MAT DONOVAN FOLLOWS GRACE'S ADVICE; BUT BESSY MORRIS IS GONE. — HONOR AND PHIL LAHY IN THEIR NEW HOME.
A YOUNG merchant jumped from an omnibus opposite the General Post Office, and, after glancing at his watch, hurried down Sackville Street with the air of a man who had no time to spare. Before he had got half-way down the street, how ever, he stopped short, after passing a tall, broad-shouldered countryman, who was standing opposite a shop window. There was something in the fine manly figure of the countryman that might well have arrested anyone's attention; and the young merchant smiled on observing how intent he seemed in examining the newest styles in bonnets and artificial flowers. He touched the rustic connoisseur upon the shoulder with the end of his umbrella; and, after a start, and a look of surprise, there was a warm shake-hands, and mutual expressions of pleasure at the meeting.
"How are they all at home? " the young merchant asked. "All well, sir," was the reply. "'Tis younger your father is gettin'. I'm afther sellin' two fine stall-fed fat cows for him — I didn't see betther at the market. An' faith, Wat Murphy'll have an argument against us; for when all expenses are paid, 'twon't be a crown a head more than Wat offered. I sold a fine lot of bullocks for Mr. Kiely; no betther. But he spares no expense in buyin' the best stock; an' Woodlands is as good fattenin' land as there's in the county."
"I saw in the papers that they had an increase in the family at Woodlands, and that it is a son this time."
"So they had, sir. But they wor all sure you'd be down to the christenin' at Docthor O'Connor's."
"Well, I was not able to go. How is my mother now?
"She's very sthrong, then; on'y for the lowness o' spirits. But Miss Ellie can get great good uv her; an' when Miss Grace happens to be at Docthor O'Connor's or at Woodlands she'll send for her, an' the misthress'll be as gay as a lark in less than no time."
"Come down to the warehouse with me," said the young merchant. "I want to know all about everybody."
The countryman looked once more at the window, the display of flowers and feathers seeming to possess some extraordinary attraction for him, and, after glancing up and down the street, as if he would fain linger where he was, could he only find a reasonable excuse, walked on with the young merchant.
"I had my mind made up to call to see ye," said he, "as I have the day to myse'f till the six o'clock thrain."
"This is Mat Donovan, sir," said Willie Kearney to his uncle, when they reached the warehouse.
"Oh, how are you?" said the merchant. "I hope all our friends in Tipperary are well."
"All as well as you could wish, sir," Mat answered.
"I was very much interested in your case," Mr. Kearney observed, "that time you were charged with robbing old Pender. Hugh wrote to me about it, and I was glad to have it in my power to be of some use to you."
"I had good friends, sir," returned Mat. "But I suppose you heard ould Isaac confessed before he died that it was Beresford an' Darby Ruadh that took the money in ordher to have an excuse for robbin' Sir Garrett Butler, God rest his sowl."
"Why didn't Sir Garrett follow up the prosecution against them?" the merchant asked. "I was hoping they would be both transported."
"Well, when Beresford made off, the ould father confessed all, an' gave up some uv the plunder, an' as he was so near his end, they left him so."
"Where is the son now?
"In Queensland, or somewhere off in that direction," replied Mat. "We heard nothin' about him since Misther Lloyd paid the two thousand pound. An' faith, Misther Bob'd be in the coorts like Sam Somerfield and the rest uv the landlords down there, on'y that Tom Ryan and Ned Brophy, an' a few more uv the tenants, made up the money an' lent it to him. He was just afther payin' his other sister's fortune to Captain French, when Beresford's attorney slapped at him. The tenants'd be sorry to lose Misther Bob, an' these new landlords are such screws. Every wan was sorry for poor Major French, an' his fine place went for nothin'. But do you think will Misther Hugh ever come home, sir?"
"I think he will. I have written to him to say it would be for his own interest as well as for the interest of the whole family."
"We're sure uv him so," Mat replied with a delighted look. "Whatever is for their good he'll do id. Many's the good turn I knew Hugh to do; an' 'tis little talk 'd be about id."
"Hugh Kearney is a man," said the merchant.
"He wouldn't be his father's son if he wasn't a good fellow," returned Mat.
"He's worth a ship-load of his father," exclaimed the mcrchant.
"Come this way, Mat," said Willie, showing him into his office. "You have not told me half the news yet. Has Barney that thrush's nest with which he used to cheat me,. still?
"He coaxed a bull-dog pup from Wat Murphy's son wud the same nest a few weeks ago," returned Mat. "Wat came out an' there was the divil's row. Peg Brady was rearin' the pup wud the calves unknownst to any wan, till Wat came out for him, an' said he wouldn't give him for the best fat sheep your father had. We expect that Peg and Barney'll be married shortly."
"I had a letter from Tommy Lahy lately," said Willie, "and he reminded me of Barney, and all the old neighbours."
"I'm tould, like yourself, sir, his uncle is afther takin' him into partnership."
"Yes; their house is one of the most respectable firms in Boston. It was about an order for Irish linen he wrote to me."
"'Twas no later than last Sunday," returned Mat, "that the schoolmaster remarked, after readin' Phil's speech, that yourse'f an' Tommy Lahy wor the two innocentest boys he ever initiated into the sciences, as he said; that ye wor no way crafty, an' could be chated out of your marvels wud the greatest facility, an' your castle-tops came in for the most hannels; an' now ye are the two richest men belongin' to the parish."
"What's that you said about a speech?"
"Wan that Phil Lahy made at a great Temperance meetin'," Mat answered. "An' the divil a finer speech was made there. He sent the paper to Billy Heffernan. An' sure I remember when Phil an' Billy wor the two greatest dhrunkards in Knocknagow, except Jack Cummins, that used to bate his wife, an' that's what Phil never done; an' Billy had no wan to bate but his mule. But it was poor Norah done id all."
"I often think of Norah," said Willie. "I knew her chair in Mary's room the moment I saw it."
"An' Nelly has her slippers," returned Mat, "hangin' at each side of the crucifix at the head of her bed, wud her beads in wan an' a bit of palm in th' other. An' if you go into the churchyard uv a Lady Day in harvest you won't be long lookin' for Norah's grave, for not an inch uv id that won't have a flower on id. Nelly an' Billy dhresses the grave every Patthern-day as sure as the sun shines. But didn't Tommy say anything about his father an' mother?
"Yes; he said they were well; but that his mother was always pining for home. I have no doubt it is that grave you mention that makes her wish for home."
"Poor Honor! she was the heart an' sowl uv a good woman."
"Tom asked how the mocking-bird he sent Ellie was going on."
"He's a fine singin' bird," replied Mat solemnly. "She sent him over to Billy Heffernan's to have Nelly take care uv him while she was at the wather wud Mrs. O'Connor and Mrs. Kiely, an' he picked up the whistle uv the plovers an' the curlews, so that he'd bother you sometimes. He frightens the life out uv Mrs. Kearney when he screeches like a hawk. She says he's not right; an' faith my mother has the same notion, an' thinks the lads in the forth has somethin' to do wud him. But is that Lory Hanly wud the bag?" Mat asked, looking through the window.
"Yes; he's going to the Four Courts. I suppose you know he is a barrister. He is getting on very well."
"Oh, I know, sir. He was cheered in Clonmel afther gainin' the law for a poor man the landlord thought to turn out. That was a fine letther against the land laws his father wrote in the papers. An' 'twas a hard case to be turned out uv his place afther all he lost by id, for no raison but because the new landlord wanted to have a residence on his property. But the divil a word he had to say that poor Tom Hogan hadn't to say; an' id come out whin ould Isaac was dyin' that Hanly bribed him to put out Tom Hogan an' give the farm to himse'f."
"It appears he did not see the injustice of the law till it came to his own turn to feel it," said Willie. "His daughter is married to a Mr. Wilson, a friend of mine."
"Maybe 'tis Johnny Wilson, that was in the bank?" Mat asked.
"The same," returned Willie, "and you will be likely to have him in Kilthubber, as manager of the same bank soon. His wife is very anxious to go there, as she and Mrs. O'Connor were great friends."
"So they wor," said Mat. "An' the other sister was a grand girl."
"Yes, she is still to the good, and looked upon as a great beauty."
"I'll have a bag-full uv news for Miss Grace," said Mat. "But I must run an' get a letther uv credit for this money, as I don't like to have so large a sum about me. But I'll call in again on my way to the railway."
After getting the letter of credit, Mat Donovan made straight for the same window where we found him a few hours before, and which had bloomed into brighter and more varied splendour in the meantime, as if the flowers there displayed were alive and real and felt the influence of the sun. But this would scarcely be enough to account for the absorbing interest Mat Donovan seemed to take in that shop-window. Could it be that he wanted to make a purchase? It would seem so, for, after deliberating with himself for some minutes, he walked into the shop. But then he seemed to have forgotten what brought him there, and looked a little puzzled and embarrassed.
"What can I do for you?" asked a smiling young lady inside the counter, surveying him with a look of kindly encouragement.
Mat looked about him, and, after a long pause, asked for "a ribbon to put in a bonnet." The ribbons were displayed, and one selected and neatly folded in white paper; and seeing that the young lady laughed in spite of herself Mat, as he put the parcel in his pocket, thought fit to set her right and remove an erroneous impression, by remarking carelessly that it was for a sister of his, who was as fond of ribbons as ever she was, though she had "three or four childher at her heels." But Mat evidently wanted some thing else, and, in reply to the question whether she could do anything else for him, he told her to show him a broad, thick ribbon.
"'Tis for an ould woman's cap — for my mother I want id," said Mat Donovan. And the young lady inside the counter did not laugh now, but rather looked pensive and melancholy. Perhaps she, too, had an old mother in some Munster valley, who wore a broad ribbon over her cap. This purchase was folded up and paid for, too; but still Mat Donovan lingered.
"I think you are from Tipperary," said the young girl.
"Well, I am," he replied. "Though I don't know how people can know I'm a Tip. But you are right; I am from Tipperary."
"So am I," said she.
"Well," returned Mat, resting his elbow on the counter, "I was tould a neighbour uv mine was employed in this establishment, an' if so, I'd like to see her before I go home, as some uv her relations would be glad to hear how she is."
"What's her name?"
Mat Donovan rubbed his hand over his face, which made him look quite flushed, and, after making several unsuccessful attempts to pick up a very diminutive pin from the counter, answered, "Bessy Morris."
Yes; she is here; but I didn't see her for the last week. I'll inquire." And after much delay, and sending up and down stairs, Mat Donovan walked out with Bessy Morris's address written on a slip of paper.
After many turnings and windings, and inquiries, Mat Donovan found himself in an out-of-the-way street in a very poor neighbourhood.
"Number seven," said he, glancing at the paper. "It must be the small house, wud the hall-doore. An', sure enough, thim white curtains is what I'd expect to see wherever Bessy 'd be. 'Tis a clane, snug little house, though there's nothin' but dirt an' poverty all around id."
His hand trembled and his heart fluttered, like a very coward, as he knocked at the door. Several minutes passed before it was opened, and he had his hand on the knocker again, when it occurred to him that the house was so small it was impossible that the first knock was not heard; and he waited for another minute. At last the door was opened, and Bessy Morris stood before him. She was very pale and thin, but as captivating as ever. But how calm and collected she was; and not in the least surprised to see him! And though he felt the pressure of her hand, his reception, he thought, was very cold indeed, considering how long it was since they had met before. But he did not know that she had seen him from the window, and sat down and covered her face with her hands for a moment; and then ran to the glass, and hurriedly arranged her hair, and tied a ribbon round her neck, before she opened the door. He walked in and sat down, and replied to all her questions about her friends in the country. And then she told him how her aunt's only son, who was a sailor, had been drowned not long before, on one of the American lakes, and she feared his mother would never recover the shock the intelligence of his death caused her.
"She has been so very ill for the last week," said Bessy, "that I am obliged to stay with her continually. If she does not get better soon, I must try and procure some work that I can do in the house."
"An' how do you get your health yourse'f? " Mat asked.
Well, indeed, pretty well; but I am a little worn-out now. I am very glad to hear that your mother and Nelly are so well."
"Will we ever have a chance of seein' you in Knocknagow again? " he asked, with his old smile.
She shook her head sadly, but made no reply. But a dreamy look came into her eyes, as if she were thinking of the days that were gone.
"I needn't tell you that we'd be all glad to see you," he said.
"I don't know that, Mat," she replied with another sad shake of the head.
"Don't know id! "rejoined Mat Donovan; and his broad chest heaved — but he could say no more.
"Are you as fond of songs and music as ever, Mat?" she asked, as he stood up, and held out his hand to say good-bye.
"Well, I am, then," he replied. "Miss Grace of'en plays a tune for me, an' so does Miss Ellie. But nun uv 'em can touch Mrs. Kiely. I never hear the like of her!"
She handed him a little book, and, turning over the leaves, he said, "This is an elegant song-book."
"Keep it for my sake," returned Bessy, with her old winning smile, as she clasped his hand with energy, and hurried back on hearing her aunt's voice, calling to her.
The next day Mat Donovan was at Woodlands with the price of the cattle he had sold for Edmund Kiely. Grace brought him in as usual to play some of his favourite airs for him.
"Do you remember the day of Ned Brophy's wedding, Mat," said she, "when you asked me to play that tune for you?"
"I do, well, Miss," he replied.
"Mr. Kearney wanted you to win a wife with a fortune," she continued. "But now that you are making money so fast as a cattle dealer, why do you not get married?"
"I was asked the same question in Dublin about yourse'f, Miss," returned Mat, "an' I couldn't answer id."
"Who asked you?"
"Bessy Morris," he answered. "She warned me not to forget to remember her to you and Mrs. O'Connor, an' how ye used to have many a talk in the little room in the cottage."
"So we used," returned Grace, thoughtfully. "I remember the day she told me the legend of Fionn Macool and the Beauty Race. Is Bessy herself married yet?"
"No, Miss," he replied. "She's not married." Grace's fingers ran carelessly over the keys, as she watched Mat Donovan from the corners of her eyes. He had covered his face with both hands and leant forward on the table near which he was sitting.
"I used to say long ago that you were fond of Bessy," said she. "Now, tell me candidly, was I not right?"
"You wor right, Miss," he answered, unhesitatingly; for there was something in her manner that invited confidence, and he sorely needed sympathy. She went on questioning him with so much tact and delicacy, that she got the history of Mat Donovan's "whole course of love" from him, even from the time when he used to toss the cherries over the hedge to Bessy Morris, on her way from school.
"Mat," said Grace, "you should have told her."
"I was too poor, Miss," he replied. "An' seem' so many respectable young fellows about her, I thought id would be no use. An' besides, though she was always nice and friendly, she never cared much about me."
"Take my advice, Mat, and tell her; and you'll find you are mistaken."
"Do you think so, Miss?" he asked eagerly.
"It is impossible," returned Grace, with emphasis, "that she could be indifferent to such love as yours."
"In the name uv God," said Mat Donovan, after a long pause, "I'll take your advice."
Before many weeks had elapsed, Mat Donovan stood again at the door of the small house in the out-of-the-way street. He knocked with a firm hand this time, and there was no fluttering of the heart as on the former occasion; for he had his mind made up for the worst. But there was no answer to his summons.
"She must be out," he thought, "an' maybe the ould woman is keepin' the bed still, an' I believe they have no wan in the house but themselves." He glanced at the windows, and it immediately occurred to him that the white curtains were gone, and then he saw that the shutters were closed.
"She's dead," said a woman, who came to the door of the next house, and found him looking at the windows.
"Dead!" he exclaimed — and the colour flew from his cheek — " who is dead?"
"The old woman," was the reply; "an' she had the beautifulest coffin I ever seen leavin' the street. They wor dacent people."
"An' the young woman?" he asked, drawing a long breath.
"Well, I don't know where she's gone; but she left for good the day after the funeral."
He hurried to the shop in Sackville Street, but could only learn from the proprietress that Bessy Morris had given notice that she could not return to her employment there; for which they were very sorry, as she was an excellent work-woman.
"Might there be e'er a comrade girl uv hers in the house, ma'am, that could tell me anything about her?" poor Mat asked in his bewilderment.
Inquiries were made, and a young girl came down to the shop and told him that Bessy was a particular friend of hers.
"An' could you tell me where she is?" he asked.
"She's gone to America," was the reply.
"To America!" he repeated, in so despairing a tone that the young woman raised her eyes to his face, and said:
"You are Mat Donovan?"
"Well, that is my name," he replied absently.
"She was thinking of writing to you," returned the young woman.
"Was Bessy thinkin' of writin' to me?"
"Yes; but she changed her mind. She was thinking, too, of writing to Mrs. Dr. O'Connor, somewhere in the County Care, I think, but she didn't know the address."
"I thought I tould her we had Docthor O'Connor, in Kilthubber since Father Carroll got the parish," replied Mat. "But how long is she gone?"
"She only left for Liverpool on Monday. The name of the ship she was to go by was the 'Ohio.' I was with her getting her passage ticket at the agent's."
"Where was that?" he asked eagerly.
"Eden Quay," she replied, "but I forget the number."
The agent told him that unless some delay occurred, he would have no chance of catching the "Ohio" in Liverpool, as she was to have sailed that same day. But there was a chance, and next morning, in the grey dawn, Mat Donovan was hurrying along the docks of Liverpool, staring at the forest of masts, and looking round for some one who could tell him whether the "Ohio" had yet sailed for America.
"The 'Ohio'?" replied a sailor who was returning to his vessel, evidently after being up all night. "Yes, she sailed for New York at four o'clock last evening."
Bessy Morris was gone!
"But sure 'tis long ago she was gone from me," he thought, as he rested his elbows on a pile of timber, and gazed at a vessel in the offing. "When is id that she wasn't gone from me? An' for all that, I feel as if she was never out uv my sight till now, that she is gone for ever. He stood there like a man in a dream, he did not know how long, till the noise around him, and the lading and unlading of the vessels commenced, roused him, and turning from the busy scene he strolled listlessly into an unfrequented street, and wandered on, on, merely wishing to pass away the time, and to be alone, till one o'clock, when the steamer was to leave for Dublin.
"Lend me a hand, if you plaze," said a man, with a heavy trunk on his shoulder, in an accent which placed it beyond all doubt that the speaker was a Munsterman. The trunk was laid upon the pavement, and the man dived into an arched doorway, pulling off his hat and making the Sign of the Cross. Mat looked up at the building, and saw that it was a Catholic church. He entered, and kneeling in front of the altar, offered up a short prayer. As he rose from his knees, his attention was attracted by a young girl coming out of one of the confessionals. She knelt, or rather flung herself down upon the stone floor, and with hands clasped almost convulsively, raised her streaming eyes to the picture of the Crucifixion, over the altar. Her pale face told a tale of suffering, and misery, and sore temptation, which there was no mistaking.
"My God!" thought Mat Donovan, "maybe that's the way Bessy will be, afther landin' in a sthrange counthry, wudout a friend, an' maybe sick an' penniless. Oh, if I could on'y do somethin' for her; if I could know that she was well an' happy, I'd be satisfied." Acting on the impulse of the moment, he walked towards the priest, who, after looking up and down the church, and seeing no other penitent requiring his ministry, was on his way to the sacristy. On seeing Mat approaching, he went back to the confessional.
"'Tis to ax your advice I want, sir," said Mat. "Bein' an Irishman an' a sthranger in this place, I'd like to get your advice about somethin' that's throublin' my mind very much." And he told his story from beginning to end; and how "she was always in his mind," and how he never thought of any one else as he used to think of her — though he never expected she'd be anything to him more than a friend — they being neighbours and neighbours' children. And now what ought he do? He wouldn't mind crossing over to America for her sake no more than he'd mind crossing the street. And did his reverence think be ought to go?
"I don't like to give an opinion in such a case," replied the priest. "You should not forget your mother and your sister, and it may be the young woman would not respond to your feelings, and might not require your assistance. But on the other hand she may, and probably will have to encounter severe trials, alone and friendless among strangers, and you might be the means of saving her."
"That's id," Mat interrupted, fairly sobbing aloud, as he glanced at the poor girl on her knees. "'Twould break my heart."
"In the name of God, then," continued the priest, "do as your heart prompts you. You seem to be a sensible man, not likely to act rashly or from a light motive. And at the worst it will be a consolation to you to think that you did your best for her. And it might be a source of much pain to you, if any misfortune happened to the young woman to think that you might have saved her and neglected to do so."
"Thank you, sir," replied Mat. "Your advice is good."
He left the church a happier man than he had been for many a day before. On passing a small print-shop within a few doors of the church, the well-known portrait of Daniel O'Connell, "the man of the people," caught his eye, and Mat stopped short, feeling as if he had met an old friend. And, while looking into the "Liberator's" face with a smile almost as full of humour and pathos as his own, the writing materials displayed for sale in the window reminded him of the necessity of communicating his intention of going to America to his mother.
"Miss Grace is the best," said he, after pondering over the matter for some time. "I'll tell her as well as I can, an' lave id to herse'f to tell my mother, and there's no danger but
she'll manage i d all right," So he wrote to Grace that he would start by the first ship leaving Liverpool for the United states — which the man in the print-shop informed him was the "Erin" for Boston — in pursuit of Bessy Morris.
Mat Donovan counted the hours as the good ship sped upon her way across the great ocean. Never before did he think the days and the nights so long — not even when he lay a prisoner in the jail of Clonmel. The vessel was crowded with Irish emigrants, and many an "o'er-true tale" of suffering and wrong did he listen to during the voyage. But as they neared the free shores of America, every face brightened, and the outcasts felt as if they had seen the end of their trials and sorrows. Alas! too many of them had the worst of their trials and sorrows yet before them. But it was only now Mat Donovan began to see how difficult, how almost hopeless, was the enterprise he had embarked in. He had no clue whatever by which he could hope to trace Bessy Morris. And his heart died within him at the thought that he might spend a life-time wandering through the cities of the great Republic, sailing up and down its mighty rivers, or travelling over its wild and lonely prairies, without finding her.
"Where am I to go or what am I to do?" he said to himself as he stood alone on one of the principal streets of Boston. Suddenly he remembered Tommy Lahy, and it was like a ray of hope to think that he had at least a friend at hand to consult with. He had no difficulty in finding the extensive concern in which Tommy was now junior partner. But when in answer to his inquiries he was told Mr. Lahy had sailed for Europe only two weeks before, Mat felt more disheartened than ever.
"Can I see his uncle?" he asked, recovering from his disappointment.
"Yes, come this way," replied the clerk.
The merchant received him civilly, and when Mat told him he was from Knocknagow, and asked, as Mr. Lahy was gone to Europe, could he see his father and mother, they being old friends and neighbours, the merchant replied of course he could, and very glad, he was sure, they would be to see him. "As for Mrs. Lahy — who, I suppose you know, is my sister — we can't make her feel at home in this country at all," he continued. "But she is more contented since Tom has got a house in the country, where she can keep a cow and fowl, and grow potatoes and cabbages. It is only about a mile outside the city, and you will have no trouble in finding it."
Following the directions given him by the merchant, Mat soon found himself at the door of a handsome house in the suburbs. He knocked, and the door was opened by a smart-looking young woman, who looked inquiringly into his face.
"Is Mrs. Lahy wudin?" he asked.
"O Mat Donovan!" she exclaimed, the moment she heard his voice; and catching him by both hands she pulled him in; and Mat found himself sitting in a nicely furnished room before he had recovered from his surprise.
"Is id yourse'f, Judy?" he asked, looking round the room and wondering why it felt so hot, seeing that there was no fire — the stove being an "institution" with which Mat had yet to become acquainted.
It was the same Judy Connell who had caused such dire confusion, by forgetting to shut the door behind her, in Mat Donovan's kitchen, that windy winter's night long ago, when she ran in to "take her leave of them."
Judy told him that Mrs. and Mr. Lahy would be in soon. They had only gone to visit a poor woman whose husband had broken his arm by a fall from a scaffolding. Mrs. Lahy was always finding out poor families in distress. Judy herself had a situation in one of the principal hotels in the city, but she always felt unhappy among such crowds of strangers, and so she asked Mrs. Lahy to take her, and now her mind was easier than ever it was since she came to America. Mrs. Lahy was like a mother to her; and besides, she had the same wages she was getting at the hotel, which was a great advantage, as she was able to send as much as ever home to her poor old father — besides feeling so comfortable and happy.
And Judy ran on with astonishing volubility, asking innumerable questions, and answering them all herself. Her intimate knowledge of everything concerning her present neighbours was amazing; but Mat opened his eyes in wonder when she detailed minutely and correctly every important event that had occurred in the parish of Kilthubber, since the day she left it down to the eviction of the Hennessys, which happened only three weeks before, and the election of poor-law guardians for the division of Knocknagow, on the head of which several black eyes were given and received in the city of Boston.
Here Mat managed to edge in a word, as Judy's voice subsided into an inarticulate murmur — she having caught her poll-comb between her teeth, while twisting up her hair, which had suddenly fallen down — and assured her that the election in question passed off quite peaceably at home, Mr. Kearney having nearly all the votes. The new landlord, who lived in Attorney Hanly's handsome house, set up a candidate in opposition to Maurice Kearney, but got no one to vote for him but his own tenants, who were few and far between. So that Mat Donovan was greatly astonished to hear that there had been a fight on account of the election of a poor-law guardian for Knocknagow in the city of Boston; and managed to say so before Judy Connell's tongue had room to go on again.
"Here they are," she exclaimed, sticking the comb in her poll, and running to open the door.
And how Mrs. Lahy raised her hands in wonder, and welcomed Mat Donovan, as if he had dropped down from the sky!
Mrs. Kearney going to second Mass on an Easter Sunday was never a more respectable-looking woman than Honor Lahy, Mat thought. But she was the same Honor Lahy still, for all that. And as for Phil, dressed as he was in a suit of superfine broadcloth, and carrying a varnished walking-stick in his gloved hand — why, only for the shirt-collar, which was as high and as stiff as ever, Mat Donovan would not have believed his own eyes, that that old gentleman ever made a blue body-coat with gilt buttons for him.
"I'm glad to see you, Mat," said Honor. "Proud an' happy I am to see you sittin' in that chair. But ye're all lavin' Ireland — all lavin' the ould sod. 'Tis of'en I said to mese'f, when my heart used to be breakin', thinkin' how lonesome the ould place was — 'tis of'en I said Knocknagow was not gone all out so long as Mat Donovan was there. I used to think uv yourse'f an' your mother standin' in your nice little garden, an' lookin' down to the beech-tree, an' thinkin' of them that was far away; an' of poor Norah; an' maybe takin' a walk to the churchyard uv a Sunday evenin' an' offering up a prayer at her grave. I always knew," continued Mrs. Lahy, who was quite as well-informed as her handmaiden of all that had passed in her native place since she left it, "I always knew Miss Mary an' Billy Heffernan would have luck. I knew heaven would reward them for all their kindness to my sufferin' angel. An' glad I am that they are well an' doin' well. An' I know they'll all be glad to see Tommy, for he promised me faithfully he wouldn't come back wudout payin' a visit to the ould place; an' sure 'tis well to have any wan at all left there to welcome him after the scourgin' the counthry got." And Honor buried her face in her hands and wept silently.
They were all silent for some minutes. Mat wished to say something, but did not know how to begin. Phil tapped the lid of his silver snuff-box, and took a pinch. And as for Judy Connell, she seemed to have run down like a clock, and could do nothing but stare at the window, and pant for breath.
"Ye're all lavin' Ireland," Honor repeated, as if to herself.
"If they are," Phil observed, "it is because the invader won't allow them to live there. The Celts are gone with a vengeance, says the London Times. An' the English Viceroy tells us that Providence intended Ireland to be the fruitful mother of flocks and herds. That is why our people are hunted like noxious animals, to perish in the ditch-side, or in the poorhouse. That is why the floating coffins are crossing the stormy Atlantic, dropping Irish corpses to the sharks along the way, and flinging tens of thousands of living skeletons on the shores of this free country. That is why the last sound in the dying mother's ears is the tooth of the lean dog crunching through the bones of her infant —"
O Phil, Phil, stop!" his wife cried; " 'tis too terrible to listen to."
"Woman, it is true," he replied. "And England — whose duty it was not to allow a single man, woman, or child to die of hunger — when this glorious Republic offered to send food to the starving Irish if England would send her idle war-ships to carry it — England refused, and let the people starve, and now shouts in triumph that the Cells are gone with a vengeance. But mark my words," continued Phil Lahy, rising to his feet, and gracefully extending his right arm, while the left rested on the back of his chair — "a day of retribution will come —
"'The nations have fallen, but thou still art young.
Thy sun is but rising, while others have set;
And, tho' slavery's cloud o'er the morning hath hung —
The full noon of freedom will beam round thee yet.'
And I say, Mat Donovan, if you could live in tolerable comfort at home, you had no right to desert your country."
"Well, I'm not desertin' Ireland," replied Mat. " I didn't come to this counthry wad the intention of remainin'."
They all looked at him in surprise; and, after some hesitation, he told them the object of his voyage, adding that he feared he'd have his journey for nothing.
Judy Connell mentioned some twenty or thirty different places, to which, for one reason or another, Bessy Morris would be likely to go. But, after reflecting for a minute or two, Phil Lahy said:
"Lave it all to me, Mat, an' I'll manage it. Don't think of a wild-goose chase all over the States. It would be madness. Stop here for a few days with us and rest yourself. An' I'll get a few lines in the papers that'll be sure to come under her notice wherever she is. I needn't give her name in full if you like. But a few lines under the head of 'Information Wanted' will be sure to make all right. So make your mind aisy, an' let us have a walk while supper is gettin' ready, an' we'll drop in to the editor, who is a particular friend of mine."
"That's a good advice, Mat," Honor observed, eagerly. "You'd be only losin' your time an' your money for nothin' if you went huntin' about the counthry. An' twill do us all good to have a long talk about ould times. So make up your mind and stay for a week or two wud us, an' you may depend on Phil that he'll find Bessy even if he was to go to the bishop himse'f."
It was so agreed; and Judy Connell and her mistress — if we may use the word — set about the supper, and so astonished Mat Donovan by the display he found spread out before him on his return from the city, that he was afterwards heard to declare that he "didn't know what he was aitin'."
About ten days after, Mat Donovan found himself in the sitting-room of a private house on the shore of one of the great lakes "out West." He had inquired for Bessy Morris, and was shown into this room.
"This is a grand house," said he to himself. "I never see such a lot of big lookin'-glasses. I wondher is id in service she is? I thought she'd be more likely to go on as she was in Dublin. But sure she might be employed that way here, too, I suppose."
The door opened, and Bessy Morris stood before him! She looked surprised, quite startled, indeed, on seeing him. Then her eyes sparkled, and the blood mounted up to her forehead; and with the old winning smile, she advanced and gave him her hand.
"My goodness, Mat!" said, she, "what a surprise it is to see you so soon. When did you come to America?"
"I on'y landed in Boston the week before last," he replied.
"Well, will wonders never cease?" returned Bessy.
A pretty little girl here came into the room, and Bessy desired her go and shake hands with an old friend of hers from Ireland. And as she glanced up into his face, Mat said to himself that she was the "dead image" of the little girl to whom he used to toss the cherries over the hedge, once upon a time.
"I will be back to dinner at the usual hour " said a gentleman, who advanced a step or two into the room. "I'm in a hurry, as I ought to be at the store before now."
"This is Mat Donovan," said Bessy.
"I'm glad to see you," returned the gentleman, shaking hands with him. "You have done well to come out West. Irish emigrants make a mistake by remaining in the towns and cities, when they ought to try at once and fix themselves in permanent homes in the country. Of course you will keep him for dinner, Bessy. We'll have a long talk, and I'll be glad to give you all the assistance I can. Good-bye for the present."
He hurried away, and Mat looked inquiringly at Bessy.
"Don't you know he is my father?" she asked. "He was unsuccessful for a long time after coming to America. Then he was told that I had died when a mere child, and he put off writing to his father from year to year, till he thought the old man must be dead too; and having married again, he never wrote to Ireland till, reading the account of the loss of the vessel in which my aunt's son was a sailor, he learned her address from a letter found upon my cousin's body when it was washed ashore. And this prompted him to write to my aunt. The letter only arrived the day before her death; and in my impatience to meet my long-lost father, I lost no time in coming to him. He is very well off, quite rich indeed, and I have every reason to be satisfied with his reception of me. The little girl is his youngest child."
"God knows, I'm glad uv id!" exclaimed Mat Donovan, thawing a long breath. "I was afeard you might be wudout a friend, an' maybe in bad health; for you didn't look sthrong at all that day I called to see you."
"I suffered a good deal while my aunt was sick," replied Bessy. "No one knows all I have gone through since poor grandfather's death. But, thank God, it is over. And so far as my father is concerned, my most sanguine hopes have been more than realised. I am the mistress of his house, and he says he must make up in the future for his neglect in the past. I am very glad to think that he can be of service to you, Mat, if you settle down in this part of the country."
"I'm not goin' to stay," returned Mat. "'Twouldn't do to lave my poor mother. An', as Phil Lahy says, no man ought to lave Ireland but the man that can't help id."
She looked at him in unfeigned astonishment; and Mat became quite confused, and regretted that he had said so much.
"You did not come to America with the intention of remaining?" she asked.
"No, I never had any notion of stayin' in America," he answered absently. "God be wud you," he added, rising and holding out his hand.
She placed both her hands in his, and continuing to look earnestly into his face, said:
"But you will come back and see my father again?"
"Well, maybe I would," he replied with a sorrowful smile, as he clasped her hands tenderly between his. "An' when ever you think uv ould times, an' the ould neighbours, I hope you'll remember that Mat Donovan uv Knocknagow was your friend, ever an' always, Bessy. Ay," he added, gulping down his emotion, "a friend that'd shed the last dhrop uv his blood for you."
He rushed out of the house, leaving Bessy standing in the middle of the room, as if she were spell-bound.
"Call him back, Fanny," she said hurriedly to her little sister. "Tell him I want to speak one word to him."
The child overtook Mat Donovan before he had gone many yards from the house, and brought him back.
"Mat," said Bessy Morris, speaking calmly and thought fully, "was it you got the advertisement in the paper? I thought it might be a girl I knew in Dublin, who came out last summer."
"Well, id was," he answered.
"And you came to America for nothing else but to find me?"
"I thought you might want a friend," he stammered. "And you are going back again?" she continued, coming close to him, and laying her hand on his arm, just as she laid the same hand on the sleeve of the blue body-coat in Ned Brophy's barn.
"What else would I do?" he answered, sadly. "And have you nothing else to say to me?" she asked, dropping her eyes.
"O Bessy, don't talk to me that way," returned Mat, reproachfully. "Where would be the use of sayin' more?"
She moved closer to him, and leant her head against his broad chest, which heaved almost convulsively as she did so.
"Mat," she murmured, "I will go with you."
"Go wad me!" he repeated, with a start.
"And be your wife," she added, in a whisper that thrilled through his whole frame, making him feel faint and dizzy.
"Do you know what you're sayin'?" he asked, recovering himself.
"I do, well," Bessy replied.
"Look around you," he continued. "An' then think uv the poor thatched cabin on the hill uv Knocknagow."
"I have thought of it," she replied. "I have often thought of that poor cabin, as you call it, and felt that if ever it was my lot to know happiness in this world, it is in that poor cabin I would find it."
Both his arms were round her now, and he held her to his breast.
"God bless Miss Grace," said he; "'twas she advised me to tell you all."
"What did she say?" Bessy asked.
"She said that you couldn't be indifferent to such love as mine," Mat answered, with his old smile.
"And she was right," returned Bessy.
"But are you sure, Bessy, this is no sudden notion that you might be sorry for?" he asked anxiously.
"As sure as that I am alive," she answered.
"Oh, you must let me go out to have a walk in the open air," Mat exclaimed. "My heart is too full; I'm smotherin'." He hurried out to wander by the shore of the lake, and think over his great happiness, and thank God for it.
"And so, Bessy," exclaimed her little sister, who had been a wondering spectator of the foregoing scene, "you're going to marry a greenhorn. Though Colonel Shiel admires you so much, and wants you to go to the hop with him."
"Yes, I am going to marry a greenhorn," returned Bessy, catching the child up in her arms and kissing her. "And who knows but you will come to see me to dear old Ireland yet; and find me in a pretty thatched cottage, with a fine old cherry-tree in the garden, and lots of beehives; and such a dear, kind old mother to take care of them."
"Yes, that will be nice. I shall go to Ireland to see you," returned the child, placing a hand on each of Bessy's cheeks and looking into her eyes. "I shall like the thatched cottage and the beehives very much."
"And you will like the greenhorn, too, I am sure."
"Yes, I think so. But it was so foolish for such a big fellow to be crying like a child."
"Was he crying, Fanny?"
"Indeed yes. When I overtook him at the end of the block he was crying. I'm sure he felt real bad. And now you are crying, too," added the child.
"It is because I am so happy, Fanny," Bessy replied. "I am so happy that I will go now and kneel down and pray to God to make me worthy of the love of that big, foolish greenhorn."
"I guess you Irish must be always praying."
It is good to pray, Fanny."
"Yes, of course, once in a while. But have you got two cents? Thank you. I'll go right away to the candy-store; and if I meet the greenhorn I'll give him some, and tell him to be a good boy and stop crying, and sister Bessy will marry him."
"Well, there he is under the trees," returned Bessy, laughing. "And remind him that twelve o'clock is our dinner hour."