first called into action.
He had not ridden far when he heard loud bursts of laughter, and the tramp of many horses on the road behind him. The voices were raised high in the competition to obtain a hearing, and he thought the accents were not those of strangers. The proud politeness of an Irish gentleman which was rather conventional than natural with Kyrle Daly, prevented his looking round to satisfy his curiosity until the party had ridden up, and he heard his own name coupled with a familiar greeting by many voices. Turning on his saddle, he beheld Mr. Connolly, Mr. Hyland Creagh, Doctor Leake, and Captain Gibson, riding abreast and laughing immoderately.
"Connolly, how are you? How are you Doctor? Mr. Creagh, Captain," touching his hat slightly to the latter "what's all the fun about?"
"I'll tell Daly," said Connolly, "he's a lawyer."
"Pish!" replied Doctor Leake, "'tis too foolish a thing, you will make him laugh at you."
"Foolish! It is the best story I ever heard in my life. Eh, Captain?"
Captain Gibson replied by an excessive roar of laughter, and Hyland Creagh protested it was worthy of the days of the Hell-Fire Club. Connolly looked down in scornful triumph upon the Doctor, who tossed his head and sneered in silence.
"I'll tell you how it was," said Connolly. "I believe 'tis no secret to you, Daly, or any other acquaintance of mine, that I owe more money to different friends, than I am always willing to pay—
'Owing more couldn't pay,
Owing more ran away:'
so, if I should come to borrow money of you, you had better keep it in your pocket, I advise you. But, it so happened, that we spent the other evening at a friend's in the neighbourhood, who could not afford me a bed, so I went to hammock at Normile's Inn. In the morning, I stepped out to the stable, to see how my horse had been made up in the night; when I felt a tap on the shoulder—just like that—do you feel it at all electrical?—(he touched Kyrle's shoulder)—I do, always. I turned, and saw a fellow in a brown coat with a piece of paper in his hand. I was compelled to accept his invitation, so I requested that he would step into the Inn, while I was taking a little breakfast. While I was doing so, and while he was sitting at the other side of the fire, in walked Pat Falvey, Mrs. Chute's footman, with his mistress's compliments, to thank me for a present of baking apples I had sent her. I winked at Pat, and looked at the bailiff. 'Pat,' says I, 'tell your mistress not to mention it; and Pat,' says I, dropping to a whisper, 'I'm a prisoner.' 'Very well sir,' says Pat aloud, and bowing as if I had given him some message. He left the room, and in ten minutes I had the whole parish about the windows. They came in, they called for the bailiff, they seized him, and beat him, until they didn't leave him worth looking at. Dooley, the nailer, caught his arm, and O'Reilly, the blacksmith, took him by the leg, and another by the hair, and another by the throat, and such a show as they made of him before five minutes I never contemplated. But here was the beauty of it. I knew the law, so I opposed the whole proceeding. 'No rescue,' says I, 'I am his prisoner, Gentlemen; and I will not be rescued, so don't beat the man!—don't toss him in a blanket! don't drag him in the puddle!—don't plunge him into the horse-pond, I intreat you!' By some fatality, my intentions were wholly misconceived, and they performed exactly the things that I warned them to avoid. They did beat him, they did toss him in a blanket, they did drag him through the puddle, and they did plunge him into the horsepond! Only imagine what was my chagrin and disappointment! Doctor Leake maintains that it is a misprision of battery, a law term I never heard in my life. As if, by desiring them not to drag him through the horsepond, I imagined their doing it; then it was an overt act of dragging him through the horsepond. Compassing the dragging him through would have been an actual act of battery, but the imagining of it is only an overt act. As among the English regicides, by cutting off the head of Charles they were said to imagine his death, which was an overt act of treason, whereas compassing his death was the actual treason itself. But in this case I deny both the compassing and the imagination. What do you think of it, Mr. Daly?"
"I think," said Kyrle, with a smile, "that you ought to come and take my opinion on it, some day or other."
"Ah, ha!" replied Connolly shaking his head. "I understand you, young lawyer! Well, when I have a fee to spare, you shall have it. But here is the turn up to my house. Est ubi locus—how I forget my Latin! Daly, will you come up and dine with me?"
"I cannot, thank you."
"Well, I'm sorry for it. Creagh, you're not going?"
"Stop, and dine."
"No. I'll see you to-morrow. I have business in town."
The party separated, Kyrle Daly and Creagh continuing to ride in the same direction, while the rest wheeled off by a narrow and broken bye-road.
"You will he at the wedding, I suppose, Mr. Daly?" said the latter gentleman, after a silence of some minutes.
"What wedding?" asked Kyrle, in some surprise.
"Why, have you not heard of it? Miss Chute's wedding."
"Miss Chute!" Kyrle repeated, faintly.
"Yes. Every thing, I understand, has been arranged for the ceremony, and Cregan tells me it is to take place next month. She would be a magnificent wife for any man!"
It was some moments before Kyrle could recover breath, to ask another question.
"And—a—of course you heard who was to be the bridegroom?" he said, with much hesitation.
"Oh, yes. I thought he was a friend of yours. Mr. Hardress Cregan."
"Cregan!" exclaimed Kyrle aloud, and starting, as if he had received a galvanic shock. "It is impossible."
"Sir!" said Creagh, sternly.
"I think," said Kyrle, governing himself by a violent exertion, "you must have been misinformed. Hardress Cregan is, as you say, my friend, and be cannot be the man."
"I seldom, sir," said Creagh, with a haughty curl on his lip, "converse with any person who is capable of making false assertions, and in the present instance, I should think the gentleman's father no indifferent authority."
Again Kyrle Daly paused for some minutes, in an emotion of deep apprehension. "Has Mr. Cregan then told you," he said, "that his son was to be the bridegroom?"
"I have said, he has."
Daly closed his lips hard, and straightened his person, as if to relieve an internal pain. This circumstance accounted for the enigmatical silence of his friend. But what a horrible solution! "It is very strange," he said, "notwithstanding. There are many impediments to such a marriage. He is her cousin."
"Pooh, pooh, that's a name of courtesy. It is only a connection by affinity. Cousin? Hang them all, cousins, on a string, say I! They are the most dangerous rivals a man can have. Any other man you can call out, and shoot through the head, if he attempts to interfere with your prospects, but cousins must have a privilege. The lady may walk with her cousin, (hang him!) and she may dance with her cousin, and write to her cousin, and it is only when she has run away with her cousin, that you find you have been cozened with a vengeance."
While Creagh made this speech, Kyrle Daly was running over in his mind, the entire circumstances of young Cregan's conduct, and the conclusion to which his reflections brought him was, that a more black and shameless treason had never been practised between man and man. For the first time in his life, Kyrle Daly wholly lost his self-government. Principle, religion, duty, justice, all vanished for the instant from his mind, and nothing but the deadly injury remained to stare him in the face.
"I will horsewhip him!" he said within his mind, "I will horsewhip him at the wedding feast. The cool, dark hypocrite! I suppose, sir," he said aloud, turning to Creagh with a smile of calm and dignified courtesy, "I suppose I may name you as my authority for this?"
"Certainly, certainly," returned the old duellist with a short bow, while his eyes lit up with pleasure at the idea of an affair of honour. "Stay a moment, Mr. Daly," he added, as the young gentleman was about to quicken his pace. "I perceive, sir, that you are going to adopt, in this business, the course that is usual among men of honour. Now, I have had a little experience in these affairs, and I am willing to be your friend—"
"Pardon me, Mr. Creagh, I—"
"Nay, pardon me, Mr. Daly, if you please. I do not mean your friend, in the usual acceptation of the term, I do not mean your second, you may have a desire to choose for yourself in that respect. I merely wished to say, that I could afford you some useful hints, as to your conduct on the ground. In the first place, look to your powder. Dry it, yourself, over-night, on a plate, which you may keep hot over a vessel of warm water. Insert your charge at the breech of the pistol, and let your ball be covered with kid leather softened with the finest salad oil. See that your barrel is polished and free from dust. I have known many a fine fellow lose his life, by purchasing his ammunition at a grocer's, on the morning of the duel. They bring it him out of some cask in a damp cellar, and of course it hangs fire. Do you avoid that fault. Then, when you come to the ground—level ground of course—fix your eye on some object beyond your foe, and bring him in a line with that, then let your pistol hang by your side, and draw an imaginary line from the mouth of the barrel to the third button of your opponent s coat. When the word is given, raise your weapon rapidly along that line, and fire at the button. He will never hear the shot."
"Tell me, Mr. Creagh," said Kyrle in a grave tone, after he had heard those murderous directions to the end, "Are not you a friend of Mr. Cregan?"
"Yes. Very old friends."
"Do you not dine at his table, and sleep under his roof from day to day?"
"Pray, what is the object of those curious questions?"
"It is this," said Kyrle, fixing his eyes fully upon the man, "I find it impossible to express the disgust I feel at hearing you, the professed and bounden friend of that family, thus practice upon the life of one of its chief members, the son of your benefactor. Away, sir, with your bloody science to those who will become your pupils! I hope the time will come in lreland when you and your mean and murderous class, shall be despised and trampled on as you deserve."
"How am I to take this, Mr. Daly?"
"As you will!" exclaimed Kyrle, driven wholly beyond the bounds of self-possession, and tossing a desperate hand toward the duellist. "I have done with you.
"Not yet, please the fates," Creagh said, in his usual restrained tone, while Kyrle Daly galloped away in the direction of his father's house. "Tomorrow morning, perhaps, you may be enabled to say so with greater certainty. He is a fine young fellow, that. I didn't think it was in him. Now, whom shall I have? Connolly? Cregan? I owe it to Connolly, as I performed the same office for him, a short time since; and yet I'd like to pay old Cregan the compliment. Well, I can think about it, as I ride along.