6

How Kyrle Daly Was More Puzzled by a Piece of Paper, Than the Abolishers of the Small-Note Currency Themselves

IN TAKING out of his pocket the piece of silver which he wanted to bestow on the cottage Omphale, he drew forth with it a little paper containing a copy of verses which he had taken from one of Anne Chute's music books. They were written in a boyish hand, and signed with the letters H. C.; and Kyrle was taxing his memory to recapitulate all the bachelors in the county who bore those initials. There was in the first place Hyland Creagh, commonly called Fireball Creagh, a great sweater and pinker—a notorious duellist, who had been concerned either on behalf of himself or his friends, in more than one hundred "affairs of honour"—a member of the Hell-fire Club, a society constituted on principles similar to that of the Mohocks which flourished in London about half a century before Kyrle's time, and whose rules and orders the reader may peruse at full length in the manifesto of their Emperor Taw Waw Eben Zan Kaladar, as set forth in Mr. Addison's amusing journal. Of the provincial branch of this society abovementioned, (it is a name that we are loth to repeat oftener than is necessary) Mr. Hyland Fireball Creagh had been a member in his early days, and was still fond of recounting their customs and adventures with greater minuteness than always accorded with the inclinations of his hearers. There were some qualities in the composition of this gentleman, which made it probable enough that he might write verses in a lady's music-book. He was as gallant as any unmarried Irishman of his day, and he had a fighting name, a reputation which was at that time in much higher request than it is in our own. He had conversation—(an essential talent in a man of gallantry,) he dressed well, though with a certain antiquated air—and he had a little poodle dog, which shut the door when you said "Baithershin! " and chucked a crust of bread from his nose into his mouth, at the word "Fire!" And Mr. Creagh, whenever his canine follower was called on to perform those feats, was careful to make the ladies observe, that Pincher never ventured to snap, at the word "Make ready!" or "Present!" while if you whispered "Fire!" in never so gentle a tone—pop! the bread vanished in an instant. But then there were some objections which were likely to neutralize these accomplishments of Fireball and his dog; and to render it unlikely after all, that he (that is, the former) had been the perpetrator of the verses. He had run through his property and reduced himself to the mean estate of a needy guest at other men's tables, and a drinker of other men's wine—or rather whiskey, for that was the fundamental ingredient of his customary beverage. This circumstance laid him under the necessity of overlooking a greater number of unhandsome speeches than was consistent with his early fame. And there was one other objection which rendered it still more improbable that Anne Chute would think any of his effusions worth preserving. He was just turned of sixty-five.

    It could not, therefore, be Mr. Hyland Fireball Creagh. H.C.? Who was it?—Hepton Connolly?

    Now, reader, judge for yourself what a wise conjecture was this of Mr. Kyrle Daly's. Mr. Hepton Connolly was a still more objectionable swain that the Irish diner-out above described; indeed he had no single qualification to recommend him as a social companion, except that of being able to contain a prodigious quantity of whiskey punch at a sitting, a virtue in which a six-gallon jar might have excelled him. Nor do I find that there was any part of Anne Chute's demeanour which could lead Kyrle Daly to suppose that this circumstance would take a powerful hold of her affections; although it secured him an envied place in those of her uncle, Mr. Barnaby Cregan of Roaring-Hall.—For the rest, Mr. Hepton Connolly was one individual of a species which is now happily extinct among Irish gentlemen. He just retained enough of a once flourishing patrimony to enable him to keep a hunter, a racer, and an insolent groom. He was the terror of all the petty- fogging lawyers, the three-and-nine-penny attorneys, bailiffs, and process-servers in the county. Against these last in particular, he had carried his indignation to such a length, as to maim one of them for life by a shot from his hall window. And he told fifty anecdotes which made it appear astonishing that he had escaped the gallows so long. But he relied strongly (and in those days not without reason) on the fact, that there could not be a Jury empannelled against him on which he might not number a majority of his own relations. It was not indeed that he calculated much on their personal regard or affection for himself, but the stain upon their own name was such, he knew, as they would not willingly incur. His reliance upon this nicety of honour in his friends was so complete, that he never suffered any uneasiness upon those occasions when it became necessary for him to plead to an indictment, however irresistible the evidence by which it was supported; and the only symptoms of anxiety which he ever manifested consisted in a frequent reference to his watch and a whisper to the under-turnkey, to know whether he had left directions at the gaol to keep his dinner hot. One amusing effect produced by Mr. Connolly's repeated collision with judicial authorities was, that he acquired a gradual fondness for the law itself, and became knowing upon the rights of persons and the rights of things, in proportion to the practical liberties which he was in the habit of taking with the one and the other. While he made little account of breaking a man's head at a second word, he would prosecute to the rigour of the law a poor half naked mountaineer for stealing a basket of turf from his ricks, or cutting a fagot in one of his hedges. To do him justice, however, it should be mentioned that he never was known to pursue matters to extremity in the instance of punishment, and was always satisfied with displaying his own legal skill before the petty sessions. Nay, he had even been frequently known to add considerably to his own loss in those cases by making a gift to the culprit of many times the amount of the pilfered property. If Anne Chute could receive this single trait of good feeling as a counterpoise for much bad principle; if she could love to see her house filled with jockies, horse-riders, grooms, and drunken gentlemen; if she could cherish a fondness for dogs and unlicensed whiskey; if, in a word, she could be the happy wife of a mere sportsman, then it was possible that Mr. Hepton Conoolly might be the transcriber (author was out of the question) of the little effusion that had excited Kyrle Daly's curiosity.

    Who was it? The question still remained without a solution. Ha!—Her cousin and his college friend, Mr. Hardress Cregan? The conjecture at first made the blood fly into his face, while his nerves were thrilled by a horrid sensation of mingled fear; grief, and anger. But a moment's reflection was sufficient to restore quiet to his mind, and to smite down the spirit of jealousy at its first motion within his breast. Hardress Cregan was perfectly indifferent to the lady, he seldom spoke of her; and scarcely ever visited at Castle Chute. It could not be Hardress. He was a great deal too shy and timid to carry on a lengthened interchange of raillery with any young lady, and if it were more than raillery he knew the intensity of his friend's character too well, to suppose that he would refrain from pursuing his fortunes. It could not be Hardress. He was perfectly aware of Kyrle Daly's secret; he had repeatedly expressed the warmest wishes for his success, and Hardress Cregan was no hypocrite. They had been friends, attached friends at College, and although their intercourse had been much interrupted since their return home, by difference of pursuits and of tastes or habits, still their early friendship remained unchanged, and they never met but with the warmth and the affection of brothers. It was true he had heard Hardress speak of her with much esteem, on his first introduction to College, and when he was yet a very young lad; but a little raillery was abundantly sufficient to strike him dumb for ever on the subject, and he had not taken many lounges among the beauties of Capel-street, and the Phoenix-park, when he appeared to have lost all recollection of his boyish attachment. Kyrle Daly had penetration enough to be aware that he could not with certainty calculate on a character at once so profound and so unsettled as that of his young friend, who had always, even in his mere boyhood, been unapproachable by his most intimate acquaintances; and whom he suspected to be capable of one day wielding a mightier influence in society than he seemed himself to hope or ambition. But Hardress was no hypocrite. That was a sufficient security, that if there were a rival in the case, he was not the man, and if Kyrle needed a more positive argument, it might be found in the fact of a new attachment, which had of late been intimated to him by his young friend himself.

    The love which Kyrle entertained for this lady was so sincere, so rational, and regulated by so fine a principle of judgment, that the warmest, the wisest, and the best of men might condescend to take an interest in its success. Naturally gifted with the gentlest qualities of heart, and educated by a mother, who taught him the use of that mind by which they were to be directed, it would not be easy to discover a more estimable character among the circles in which he moved. He was the more fortunate, too, that his goodness was the result of natural feeling rather than of principle alone; for it is a strange and a pitiable peculiarity in our nature that if a man by mere strength of reason and perseverance have made himself master of all the social virtues, he shall not be as much loved in the world as another who has inherited them from nature; although in the latter instance they may be obscured by many hideous vices. It may appear presumptuous to hazard an opinion upon a subject of so much gravity, but perhaps the reader will not charge us with having caught the paradoxical air of the day, if we venture to intimate, that the true source of the preference may be referred to the common principle of self-preservation. A character that is naturally, and by necessity, generous, may be calculated upon with more certainty, than that which is formed by education only, as long as men's opinion shall be found more variable than their feelings. Otherwise why should we bestow more affection on that character which is really the less admirable of the two? But the reader may receive or reject this conjecture as he pleases; we proceed with our history.

    For this, or for some better reason, it was, that Kyrle Daly, though highly popular among his inferiors and dependants, had only a second place in their affection, compared with his friend Hardress. A generosity utterly reckless and unreasoning is a quality that in all seasons has wrought most powerfully upon the inclinations of the Irish peasantry, who are, themselves, more distinguished for quick and kindly feeling than for a just perception of moral excellence. Because, therefore, the flow of generosity in Hardress Cregan was never checked or governed by motives of prudence or of justice, while good sense and reason regulated that of Kyrle Daly, the estimation in which they were held was proportionably unequal. The latter was spoken of amongst the people as "a good master;" but Hardress was their darling. His unbounded profusion made them entertain for him that natural tenderness which we are apt to feel towards any object that seems to require protection. "His heart" they observed, "was in the right place." "It would be well for him if he had some of Master Kyrle's sense, poor fellow." "Master Kyrle would buy and sell him at any fair in Munster."

    It was only therefore amongst those who were thoroughly intimate with his character, that Kyrle Daly was fully understood and appreciated; and it is not saying a little in his praise, to remark that his warmest admirers, as well as his best lovers, were to be found within the circle of his own family.

    It is impossible that such a mind as we have described, could give a tranquil entertainment to any serious passion. Few could suppose, from the general gaiety and cheerfulness of his demeanour, and the governed and rational turn of his discourse, that he held a heart so acutely susceptible of passion, and so obnoxious to disappointment. It is true that in the present instance he was in some degree guarded by his own doubts and fears against the latter contingency, but he had also cherished hope sufficient to insure him, in case of rejection, a grievous load of misery. He had weighed well the lady's worth before he fixed his affections upon her, and when he did so, every faculty of his mind, and feeling of his heart, subscribed to the conviction, that with her, and her alone, he could be earthly happy.

    The sun had past the meridian before Kyrle Daly again beheld the small and wooded peninsula, which formed the site of Castle Chute. The languor of heart that always accompanies the passion in its hours of comparative inaction, that luxurious feeling of mingled pensiveness and joy, which fills up the breast, and constitutes in itself an elysium even to the doubting lover, were aided in their influence by the sunny calmness of the day, and the beauty of the landscape which every step unfolded to his view. The fever of suspense became more tormenting in proportion as he drew nearer to the solution of his doubts, and the last few miles of his journey seemed incomparably the most tedious. His horse, however, who was not in love, and had not broken fast since morning, began, at sight of a familiar baiting place, to show symptoms of inanition, to remedy which, his considerate master drew up, and alighted at the inn-door.