Knocknagow - CHAPTER XXVI.



"I HOPE you enjoyed the hunt yesterday, Mr. Lowe," said Mary.

"Oh, very much," he replied. "The harriers are an excellent little pack. But I must confess I thought the country rather stiff; particularly beyond the hill."

"But how did you get through the bog? Grace and I could see you all in a cluster in the wood; and Grace said she could see the hounds going through the heath over the high part of the bog; but I could not see them."

"Did they not go through the place where the heath is?" Grace asked, turning to Richard.

"Yes; and into the wood at the other side; and we don't know what became of them after that."

"I knew I could not be mistaken," said Grace. "Though Mary wanted to persuade me it was a flock of geese I mistook for the hounds."

"We thought ye'd be back to dinner," said Mrs. Kearney. "We were an hour later than usual. But Hugh said if ye had not gone somewhere ye'd be home before then, and there was no use waiting."

Mr. Lowe apologised; and justly threw all the blame on the doctor.

"The fact is," said the doctor, "Bob Lloyd insisted that we should dine with him. He had young Hemphill and a few more friends."

"Mr. Beresford Pender among the number I suppose," said Mary.

"No, he didn't ask him; though he was with us at the time. Lloyd doesn't care about him. I think he told me his father overreached him in some money transaction."

"Depend your life on old Isaac for that," said Mr. Kearney.

"By-the-by," said Mr. Lowe, turning to Grace, "your friend young Mr. Hanly was there I mean at the hunt. And he is really one of the boldest riders I ever saw. He had an unbroken colt with his tail down to the ground and all covered over with mud as indeed was the rider, for they both rolled over in a muddy ditch."

Grace laughed at this description of her admirer. It was agreed on all hands that she had made a conquest during the short time she had been Lory's partner in the dance.

He had come back several times to shake hands with her and bid her good-night; renewing his offer to show her the cave each time; besides telling her he could lend her Pope's Homer, or the Rambler, or Thomson's Seasons, or Goldsmith's Poetical Works.

"I'll bring them all to you," said Lory.

But Grace assured him all those books were in her papa's library; and Lory, shaking hands with her for the fifth time, mounted to his place in the phaeton; but tumbled out again immediately, and thrusting his long neck inside the drawing-room door, startled Mrs. Kearney with the announcement that he had "The Devil on Two Sticks."

"And four volumes of the 'Spectator,'" added Lory, "and the second volume of 'Tom Jones.'"

So that it was agreed on all hands that she had made a conquest. And the moment Lory was mentioned, Mary looked at her, but Grace frowned scornfully till the picture called up by Mr. Lowe of Lory mounted upon an untrained colt with a long tail and covered with mud, forced her to laugh whether she would or not.

"He certainly has pluck," said Mr. Lowe; "and rides remarkably well."

An almost imperceptible motion of the head something between a nod and a toss and a certain thoughtfulness in her look, led Mary to suspect that Miss Grace was just saying to herself that a young gentleman who had pluck was not to be despised.

And in fact Grace resolved that her reception of him the next time should be more gracious than it had been on previous occasions when he came to pay his respects. She remembered his love of books, and that some of his remarks were very striking. She even began to think that there was something manly in what Mrs. Kearney called his "terrible throat." So that it was quite lucky for Lory that Mr. Lowe gave him credit for pluck.

To be sure it could be wished, Grace thought, that his coat were wider in the shoulders and longer in the skirts, and the other garment less suggestive of carrying several stones of potatoes in the rear. It was to be regretted, too, that his hair stuck out straight from his head, and that there were so many pimples on his face. But that one virtue of pluck covered a multitude of defects, and Lory was gaining ground rapidly. She recalled, too what she did not before consider worth attending to that Lory had insinuated that he would exert all his eloquence to induce his sister to give him her jay, which was both a pretty and an intelligent bird, and in case of success that he, Lory, would be most happy to present the jay to Miss Kiely. Grace remembered all this now, and hoped Lory would keep his word; and if he appeared mounted upon the long-tailed colt, so much the better. Her cogitations were broken in upon by Mr. Kearney asking Mr. Lowe abruptly, how did he like the Hall.

"'Tis a very fine place," Mr. Lowe replied. " I wonder how my grandfather parted with it."

"He could not help it," returned Mr. Kearney bluntly, " the property was going to be put into Chancery at that time, and Somerfield gave him a large fine. We all made money for him. I lent him eight hundred pounds myself."

Mrs. Kearney started as if from a reverie, and was on the point of announcing that the eight hundred pounds were given to her by her Uncle Dan; but Mary suggested at the moment that Mr. Lowe would have another cup of tea, which caused Mrs. Kearney to start again. The cup of tea knocked the eight hundred pounds out of her head, and her Uncle Dan was left to rest in peace for the present.

"Has Mr. Somerfield any landed property of his own?" Lowe asked.

"Yes, he has a nice little property near the old church you were looking at the other day. And his son has two or three farms very cheap."

"How can he afford to keep a pack of hounds?"

Oh, that's not much; they're billeted among the tenants, and the son is a good judge of horses, and makes money by them. He has several agencies, too, and a dn bad agent he is. There is not a lease on any of the properties he is over.

He pretends 'tis the landlords refuse to give leases; but 'tis well known 'tis himself puts 'em up to it. He's a magistrate now. The father was a good sort of an old fellow, nothing troubling him but hunting. But the son is a rogue. He's after turning more people out than any man in the county, and giving the land to Scotch and English tenants at a lower rent, and leases."

"I thought you said there were no leases?"

I mean to the old tenants. But the Englishmen and Scotchmen are sure of leases."

"I had no idea such a system was being carried out."

'You'll probably learn more about it when you see Mr. Pender," said Hugh.

"Sir Garrett said nothing about it," replied Mr. Lowe.

"I suspect," said Hugh, "he knows nothing about it."

This was all very uninteresting to Grace and the doctor, and they were both leaving the room, after yawning several times, when the door opened, and a servant informed Mr. Kearney that Ned Brophy wanted to speak to him.

"Tell him to come in," said Mr. Kearney. "I suppose he is coming to remind us of the wedding."

Ned Brophy soon appeared with his "clothes spic-and-span new," as the song says; but we cannot add, "without e'er a speck," for Ned's clothes were pretty well speckled with mud and not his clothes only, for a pellet of the mud had hardened and dried on his right cheek under the eye, and two or three smaller spots were visible about his temples.

Ned was accompanied by his "best man," Mat Donovan.

"Sit down, Ned; come, Mat, sit down here," said Maurice Kearney, placing two chairs near the window.

"Well, Ned, what's the news?"

"A fine wet day, sir," replied Ned, who felt and looked somewhat embarrassed as he glanced at Mat to help him on.

"Ned that's afther comin' over, sir, for the lend uv the ould mare to carry home the wife," said Mat Donovan.

This request seemed to surprise Mr. Kearney, who looked at Ned as if he expected some explanation of it.

"I have Tom Bolen's side-car," said Ned, rousing himself, "an' this coult uv mine is in the habit of runnin' away, an' I don't like to venture to drive him in harness, as if he made off on the way home, 'twouldn't look well."

"An' he says I can ride the coult," Mat added, "an' as the mare was idle 'tis I put id into his head to ax the lend uv her. He was goin' to hire a car, but I tould him he needn't, an' 'twould be dacenter not, as people'd say he hadn't a horse uv his own to bring home the wife."

Mat Donovan was quite sincere in recommending this arrangement to Ned Brophy. But he might not have been so positive in urging it if the opportunity of figuring in the blue body-coat on the colt were out of the question. Yet Mat Donovan had no thought of captivating some farmer's daughter with a good fortune, as Honor Lahy prophesied he would be sure to do.

"Oh! very well," said Mr. Kearney, "you can get the mare, Ned."

"Thank'ee, sir. You needn't fear but I'll be careful uv her."

"Don't stir," continued Mr. Kearney, as they were rising to go. "Wait till the mare is ready. Go out to Wattletoes," he added, turning to his youngest son, "and tell him to get the mare for Ned Brophy."

"And will you tell him to show me my thrush's nest?"

"You were a fool," replied his father, "to give him the cake till he showed you the nest. That was buying a pig in a bag."

"He says now," returned Willie, "that the old one was in the ivy and was listening when be promised to show me the nest, and that she took the young ones all off to Ballydaheen wood; but that he'll go after them the next day he has time; and if he can't find them he says he'll pull a grand stick for me a holly oak stick with blackthorn knobs on it, he says."

"A holly oak stick with blackthorn knobs on it!" repeated his father. "Would I doubt Wattletoes?"

There was a silence of some minutes after Willie had gone to order the mare, which Mat the Thrasher felt a little embarrassing, particularly as he saw Grace pulling Mary by the sleeve and calling her attention to himself.

"I never see this girl yet, Ned is gettin', sir," said Mat.

"Well, maybe Ned would describe her for us now."

"Wisha, begor I couldn't, sir," replied Ned, scratching his. poll and looking puzzled. "I never see her but twice, an' I was dhrunk the two turns."

All eyes were turned with laughing surprise on the speaker, who, at the moment, was anything but a picture of happiness.

"I'm tould, sir," said Mat indignantly, "she's wan uv the finest girls in the parish. How dn well you wor able to see the two hundhred sovereigns."

"And the old saucepan," said Mr. Kearney. "Did you get the money, Ned?"

"No, sir," he replied solemnly, "but it was counted out on the table the first day I was at the house, an' put back again."

"An' you wouldn't miss it out of it?" said Mr. Kearney, who seemed to enjoy the matter immensely.

"Hardly," replied Ned. "I never see such a show uv money together before. It reminded me uv California or the Bank uv Ireland."

"You'd betther not lose any more time," Mat observed. " 'Tis gettin' late."

"That's a fine new coat you have, Mat," said Mr. Kearney, looking at him admiringly as the Thrasher drew himself up to his full height.

"'Tis in compliment to Ned I got it, sir," returned Mat.

"You ought to do something for yourself. Make your harvest at the wedding maybe you could get a haul at the old saucepan."

"Thim times is gone, sir," replied Mat. "No chance now of farmers' daughters an' 'five hundred pounds in goold,' as the song says." And Mat glanced at Miss Kearney in a manner that quite annoyed Mr. Lowe.

"He's an impertinent fellow, after all," he thought. But so far from being offended, Mary returned Mat's smile in a manner that made the young gentleman quite angry.

"I don't know that," returned Mr. Kearney. "Try your luck with one of the other sisters, an' Ned will put in a good word for you."

"Well, I b'lieve he would, sir," replied Mat, "if there was any use."

"I hope you'll be over wud us to-night, sir," said Ned, as he was going. "And if Miss Kearney or Miss Kiely would like to have a dance they'd be heartily welcome."

"I'm getting old now, Ned," Maurice Kearney replied. "But Hugh will go. I must take care of myself or this woman might be on the look-out one of those days."

"Indeed," said Mrs. Kearney, indignantly, taking the matter in downright earnest, "that's what one of the name never did. No one could ever say that one of the Ballydunmore family ever married a second time."

"Maybe 'twasn't their fault," exclaimed her husband, who was evidently enjoying the fun.

"You're quite mistaken," returned Mrs. Kearney. "My Aunt Judith had more proposals than all the young girls of the county, and she never accepted one of them though my Uncle Dan said she ought to marry. But she never did."

And Mrs. Kearney left the room quite offended.

"Mat looks much more like the happy man than Ned," Grace observed, when they had left. "And, indeed, it would not surprise me if it was he got the two hundred pounds out of the old saucepan, and not Ned."

"If poverty enters the door," said Mary; "you know what you said to Father M'Mahon."

"Well, that's true," replied Grace, with a shake of the head. "'Twould be all very well if that view of the case could be kept out of sight."

"I fear, Mr. Lowe," said Mary as she took up her work at a little table near one of the windows, "I fear this will be a wet day."

"Yes, I fear it will continue wet," he replied, after walking to the window, and looking up to the drifting clouds. Mr. Lowe said "feared," but he meant "hoped."

"A wet day in the country is an awful bore," said the doctor, who was just then thinking how certain chums of his in Dublin would spend the day, and wondering why Keating didn't answer his last letter.

Mr. Lowe, on the contrary, thought a wet day in the country anything but a bore under certain circumstances, though he did not say so.

To the surprise of all present the door opened, and Mat Donovan advanced a step or two into the room, and stood rubbing his chin as if he had something to say, but did not know how to begin.

Mary looked round the room, supposing that he had forgotten something, and seeing a walking-stick standing in one of the corners, she took it in her hand, and said: "Perhaps this is your stick, Mat."

"No, Miss," replied Mat, whose eyes were fixed on Grace. "But I'm comin' to ax a favour of Miss Grace, if she'd have no' objection."

"Oh, what is it?" Grace asked with quite a coquettish air. "Well, Miss, there's a little delay about the harness, an' I said to myself I'd run in an' ax you to play that tune for me you were playin' th' other evening for the masther. 'Tisn't but that I know it uv ould," Mat added, "but someway I'm running into another tune in the middle uv the succond part, an' I have a raison for wishin' to hear id agin."

"What's the name of it?" she asked.

"It goes by the name uv 'Nach m-baineaun sin do,' Miss," replied Mat, "but 'tis many's the name id is called."

"It must be one of the Melodies," Grace observed, turning to Mary. " But the question is, which of them is it?"

I can't remember," Mary replied, "but I suppose it must be one of those you always play for my father."

Grace pressed her finger on her lip, and seemed to be seeking the solution of a mystery.

"Is the tune you want," she asked, "ever called 'Langolee'?"

"No, Miss, I know that; an' you played it beautiful, too. But 'twas in the same book the large wan wud the goold harp on the cover."

"Come and we'll look for it," exclaimed Grace, jumping from her seat, and running out of the room.

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