WHEN Hugh was closing the door, he felt some slight resistance offered from the outside; but on looking out he could see nothing, the night was so intensely dark. On attempting to close the door a second time, the same gentle pressure prevented him.
"Who's there?" he asked.
There was no reply: but a rather tall young lad advanced a step or two into the hall, and looked wildly about him.
He was slight and somewhat raw-boned, and being at that moment almost blue with the cold, he presented the appearance of anything but a handsome youth.
Hugh waited, expecting him to speak; and he waited, expecting Hugh would speak. And so they continued to stare at each other for a couple of minutes.
"I came with my sisters," said the young lad, at last, in a voice so unexpectedly deep and loud that it made Hugh start.
"Oh, Mr. Hanly," said Hugh, "I had quite forgotten you."
"No wonder for you," was the reply in the same voice, and with the same wild opening of the eyes. "I had a petticoat on me the last time you saw me. Huh huh!"
He laughed a deep, hollow laugh, in which Hugh joined — not because the laugh was at all infectious, but because the allusion to the petticoat, in which his young neighbour had been kept far beyond the usual age, called up the very remarkable figure which a year or two before he occasionally saw starting from some grove or hedge, or mounted upon a gate pier, or paling, and looking, he used to think, like a young Indian in an early stage of the process of civilization.
"Come in. This is young Mr. Hanly," he added, on entering the parlour.
Young Mr. Hanly pulled off his cap, and looked round him as if he intended to bolt immediately, if he could only find an opening anywhere.
Everyone looked at young Mr. Hanly except the doctor, who was so absorbed in his own reflections, or in the shine of his boots, as to seem unconscious of what was passing.
"Good-night, Richard," said the new arrival. And the deep bass of his voice made them all start.
"Oh, Lory!" Richard exclaimed, extending his hand to him. "How on earth did you manage to grow so fast? "
"You're a head over me yet," replied Lory.
"Have a glass of punch?" said Mr. Kearney.
Lory made no reply; but the expression of his face as he drew a chair to the table was more eloquent than words.
He cast a look towards the door as if apprehending opposition from that quarter, and commenced operations in a rather hurried manner.
Mr. Kearney, who had again introduced the bull-bait, was proceeding to give them some particulars he had learned from Wat Murphy, when Lory produced another sensation by the simple remark — "I know all about that."
Lory gulped down a mouthful of his punch, which was so hot that it brought the tears to his eyes, and hastily pushed his tumbler towards Mr. Lowe, a proceeding which rather astonished that gentleman, who seemed to think that Mr. Hanly intended to share the beverage with him.
But after looking towards the door, and finding that his sister, whose voice he had just heard in the hall, was not coming into the parlour, Lory took possession of his tumbler again, and looked at Mr. Lowe as if, on the whole, he rather thought himself in clover.
"How is your father?" Mr. Kearney asked,
"I couldn't tell you that," replied Lory. "He's in Dublin."
Mr. Hanly the elder was an attorney; but the nature and extent of his professional business, was something of a mystery to his neighbours. He made periodical visits to the metropolis, during which he was in a manner lost to his family and friends in the country. Some inquisitive people attempted from time to time to find out his whereabouts in Dublin, but except that he was once seen dining at a tavern in the neighbourhood of Ormond Quay, these attempts invariably proved unsuccessful. Attorney Hanly came and went like the swallows — or rather the swifts — that took periodical possession of the crevices in the old castle near his house, and no one was the wiser of where he had been, save in a general way; for a letter to him, addressed "General Post Office, Dublin," usually reached his hands — when it suited him. He rented a not very large farm within a mile of Knocknagow, upon which he had built a handsome house, where his family always lived genteelly, though somewhat economically. Attorney Hanly was eccentric, and supposed to be rich — probably because he was eccentric.
"Come, let us have a few songs from the ladies," said Mr. Kearney. "That's Miss Hanly rattling at the piano, I think."
The gentlemen followed him to the drawing-room, except the doctor, who sat with folded arms at the fire, and Lory, who waited to finish his punch.
"What's that I heard Rose and Kathleen talking about? Lory asked. "I couldn't get it out of them, they laughed so much. Something about you and the bog?"
"Shut up, Lory," the doctor exclaimed, starting to his feet and filling out a glass of wine, which he swallowed with look of distraction.
"Come," said he, after arranging his shirt-collar at the looking-glass, "finish that and let us go to them."
"Faith, I'd rather stay where I am," said Lory, looking at the decanters.
"On my honour, my dear fellow," replied the doctor, "you are not at all singular in that way of thinking. Rose and Kathleen are here?"
"Yes, and Miss Lloyd."
"Whew!" the doctor whistled and walked up and down the room. "What the devil brought her?"
"Faith, I don't know. They were all surprised when she came out with my mother on the mail-car, and walked from the cross."
"I think I understand it," said the doctor. And it was some consolation to him to reflect that Miss Lloyd's thoughts were so concentrated upon Sir Garrett Butler's nephew, that she probably had given no attention to his humble self and the misadventure of the morning.
The doctor stood irresolutely at the drawing-room door, till he heard his father say:
"Come, Grace, give us 'Who Fears to Speak of 'Ninety-Eight?'"
And under cover of the song the doctor advanced and shook hands in silence with Miss Lloyd and the two Miss Hanlys.
Grace sang with spirit, and received the compliments of the company with becoming dignity. She could not, how ever, conceal her delight when Mr. Lowe came to read the words of the song, and ask her who was its author.
"I heard papa say," she replied, "that it was written by one of the scholars of Trinity College. All those songs appeared originally in the Nation. The airs are nearly all old Irish airs; but the music of that song is original."
Mr. Lowe turned to other songs in the book, and it was with no small share of pride she told him that the writers of some of them were "friends of her papa's."
"I should like to hear you sing this one," said he, pointing to a song, a stanza of which he had read.
"Oh, yes; that is one of Davis's. He was a true poet. At first I did not admire his poetry so much. But I do now. 'Tis so full of heart. He was an irreparable loss to the country," she added solemnly.
"As a poet?" Mr. Lowe asked.
"Well, yes; but more as a patriot. You can have no idea of how much he was beloved. I saw Mr. D — , who, papa says, is a man of powerful intellect, burst into tears one evening at our house, when speaking of Davis. And O'Connell, when alluding to him after hearing of his death, said, 'I can write no more — my tears blind me.'"
Mr. Lowe looked at her with surprise.
"Yes," she continued, as if replying to his look; "these are O'Connell's words."
But it was at herself he was wondering; and Hugh and Mary, who sat near the piano, exchanged looks and seemed to enjoy his astonishment.
Miss Lloyd, however, was both astonished and chagrined to find that Mr. Lowe could feel interest in the prattle of a mere child.
"I'm ashamed to acknowledge," said Mr. Lowe, still addressing himself to the little lady perched upon the stool, "that I know almost nothing about Mr. Davis. He was, I understand, a young barrister whose name seldom figured in the newspapers. But from what you tell me I must believe he was no common man."
"Papa says," she rejoined, "that his influence on the mind of the country will be felt for ever. And, young as he died, his wish was granted."
"What was his wish?"
"His wish was —
'Be my epitaph writ on my country's mind —
He served his country and loved his kind!'"
Mr. Lowe again looked at her with surprise. But when Mary glanced at her brother this time, her glance was not returned. She saw his broad chest heave; and a strange light, half fire, half softness, swam in his dark eyes.
Mary shook her head as she thought to herself how little they understood him who thought him cold and unsusceptible. Behind that "down look," for which Hugh Kearney got credit, there was, she was sure, a heart and a soul of no common tenderness and enthusiasm.
Miss Lloyd looked from one to the other of the group in amazement. She really could not understand what it all meant; but there were many things which Miss Lloyd could not understand.
And besides, Miss Lloyd liked nothing half so well as the music of her own voice, which we must admit was musical; so much so that it took many persons a considerable time to discover that what seemed so pleasant had nothing in it. But she had a trick of talking to one person and at another; which was very trying to the latter — as Mr. Henry Lowe was destined to learn to his cost.