Knocknagow - CHAPTER XLV.



BESSY MORRIS, too, had her reflections as she walked round and round the little garden. But she had not much time to indulge in them when Miss Kearney's return brought her back to the little room, into which the sun was now shining so brightly, that Mary seemed in its rosy light a being too ethereally beautiful for a mere mortal.

"Now I wonder what that girl on the car is thinking of," said Grace. "And why has she stopped there?"

It was a farmer's cart, well stuffed with straw, over which was spread a blue woollen quilt. The young woman who sat on the quilt, with the skirt of a rather showy gown spread over the greater part of it, had turned quickly round, and laying her hand on the shoulder of the driver, desired him to stop. It was just at the part of the road nearest to the house, and Grace was able to see the young woman so distinctly, that the expression of her face suggested the remark she had just made.

"Really," she continued, "there is something awfully sullen about her. She certainly has about as unprepossessing a face as ever I saw."

"I know her, Miss," said Bessy Morris. "She was at the wedding; and she's to be married to one of the richest men at the mountain-foot."

"I can't approve of his taste," returned Grace.

"But she has four hundred pounds fortune, Miss."

"I suppose this is the intended," Grace remarked, pointing to a man who was just walking by the Bush, with his horse's bridle hanging over his arm. "He is a rather good-looking fellow."

"This is not the man, Miss," returned Bessy. "I saw him pass with her father a few minutes ago."

The young woman in the car was now observed to become restless, and floundered about upon her quilt, as if trying to fix herself in a more comfortable position; and opened her cloak and hooked it again; and knocked her bonnet back upon her poll when intending to push it the other way and fasten it on her head; and pulled from around her neck and immediately flung it back again with a swing that particular piece of finery which, even more than the yellow gloves, seemed to have excited Peg Brady's indignation when "indeed she see her goin'" to Ned Brophy's wedding, and which Peg designated her "boy-o." And, after exhibiting all these symptoms of uneasiness, she bent her head and pressed her gloved hand over her eyes, and then looked up.

"My goodness!" Grace exclaimed. "Did ever any one see such a metamorphosis? She is positively beautiful now."

It was really so. The face that seemed a minute before so dull and sullen was now radiant and all aglow with smiles.

"I never thought Judy Laughlan was so handsome a girl," said Bessy Morris, wonderingly. "Look at her teeth, Miss and her eyes! I never saw such a change all in a minute."

'Twas all Tom Cuddehy's doing; though he had not the least notion such was the case. He walked on with the bridle on his arm, and his eyes bent on the ground. He was just conscious that there was a car on the road before him, and on looking carelessly up, was startled, and did not know whether to be glad or sorry when he saw Judy Laughlan holding out her hand to him, laughing and blushing, and on the very brink of crying. Well, why should he not shake hands with her? Why should they not be friends? Of course there was no reason in life why they should not. So Tom Cuddehy stepped up close to the tail-board and shook hands very warmly with his old sweetheart. And it was such a long, long time since he had done the same thing before though they were near neighbours. But she had been forbidden to speak to him; and her father was heard to say that Tom Cuddehy was no match for his daughter; and Tom Cuddehy was not the sort of person to put himself in the way of being insulted by a purse-proud old boddagh. And so the meadow between his house and old Paddy Laughlan's might as well have been the Great Sahara, so far as he and his old sweetheart were concerned. And now as she was going to be married to a rich man the thought crossed his mind that she'd be driving in her jaunting-car the next time again he'd see her she wanted, he supposed, to part friends with him. And, like a manly fellow that he was, he shook hands with her in a manly and friendly way.

"I know him now, Miss," Bessy Morris remarked. "He is the leader of the hurlers at the other side of the river, the same as Mat Donovan is at this side. But he got so stout since I saw him last I did not know him till he smiled." He waited, expecting that Judy Laughlan would speak; but she only smiled and blushed, and kept back the tears as well as she could. "Oh, go on!" said she at last to the man who drove the car, as if she were really surprised, and could not by any means understand why he should have stopped and remained standing there in such a ridiculous manner for nothing at all! And then she said, "Good evening," with another smile to Tom Cuddehy, and turned her head round very quickly, as if she feared the horse was going to run away. And while she watched every step the horse made, she was all the time feeling in her pocket for her handkerchief, and, drawing it out in a slow, stealthy way, Judy Laughlan bent her head and had a good cry. Tom Cuddehy did not see this, as she was too far off. He only saw the smile; and as he caught hold of his horse's mane, and placed his foot in the stirrup, Tom Cuddehy muttered to himself, "God be wud ould times."

A hand was laid on his shoulder, and on turning round he saw Mat Donovan at his side.

"I'm glad I met you," said Mat. "We can get the kiln field for the match on Sunday."

"All right, Mat. I'll give notice to the boys to-morrow."

"I was thinkin' you might be at the fair to-morrow."

"No, I'm not goin'. You may depend on me for Sunday."

He rode off, and Mat Donovan turned into the back gate.

"I should not have thought that he was a leader, as you say, like Mat," Mary observed, in reference to Bessy Morris's last remark. "He's not a powerful-looking man like him."

"Oh, he has the name of being the best hurler in the country; but Mat was never beaten at throwing the sledge and things of that kind; though I'm told some people are saying that Captain French will beat him. There is a great deal of talk about it; and you'd think it was a great battle that is to be fought if you heard my grandfather talking about it."

"If Mat were beaten," said Mary, "Tom Maher would surely die of a broken heart."

"And Billy Heffernan," returned Bessy.

"As for that," Mary observed, "he is quite an idol with them all. His defeat would be looked on as a dreadful calamity. But I have not the least fear but that Mat will be victorious in this instance, as he has always been."

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