Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

circumstance started doubts of fair-dealing towards father and child. Suspicion, however, could fasten itself upon no object ; and inquiry and investigation did not lead to any solution of the mystery. It need not be added, that by far the greater number of the population of the district smiled at the useless efforts to establish a case of human, that is, ordinarily human agency: or that they went on tranquilly believing that the squire and his family, not forgetting his bitch, had been punished for the mouthful snatched by young Sheela from the haunch of a certain person.

Twenty years after the time of the tragedy we have detailed, our story is resumed. The once indigent and despised relation, of whom mention has before been made, sits at his breakfast-table in the old family house. He is in his forty-fifth year. Like other gentlemen of his day, he carries in his hair the contents of a large pomatum-pot ; four tiers of curls rise over his ears ; on the top of his head is a huge toupée, and a great queue lolls, like an ox's tongue, between his broad shoulders. On his loose, wide-sleeved, long-skirted, frock-like coat, is a profusion of gold embroidery: a lace cravat coils round his throat ; ruffles flaunt over his knuckles; his gaudy waistcoat reaches only to his knees; and satin is his breeches, and silk his hose, and ponderous square silver buckles are in his shoes. So much for the outside of the jocular Squire Hogan. As to his interior pretensions, and, indeed, some of his exter. nal ones, too, the least said the soonest mended. He had never been able to raise himself above much of the homely acquisitions of his youth; but though we cannot present to the reader, in his person, a model of the true Irish gentleman of his day, we do introduce him in the character of—(to repeat what every one said of him)—“ as worthy a soul as ever broke the world's bread."

Squire Hogan, upon the morning when we meet him, paid earnest attention to his breakfast. Powdered beef often filled his plate, and as often rapidly disappeared. And yet something seemed to gratify his mental palate as well as his corporeal one. A gluish, self-contented smile played over his round, ruddy face; his small blue eyes glittered ; and, to the accompaniment of a short, liquorish laugh, occasionally were drawn up at the corners, as he glanced at his daughter, a good-natured, good-tempered, sensible, and of course) beautiful girl of nineteen, who sat opposite to him, sipping her coffee and picking her muffins. And, whenever their eyes met, well did Catherine know that the chuckling of her papa had reference to some little triumph which, as he believed, he had cleverly and cunningly achieved over herself. At length the good Squire relaxed in his meal; emptied the silver tankard of October which lay at his hand ; leaned back in his chair, and laughingly said

“By Jove, Kate, my girl, I nicked you there!"

“ Indeed, papa, you played me a roguish turn,” assented Kate, convinced, from experience, that it was very pleasant to her parent to have the talent of his practical jokes fully admitted.

“Where did I tell you we were driving to, out of Dublin town, eh?”

“ You told me, sir, with as serious a face as you could make, that we were only going to visit a friend a few miles out of Dublin.”

“ Ho, ho! Good, by Cork ! Choice ! a capital hoax, as I'm a living sinner! and I told you this confounded lie, with such a serious face, you

say?"

« With such a mock-serious face, I meant to say, papa.”

“ Right, Kate; you are right, beyond yea and nay: a mock-serious face ; yes, and there lay the best of it; if I had not been able to keep myself from laughing you might have suspected something ; but I was able, as you yourself saw, and as you now don't deny ; though, by Jove, Kate, it was enough to make a dead man shout out, seeing you sitting opposite to me, and believing every word I told you !”

You kept up the farce cleverly, I must, and do admit it, sir."

“ Didn't I, Kate, didn't I ? And here we are, this morning, eighty miles from Dublin, in our own house, and taxing no man's hospitality. But, devil's in it! there's no fun in playing a good trick on you, Kate."

Why so, dear papa ? am I not as easily blinded as your heart could wish ?”

“ To be sure you are ! What else could you be ? I never met man, woman, nor child, that I could not puzzle. That's not the thing at all. No; but succeed as I may with you, 'tis impossible to make you a little cross. Why, if I had a lass of spirit to deal with, there would be no end to her tears and her pouts, and her petitions, the moment she found that I was whisking her away from her balls, and her drums, and her beaux, and all the other dear delights of Dublin.”

And I hope that my merry papa does not really wish to have me peevish and short-tempered, even for a greater provocation ? ”

“ Kiss me, Kate, I believe not; and yet I don't know either, by Cork ! There would be fun in tormenting you a bit, in a harmless way. But, Kate, can you give a guess why I ran away with you in such a devil of a hurry?”

“ Let me see, papa. I remember you telling me of some original matches

you

had on hands before we set out for Dublin. Perhaps you have engaged the two cripples to run a race on their crutches?”

No; that's put off-ho, ho!“ Or the two old women to hop against time, carrying weight for

age ?"

“ Ho, ho! wrong again!”

Probably you have succeeded in making the two schoolmasters promise to fight out their battle of the squares and angles with their respective birches; their scholars standing by to show fair play?"

“ Ho, ho, ho ! Though that's a matter not to be let slip out of reach, neither.”

“ Then all my guesses are out, papa."

“ I'll help you, then. Tell me, you little baggage, what is it on earth you most wish for?

Indeed, my dear papa, I have no particular wish to gratify, at the present moment."

Get out! get out, for a young hypocrite ! Kate, wouldn't something like a husband be agreeable to you?”

The girl blushed the colour of a certain young gentleman's coat, and drooped her head. Of that certain young gentleman, however, her worthy father knew nothing ; at least, in connexion with the present topic.

“ Oh, ho! I thought I saw how the land lay.” “ Indeed, my dear papa”.

“Say nothing more about it. Leave it all to me, lass I'll get him for

you. None of your half-dead-and-alive fellows, that you could knock down with a tap of your fan; no, he shall be an able, rattling, rollock

ing chap, able to take your part by land or sea. Did

your

mother never tell you how I came by her, my girl ?”,

Kate, dispirited by her father's coarse humour, as well as by other things, answered in the negative.

“ I'll tell you, then, as truly as if she were alive to hear me. Though as poor as a church mouse at that time, I was a hearty young shaver ;* ay, as hearty, though not so matured as I am this day; now that I am squire of the town-land, and a justice of the peace, to boot. By the way, I wish they'd make the parish clerk a justice of the peace in my stead; for I hate to be trying to look as grave as a mustard-pot, and as solemn as a wig-block. Well, I was at a Christmas raffle, Kate, and your mother's father was there too; as comical an old boy as you'd wish to know I had a great regard for him, by Cork ! and so, away he and I raffled, and he lost to me every throw, until at last I didn't leave him a stiver. * All I've won from you, and my watch to boot, against your daughter Nelly ! cries I of a sudden. · Done !' cries he ; and we threw again ; and he lost, and I won again : and that's the way I got your mother, Kate! And now, do you guess any thing else I'm going to say about yourself, Kate ?"

Oh, papa, I hope”.

“ I know you do hope. Yes, Kate, I am going to provide for you in something like the same way”.

“ Now, good heavens, papa !”

Don't speak a word more till you hear me out. At the last club dinner in Dublin, Ned O'Brien calls me aside with a face as long as my own when I'm on the bench ; and after a long-winded beginning, he prays my interest with you, Kate.“ To be sure man,' says I, you must have it.' Then, up sneaks George Dempsey, and his business was the

By Cork, I'll court her, in style, for you, my boy,' was my word to George. And then, Mick Driscoll takes a turn at me, and begs of me, for the Lord's sake, to listen to him ; and I was obliged to listen to him, all about his title-deeds and his pedigree; and he, too, craved my countenance with the prettiest girl, and (what he didn't call you) the richest heiress in the province; and, ‘ By Jove ! I'll do my best for you, Mick,' says I; and Mick nearly pulled the arm out o' my body, shaking my hand; but I'm not done yet. Harry Walshe made his way to me; and the boy to my fancy is Harry Walshe, Kate, • I'm up to the saddle-skirts in love with your beautiful Kate,' says Harry.

• Pull away, my hearty fellow,' answers I ; ' never fear, but I'll poll for your election.'

“ My dear, papa”

“ Let me make an end, as I told you, Kate. Well, after dinner, and the bottle going merrily round, and every one of us right jovial, I rehearsed, for the benefit of the whole company, all the promises I had made, and a high joke it was; and then, · Here's what I'll do among you all, my good boys,' says I ; · Let every one of Kate's wooers be on the turf the first morning of the next hunting-season, each mounted in his best style ; let there be no pull-in from the cover to the death ; no baulking or shying, but smooth smack over every thing that offers ; and the lad that mounts the brush may come a-courting to my daughter, Kate.' Well, my girl, you'd think they had all lost their wits at this proposal ; such joy amongst them, such shouting ; many a bottle the

same.

* ; e. One who begins to use a razor.

rivals emptied, each to his own success; and in ten days from this blessed morning, the match comes off, my girl ; and whoever wins, Kate will have a wooer worth throwing a cap at."

Kate remained silent; tears of mortification and disgust, unseen by her father, streaming from her eyes.

“ But the cream of the jest I have not told you, Kate. Rattler is in training, privately, the last two months-no one the wiser; and, harkee, Kate! by Cork's own town, I intend to start for you, myself! and the brush I'll wear in my own cap; and then, if I hav'n't my laugh, right out, why, in that case, 'tis the devil that made little apples !”

And before the sensitive, and high-minded, and spirited girl could reply, away went her father to superintend Rattler, greatly chuckling over his scheme; and poor Catherine sat alone to blush and weep at the thought of being made, by her own father, the object of a vulgar and foolish contention.

Other sad thoughts mingled with her reveries. The unestated mili. tary hero, to whom, while in Dublin, she had all but plighted her troth, had promised, in answer to a letter she dispatched to him from the first post where she had halted with her father, on their flight from town, to make his appearance in the country, and try his fortune with the squire ; but days had row rolled over, and he came not; neither did he send a line to account for his absence. This was sad mortification to the pure ardency of a first love, in the breast of such a girl as Catherine ; particularly when she recollected the most disagreeable predicament in which her father's unthinking folly and indelicacy had placed her.

The morning of the hunt drew near, and still her lover was absent and silent. The match had become the talk of the whole country. With great difficulty and perseverance, Catherine succeeded in bringing her father's mind to contemplate her position, in something of a vein of seriousness. He could not, indeed, “ for the life of him," surmise why she seemed so earnest and afflicted. But he did see and comprehend that she was really unhappy ; and the best that he could think of, to cheer her, he said and swore. He would break his neck with pleasure, and to a dead certainty, rather than not bring home the brush, and Aing it into her lap. And when Kate's fears, at this solemn declaration, took, naturally, another turn, the honest Squire was again at a loss to account for her tears, her clinging, though gentle embraces, and “ her tantrums." He bawled right out, in utter mystification, at her entreaties that, come what might, he would not join the hunt ; and, in fact, upon the appointed morning, away he rode towards the fox-cover, mounted on his crack hunter, Morgan Rattler, as full of buoyancy, and vigour, and solicitude, as the youngest of the competitors he expected to meet.

Great shouts rent the skies, as, one by one, the candidates for the gentle Catherine arrived at the appointed ground. Their horses, as well as themselves, were examined by curious and critical eyes, and heavy bets were laid upon the issue of the day's chase. The Squire, without communicating to any of his rivals his intention to hunt for his daughter himself, had contrived that his own fox-hounds should be in requisition; because he well knew that Morgan Rattler would do surpassing wonders on their tails.

The ruler ef the hounds was the same who had held that situation under the former owner of Squire Hogan's estate. In his youth, twenty years previously, we have noticed him as a daring fellow; we should

have added that he used to be as remarkable for his boisterous good spirits as for his reckless intrepidity. Now, however, at five-and-forty, mirth, and even outward dash of every kind, had disappeared from his character. His face was forbidding ; his words were few; he never laughed, he never smiled; and, altogether, people regarded him as a dogged and disagreeable man. But enough of our huntsman for the present.

The day promised to be most favourable for the remarkable chase it was to witness,

“ A southerly wind and a cloudy sky

Proclaimed a hunting morning." The ground was in prime order; the horses were full of vigour and spirit, after their long training ; and, except the huntsman’s, (and he comes in again sooner than we foresaw,) every face beamed with joyous animation. In fact, upon this day, he was making himself particularly offensive ; quarrelling unnecessarily with his hounds ; sulkily refusing to take any advice or opinions (commands were out of the question) concerning his treatment of them; and giving short answers, and looking “ as black as thunder.”

“ What is the matter with you, Daniel ?" questioned the Squire. I have no fancy for the work to-day,” answered the huntsman.

Why so, man? what is all this about?" “ It was this day twenty years that my ould masther followed the witch down the rocks into the sey; and I was dreaming last night that he and I were hunting here, again, together, and that he drew me down the same lip afore him.”

“Hutt, tut, you fool! there's no witch to hunt now, you know.” '“ I know no such thing. You hav’n't heard that she is in her cave

again?”

“ Pho, no; and 'tis impossible.”

“ It is not impossible : 'tis thrue. Let little Tony take my place to-day ; for I tell you twice once, I don't like the work.”

“ Bother, Daniel. This day, of all days, I can't and I wont spare you. Draw on the dogs ; come, stir ! see to your business.”

With mutterings and growlings, Daniel proceeded to obey. He cast the dogs into the cover. For some time they drew through it in silence. Presently some yelpings were heard ; then the leader of the pack sent forth his most melodious note ; dogs and men took it up; the fox broke cover ; away after him stretched the eager hounds, and, close upon them, the no less eager huntsmen.

The Squire stood still a moment, willing to let the foremost and most headlong candidates for his daughter's favour blow their horses a little before he would himself push forward. While thus maneuvering, “ Whom have we here?” he asked of the person nearest to him. His inquiry was directed to a strange huntsman who had just then appeared on the ground, no one could tell whence.

By the good day !” exclaimed the person addressed, “that's Jack Hogan who fell over the cliff, this day twenty years !"

Nonsense, nonsense,” said the Squire. The stranger turned round his head, as if he could have heard these words, though he was at a good distance.

'Tis he, man! just as he looked the last day he hunted ! his very dress ! see how different from ours; and his black horse. I'd know horse and rider among a million ! By all that's good, it is himself !”

« AnteriorContinuar »