8

How the Reader, Contrary to the Declared Intention of the Historian, Obtains a Description of Castle Chute

AN OLD portress, talking Irish, with a huge bunch of keys at her girdle, a rusty gate lock, piers, lofty, and surmounted by a pair of broken marble vases, while their shafts, far from exhibiting that appearance of solidity so much admired in the relics of Grecian architecture, were adorned in all their fissures by tufts of long grass; an avenue with rows of elms forming a vista to the river; a sudden turn revealing a broad and sunny lawn: hay cocks, mowers at work預 winding gravel walk lost in a grove葉he house appearing above the trees葉he narrow paned windows glittering amongst the boughs葉he old ivy'd castle, contrasted in so singular a manner with the more modern addition to the building葉he daws cawing about the chimnies葉he stately herons settling on the castellated turrets, or winging their majestic way through the peaceful kingdom of the winds葉he screaming of a peacock in the recesses of the wood預 green hill appearing sunny-bright against a clouded horizon葉he heavy Norman arch-way葉he shattered sculpture葉he close and fragrant shrubbery葉he noisy farm-yard and out-offices(built, as was then the fashion, quite near the dwelling house)葉he bowering monthly rose, embracing the simple pediment over the hall door葉he ponderous knocker葉he lofty gable葉he pieces of broken sculpture and tender foliage, that presented to the mind the images of youth and age, of ruined grandeur and of rising beauty, blended and wreathed together under the most pleasing form.

    Such were the principal features of the scenery through which Kyrle Daly passed into the dwelling of his beloved. The necessities of our narrative forbid us to dwell at a more ample length on the mere description of a landscape.

    To his surprise, and in some degree to his disappointment, he found the castle more crowded with company than he had expected. He was admitted by a richly ornamented Gothic arch-way, while Lowry remained walking his horse under the shade of the trees. A handsome, though rather ill-used curricle, which appeared to have been lately driven, was drawn up on the gravel plat; and a servant in tarnished livery was employed in cooling two horses on the slope which shelved downward to the river side.裕he foam that flecked their shining necks and covered the curbs and branches, showed that they had been ridden a considerable distance, and by no sparing masters.

    "Oh, murther, Masther Kyrle, is this you?" exclaimed Falvey, the "servant boy," as he looked into the narrow hall and recognized the young "collegian." "Ma grine chree hu! it's an opening to the heart to see you!"

    "Thank you, Pat. Are the ladies at home?"

    "They are, sir. O murther, murther! are you come at last, sir?"揺e repeated with an air of smiling wonder; then suddenly changing his manner, and nodding with great freedom and cunning, "Oh, the ladies?葉hey are at home, sirboth of 'em."

    "And well?"

    "And well. I give praiseboth of 'em well. Where is the horse, sir?"

    "Lowry is walking him near the shrubbery."

    "An' is Lowry come too? Oh, murther, murther!" He ran to the door and looked out, nodded and raised his hand in courtesy, and then hastened back to Kyrle" Gi' me the hat, sir, an I'll hang it up用oof, its full o' dust佑ome in here, Masther Kyrle, an' I'll give you a touch before you go up stairs葉here's a power o' quollity in the drawen' room預n'覧" here he again cast down his head with a knowing smile" there's reasons for doin's葉he ladies must be plaised, surely. An' how is Mr. Daly an' herself an' all of 'em, sir? Oh, murther, murther!"

    "They are all well, Pat, thank you."

    "The Lord keep 'em so!裕here's a sighth above stairs in the new house. Mr. Cregan of Roaring Hall(ah, that's a rale sporting jettleman)預n' Mr. Creagh an' Pincher, an' Docthor Lake, an' the officer, westwards;" then with another familiar wink"there's the drollest cratur in life in the servants hall abroad, the officer's sarvent-boy, a Londoner, afeerd o' the world that he'll have his throat cut be the Whiteboys before he quits the country. Poor cratur! he makes me laugh, the way he talks of Ireland, as if he was a marked man among us葉he little sprissawneen, that nobody ever would trouble their heads about佑oming!"預 bell rung"That's for the luncheon悠 must smarten myself, or Miss Anne will kill me. They're all going off, after they take something, to the races near the point below, where they're to have the greatest divarsion ever you hear輸n' so the master is well, eastwards? Why, then I'm glad to hear it葉hat's a good jettleman as ever sat down to his own table"葉he bell rang again"O murther! there's the bell again悠'll be kilt entirely!裕here now, Masther Kyrle, you're purty well, I think裕hey're all up stairs in the drawen' room in the new house. I needn't tell you the way. Syl Carney will open the doore for you, an' I'll wait aisya minute, for it wouldn't look seemly for me to be taking in the thray an' things close behind you"

    While this communicative retainer slipped away, napkin in hand, to the pantry, Kyrle Daly ascended a corkscrew flight of narrow stone steps, at the head of which he was met by the blooming handmaiden above named. Here he had as many "Masther Kyrle's" and pretty smiles, and officious, though kindly meant, attentions to undergo, as in the narrow hall. These he repaid in the usual manner, by complimenting Syl on her good looks謡ondering she had not got married預nd reminding her that Shrovetide would be shortly coming round again;擁n return for which the pretty Syl repeatedly told him that he was "a funny gentleman" and "a great play-boy."

    They passed through an old banquetting room which had once formed the scene of a council of the Munster chieftains, in the days of Elizabeth; and descending a flight of a few wooden steps, stood in the centre of a lobby of much more modern architecture. Here Kyrle Daly felt his heart beat a little wildly as he heard voices and laughter in the adjoining room. Modestly conscious, however, of his graceful person, and aware of the importance of displaying it to some advantage in the eyes of his mistress, he adjusted his ruffles, and with something like the feeling of a young debutant, conscious of merit, yet afraid of censure, made his entrance on the little domestic scene.

    The company all rose and received him with that pompous display of affability and attention which our fathers mistook for politeness, but which their wiser descendants have discovered to be the exact contrary, and have discarded from the drawing room, as unbefitting the ease and sincerity of social life. Mrs. Chute was unable to rise, but her greeting was at once cordial and dignified. Anne gave him her hand with the air of an affectionate relative; Mr. Hyland Creagh placed his heels together預djusted his ample shirt frills, and bowed until the queue of his powdered wig culminated to the zenith謡hile Pincher wagged his tail, looked up at his master as if to enquire the nature of his movements, and finally coiled himself up on the carpet and slept; Mr. Barnaby Cregan griped his hand until the hones cracked容xpressing, in very concise language, a wish that his soul might be doomed to everlasting misery in the next world if he were not rejoiced to meet him; Doctor Leake tendered him a finger, which Kyrle grasped hard, and (in revenge perhaps for the punishment inflicted on him by Cregan) shook with so lively an expression of regard, that the worthy physician was tempted to repent his condescension. To the young officer, an Englishman, Kyrle was introduced by the formal course of" Captain Gibson, Mr. Daly覧Mr. Daly, Captain Gihson"熔n which they bowed as coldly and stiffly as the figures in a clockmaker's window in Holborn, and all resumed their places.

    After the usual enquiries into the condition of both families had been made and answered, Kyrle Daly indulged himself in a brief perusal of the personal appearance of the individuals in whose society he was placed. The information which he derived from the few glances that happened to fall wide of Miss Chute, shall here be laid before the reader.

    Mrs. Chute, the venerable lady of the mansion, was seated in a richly carved arm-chair, near an ebony work-table, on which were placed a pair of silver spectacles and the last racing calendar. A gold-headed cane rested against her chair, and a small spaniel, in the attitude which heralds term couchant, lay at her side, burlesquing the lion of Brittania in the popular emblem. In her more youthful days, indeed, Mrs. Chute might have assumed her part in the latter, without exciting any ludicrous association; and even in this decay and mouldering of her womanly attractions, there was a grace, a dignity, a softened fire, and even a beauty to he traced, which awakened the spectator's respect and sometimes warmed it into admiration. Old age, while it took nothing away from her dignity, had imparted to her manner that air of feminine dependance, in which she was said to have been somewhat too deficient in her youth, and replaced in tenderness and interest the beauty which it had removed.

    Her daughter, who bore a very perceptible resemblance to the old lady in the cast of her features, as well as in their expression, looked at this moment exceedingly beautiful. A dark blue riding dress displayed her figure to such advantage, that if a young sculptor could have taken it as a model for a study of Minerva, and could likewise afford a lobster and a hurtle of sherry to a critic in the "Fine Arts," there is little doubt that he would make his fortune. Her hair, which was shining black, cut short and curled so gracefully, that it might vie with the finest head in Mr. Hope's book of costumes, crept out from beneath her small round hat and shaded a countenance that glowed at this moment with a sweet and fascinating cheerfulness. The common herd of mankind frequently exhibit personal anomalies of so curious a description as to remind one of Quevedo's fanciful vision of the general resurrection, where one man in his hurry claps his neighbour's head upon his own shoulders, and the upper portion of a turtle-fed Alderman is borne along by the trembling shanks of a starveling Magazine poet. But nothing of this incongruity was observable in the charming person of the heiress of Castle Chute. Her countenance was exquisitely adapted both in form and character to the rest of her frame; and she might be justly admired as a piece of workmanship not entrusted by Nature (as in a pin-manufactory) to the hands of nine journeymen, but wrought out and polished by that great Adept herself as a sample of womankind for the inspection of customers.

    It was indeed remarked by those who enjoyed only a visiting acquaintance with Anne Chute, that her general manner was somewhat cold and distant, and that there was in the wintry lustre of her large black eyes, and the noble carriage of her fine person, a loftiness which repelled in the spectator's breast that enthusiasm which her beauty was calculated to awaken, and induced him to stop short at the feeling of simple admiration. Hardress Cregan, who, with all his shyness, had the reputation of a fine critic on these subjects, had been heard to say of her on his return from College, that "she was perfect. Her form and face were absolutely faultless, and a connoisseur might with a better taste pretend to discover a fault in the proportions of the Temple of Theseus. But there," he added, "I must terminate the eulogy; for I could no sooner think of loving such a piece of frost-work than of flinging my arms in ecstasy around one of the Doric pillars of the old edifice itself."

    But Hardress Cregan had been only once, and for a few minutes, in the lady's company, when he pronounced this judgment. Neither was he an impartial observer, for the embarrassment which he experienced in consequence of her unconscious dignity, made him throw more asperity into his criticism than the occasion actually required. Those who enjoyed a longer and a nearer intimacy with Miss Chute, found an additional fascination in that very coldness which kept ordinary acquaintances at a distance, and which for them was so cheerfully and so winningly removed. In proportion to the awe which it inspired on a first introduction, was the delight occasioned by its subsequent dissipation, and it gave to her whole character that effect of surprize, which is dangerous or available to the influence of the fair possessor, according as the changes which it reveals are attractive or otherwise. The feelings which accompanied a growing intimacy with this lovely girl resembled those of one who endeavours, by a feeble light, to discover the graces of a landscape which he knows to be beautiful, but which he is unable to appreciate, until the morning light streams in upon the picture, and brings it forth in all its exquisite reality before his eyes.

    The remainder of the company are not so interesting as to claim an equal portion of the reader's notice. Mr. Barnaby Cregan, a stout top-booted elderly gentleman, with a nose that told tales of many a rousing night, was seated close to Mrs. Chute, and deeply engaged in a discussion upon cocks and cockrels, sparring, setting, impounding, the long law, the short law, and every other law that had any connection with his reigning passion. The rosy and red-coated Captain Gibson, who was a person of talent and industry in his profession, was listening with much interest to Doctor Lucas Leake, who possessed some little antiquarian skill in Irish remains, and who was at this moment unfolding the difference which existed between the tactics of King Lugh-Lamh-Fada, and those issued from his late most gracious Majesty's War-Office; between one of King Malachy's hobbilers and a life-guardsman; between an English halberd and a stone-headed gai-bulg, and between his own commission of lieutenant and the Fear Comhlan Caoguid of the Fion Eirin.

    Mr. Hyland Creagh, who, as before mentioned, notwithstanding the perfect maturity of his years, still continued to affect the man of gallantry, was standing near Miss Chute, and looking with a half-puzzled, half-smiling air over a drawing which she had placed in his hands. Now and then, as he held the picture to the light, he looked askance, and with a forbidding expression, at Kyrle, who was carelessly sauntering towards the fair object of his attentions, and yet endeavouring to give his approximation rather the appearance of accident than of design. Mr. Creagh's experience in society had long since made him aware that youth was a quality which contributed materially to success with the ladies, and the consequence of this discovery was a hearty detestation(a term more qualified would not express the feeling)熔f every gentleman who was younger than himself. "Puppies!" he would exclaim, "they assume the air and port of men when they should be confined to bibs and frills, and bestride a blood-horse when their highest corvet should be made in the hall, on their grandfather's walking-cane." But he had the mortification to find that his sentiments on this head were adopted by no unmarried ladies except those whose wisdom and experience were equal to his own; and about their opinions, unhappily, Mr. Creagh was as indifferent as the young coxcombs whom he censured.

    "I profess my ignorance," he said, after contemplating the picture for several minutes. "The drawing is admirable葉he colouring has a depth and softness of tone, that I have seen rarely produced by water colours, and the whole design bears the stamp of reality upon it; but I profess my ignorance of the place which you say it is intended to represent."

    "Indeed!" said Anne, affecting a disappointed tone, and pleased to put the old gentleman's gallantry to the torture. "Then I must have made a sad failure, for the scene ought to be quite familiar to you."

    "I am the worst person in the world at tracing a resemblance," said Mr. Creagh, looking puzzled. "Perhaps, it is meant for Ballylin Point?"

    "Oh, Mr. Creagh, can you find any resemblance? What a wretched bungler you must think me! You did well to say meant for葉hat expression indicates so exactly the degree of relation between my sketches and the originals."

    "'Pon my honour, Miss Chute'pon my honour, as a gentleman."

    "Mr. Daly!"揖yrle flew to her side."Perhaps you could restore me to my self-esteem. Do you know that Mr. Creagh has mistaken this for a sketch of Ballylin Point! Try if you can restore my credit, for it is sinking very fast, even in my own estimation."

    "Ballylin point!" exclaimed Kyrle, taking the drawing into his hands"I do not see the least resemblance." Mr. Creagh's eyes flashed fire, at this unceremonious declaration, but he checked his resentment, and congratulated Miss Chute on this proof, that the fault lay in his want of observation, not in her want of skill.

    "And do you recognize the scene?" continued Miss Chute, who was well aware of the old servente's foible, and loved to toy with it for her amusement. "Let me hear if I have been indeed so very unsuccessful."

    Her lover delayed answering, not because he shared the difficulty of Mr. Creagh, but that he was wrapt in admiration of the drawing. It was an interesting landscape, and finished with more taste and fineness of touch than are usually to be traced in the efforts of accomplished young ladies. The foreground of the picture exhibited a grassy slope, which formed a kind of peninsula in a magnificent sheet of water, running a little to the left, and terminating at what artists term the middle distance in a gracefully wooded point. The remains of an old castle appeared among the trees, the gloom and majesty of which were exhibited in a striking degree, by a brilliant effect of sunshine on the water and on the green slope above mentioned. Two small islands, affording an anchorage to some open boats, broke the expanse of water on the right; while the small bay, formed by the point before described, on the left, was graced by the figures of fishermen in the act of casting their nets. The waters were bounded in the distance, by a range of blue hills, some of which projected into rocky or wooded headlands; while the whole was softened by that deep and rich blue tint, which is peculiar to the moist atmosphere of the climate; and by imparting at once distinctness and softness to the landscape, is far better adapted to scenes of rural solitude, than even the lonely splendour of a Tuscan sun.

    "Ballylin!" echoed Mr. Cregan, who had walked over to look at the drawing. "'Tis as like Ballylin, as Roaring Hall is to Dublin Castle 'Tis Castle Chute, and right well touched off, too, by Jingo." To this observation he added, in language which the altered customs of society prevent our copying verbatim, that he wished the spiritual foe of the human race might lay hold of him, if it were not an admirable resemblance.

    Mr. Creagh had his own reasons for not taking offence at any resentment that was urged by his good friend and frequent host, Mr. Cregan, but he did not forget the difference of opinion that was hazarded by his young acquaintance. To the fair artist's raillery, he replied with a bow and an air of old fashioned politeness, that "frequently as he had had the honour of visiting at Castle Chute, he was yet unfamiliar with the scenery, for his thoughts in approaching it were exclusively occupied by one object."

    "And even though they were at liberty," added Kyrle, "it is more than probable Mr. Creagh has never seen Castle Chute at this point of view, so that it could hardly be expected to remain on his recollection." Then moving closer to Anne, and speaking in a lower tone of voice, he said"This is the very scene of which I told you Hardress Cregan was so enthusiastic an admirer. You have drawn it since?"

    Miss Chute answered in the affirmative, and turning quickly away, replaced the sketch in her portfolio. Then, turning to Creagh, she told him that he would be very shortly qualified to give an opinion as to the fidelity of her design, for they would pass the spot in question, on their way to the little race course. There was some farther conversation, not worth detailing, on the subject of Hardress Cregan's salute預nd some conjectures were hazarded concerning the female in the blue cloak, none of which, however, threw any certain light upon that mystery.