THE BULL-BAIT. — THE CARRICK-MAN AND HIS DOG "TRUE-BOY." — LORY PUNISHES BERESFORD PENDER, AND RIDES HOME BEHIND MR. BOB LLOYD, ON THE GREY HUNTER. — MISS LLOYD INVOLUNTARILY SITS DOWN.
MR. HENRY LOWE is pacing slowly and thoughtfully up and down the box-bordered walk in the little garden at the end of the cottage. He stops occasionally to gaze upon the blue mountains; and once or twice he stood upon the stile behind the laurels, and looked along the road towards the hamlet. But, whether gazing at the mountain, or looking along the road, or pacing the box-bordered walk, Mr. Henry Lowe's mind's eye is ever turned to the little window in the ivied gable. As the day of his departure drew nearer and nearer, he had been watching for an opportunity to speak to Mary Kearney alone. But whether it happened by accident or design, he never could find the opportunity he sought. She was always accompanied by Grace or Ellie; and once or twice, when he met her by herself, she found some excuse for going away before he could screw his courage to the sticking place. There was nothing to hinder him from saying at once and in plain words that he wished to have a minute's private conversation with her; but he couldn't make up his mind to take what he considered so decided a step. He wished to feel his way a little, and would prefer a casual meeting. But the fates seemed to be against him. He had observed that Mary was in the habit of walking alone in the garden about this hour every day; but until this morning the doctor or Hugh was always with him at the time, and he could find no excuse for leaving them.
"Now," he thought — looking at his watch and finding that it was past the hour when she was accustomed to take her walk — "now if she does not come out as usual, I must conclude she is purposely avoiding me." The thought at first gave him a twinge of pain; but on reflection he said to himself that, if she were indifferent about him, she would not keep out of his way at all. He found consolation in this last-mentioned reflection, and continued his walk and his reverie. He thought that, if he were a man of property, he would, beyond all doubt, marry the beautiful daughter of his uncle's principal tenant, or that if he had not given up his intention of becoming a clergyman — and if Miss Kearney's religion were not an awkward stumbling-block in the way — what a happy quiet life he could live with her in some snug parsonage upon as many hundred pounds a year as he could get! But as both the property and the parsonage were out of the question, he could see nothing better, that was at all practicable under present circumstances, than a very sentimental love affair, involving voluminous correspondence, with a dim vista of something turning up in the distant future, that might prove a substitute for the property which he had not, or the parsonage which it was now too late to think of. His reveries were interrupted by the opening of the garden gate, and Mr. Lowe looked up quickly; but it was not Mary, but her young brother, Willie, bearing the accomplished jay in its wicker cage in his arms, followed by Ellie with her goldfinch. The day was sufficiently soft and sunny to suggest to Ellie that both the goldfinch and the jay would like a little fresh air and sunshine. Grace was just then practising a new song, and Ellie knew it would be useless asking her to trouble herself even about her own jay — "My dear!" — and Willie's services were engaged. He laid the wicker cage on a rustic seat near the laurels, while Ellie climbed upon the back of the seat to hang her little green cage upon a nail which she had driven into the trunk of an ash tree, sufficiently high, as she thought, to save her bird from the old grey cat, who sometimes came prowling about that way. Tommy Lahy had offered to catch the old grey cat and rub his nose against the wires till it bled freely, by way of warning; but this Ellie positively objected to, as there was no overt act to prove that the old grey cat entertained any felonious intentions whatever against her goldfinch.
At first Mr. Lowe felt annoyed when he saw they intended making an indefinite stay in the garden; but then it occurred to him their presence would not interfere with his conversation with their sister, but, on the contrary, would make her feel more at ease. So he looked at his watch again, and took another turn up and down the walk. And now those tantalising tracks in the snow came into his head for the thousandth time. What could they mean? The idea that there was a "lord of the valley," who came with "false vows," as Grace suggested, was, he thought, utterly preposterous. Yet it was not quite so clear that there might not be someone who was not a lord of a valley and whose vows were not false vows. He could not, however, look upon any of the young men whom from time to time he had seen trying to make themselves agreeable — and to all of whom she was equally gracious — as likely to prove a very dangerous rival. Not one; not even the stylish young man in top-boots, with the horse-shoe pin in his scarf, who so astonished him by touching his hat and addressing him as "your honour." It scarcely amounted to coxcombry in Mr. Lowe to feel pretty well satisfied that he himself held a high place in Miss Kearney's esteem, and that in fact if any one held a higher, it was her brother Hugh. He wondered at her taste in regard to Hugh; but of course he was not going to be jealous of her brother. Yet a brother may sometimes prove a more formidable rival than lovers dream of; particularly when the world in general is so stupid as not to recognise his super-excellent qualities — which happened to be the case in this instance. She was angry with her lady acquaintances that they did not fall down and worship him. And it must be admitted she was sometimes angry with Hugh for not being as enthusiastic as he ought to be about one or two dear friends of hers who, she thought, had the good taste to appreciate him. There was one in particular with whom she was sure he ought to have fallen in love. On one occasion this young lady, when presenting Mary with a bunch of flowers, ran to the end of the lawn for a little sprig of hawthorn and secured it in the nosegay; a rather odd proceeding, seeing that both sides of the road nearly all the way from the residence of the young lady to Ballinaclash were white with hawthorn blossoms. But the mystery was cleared up in the most satisfactory manner when she whispered into Mary's ear that the hawthorn was for Hugh; for all the world — except Hugh himself — knew that hawthorn blossom was "emblematic of hope." Hugh, however, took the blossom with a smile; and Mary said gravely; "She was in earnest." To which Hugh just as gravely replied, "Of course." Whereupon Mary became indignant, and told him she did not know "what to make of him," and that no one could know "what was in his mind"; and that she did not see why people should be "bothering their heads about him," with more to the same effect.
Nevertheless, Mr. Lowe was not far wrong in suspecting that Miss Kearney made her eldest brother the standard by which she measured other men.
He was glancing again at the window when his olfactory nerves detected the odour of the fragrant weed, and on looking towards the gate he saw the doctor leisurely approaching with his hands in his pockets.
"What a fine day it is for this season!" the doctor observed, waving away a little blue cloud that almost stood still before his face, and then stopping to admire his hand, which was sufficiently white and slender. "By Jove, there is quite a glow in the air."
Mr. Lowe replied with a sigh; for he saw all hope of the looked-for interview was gone for that day at least. And, what was particularly irritating, Mary made her appearance at the same moment, and with that smile of hers, which more than anything else about her tended to turn his head, said —
"What a lovely day this is, Mr. Lowe! I wish you could see the country about here in the summer. But the mountains at least are beautiful at all seasons."
"Very," he replied, somewhat sulkily.
"I hope you enjoyed the evening at Woodlands?" she asked.
"Well, not much."
"Because you had not the ladies, I suppose."
"No, not exactly that. But the conversation was not interesting. It was all about landlords and tenants, and leases and ejectments, and that sort of thing. The party seemed got up specially to discuss such matters, I expected something rollicking, but it was nothing of the kind."
"Had you Mr. Lloyd there?"
"No, but his name was introduced several times. He was strongly condemned for the way he manages his property. He gives leases, and has no objection to small farms; and is, it would appear, in bad odour on that account. It seems they all feel bound to abide by a resolution adopted at some meeting of landlords a long time ago not to renew leases when they expire. Mr. Somerfield thinks the more independent the tenantry become, the harder it will be to manage them. He says Mr. Lloyd's tenants don't care a rush for him, as they have all long leases at a low rent."
"Oh, if all landlords were like Mr. Somerfield," returned Mary, "Ireland would soon be a desert. There is not even one house now left on his whole property."
"Yes," her brother observed, "and you can count the number of houses he has levelled if you have any curiosity out it; for he has left a gable of each standing as a monument of all the good he has done. But of course you know I allude to Sam; for the old fellow had nothing to do with it. On the contrary, I'm told it grieved him to see his old tenants hunted away. Hugh tells me, too, it was a dead loss to him, and that they are head and ears in debt, stocking the land was so expensive."
"I'm heartily sick of the whole subject since last night," returned Mr. Lowe. "I think much of what they said was meant specially for me. But the more I hear about the relations between landlord and tenant, the more I am bewildered."
Mr. Lowe did feel bewildered at the moment; for Mary's blue eyes would bewilder a sage, as she watched her young sister chasing the bold grey cat, who had come slyly prowling about her goldfinch.
"There's something up," the doctor exclaimed, on observing Phil Lahy and half-a-dozen others crossing the lawn by the short-cut from Knocknagow to the cross of Rosdrum.
"Perhaps they are going to a funeral," said Mary. "They always go to funerals in that direction by the short-cut."
"Judging from their looks and the hurry they are in," returned the doctor, "it must be something more exciting than a funeral."
He stood upon the rustic seat in order to have a better view, and saw a man with a dog at his heels, accompanied by two boys who were making desperate efforts to take sufficiently long strides to keep up with him, but were obliged to get into a sling trot every now and then, so rapid was the pace at which he swept along, with his hat so far back on his poll that it seemed as nearly at a right angle as if it were hanging against a wall. The boys managed to get a little in advance of him occasionally, and looked up in his face, evidently reverencing him as an oracle, and wishing to observe the expression of his countenance, which was very red and excited, while he uttered his words of wisdom, all the time keeping his eyes steadily fixed on the hill over Rosdrum, straight before him.
"He is a stranger to me," said the doctor. "And these two young scamps with him do not belong to this neighbourhood, either, I think."
"I never saw any of them before," returned Mary. "And there is Barney off after them," she added, "leaving the ass in the middle of the lawn to go wherever he pleases. I wonder —" Here Mary uttered a cry of terror, and grasped Mr. Lowe by the arm; which so astonished the young gentleman that the agreeable sensations the proceeding was calculated to awaken were quite lost. The cause of her alarm was nothing more or less than Wat Murphy's bull-dog, who stood wagging his tail, and holding up his muzzled snout as he looked into her face, evidently doing his best to be as amiable and fascinating as possible, but, like some others of her admirers, with only indifferent success.
"Morrow, Wat," said Maurice Kearney, who, stick in hand, was standing near the half-dozen small cocks into which the fallen remnant of the hay-rick had been hastily converted in order to save it from the weather.
"Five pounds," was the butcher's reply to the salutation.
"I won't give it to you to-day," returned Maurice Kearney brusquely.
"To buy the bull," Wat added; and then whistled to his dog.
Maurice Kearney rubbed his poll contemplatively for a moment, and then walked leisurely into the house to procure the money.
"O Richard, Richard!" exclaimed Mrs. Kearney, hurrying into the garden in a state of distraction. "There is the ass running off, and he'll be sure to run down into that pit, and all the things will be in pieces — the wine and all. Oh, what's to become of me with that fellow? I suppose that man with the dog must be a ballad-singer, and there he's off after him."
The doctor jumped from the rustic seat over the hedge, and set off across the lawn at the top of his speed in pursuit. Coming up with the runaway donkey before he reached the pit, the doctor seized the little blue cart behind, and commenced pulling it back with all his might. But Bobby trotted on, quite regardless of his efforts. The doctor pulled and pulled till the struggle became quite exciting. But, just as he reached the brink of the pit, and as Mrs. Kearney raised her hands in despair, Bobby, without giving the slightest notice of his intention, stood stock still, and the doctor sat down much in the same manner as he had done upon the ice on Bob Lloyd's pond, with his legs stretched out under the donkey-cart, his nose touching the tail-board, and his heels almost in contact with the donkey's. After reflecting for a moment, he found it was necessary to lie upon his back and turn himself over before he could get up; a manoeuvre which he executed with great precipitation; for it occurred to him that Bobby might take a fancy to set back, and trample upon him.
"Come on, sir," said the doctor, catching the donkey's winkers, and pulling him on.
But Bobby never stirred a foot.
He called him "poor fellow," and patted him on the neck, and, putting his closed hand to his mouth, blew an imaginary horn, as Barney was wont to do when he would encourage Bobby to put forth all his speed.
But Bobby refused to budge.
Losing all patience, Richard looked round for a stick wherewith to punish the aggravating little brute, when another expedient occurred to him. Seizing the reins, he got up and sat upon the front of the cart with a foot on each shaft. Scarcely had he fixed himself comfortably in this position when Bobby bounded forward at a gallop, flinging the doctor on his back in the cart with his legs in the air. Baskets, and parcels, and bottles began bumping and tumbling about his head in a most bewildering manner; for Bobby had taken a sweep round to a part of the field where there were a number of open drains, and, after clearing them all in excellent style, ran straight for the hall door, where he again stopped short, looking as meek as a lamb.
"O Richard," cried his mother, "are you killed?"
The doctor tumbled himself out of the cart, and looked wildly about him.
"Are you killed, Richard?" Mrs. Kearney asked again.
The doctor stared at his mother with a look of the most profound astonishment; and then stared at Bobby; and then at the hall door, and the windows, and up at the chimneys, and all around him. Then he fixed his eyes on the ground, and seemed plunged in some mental effort that taxed his powers of thought to the utmost. It was evident that the little misadventure had proved confusing in a very high degree to his faculties — which was not at all surprising, as he clearing of the last drain had brought a bottle of port wine out of the hamper straight upon his forehead — and that, in the whole, he was not quite sure of his whereabouts or how he happened to get there.
"Are you hurt, Richard?" his mother asked again, laying her hand upon his arm.
"Blazes!" muttered the doctor, clapping his hand against is forehead.
What blazes had to do with the matter, or whether he thought "blazes" a rational and suitable reply to his mother's anxious and oft-repeated inquiry, is more than we can venture to say. But "blazes" was the only word uttered by the doctor up to this stage of the proceeding.
Mr. Lowe took the doctor's hat from among the straw in the donkey-cart and presented it to the owner, who accepted in surprise, and honoured Mr. Lowe with a stare of surprise, as if he had not the least idea who that gentleman was.
"Morrow, Dick," said Mr. Bob Lloyd, who had turned the corner of the house, mounted on his grey horse, unobserved except by Grace, who was sitting at the drawing-room window, and whom he had already honoured with a few admiring glances.
"Good morrow," returned the doctor, who seemed to be slowly recovering his senses.
"Are you coming to the bull-bait?" Mr. Lloyd asked.
"What do you say?" said the doctor turning to Mr. Lowe.
"Well, I'd like to see what it is like," he replied.
"So would I," returned the doctor, somewhat sulkily. But unfortunately the horses are all ploughing to-day, and I don't see how we can manage."
"'Tis only a pleasant walk by the short-cut," rejoined Bob Lloyd.
"Are you going the short-cut?" Mr. Lowe asked.
"Ay, faith," replied Mr. Lloyd, smiling at Grace in the window. "But, Dick, what the devil fancy did you take to lying on your back in the cart with your legs stuck out? I thought you were a plough with a breeches on it."
"Come and let us get ready," said the doctor, darting an angry glance at Grace, whose ringing laugh called his attention to her.
"Positively, Grace," said Mary, half-an-hour after the gentlemen had left, "you have made a conquest of Mr. Lloyd. He never took his eyes off you all the time."
"Yes, I remarked him," returned Grace, with her wise look. "He is much more intelligent-looking than I thought. And that idea of comparing Richard's legs to a plough was really good."
"And then he is a man of property," returned Mary, with a smile.
"That fact is by no means to be lost sight of," rejoined Grace, "whatever you innocently romantic people may say. But surely," she added with a look of surprise, "those are Lory's legs careering at such a tremendous rate across that field; but, what, in the name of wonder, is that on his head?"
It is a straw hat," replied Mary, seeing the article in question blown from Lory's head as he was about jumping from the top of the "new ditch."
"Yes, I see how it is," Grace observed. "Rose has locked up his cap to keep him from going to the bull-bait; and Lory has taken Joe Russel's huge straw hat, and broken loose from his captor. That boy's energy is wonderful; and I have no doubt he will yet distinguish himself in some way. But Rose does rule him with a rod of iron. And yet the trouble she takes brushing his hair, in the vain hope of keeping it from sticking out like the quills of a porcupine, cannot be too much admired. But I decidedly disapprove of the big bow-knot into which she insists on tying his cravat."
"There is the hat off again," said Mary.
"By the way," rejoined Grace, "did I tell you of the little drama I had the pleasure of witnessing the other day when I drove to town with Rose, on account of that same hat?"
"No, you did not tell me."
"Well, Joe Russel was our coachman, and the big straw hat, however becoming on the driver of a cart or dray, was not in keeping with the phaeton. But, however, while Rose was in at Quinlan's getting some note-paper, a youth on the pavement asked Joe what would he take 'for the fur of his hat.' 'Will you hould the reins for wan minute, Miss?' says Joe. Of course I could not refuse, particularly as the request was made in a tone of the blandest politeness. Well, Joe got down, and, walking over to the inquisitive youth, commenced pummelling him in the most awful manner. He struck back vigorously, however, and there was a tremendous fight, till Mat Donovan happened to be passing and put them asunder. Joe came back and resumed the reins, evidently quite satisfied in his mind, notwithstanding that his left eye was shut up. I saw the inquisitive youth after at the pump trying to stop his nose from bleeding; and he certainly looked as if he had made up his mind not to trouble himself again about the value of the fur of Joe Russel's straw hat."
On went Lory "as the crow flies," clearing everything in his way till he came to Mr. Beresford Pender's gate at the three poplars, which was secured by a broken gig wheel that leant against it.
"Go back out of that," shouted Mr. Pender from the big window that so astonished Barney Brodherick the day of his visit to that interesting concern. "Don't dare to climb over that gate."
"I passed through a good many places in my time," returned Lory, as he deliberately climbed to the top of the gate, "and this is the first time I was ever told to go back."
"You may pass through farmers' places," rejoined Mr. Beresford Pender in his big voice, "but this is a gentleman's demesne."
"A gentleman's fiddle-stick," replied Lory, pulling Joe Russel's straw-hat tightly over his ears — having first hit upon the ingenious contrivance of bending the leaf back in front into the inside to keep the hat from flying off, thereby giving it the appearance of a bonnet put on the wrong way, to which we have before likened it.
"I'll summon you before the bench," roared Beresford.
"Summon your grandmother," retorted Lory, jumping off the gate and resuming his race.
This was quite a random shot of Lory's, but it put Mr. Pender into a fury; for the venerable lady alluded to had really been brought before "the bench" for making free with certain articles of wearing apparel, drying on a hedge, which did not belong to her. This was a mere tradition, however, only remembered by Poll the housekeeper and a few others; but it had been thrown in Beresford's face once or twice, and he now swore he would "make Hanly pay for his insolence."
Lory dashed on, however, caring little for Mr. Beresford Pender's threatened vengeance, till he came to the narrow boreen leading to Ned Brophy's house.
"Morrow, Ned," cried Lory, seeing him fencing a gap at some distance. But, to his astonishment, instead of returning his salutation in his usual friendly way, Ned flung the spade out of his hand, and ran as if it were for his life, never once glancing behind him.
"He thinks I'm a process-server," said Lory to himself. "Or," he added, with his sepulchral laugh, pulling off his hat and holding it at arms' length before him, "maybe 'tis Joe Russel's hat that frightened him." He walked through the yard, intending to follow Ned into the house, and assure him that he had nothing to fear, when he encountered Mrs. Ned at the door.
"I want to ask Ned to show me where the bull-bait is," said Lory, with another laugh at what he supposed Ned's mistake as to his identity, or his intentions.
"Ned knows nothin' about id," returned Mrs. Ned, standing in the middle of the doorway, and with a look that made Lory think she, too, must have formed some erroneous idea about him. "They're over beyand the sallies, I b'lieve," Mrs. Ned added.
The fact was, that, since his marriage, Ned Brophy ran and hid himself from every acquaintance who happened to come near the house. For his wife declared that the business of all visitors was solely and simply "to fill their craw," as she expressed it. And Ned, seeing her "so bitter" on his friends, felt so ashamed that he thought it best to shun them altogether. He tried to console himself with the reflection that, at least, he'd soon have an old saucepan half filled with golden sovereigns, Mrs. Ned was such a "fine housekeeper." But he sometimes thought, not of golden sovereigns, but of Nancy Hogan's golden hair, and sighed.
Lory looked at Mrs. Ned Brophy with unfeigned surprise, and set off for the nearest house — which happened to be old Paddy Laughlan's — to seek the information he required.
Paddy Laughlan's blooming daughter not only told him where the bull-bait was, but walked to the end of her father's farm with him, in spite of his protestations that her doing so was quite unnecessary, and that he could not allow her to go to so much trouble on his account.
"You see that little boy on the tree," said Miss Laughlan "They are in the hollow just under him." But though pointing with her hand to the boy on the tree, Miss Laughlan kept her eyes fixed very earnestly upon a small farm-house on her left.
"Thank you," said Lory, starting off again.
"I beg your pardon, sir," said Miss Laughlan.
But Miss Laughlan only blushed and hesitated.
"I thought you spoke to me," said he. And it occurred to him at the moment that she was by far a handsomer girl than he had thought — there was such a light in her eyes
"If you'd bring a message for me to that house — to Tom Cuddehy," said Miss Laughlan, "I'd be very thankful to you."
"Of course I will," replied Lory. "I know Tom Cuddehy well. He's the best hurler in the county, except Mat Donovan."
"Well, will you tell him I am waiting here, and that I want to speak to him just for one minute," returned Miss Laughlan, falteringly. And Lory fancied her eyes filled with tears.
"Certainly I will," he replied. "Why not?" This was the "message" Lory took so long to deliver when we left him in Tom Cuddehy's kitchen — when, some chapters back, we thought it necessary to interrupt the regular course of this history, in order to guard against the possibility of disturbing the equanimity of our readers hereafter by anything that might bear even the faintest resemblance to a surprise.
"Good morning," said Lory, "I'm going to the bull-bait."
"I promised to go myself," returned Tom Cuddehy, "to thry the little bitch, for I think she has the right dhrop in her. Wait for a few minutes an' I'll be with you."
After exchanging a few words with his old sweetheart through the hedge, he returned to Lory, who was rapidly getting into the good graces of Venom, looking very solemn, and indisposed for conversation.
Miss Laughlan, it may be remarked, returned home, looking very serious, too — the young man from the mountain and his fine slate-house and jaunting-car notwithstanding — and looking at one of her hands which was bleeding. For during the few minutes' tête-à-tête with Tom Cuddehy, Miss Laughlan made such violent attempts to break off a sprig of blackthorn from the hedge, as if she mistook it for a bunch of thyme or the spearmint under her window in the garden, that when she looked at her hand she found several deep scratches upon it. Ladies under such circumstances should keep clear of thorn hedges.
Two or three dogs had been conquered and driven from the lists by the bull, when Tom and Lory arrived and the man with the hat back on his poll was leading his dog to the encounter in a state of intense excitement, which was fully shared by the two boys.
"Come, Trueboy!" said the man with the hat on his poll.
"Come, Trueboy!" shouted boy No. 1.
"Come, Trueboy," bawled boy No. 2.
And boys One and Two danced wildly about Trueboy, who was a lank, long-legged animal, and seemed greatly at a loss to guess what it was all about.
"Soho! Trueboy," said his owner softly, patting him on the head.
"Soho! Trueboy," repeated boy No. 1.
"Soho! Trueboy," echoed boy No. 2.
And both boys patted Trueboy on the head.
But the cry, "Here is Tom Cuddehy," caused Trueboy's proprietor to start and look round with an expression of intense dismay and disappointment. He had been told that Tom Cuddehy's bitch should be let at the bull before his dog, and great was his anxiety lest the bull should be worn out before Trueboy had an opportunity of exhibiting his prowess. Great was his joy, then, when some one announced that Tom Cuddehy would not put in an appearance at all; and now proportionally intense was his disappointment and anguish of spirit when on looking round he beheld Tom Cuddehy and his white bitch, Venom, on the bank above him, just at the foot of the tree upon a branch of which Tommy Lahy was swaying up and down with a gentle motion, and quietly trying to extract a thorn from his big toe with a pin.
The bull was tied by a rope round his neck in the centre of a large hollow or pit, which answered the purposes of an amphitheatre very well; the crowd, which was select, but not numerous, standing round the sloping sides. He was not at all a lordly bull to look at; but a small, red, rough-coated hardy, sturdy, good-tempered animal — in fact, what might be called a peasant bull. He was very much at his ease, and not at all excited, having made short work of his three or four assailants — as Wat Murphy prophesied he would; for not one of them, Wat averred, "knew that a bull had a nose on his face," or, knowing it, had the slightest idea of what that nose was intended for.
Trueboy's owner and master looked at Tom Cuddehy's bitch, and was struck speechless with despair; for Venom, though not large, was broad in the chest, and had a lurking devil in her eye, that made it plain to the most ignorant that she was a tough customer.
Recovering himself, however, by an effort, he approached Tom Cuddehy, and implored of him, as a "decent man" and a man of spirit, to let his dog go in first, dwelling upon the fact that he had walked fifteen miles that day, and would have to walk the same distance back again; that it was the first time he had the honour and the pleasure of coming amongst them, though he had long known them by reputation; that his, Tom Cuddehy's, name was a household word far and near; that "Venom" was a beauty all out, and won his heart the moment he set eyes on her; that she was "under-shod" in a manner that would make a Turk warm to her; and, above all, that he, the petitioner, was a "Carrick-man," and 'twas an old and well-known saying that "wherever you go, you'll meet a Carrick-man"; and that he, the Carrick-man, might have it in his power to do as much for Tom Cuddehy another time.
"Very well," says Tom Cuddehy, with an indifference that astonished his friends; "have at him."
"Sound man!" shouted the Carrick-man.
"Sound man!" exclaimed boy No. 1.
"Sound man!" repeated boy No. 2. And Trueboy was again seized by all three and pulled into the ring.
"Good dog, Trueboy," says the Carrick-man. "Grapple him."
"Good dog, Trueboy; grapple him," muttered the two boys under their teeth.
Thus encouraged, Trueboy leaped into the ring, and ran all round the bull, who remained quite calm and still, pretending not to see him. "Grapple him, Trueboy!" cried the Carrick-man, dropping upon one knee, as if he were going to take aim with a rifle at the bull's eye.
"Grapple him, Trueboy!" repeated the two boys, dropping upon their knees, too, like sharpshooters waiting the order to fire.
There was a moment of breathless silence, and Trueboy looked about him in all directions, evidently at a loss, and having no idea of what he was expected to "grapple."
"Grapple him, Trueboy!" repeated the Carrick-man, savagely.
Trueboy looked about him quite wildly now, but could not make up his mind who or what the "him" was meant to apply to; till, glancing upwards, some object overhead caught his attention, and Trueboy commenced barking furiously at it. The eyes of the spectators were turned in the same direction, and there was a loud roar of laughter when Tommy Lahy was discovered in the tree, looking at first surprised and then delighted at finding himself the object of their attention. Tommy laughed down at the open mouths below him, and for a moment the Carrick-man and his dog were forgotten.
But the Carrick-man rushed at Trueboy, and, seizing him by the throat, knocked him down and stamped his foot upon him.
Boy No. 1 then danced on Trueboy; and boy No. 2 went and did likewise. Then boy One struck boy Two with his clenched fist in the right eye; and both boys were immediately "in grips," and fought fiercely for five minutes to relieve their feelings.
The Carrick-man pulled Trueboy into the ring again, and hallooed him at the bull; but Trueboy again wheeled round and barked furiously at Tommy Lahy in the tree.
"He don't undherstand," said the Carrick-man; "but wait till I bring him close to his head, an' ye'll see something."
He threw a leg over Trueboy, as if he were going to have a ride, and seized him by the neck with both hands with a view to wheeling him round, when the bull quietly advanced to the end of his rope, and gave the Carrick-man a playful touch of his horn under the coat-tails; which so astonished the Carrick-man that he cleared Trueboy's head at a bound as if he were playing at frog-leaps with him, falling flat upon his face and hands some three yards beyond him. At this Trueboy, as if conscious of his disgrace, rushed over his prostrate master and up the side of the pit, uttering a dismal howl, and scampered off over ditches and hedges, as if a score of old kettles were tied to his tail; and was never seen or heard of afterwards — save that a gaunt hound was sometimes observed prowling among the rocks in the loneliest recesses of the mountains, like the ghost of the last Irish wolf; and it was conjectured by some that this unhappy animal was the Carrick-man's dog, Trueboy.
The Carrick-man himself pulled his hat over his eyes, and walked away without a word or a look to any one, followed by the two boys wiping the bitter tears of vexation and disappointment from their noses, and, it is to be feared, with the seeds of scepticism and misanthropy sown in their young bosoms.
Tom Cuddehy's "Venom" was next led into the arena. We will spare the reader a detailed description of how she acquitted herself. It was admitted on all hands that Venom was "blood to the eyes"; but still she never once "took a right hoult." And there was something so vicious and viperish and spitfirey in her mode of attack, that when, at last, she was carried away maimed and bleeding, no one was sorry for her.
"Well, now," says Wat Murphy, "are ye all satisfied? Or is there any wan else that wants to thry his dog? If there is, say the word; for I'm in no hurry in life. Down, Danger!" There was no one else to be accommodated; and Danger's muzzle was taken off.
Danger walked slowly towards the bull, wagging his tail and locking his lips, as if his intentions were quite amicable. But the bull saw that he had a formidable foe before him now, and with his head bent down and his eyes rolling — no longer looking the mere plebeian animal he had seemed before, but a real lordly bull — prepared to receive him.
Here again we shrink from attempting a minute description of the exciting, but, we fear, revolting encounter between "Danger" and the stout-hearted little bull. Enough to say that, in spite of his gallant efforts to fling his fierce assailant from him, or pin him to the ground, he was pulled upon his knees at last and held there as if his nose were in an iron vice. Then he plunged forward once more, and tried to shake his foe from him by dragging him along the ground. But all in vain; the dog clung to the poor brute's nose as if he grew there. Then the wretched bull raised his head in the air, and uttered a low plaintive moan as if his very heart were broken.
For the first time every one present seemed struck with the cruelty of the "sport " they had been watching so eagerly.
"D—n it, Wat," said Mr. Lloyd, with tears in his eyes, "loose him."
"Yes, Wat," added Phil Lahy, solemnly, "loosen his hoult." Wat Murphy advanced, and, scientifically pressing his thumb upon the dog's windpipe, waited quietly till want of breath forced him to gasp, and then Wat snatched him quickly up in his arms, and carried him off; the dog keeping his eyes fixed sullenly upon the poor bull, who dropped down, sobbing, upon the ground, his rough coat all wet and dabbled with the sweat of his agony.
I think we had better start for home," said the doctor.
Yes, I think so," returned Mr. Lowe, who had kept behind a clump of bushes, as if he felt rather ashamed of being seen at such a place.
As they were turning away, a roaring, louder than any bull's, startled them; and on looking up to the place whence it proceeded, they beheld, to their amazement, Lory Hanly "punishing " Mr. Beresford Pender most severely. Beresford retreated backwards as Lory continued to "plant" the right and left alternately upon his mouth and nose, until he got his back to the tall ash tree, a bough of which Tommy Lahy had converted into a reserved seat, from which he could enjoy the spectacle in the pit below with ease and dignity. This proved a most injudicious move on Mr. Pender's part, for Lory struck higher, about the eyes and forehead, and at every blow Tommy Lahy distinctly felt the shock, as Beresford's poll came in contact with the tree.
"Oh oh oh-o-o-o!" roared Mr. Beresford Pender, working his elbows up and down like wings, and lifting, now one leg, now the other, as if he insanely hoped to defend his face with his knees. At last a well-aimed blow so completely shut up one of his visual organs, that Mr. Beresford Pender dropped down upon his knees, his face buried in both hands, and loudly proclaimed several times, to all whom it might concern, that his "eye was out."
At this stage Darby Ruadh came to his master's assistance. "Here, get up," said Darby Ruadh, seizing him by the collar.
Beresford did stand up, and clapping his hand over one eye, and finding that, after all, he was able to see Darby Ruadh and several other objects, both near and in the distance, with the other, became re-assured, and muttered "No surrender!"
To account for this little episode, it should be mentioned that Mr. Pender, after Lory's impertinent allusion to "his grandmother," mounted his horse and started in pursuit; and Lory, finding himself suddenly collared and "arrested in the queen's name," and seeing that his captor was Mr. Beresford Pender, at once shook himself free, and brought the knuckles of his right hand into contact with the bridge of Mr. Beresford Pender's nose, which immediately produced the bellowing that so surprised Mr. Lowe and the doctor.
Bob Lloyd walked deliberately up the side of the pit and shook Lory vigorously by the hand.
"I think I gave him enough of it," Lory observed.
"Ay, faith," returned Mr. Lloyd.
"Nice work to see a gentleman encouraging the violation of the law," muttered Mr. Beresford Pender.
"Hold your tongue, you whelp," retorted Bob Lloyd, "or I'll give you a greater cutting than ever your father gave a hound,"
"Bailiffs about your house!" he muttered again — but so as to be heard only by those who stood close to him — in allusion to Mr. Lloyd's occasional difficulties with his creditors, when even Jer's ingenuity could not ward off an execution, and Tom Ryan and most of the other tenants had their rents paid in advance.
Here Tommy Lahy came sliding down the tree with considerable rapidity of motion; and, without in the least intending it, came with a very violent bump straight upon Mr. Beresford Pender's head. This mysterious assault brought him down upon his marrow-bones again, and caused him to roar louder than ever. And, what added considerably to the mirth of the spectators, Tommy Lahy seemed to have been quite as frightened by the shock as Mr. Pender, and remained clinging to the tree at the spot where his descent had been so unexpectedly stopped short, staring over his shoulder, with his eyes wide open, till his father advanced, and, gripping him firmly by the corduroys, dragged him down by main force.
Mr. Bob Lloyd shook hands with Tommy Lahy also, and gave him a sixpence — to Tommy's utter amazement, for he could not see what he had done to deserve it.
And then Mr. Lloyd insisted that Lory Hanly should mount behind him on his grey hunter and ride home with him — an honour that not only made his peace with Rose for having escaped to the bull-bait, contrary to her express injunctions, but so puffed up that young lady with consequence, that Johnny Wilson, the bank-clerk, was received quite coldly the next time he called, notwithstanding his new "Albert chain" and silk umbrella.
And that same evening, when Kathleen was drawing the pony's rein at Maurice Kearney's gate, Rose tossed her head and said, "Don't mind," and they drove on without stopping. But all this did not prevent Lory from having his revenge for being obliged to wear Joe Russel's hat at the bull-bait; and he deliberately made up his mind to sit, by accident, the very first favourable opportunity, upon Rose's new bonnet — the one with the feathers — and "make a pancake of it."
Lory now found himself quite a popular character, and was greeted with looks and words of admiration wherever he went. Barney Brodherick, in particular, became his sworn friend, and hugged himself in the hope of having a quiet set-to with Mr. Lory some fine evening in the grove, while Bobby was left to roam at will among Miss Hanly's flowerbeds. For Barney dearly loved the man or boy who would fight him; and his implacable enmity towards Father M'Mahon's servant was solely owing to the fact that that unaccommodating individual could never, for love or money, be induced to knock him down.
Wat Murphy kept his purchase of the bull a secret from his customers, and even satisfied some of them that the flesh of that animal was by far the primest beef he had ever killed in his life before. But Miss Lloyd found him out; and arraying herself in her lavender silk dress, sallied forth to denounce him for selling such meat "to the gentry," and to proclaim his wickedness all over the town. Wat took her abuse rather coolly, however, and even put some rude questions to her on the subject of her complaint.
But her harangue threatening to be of longer duration than he thought agreeable, Wat quietly opened the back door, and the white bull-dog quietly walked in. And Miss Lloyd, seeing the white bull-dog looking up into her face, lost her speech and her breath, and the use of her limbs, and dropped down helplessly upon Wat Murphy's block, that happened to be behind her, thereby ruining the lavender silk dress for ever. When she had recovered somewhat, Wat Murphy politely offered to wipe the grease and blood off the silk dress with a coarse cloth, but Miss Lloyd declined his services.
"Let me scrape it wud the knife at any rate," said Wat, sorrowfully.
But Miss Lloyd gathered up her skirts and ran home, creating great astonishment along the street — men, women, and children crowding to every door to look after her; and frightening her mother and sisters — who at first thought she was dangerously wounded — almost out of their lives.