A HAUNTED FARM.
WHEN Attorney Hanly had delivered up the contents of all his pockets to his son, and left himself penniless, he fixed his eyes on Mr. Isaac Pender, who was immediately assailed by the midges, and rubbed his face all over, as if those imaginary tormentors threatened to set him out of his wits. Still Attorney Hanly kept his eye upon him, and Mr. Pender turned upon his heel for relief, and looked towards the three poplars on the hill.
"A little outlay," he said, "would make that farm of Beresford's a nice place. Look at Maurice Kearney's farm a little below it, and draining would make the other place superior to it, for it is better situated. I think," he added, venturing to look at the attorney, "I think Beresford would give it up."
"'Twouldn't suit me at all," replied Mr. Hanly.
"If the presentment for the new road passes," Mr. Pender ventured to observe, "'twill be as convenient to the market as your own house. And I know we could manage a satisfactory lease."
"I wouldn't take a present of it," said Mr. Hanly.
"So I thought. So I said. I knew you wouldn't care for it," rejoined Mr. Pender, as if he quite approved of his friend's view on the subject, or, at all events, fully appreciated his motives for not wishing to have anything to do with the farm. "I know you only want some land adjoining this place. And 'tis a pity your farm is not larger, when you have such a good house and offices built on it. I know you only want what will make the farm suitable for such a house and offices."
To some extent Mr. Isaac Pender was right. It was land adjoining his own that Attorney Hanly was most anxious to get. But a farm even some distance from Castleview would have suited him very well. And when Mr. Pender first spoke of "that farm of Beresford's," Mr. Hanly looked up towards the poplar trees as if they possessed considerable attraction for him; quite as much, one would have supposed from the expression of his face, as the same three trees seemed to possess for Mat Donovan. And, curiously enough, Attorney Hanly, standing in the middle of his own lawn, and gazing at the poplar trees, did precisely what Mat Donovan had done, after gazing at them from the middle of Maurice Kearney's wheat field an hour or two before. That is, Attorney Hanly turned quickly round and fixed his eyes on a cluster of whitethorn trees near the foot of another hill behind Maurice Kearney's fort. And it was after looking in this direction that Attorney Hanly said abruptly he would not "take a present of it," meaning the farm where Bessy Morris was born — as she told Grace and Mary — and which looked so desolate in the eyes of Barney Brodherick as he stood on the double-ditch trying to catch a sight of Mr. Beresford Pender's servant, to send him to take charge of the hook-nosed steed. It was a rather remarkable coincidence that Mat Donovan and Bessy Morris and Attorney Hanly were all looking towards the three poplar trees at the same time.
"Who knows?" said Mat Donovan, as he went on castle-building; "greater wonders come to pass every day." And then Mat turned round and looked towards the whitethorns at the foot of the bill beyond the pit.
"Something tells me that I will live there yet," said Bessy Morris, as she stood upon the rustic seat in the little garden under Mary Kearney's window, in order to have a better view of the poplar trees over the hedge. And then she, too, turned round and looked towards the whitethorns.
"Yes, it would do very well," thought Attorney Hanly, as he looked up at the three trees; "but — I would not take a present of it!' he added aloud, as he turned round and looked towards the cluster of whitethorns at the foot of the hill.
Since the day Dick Morris left the bailiff for dead who had flung his fair, delicate young wife from the door, and made his escape, the place had been left without a tenant. Many and many a greedy eye was turned to the three tall trees; but no one ventured to send in a proposal for the farm. Mr. Beresford Pender undertook to manage it for the landlord to the best advantage by taking in grazing stock and meadowing so much of the land as was fit for it; and so long had this state of things continued, that his worthy father always spoke of the farm as "that place of Beresford's." Yet even Beresford would not have ventured to formally become the tenant. He was even occasionally heard to declare that his keeping the place was a disagreeable necessity, and that nothing would please him better than to hand it over to any one who would be acceptable to the landlord. The fact was, that lonesome farm, with no living thing visible upon it that bright winter day but two carrion crows in the midst of a sheet of water, and a magpie upon the roof of the tumble-down barn, was haunted. Not by the ghost of Black Humphrey, whose fate was commemorated by the cairn near the sand-pit, but by an old lame man, who usually kept his lips closed very hard, and whose grey eye gleamed in a piercing sort of way that made some people feel uneasy as he stumped about the place at regular intervals, marking the ravages that time was making in it, and seeming to derive particular satisfaction from the grass growing through the floors of the out-offices. Old Phil Morris was never accompanied by his granddaughter on these occasions, though she often asked to be let go with him. "No," he would say in reply to her request, "you will never go till you can call it your own home again." And this is how Dick Morris's farm was haunted, and remained tenantless in consequence. This is why Attorney Hanly would not "take a present of it."
"I'm going to tell Tom Hogan," said Mr. Isaac Pender, "that his rent is raised."
"Is Tom Hogan's rent raised?" Attorney Hanly asked, while his eyes almost flashed with pleasure and surprise.
"Only a trifle; only a trifle," replied the agent, sorrowfully. " 'Tis not easy to get Sir Garrett to understand these things. Sir Thomas was a great loss to the country. He understood the proper system; but Sir Garrett knows no more about the management of a property than a child. He spent nearly all his life abroad. And his nephew tells me he's going again immediately. Why, I believe this is Mr. Lowe coming across the field with those ladies," Mr. Pender added in surprise. "I thought he was with Beresford. But I suppose he didn't mind seeing many of the tenants. Mr. Lowe is a nice young fellow — a very nice young fellow; and doesn't want to meddle in the affairs of the tenants at all. His mother wrote to Beresford to have an eye to him and keep him out of harm's way. She understands the state of the country much better than Sir Garrett. And still she thinks she ought to get her rent-charge without any delay. Her eldest son is in India, and he ought to be able to send his mother something. His pay is high, and he ought to be able to do something for his mother. She's always writing for money."
The doctor, who thought Mr. Hanly was away from home, looked considerably put out on discovering his mistake. In fact, the doctor was never able to reason himself out of a very unreasonable and absurd feeling of awe of Miss Kathleen's papa. The attorney had a habit of accosting him with, "Well, lad?" whenever he happened to encounter him about the house; and no amount of pulling his moustache and looking down at his long legs, could altogether satisfy the doctor that he was not a middle-sized boy on those occasions. He felt so disgustingly young in the attorney's presence, that he made it a point to avoid him as much as possible. A short time before he was strolling up through the same field, when the attorney called out from the grove at the opposite side — "Well, lad; the girls are out." Whereupon the doctor replied, pointing to the castle — "This is a very interesting old ruin up here. And the view from the top is very good." "Ay, ay, very interesting old ruin!" replied the attorney; and his dry laugh made several workmen about the place grin from ear to ear, and Dr. Richard Kearney redden up to the eyes. And now the doctor reddened again, lest Kathleen's papa should treat him as a small boy before his friends. It was a slight relief to him that Grace was so far behind, as he dreaded her more than any of them. He walked back under the pretence of helping her over the fence, but in reality to keep out of Mr. Hanly's reach as long as possible, and until Mr. Lowe and Mary could have engaged his attention. Grace was highly gratified on seeing him ready to hand her over the fence, and immediately forgot Hugh's existence, though he had not allowed as much as a bramble to touch her all the way, while the doctor thought of nothing but his own boots and Kathleen Hanly, Hugh was taking her hand to help her up when she raised her eyes and saw the doctor. She had no notion that it was care for his dignity, and sheer terror of finding himself suddenly metamorphosed into a schoolboy, that drove the doctor back to her. And as she tripped on gaily by his side to over take Mary and Mr. Lowe, Hugh thought her a very pleasant sight to look at, even though she had deserted him so unceremoniously.
"Oh!" Grace exclaimed, looking back with surprise, "what has become of Hugh?" And she looked so sad for a moment, that Mary felt alarmed, imagining that some accident might have happened to him. But seeing him emerge from a clump of trees and go towards a stile which she knew led to the lower part of their own farm, Mary laughed at her own fears, and asked Grace why she looked so sad.
"Well, then," Grace replied, "I fear I may have offended Hugh."
"Offended Hugh! How could that be?"
Grace told what had just occurred, and Mary laughed so heartily that the doctor turned sharply round, under the impression that she was laughing at himself.
"What are you laughing at?" he asked.
"Oh, I can't help it. This young lady is so full of humility. She attaches no importance to herself at all! Ah! poor Hugh! I have no doubt he is quite miserable!"
"Oh, you may look at it in that light if you choose. But I feel that I have been ungrateful, and must really do something to make it up with him."
The doctor was in the act of snapping his fingers, and in fact showed some symptoms of cutting a caper, when his sister's laugh made him turn round under the impression that he himself was the occasion of it. The attorney and the agent were walking away by a footpath that led to the road, apparently as if they had not seen him or his friends. And this was such a decided piece of good luck in the doctor's eyes, that he really might in the joy of the moment have executed one of "Callaghan's steps," à la Barney Brodherick, had not Mary's laugh checked him.
"That is Mr. Hanly walking with the agent," said Mary. "They seem to be going to Tom Hogan's."
"Fair weather after them," returned Grace. "I'm glad they did not see us."
"If all the tenants were like Tom Hogan," the agent remarked, "'twould be a nice property. 'Tis a pity his farm is so small. But when these three other farms will be added to it, 'twill be easy to make a nice place of it."
"Two thousand pounds," returned the attorney, "wouldn't make the rest of it like that." And he pointed to what really looked like "a piece of the Golden Vale dropped among the rushes and yellow clay all around," to quote Mat Donovan again.
"That's true; that's true," old Isaac muttered. "But if they did like Tom Hogan," he added, half reproachfully, half sorrowfully, "they wouldn't feel it. There is Tom at the drains."
Tom Hogan got that trembling in his hands when he saw the agent and his neighbour, Attorney Hanly, coming towards him, to such an extent that the spade dropped from them; and not caring that this should be observed, he looked about him for some excuse for having left off his work. Seeing a solitary crow pitch in the middle of his wheat-field — which looked as if a veil of green gauze were flung over the red-brown ridges — and fearing that the marauder would commence pulling up the young blades for the sake of the grains of wheat at the roots, he got out of the drain and hurried away.
"One would think he was afraid of us," said the attorney. "No, no," returned Mr. Pender. "He knows nothing, unless Darby told him about this trifling rise in his rent, and that would not frighten him. He's only going into the house for something he wants."
"There was a very suspicious-looking fellow," Mr. Hanly observed, "lying in the grove there early this morning, and if I'm not much mistaken 'twas a pistol he thrust into his breast when he saw me coming towards him."
"What sort of looking fellow was he?" the agent asked, rubbing his face nervously.
"A tall, wild-looking fellow, with his clothes all in rags."
"'Twas that unfortunate man, Mick Brien," returned the agent. "I'm sorry now we ever held out any hopes to him. Darby tells me they don't like at all the way he is going on. He got straw from Maurice Kearney to-day to thatch his cabin, though they told him 'twas to be thrown down."
"Well, to come to business," said the attorney; "you're sure there'll be no difficulty in getting a renewal of my lease, without any increase of rent?"
"Let us walk this way," the agent suggested. "I think I saw some one moving behind those trees in the corner. Yes, I'm almost sure we can manage the lease of your own place. But what hurry are you in? If Maurice Kearney knew just now you were getting a renewal, there's no knowing what he might do."
"I think the man has a right to a renewal," said Mr. Hanly — who possibly was thinking of settling one of his blooming daughters comfortably.
"Well, well," muttered old Isaac, taken quite aback, "just let us walk this way."
"'Tis a pity Tom Hogan is so unreasonable. He can't be got to see that his farm is too small, and that he ought to give up peaceable possession like the Ryans and Tom Donnelly. And his son," added the agent, rubbing his face, and looking around, as if he feared some one was about pouncing upon him to tear him to pieces — "his son is a wild young fellow."
"Is it of a beardless boy you are afraid?" the attorney asked contemptuously.
There was something in old Phil Morris's grey eye that struck terror to the heart of Attorney Hanly. But he would have entered into possession of Tom Hogan's farm without the slightest misgiving.
"Afraid of a beardless boy!" he muttered. "Bah!"