Knocknagow - CHAPTER XLI.

CHAPTER XLI.

MISS KATHLEEN HANLY THINKS IT ADVISABLE TO BE "DOING SOMETHING."

ASK Hugh to come." And Mary's somewhat anxious look brightened as she saw Hugh submitting to be led on with them by Grace, who seemed to take his compliance as a matter of course. Mary was a little afraid of being left alone with Mr. Lowe. His admiration had risen to such a height that it was really no vanity in her to consider a downright declaration of love within the bounds of possibility. Her good sense enabled her to see the folly of such a proceeding, and her good nature to say nothing of the real liking she had for him made her shrink from wounding his feelings in any way. She said to herself that he would soon forget her in the bustle and excitement of the gay world. And if he passed on with nothing more definite than a bow and a smile or she might have no great objection to a sigh it would be better for both. So that Hugh's docility was a great relief to her, and she talked cheerfully, and even gaily, as they passed on through the hamlet, stopping occasionally to say a kind or pleasant word to the women and children, who always greeted her with smiles and sometimes with blessings. Nelly Donovan was examining one of her beehives, which had barely escaped being overturned by Kit Cummins's cat in endeavouring to escape from its deadly enemy, "Friskey Lahy" (in Knocknagow the patronymic of the owner was invariably bestowed upon his dog) and Nelly became so eloquent in detailing the injuries and vexations brought upon her by Kit Cummins's cat, that Mr. Lowe forgot his own woes, and stopped to listen to Nelly Donovan's harangue with a more cheerful expression of countenance than he had been seen to wear for several days before. Then old Mrs. Donovan appeared, smoothing her white hair over her temples, after removing her spectacles, and had a word to say in private to Miss Kearney; so that a quarter of an hour was lost before the party came up with the doctor, who was waiting at the corner of the clipped hedge, and gazing pensively towards the old castle. Catching a glimpse of the redoubtable Kit Cummins herself, with arms akimbo inside the threshold of her own door, evidently prepared with a defence of her persecuted cat, the doctor thought at this rate they'd never reach the house on the hill; and, to avoid further interruptions, he proposed to turn in by the short-cut through Tom Hogan's farm. Whereupon Kit Cummins thrust her hair under her cap, and tried to bottle up her wrath for a more favourable opportunity; but finding the effort too much for her, she relieved her feelings by a long and well-sustained invective upon her next-door neighbour and all belonging to her. And the never-varying response on such occasions " Gir-r-r-r-r out, you bla'guard!" fell with such piercing distinctness upon Mr. Lowe's ear, that he stood still in the middle of Tom Hogan's field, and gazed around in amazement though the partition between Kit Cummins and her next-door neighbour was so thin that the purring of the vagabond cat could easily be heard through it.

Attorney Hanly laid down the newspaper and left the room so abruptly that his wife stared after him for a minute, and commenced rubbing her eyebrow. Mrs. Hanly had dropped an occasional hint during the morning, intended to lead up gradually and naturally to a certain subject with which her mind was occupied. But the abrupt and unexpected exit of Mr. Hanly seemed to have hopelessly disarranged her plans. Looking through the window she saw Mr. Isaac Pender shambling up the avenue; and the attorney soon appeared wrapped in his great-coat, and met the old agent half-way between the gate and the house.

"Run, Lory!" exclaimed Mrs. Hanly, as if she saw there was but one chance left her, "and tell him I want some money."

Lory started off without his cap, and quite terrified old Isaac by simply pronouncing the word "money" and holding out his hand. It seemed to have a stand-and-deliver effect upon Lory's father too; for he at once thrust his hands into his trousers pockets, and then into his waistcoat pockets, and then into the pockets of his great-coat. The result appeared in the shape of two or three pound notes, two or three shillings in silver, and two or three pence in copper. Rolling all these into one bundle, Mr. Hanly thrust them into his son's hand, who ran back to the house rejoicing.

"Well, it is better than nothing," said Mrs. Hanly, after counting the notes.

"But I wonder why did he mind giving me the odd coppers?" Lory asked, dropping them into his pocket, and resolving to have a game of pitch-and-toss with Barney Brodherick and Jack Delany's apprentice, the first convenient opportunity.

"Ah, you don't know all the plans he has," observed his mother. "Don't you see I am now to suppose that he has given me all the money he has, and, left himself penniless?"

Lory uttered that startling two-fold sound he intended for a laugh, and evidently looked upon his father as a clever fellow. "I may as well keep this for myself," he remarked, looking at the silver in his open hand.

Scarcely had he uttered the words, when his hand was struck, and the money sent rolling about the floor.

"You must not keep it, sir. I don't know what you want of money. Come here and hold him, Kathleen."

There was a tremendous struggle between Rose and Lory for the money; but Kathleen, who was reclining with her lap-dog on the sofa, contented herself with holding the little animal fast, and trying to stop its barking. Mrs. Hanly quietly picked up one shilling which rolled against her foot. Rose seized another. But in spite of all she could do, Lory caught hold of the third and thrust it into his pocket. In vain did Rose exert herself, till she seemed in danger of bursting a blood-vessel, to pull Lory's hand out of his pocket. And finding the hand and arm quite immovable, she paused to parley and take breath.

"Now, what do you want that money for?" Rose asked, as she twisted up her hair.

"For the novelty of it," added Lory, jingling the coppers, which were all safe in the other pocket.

"No, sir; it is not for the novelty of it. I have found you out. Miss Lloyd, who hates you, cause she thinks 'tis purposely to frighten her you talk loud, told me that she saw you call for three pints of beer at Bourke's; and that you drank one yourself, and gave one to Joe Russel and. another to Brummagem; and that you talked and swaggered in a most awful manner. She could not understand half what ye said; but it was plain to her ye were steeped to the lips in iniquity, she said."

"And where was she?" Lory asked.

"She went in through the yard gate when she saw you in the shop, and remained behind the door while ye were there."

"I'm sorry I didn't know she was there," returned Lory; "I'd put Brummagem up to kiss her, and pretend he thought it was Kitty, the servant girl."

"O mercy!" exclaimed Rose. "What am I to do with him?"

"Who is this person you call 'Brummagem'?" her mother inquired.

"That horrid fellow with the black face," Rose answered. "They call him 'Lovely Delany,' too. I suppose because he is such a monster of ugliness."

"Don't mind her," said Lory. "He's Jack Delany's nephew. His face is black because he's a blacksmith; and they call him "Brummagem," because he was born in Birmingham, in England. I suppose they call him 'Lovely' on the same principle that you are called 'Rose,'" said Lory, with a laugh that would have been the death of his enemy, Miss Lloyd, if she were within reach of it.

"Don't be impertinent, sir," retorted Rose. "And didn't I see you playing pitch-and-toss at the end of the grove with this person and Joe Russel, and your other interesting friend, Barney Brodherick alias Wattletoes,"

"I suppose it was he gave poor Joe the black eye," Mrs. Hanly observed

"Oh, no," said Rose, "that happened the last day he drove us into town. Grace Kiely can tell you all about it."

"The Kearneys are coming up through the fields," Lory observed reminded of the fact by his sister's last remark.

"How do you know?" Rose asked.

"Because I'm after seeing them," returned Lory.

"I suppose Richard is with them?" Kathleen inquired with a yawn.

"Yes, he was on before the rest. He was looking back at them, or I would have spoken to him."

Is Grace with them?"

"She and Hugh were talking to Tom Hogan, who is making drains in the field next the grove."

"Kathleen!" exclaimed Mrs. Hanly, bustling about the room to put everything in its proper place, "throw away that wretched little dog, and be doing something."

Kathleen started up, and flung her favourite from her whose doleful whine was suddenly changed into a yelp, Lory having accelerated its exit with the toe of his heavy boot, as he hurried out to meet the visitors. Kathleen looked about her, at a loss as to the "something " she ought to "be doing." She had a vague idea that her sleeves should be tucked up above her elbows; but as there was not a moment to be lost, she snatched a bunch of keys from the table and ran up stairs; with a view to coming down when called, with the keys at her girdle, and looking greatly surprised on finding her friends in the parlour.

The doctor's devotion was always looked upon by Mrs. Hanly as a means to an end; and we very much fear the fair Kathleen herself had come round to that way of thinking also. A lecture from her father illustrated by divers examples within his own personal knowledge, of what the worthy attorney called "genteel beggary " made a deep impression upon his charming daughter. And a question casually put by her mother, apropos of Dr. Richard Kearney, to the effect, "was it in his pocket he'd put her," helped also to give Kathleen's thoughts a practical turn. So that she only yawned and went on pulling her dog's ears as she asked "was Richard with them." But the moment she heard that Hugh was coming, Kathleen started up to "be doing something."

But it must not by any means be inferred that Hugh Kearney had won the heart of the beauty of Castleview; except in a general way. She had come to connect the very opposite of that dreaded "genteel beggary" with the idea of an extensive farmer, and lost no opportunity of recommending herself to that class of wooers. She had on one occasion all but made sure of a wealthy young farmer from the county Limerick, who had purchased some cattle from the attorney, and spent the evening at Castleview. The knowledge she displayed of everything connected with farming and particularly the wisdom of her views as to the making of butter made such an impression upon the gentleman from Limerick, that, over and over again (as he afterwards confessed), he found himself repeating the words, "This is the girl for me." And as Kathleen talked and talked in her bewitching way, the only question that troubled the young man's mind was, whether he would then and there ask the attorney off-hand to give him his treasure of a daughter, or put it off to the first Wednesday in the ensuing month, which was the fair-day of Kilthubber. But in the very moment of her triumph, Kathleen asked, with a look of the profoundest wisdom "How many hundreds of butter do you put in a firkin in your part of the country?"

The young man stared; but Kathleen repeated her question with a look of self-satisfied experience that absolutely appalled him. In vain her mother made signs to signify that she had blundered; in vain her father's sarcastic laugh; Kathleen would know how many hundred-weight of butter went to a firkin in his part of the country. And she smacked her lips and sighed, and looked as if she had thought of nothing but filling firkins for the best part of her life, as she paused for a reply. To her astonishment, however, the young county Limerick farmer suddenly rose and took his leave; looking as if he found himself in a place where his pockets might be picked if he delayed another instant.

"O Lord!" exclaimed the young farmer, looking back at the house on the hill when he had gone some distance from it as if to assure himself that he was safe " O Lord, there's no depending on any of them. I was dd near being taken in. I wonder did she ever see a firkin in her life? 'How many HUNDRED of butter do you put in a firkin?' 'Tis my opinion she don't know a firkin from a herring-stand. Oh, and the way she talked! I thought she was the best manager in Munster. The fact is," he added, as if he had quite made up his mind upon the point, "they're not to be depended on."

For nearly a year after, the young county Limerick farmer lived in perpetual dread of being "taken in" the sight of a delicate white hand affecting him like a snake in the grass and to put an end to his misery, by effectually guarding against the apprehended danger, one fine morning married his dairy-maid; the dairy-maid, in the innocence of her heart, attributing her good fortune to her blooming cheeks and a pair of soft brown eyes never dreaming that she owed it all to Miss Kathleen Hanly's Brobdignagian ideas of firkins of butter.

And now Kathleen tripped down stairs with the keys at her girdle, and, stopping in the middle of her song, looked so surprised to find that Rose was not all alone. She recovered herself sufficiently to welcome her visitors in the prescribed fashion. But as she looked around, and caught something like a malicious smile in Rose's eyes, Kathleen bit her lip, and immediately became intensely amiable.

The keys were a mistake; for Hugh did not come in at all. The lap-dog on the sofa would have done much better under the circumstances.

But that unhappy little lap-dog! How dearly he paid for these little mistakes and disappointments! The Brobdignagian firkin had well-nigh proved the death of him. For when his mistress flung herself on the sofa, after being informed that a firkin was never known to contain even one hundred of butter, she squeezed the poor creature's windpipe till its eyes seemed starting out of its head. And as if the application of Lory's "blucher" were not enough punishment for one day the fair Kathleen, on resuming her place on the sofa after seeing her visitors part of the way home, commenced knocking the persecuted little animal upon his skull with the bunch of keys; as if she were determined to practically test the truth of the proverb, "There's many a way of killing a dog besides choking him with butter."

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