How Kyrle Daly Discovers That All the Sorrow Under the Sun Does not Rest Upon His Shoulders Alone
The owner of this place of "Entertainment," also filled the dignified post of pound keeper to the neighbouring village, and his roofless Bastile was situated at no great distance farther on the road side. As Kyrle walked by the iron gate he was surprised to see it crowded by a number of Kerry ponies, such as may be discerned along the mountain sides from the Upper lake of Killarney. They were of various colours—bright bay, dun, and cream; but the shagginess of their coats, and the diminutiveness of their size, rendered them but a little more respectable in appearance than the same number of donkeys. Several of these half-starved creatures had their heads thrust out over the low pound wall, as if to solicit the interference of passengers, while others, resigned to their fate, stood in drooping postures in the centre of the enclosure, quite chop-fallen. Kyrle Daly's curiosity was sufficiently excited to induce him to turn once more upon his path, and make some enquiry at the Inn concerning the owner of the herd.
He found the landlord at the door, a small withered old man, with an air of mingled moroseness and good nature in his countenance; the former the effect of his office—the latter of his natural disposition. He was standing on a three foot stool, and occupied in taking down a sign-board, for the purpose of transmitting it to a scene of rural festivity which was going forward in the neighbourhood.
He suspended his labours, and was about to enter into an ample exposition of the history of the ponies, when his wife, a blooming middle-aged woman, in a tête and glossy green petticoat, came to the door, and looked out to know what made the hammering cease. The glance of her eye was enough for the innkeeper, who re-commenced his work with fresh diligence, while his watchful helpmate undertook to satisfy the curiosity of our traveller.
The ponies, she told him, were the property of a mountaineer, from Killarney, who was making a "tower" of the country, to try and sell them at the fairs and patterns. He had come to their neighbourhood last night, and turned his ponies out on the commons; but finding that it furnished only short commons for them, the poor things had made their way into the improvements of Castle Chute, and were apprehended by Mr. Dan Dawley in the act of trespass. That inexorable functionary had issued an order for their immediate committal to pound; and Myles Murphy, the owner, was now gone off to make interest with Miss Anne, "the young mistress," for their release.
"He'll be a lucky boy," she continued, "if he overtakes her at home this way—for herself an' a deal o' quality are to be at the sands below, to see the races and doings there."
"Races?" repeated Kyrle. "I never heard of races in this quarter."
"Oyeh, what races?" exclaimed her husband. "A parcel of ould staggeens, sir, that's running for a saddle, that's all the races they'll have."
"So itself, what hurt?" retorted the wife—"The whole European world will be there to look at 'em; an' I'll be bound they'll drink as hearty' as if Jerry Sneak an' Sappho were on the coorse. An' 'tis there you ought to be an hour ago in your tent, instead of crusheening here about Myles Murphy an' his ponies."
"Myles Murphy! Myles-na-coppuleen?-Myles of the ponies, is it?" said Lowry Looby, who just then led Kyrle Daly's horse to the door. "Is he in these parts now?"
"Do you know Myles, eroo?" was the truly Irish reply.
"Know Myles-na-coppuleen? Wisha, an' 'tis I that do, an' that well! O murther, an' are them poor Myles's ponies I see in the pound over? Poor boy! I declare it I'm sorry for his trouble."
"If you be as you say," the old innkeeper muttered with a distrustful smile, "put a hand in your pocket an' give me four and eightpence. an' you may take the fourteen of em 'after him."
"Why then, see! I'm blest, if I had it, but I wouldn't break your word, this day. Or more than that, if it was in my power for poor Myles. There isn't a better son nor brother this moment, going the road, than what he is."
"It's true for you by all accounts," said the pound-keeper, as he counted over Kyrle Daly's change, "but people must do their duty for all."
"Surely, surely," said Lowry, turning off.
Mrs. Normile, the hostess, here made her reappearance at the door, with a foaming pot of Fermoy ale in her hand, to which she directed Lowry's attention.
"A' then, what's that you're doing?" he said with a look of rough remonstrance, while he fixed nevertheless a steady and wistful eye upon the draught.
"Drink it off, I tell you."
"Sorrow a drop."
"You must, again."
"I won't, I tell you."
"Do you refuse my hansel,* an' I going to the races? Be said by me, I tell you. The day is drouthy."
Lowry offered no farther objection, but made his own of the ale, observing as he returned the vessel, with closed and watery eyes, that it was "murtheren' sthrong." The colloquy above detailed was carried on with so much roughness of accent, and violence of gesture, that a person at a little distance might have supposed the parties were on the eve of coming to blows in an actual quarrel. But it was all politeness.
Kyrle Daly obtained from his attendant as they proceeded on their way, an account of the individual in whom he had expressed so deep an interest. Myles Murphy, or; as he was more generally called, Myles of the Ponies, was the occupier of a tract of land on one of the Killarney mountains, comprising about seven hundred acres. For this extensive holding, he paid a rent of fifteen pounds sterling in the year; and if there were a market for grey limestone in the neighbourhood, Myles would be one of the wealthiest men in Kerry. But, as the architectural taste of the vicinity ran chiefly in favour of mud, his property' in mineral was left, as an heir-loom, upon his hands. Of the whole seven hundred acres, there was no more under tillage than sufficed to furnish potatoes for the consumption of his own family. The vast remainder was stocked with numerous herds of wild ponies, who found scanty pasturage between the fissures of the crags, and yet were multiplied to such a degree, that Myles could not estimate the amount of his own stud.
"His own goodness, it was," continued Lowry, "that got that for him. He was left, poor fellow, after his father dying of the sickness,* with a houseful o' childer; fourteen sons and two daughters, besides himself, to provide for, an' his old mother. He supported 'em all be the labour of his two hands, till Lord K——hear talks of him of a day, an' gave him a lease o' that farm, an' behaved a good landlord to him since. Still an' all, Myles do be poor, for he never knew how to keep a hoult o' the money. He provided for all his brothers; had one priested, and another bound to a brogue-maker, and another settled as a school-master in the place, and more listed from him, an' two went to say, an' I don't know what he done with the rest, but they're all very well off; and left poor Myles with an empty pocket in the latter end."
Lowry went on to inform our traveller that this said Myles was a giant in stature, measuring six feet four inches "in his vamps "—that he never yet met "that man that could give him a stroke, and he having a stick in his hand"—that he was a clean made boy as ever "walked the ground," and such a master of his weapon that himself and Luke Kennedy, the Killarney boatman, used to be two hours "oppozzit" one another, without a single blow being received on either side. On one occasion, indeed, he was fortunate enough to "get a vacancy at Kennedy" of which he made so forcible a use, that the stick, which was in the hand of the latter, flew over Ross Castle into the lower lake, merely from a successful tip in the elbow.
"But," Lowry added, "there's a change come in poor Myles of late. It was his loock to meet Eily O'Connor, the rope-maker's daughter, of a day, an' he selling his ponies, an' 'tis a new story with him, since. He's mad, sir, mad in love. He isn't good for anything. He says she gave him powders one day in an apple at Owen's garden where they had a benefit, but I wouldn't give in to such a story as that, at all;—for Eily is as delicate and tender in herself as a lady."
They were interrupted at this juncture by a startling incident. A mounted countryman gallopped up to them, drest in a complete suit of frieze made from the undyed wool of black sheep, such as formed the texture of the phalang in the days of Gerald Barry. His face was pale and moist, and grimed with dust. A smooth yellow wig was pushed awry upon his temples, disclosing a mass of grey hair that was damp and matted with the effects of violent exercise. He looked alternately at both travellers with an expression of mingled wildness and grief in his countenance; and again clapping spurs to his horse, rode off and disappeared at a short turn in the road.
"I'm blest but that flogs Europe!" exclaimed Lowry Looby, in a tone of utter surprize and concern—" There's something great happened, surely."
"Who is he Lowry? I think I ought to know his face?"
"Mihil O'Connor, sir, father to the girl we were just talking of. He looks to be in trouble. Easy! Here's little Foxy Dunat, the hair-cutter, trotten after him, an' he'll tell us."
The person whom he named, a small red haired man, rode up at the same moment, appearing to keep his seat on horseback with much difficulty. The animal he rode, though lean and bony, was of a great size, and presented a circumference much too extensive to be embraced by the short legs of the hair-cutter. His feet, for the greater security, were stuck fast between the stirrup leathers, while the empty irons remained dangling underneath. For the purpose of making assurance doubly sure, he had grasped fast with one hand the lofty pummel of the saddle, while the other was entwined in the long and undressed mane.
"Pru-h! Pruh! Stop her, Lowry, eroo! Stop her, an' heavens bless you. I'm fairly flay'd alive from her, that's what I am,—joulten', joulten' for the bare life. Your sarvant, Mr. Daly,—I'm not worth looken at. See my wig," he pulled one out of his pocket, and held it up to view. "I was obleeged to to take it off an' put it in my pocket, it was so tossed from the shaking I got. I never was a horseback before but once at Molly Mac's funeral, an' I never'll be a horseback again till I'm going to my own. O murther! murther! I have a pain in the small o' my back that would kill the Danes. Well, Mr. Daly, I hope the master liked his new wig?—I kep it a long time from him, surely. I never'll be the betther o' this day's riden'. Did you see Mihil-na- thiadarucha* go by this way? I'm kilt and spoiled, that's what I am."
"I did see him," said Lowry, "what's the matter with him?"
"Eily, his daughter, is gone from him, or spirited away."
"Erra, you don't tell me so?"
"She is, I tell you, an' he's like a wild man about it. Here he's back himself."
O'Connor again appeared at the turn of the road and gallopped roughly back upon the group. He looked ferociously at Lowry, and pointing his stick into his face, while his frame trembled with rage, he roared out, "Tell me, did you see her, this minute, or I'll thrust my stick down your throat! Tell me, do you know any thing of her, I advise you."
"I don't!" said Lowry with equal fierceness.—Then, as if ashamed of resenting a speech uttered by the poor old man, under so terrible an occasion of excitement, he changed his tone, and repeated, more gently, "I don't, Mihil, an' I don't know what cause I ever gave you to speak to me in that strain."
The old rope-maker dropped the bridle, his clasped hands fell on the pummel of the saddle, and drooped his head, while he seemed to gasp for utterance—" Lowry," he said, "heavens guide you, an' tell me, do you know—or could you put me in a way of hearing any thing of her?"
"Of who, ayeh?"
"Eily, my daughter! Oh, Lowry, a'ra gal, my daughter! My poor girl!"
"What of her, Mihil?"
"What of her?—Gone! lost! Gone from her ould father, an' no account of her—"
"Yes, I tell you!" He threw a ghastly look around—" She is stolen, or she strayed. If she is stolen, may the Almighty forgive them that took her from me, an' if she strayed of her own liking, may my curse—"
"Howl! howl!* I tell you man," cried Lowry, in a loud voice, "don't curse your daughter without knowing what you do. Don't I know her, do you think? And don't I know that she wouldn't be the girl you say for her apronful of goold?"
"You're a good boy, Lowry; you're a good boy," said the old man wringing his hand, "but she's gone. I had none but her, an' they took her from me. Her mother is dead these three years, an' all her brothers and sisters died young, an I reared her like a lady, an' this is the way she left me now. But what hurt? Let her go."
"The M'Mahons were at the fair of Garryowen yesterday," said Lowry musing. "I wonder could it be them at all. I tell you, there are bad boys among them. There was one of 'em hanged for spiriting away a girl o' the Hayes's before."
"If I thought it was one o' them," O'Connor exclaimed, stretching his arm to its full length, and shaking his clenched hand with great passion, "and if I knew the one that robbed me, I'd find him out, if he was as cunning as a rabbit, an' I'd tear him between my two hands if he was as strong as a horse. They think to play their game on me because my hair is grey. But I can match the villains yet. If steel, or fire, or pikes, or powder, can match 'em, I'll do it. Let go my horse's bridle, an' don't be holding me here when I should be flying like the wind behind 'em."
Here he caught the eye of Kyrle Daly, as the latter asked him whether he "had not laid informations before a Magistrate?"
Instead of answering, the old man who now recognised Daly for the first-time, took off his hat with a smile in which grief and anger were mingled with native courtesy, and said, "Mr. Daly, astore,* I ask your pardon for not knowing you; I meant no offence to you, or to your father's son. I couldn't do it. How are you, sir? How is the masther an' the mistress? The Lord direct 'em, an' spare 'em their children! "—Here the old man's eyes grew watery, and the words were broken in his throat, "Lay informations?" he continued, taking up Kyrle Daly's question. "No—no, sir. My back * isn 't so poor in the country that I need to do so mean a thing as that."
"And what other course would you take to obtain justice?"
"I'll tell you the justice I'd want," said O'Connor, griping his stick hard, and knitting his brows together, while the very beard bristled upon his chin for anger. "To plant him overright me in the heart o' Garryowen fair, or where else he'd like, an' give him a stick, and let me pick justice out of his four bones!" Here he indulged himself with one rapid flourish of the blackthorn stick above his head, which considerably endangered that of the young gentleman to whom he addressed himself.
At the same moment a neighbour of O'Connor's gallopped up to them and exclaimed—" Well, Mihil, agra, any tidings of her yet?
"Sorrow tale or tiding."
"An' is it here you're stoppen' talken', an' them villains spiriting your daughter away through the country. Wisha, but you're a droll man, this day."
Not Hamlet, in that exquisitely natural burst of passion over the tomb of "the fair Ophelia"—where he becomes incensed against the affectionate Laertes for "the bravery of his grief," and treats it as an infringement on his own prerogative of sorrow—not Hamlet, the Dane, in that moment of "towering passion," could throw more loftiness of rebuke into his glance, than did Mihil O'Connor, as he gazed upon the daring clansman who had thus presumed to call his fatherly affections to account. More temperate, however, than the Danish Prince, he did not let his anger loose, but compressed his teeth, and puffed it forth between them. Touching his hat to Kyrle, and bidding Lowry "stand his friend," he put spurs to his horse, and rode forwards, followed by his friend, while Lowry laid his hand on the hair-cutter's arm, and asked him for an account of the particulars.
"Sonuher* to me if I know the half of it," said the foe of unshaven chins, speaking in a shrill, professional accent; "but I was standing in my little place, above, shaving a boy o' the Downes's against the benefit at Batt Coonerty's, an' being delayed a good while, (for the Downes's have all very strong hair,—I'd as lieve be shaving a horse as one of 'em,) I was sthrappen' my razhor, (for the twentieth turn,) an' looken' out into the fair, when who should I see going by only Eily O'Connor, an' she dressed in a blue mantle, with the hood over her head, an' her hair curling down about her neck like strings of goold. (Oh, the beauty o' that girl!) Well, "Its a late walk you're taking, EiIy," says I. She made me no answer, only passed on, an' I thought no more about it till this morning, when her father walked in to me. I thought, at first, 'tis to be shaved he was coming, for, dear knows, he wanted it, when all at once he opened upon me in regard of his daughter. Poor girl, I'm sure sorrow call had I to her goen' or stayen' more than I had to curl the Princess Royal's front—a job that'll never trouble me, I'm thinking."
"Wisha, but its a droll business," ejaculated Lowry, letting go the stirrup-leather, which he had held fast during the foregoing narrative. "Ride on after him, Dunat, or you won't catch him before night. Oh, Vo! Vo! Eily astora! O, wirra, Eily! this is the black day to your ould father."
"An' the black an' blue day to me, I'm sure," squeaked out the hair-cutter, trotting forwards and groaning aloud at every motion, as he was now thrown on the pummel, now on the hind-bow of the saddle; those grievances telling the more severely as he was a lean little man, and but scantily furnished by nature with that material which is best able to resist concussion.
The misfortune of the poor rope-maker indisposed Lowry, (who had once
been a respectful and distant admirer of the lovely Eily,) from proceeding
with the conversation, and his young master had ample leisure for the indulgence
of his own luxurious reveries until they reached the entrance to the fair
demesne of Castle Chute.