Charles James Lever.

The O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago online

. (page 3 of 41)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 3 of 41)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


these tokens of approval; "you want that grey mare of mine. You have
some fine English officer ready to give you an hundred and fifty, or,
may be, two hundred guineas, for her, the moment you bring her over to
England."

"May I never -

"That's the trade you drive. Nothing too bad for us - nothing too good
for them."

"See now, Mr. Mark, I hope I may never - - - "

"Well, Lanty, one word for all; I'd rather send a bullet through her
skull this minute, than let you have her for one of your fine English
patrons."

"Won't you let me speak a word at all," interposed the horse-dealer, in
an accent half imploring, half deprecating. "If I buy the mare - and
it isn't for want of a sporting offer if I don't - she'll never go to
England - no - devil a step. She's for one in the country here beside you;
but I won't say more, and there now." At these words he drew a soiled
black leather pocket-book from the breast of his coat, and opening
it, displayed a thick roll of bank notes, tied with a piece of
string - "There now - there's sixty pounds in that bundle there - at least
I hope so, for I never counted it since I got it - take it for her or
leave it - just as you like; and may I never have luck with a beast,
but there's not a gentleman in the county would give the same money
for her." Here he dropped his voice to a whisper, and added, "Sure the
speedy cut is ten pounds off her price any day, between two brothers."

"What!" said the youth, as his brows met in passion, and his heightened
colour showed how his anger was raised.

"Well, well - it's no matter, there's my offer; and if I make a ten pound
note of her, sure it's all I live by; I wasn't born to an estate and a
fine property, like yourself."

These words, uttered in such a tone as to be inaudible to the rest,
seemed to mollify the young man's wrath, for, sullenly stretching forth
his hand, he took the bundle and opened it on the table before him.

"A dry bargain never was a lucky one, they say, Lanty - isn't that so?"
said the ODonoghue, as, seizing a small hand-bell, he ordered up a
supply of claret, as well as the more vulgar elements for punch, should
the dealer, as was probable, prefer that liquor.

"These notes seem to have seen service," muttered Mark: "here's a lagged
fellow. There's no making out whether he's two or ten."

"They were well handled, there's no doubt of it," said Lanty, "the
tenants was paying them in; and sure you know yourself how they thumb
and finger a note before they part with it. You'd think they were trying
to take leave of them. There's many a man can't read a word, can tell
you the amount of a note, just by the feel of it! - Thank you, sir, I'll
take the spirits - it's what I'm most used to."

"Who did you get them from, Lanty?" said the ODonoghue.

"Malachi Glynn, sir, of Cahernavorra, and, by the same token, I got a
hearty laugh at the same house once before."

"How was that?" said the old man, for he saw by the twinkle of Lanty's
eye, that a story was coming.

"Faix, just this way, sir. It was a little after Christmas last year
that Mr. Malachi thought he'd go up to Dublin for a month or six weeks
with the young ladies, just to show them, by way of; for ye see, there's
no dealing at all downi here; and he thought he'd bring them up, and see
what could be done. Musha! but they're the hard stock to get rid of!
and somehow they don't improve by holding them over. And as there was
levees, and drawing-rooms, and balls going on, sure it would go hard but
he'd get off a pair of them anyhow. Well, it was an elegant scheme, if
there was money to do it; but devil a farthin' was to be had, high or
low, beyond seventy pounds I gave for the two carriage horses and the
yearlings that was out in the field, and sure that wouldn't do at all.
He tried the tenants for 'the November,' but what was the use of
it, though he offered a receipt in full for ten shillings in the
pound? - when a lucky thought struck him. Troth, and it's what ye
may call a grand thought too. He was walking about before the door,
thinking and ruminating how to raise the money, when he sees the sheep
grazing on the lawn fornint him - not that he could sell one of them, for
there was a strap of a bond or mortage on them a year before. 'Faix,'
and says he, when a man's hard up for cash, he's often obliged to wear
a mighty thread-bare coat, and go cold enough in the winter season - and
sure it's reason sheep isn't better than Christians; and begorra,' says
he, I'll have the fleece off ye, if the weather was twice as cowld.' No
sooner said than done. They were ordered into the haggard-yard the same
evening, and, as sure as ye're there, they cut the wool off them three
days after Christmas. Musha! but it was a pitiful sight to see them
turned out shivering and shaking, with the snow on the ground. And it
didn't thrive with him; for three died the first night. Well, when
he seen what come of it, he had them all brought in again, and they
gathered all the spare clothes and the ould rags in the house together,
and dressed them up, at least the ones that were worst; and such a set
of craytures never was seen. One had an old petticoat on; another a
flannel waistcoat; many, could only get a cravat or a pair of gaiters;
but the ram beat all, for he was dressed in a pair of corduroy breeches,
and an ould spencer of the master's; and may I never live, if I didn't
roll down full length on the grass when I seen him."

For some minutes before Lanty had concluded his story, the whole party
were convulsed with laughter; even Sir Archy vouchsafed a grave smile,
as, receiving the tale in a different light, he muttered, to himself -

"They're a the same - ne'er-do-well, reckless deevils."

One good result at least followed the anecdote - the good-humour of the
company was restored at once - the bargain was finally concluded; and
Lanty succeeded by some adroit flattery in recovering five pounds of the
price, under the title of luck-penny - a portion of the contract M'Nab
would have interfered against at once, but that, for his own especial
reasons, he preferred remaining silent.

The party soon after separated for the night, and as Lanty sought the
room usually destined for his accommodation, he muttered, as he went,
his self-gratulations on his bargain. Already he had nearly reached
the end of the long corridor, where his chamber lay, when a door was
cautiously opened, and Sir Archy, attired in a dressing-gown, and with a
candle in his hand, stood before him..

"A word wi' ye, Master Lawler," said he, in a low dry tone, the
horse-dealer but half liked. "A word wi' ye, before ye retire to rest."

Lanty followed the old man into the apartment with an air of affected
carelessness, which soon, however, gave way to surprise, as he surveyed
the chamber, so little like any other in that dreary mansion. The
walls were covered with shelves, loaded with books; maps and prints lay
scattered about on tables; an oak cabinet of great beauty in form
and carving, occupied a deep recess beside the chimney; and over
the fireplace a claymore of true Highland origin, and a pair of
silver-mounted pistols, were arranged like a trophy, surmounted by a
flat Highland cap, with a thin black eagle's feather.

Sir Archy seemed to enjoy the astonishment of his guest, and for some
minutes made no effort to break silence. At length he said -

"We war speaking about a sma' pony for the laird's son, Mister
Lawler - may I ask ye the price?"

The words acted like a talisman - Lanty was himself in a moment. The
mere mention of horse flesh brought back the whole crowd of his daily
associations, and with his native volubility he proceeded, not to reply
to the question, but to enumerate the many virtues and perfections of
the "sweetest tool that ever travelled on four legs."

Sir Archy waited patiently till the eloquent eulogy was over, and then,
drily repeated his first demand.

"Is it her price!" said Lanty, repeating the question to gain time to
consider how far circumstances might warrant him in pushing a market.
"It's her price ye're asking me, Sir Archibald? Troth, and I'll tell you:
there's not a man in Kerry could say what's her price. Goold wouldn't
pay for her, av it was value was wanted. See now, she's not fourteen
hands high, but may I never leave this room if she wouldn't carry
me - ay, myself here, twelve stone six in the scales - over e'er a fence
between this and Inchigeela."

"It's no exactly to carry you that I was making my inquiry," said the
old man, with an accent of more asperity than he had used before.

"Well then, for Master Herbert - sure she is the very beast - "

"What are you, asking for her? - canna you answer a straightforred
question, man?" reiterated Sir Archy, in a voice there was no mistaking.

"Twenty guineas, then," replied Lanty, in a tone of defiance; "and if ye
offer me pounds I won't take it."

Sir Archy made no answer; but turning to the old cabinet, he unlocked
one of the small doors, and drew forth a long leather pouch, curiously
embroidered with silver; from this he took ten guineas in gold, and laid
them leisurely on the table. The horse dealer eyed them askance, but
without the slightest sign of having noticed them.

"I'm no goin' to buy your beast, Mr. Lawler," said the old man, slowly;
"I'm just goin' merely to buy your ain good sense and justice. You say
the powney is worth twenty guineas."

"As sure as I stand here. I wouldn't - "

"Weel, weel, I'm content. There's half the money; tak' it, but never
let's hear anither word about her here: bring her awa wi' ye; sell or
shoot her, do what ye please wi' her; but, mind me, man" - here, his
voice became full, strong, and commanding - "tak' care that ye meddle
not wi' that young callant, Herbert. Dinna fill his head wi' ranting
thoughts of dogs and horses. Let there be one of the house wi' a soul
above a scullion or a groom. Ye have brought ruin enough here; you can
spare the boy, I trow: there, sir, tak' your money."

For a second or two, Lanty seemed undecided whether to reject or accept
a proposal so humiliating in its terms; and when at length he acceded,
it was rather from his dread of the consequences of refusal, than from
any satisfaction the bargain gave him.

"I'm afraid, Sir Archibald," said he, half timidly, "I'm afraid you
don't understand me well."

"I'm afraid I do," rejoined the old man, with a bitter smile on his lip;
"but it's better we should understand each other. Good night."

"Well, good night to you, any how," said Lanty, with a slight sigh, as
he dropped the money into his pocket, and left the room.

"I have bought the scoundrel cheap!" muttered Sir Archy, as the door
closed.

"Begorra, I thought he was twice as knowing!" was Lanty's reflection, as
he entered his own chamber.

CHAPTER IV. KERRY O'LEARY.

Lanty Lawler was stirring the first in the house. The late sitting of
the preceding evening, and the deep potations he had indulged in, left
little trace of weariness on his well-accustomed frame. Few contracts
were ratified in those days without the solemnity of a drinking bout,
and the habits of the O'Donoghue household were none of the most
abstemious. All was still and silent then as the horse-dealer descended
the stairs, and took the path towards the stable, where he had left his
hackney the night before.

It was Lanty's intention to take possession of his new purchase, and set
out on his journey before the others were stirring; and with this object
he wended his way across the weed-grown garden, and into the wide and
dreary court-yard of the building.

Had he been disposed to moralize - assuredly an occupation he was little
given to - he might have indulged the vein naturally enough, as he
surveyed on every side the remains of long past greatness and present
decay. Beautifully proportioned columns, with florid capitals, supplied
the place of gate piers. Richly carved armorial bearings were seen
upon the stones used to repair the breaches in the walls. Fragments of
inscriptions and half obliterated dates appeared amid the moss-grown
ruins; and the very, door of the stable had been a portal of dark oak,
studded with large nails, its native strength having preserved it when
even the masonry was crumbling to decay. Lanty passed these with perfect
indifference. Their voice awoke no echo within his breast; and even when
he noticed them, it was to mutter some jeering allusion to their fallen
estate, rather than with any feeling of reverence for what they once
represented.

The deep bay of a hound now startled him, however. He turned suddenly
round, and close beside him, but within the low wall of a ruined
kennel-yard, lay a large foxhound, so old and feeble that, even roused
by the approach of a stranger, he could not rise from the ground, but
lay helplessly on the earth, and with uplifted throat sent forth a
long wailing note. Lanty leaned upon the wall, and looked at him. The
emotions which other objects failed to suggest, seemed to flock upon him
now. That poor dog, the last of a once noble pack, whose melody used to
ring through every glen and ravine of the wild mountains, was an appeal
to his heart he could not withstand; and he stood with his gaze fixed
upon him.

"Poor old fellow," said he compassionately, "it's a lonely thing for you
to be there now, and all your old friends and companions dead and gone.
Rory, my boy, don't you know me?"

The tones of his voice seemed to soothe the animal, for he responded in
a low cadence indescribably melancholy.

"That's my boy. Sure I knew you didn't forget me;" and he stooped over
and patted the poor beast upon the head.

"The top of the morning to you, Mister Lawler," cried out a voice
straight over his head - and at the same instant a strange-looking face
was protruded from a little one-paned window of a hay loft - "'tis early
you are to-day."

"Ah, Kerry, how are you, my man? I was taking a look at Rory here."

"Faix, he's a poor sight now," responded the other with a sigh; "but
he wasn't so once. I mind the time he could lead the pack over
Cubber-na-creena mountain, and not a dog but himself catch the scent,
after a hard frost and a north wind. I never knew him wrong. His tongue
was as true as the priest's - sorra he in it."

A low whine from the poor old beast seemed to acknowledge the praise
bestowed upon him; and Kerry continued -

"It's truth I'm telling; and if it wasn't, it's just himself would
contradict me. - Tallyho! Rory - tallyho! my ould boy;" and both man and
dog joined in a deep-toned cry together.

The old walls sent back the echoes, and for some seconds the sounds
floated through the still air of the morning.

Lanty listened with animated features and lit-up eyes to notes which so
often had stirred the strongest cords of his heart, and then suddenly,
as if recalling his thoughts to their former channel, cried out -

"Come down, Kerry, my man - come down here, and unlock the door of the
stable. I must be early on the road this morning."

Kerry O'Leary - for so was he called, to distinguish him from those
of the name in the adjoining county - soon made his appearance in the
court-yard beneath. His toilet was a hasty one, consisting merely of a
pair of worn corduroy small clothes and an old blue frock, with faded
scarlet collar and cuffs, which, for convenience, he wore on the present
occasion buttoned at the neck, and without inserting his arms in the
sleeves, leaving these appendages to float loosely at his side. His legs
and feet were bare, as was his head, save what covering it derived from
a thick fell of strong black hair that hung down on every side like an
ill-made thatch.

Kerry was not remarkable for good looks. His brow was low, and shaded
two piercing black eyes, set so closely together, that they seemed to
present to the beholder one single continuous dark streak beneath his
forehead: a short snubby nose, a wide thick-lipped mouth, and a heavy
massive under-jaw, made up an assemblage of features, which, when at
rest, indicated little of remarkable or striking; but when animated
and excited, displayed the strangest possible union of deep cunning and
simplicity, intense curiosity and apathetic indolence. His figure was
short, almost to dwarfishness, and as his arms were enormously long,
they contributed to give that air to his appearance. His legs were
widely bowed, and his gait had that slouching, shambling motion, so
indicative of an education cultivated among horses and stable-men. So
it was, in fact, Kerry had begun life as a jockey. At thirteen he rode
a winning race at the Curragh, and came in first on the back of Blue
Blazes, the wickedest horse of the day in Ireland. From that hour he
became a celebrity, and until too old to ride, was the crack jockey of
his time. From jockey he grew into trainer - the usual transition of
the tadpole to the frog; and when the racing stud was given up by the
O'Donoghue in exchange for the hunting field, Kerry led the pack to
their glorious sport. As time wore on, and its course brought saddening
fortunes to his master, Kerry's occupation was invaded; the horses were
sold, the hounds given up, and the kennel fell to ruins. Of the large
household that once filled the castle, a few were now retained; but
among these was Kerry. It was not that he was useful, or that his
services could minister to the comfort or convenience of the family; far
from it, the commonest offices of in-door life he was ignorant of, and,
even if he knew, would have shrunk from performing them, as being a
degradation. His whole skill was limited to the stable-yard, and there,
now, his functions were unneeded. It would seem as if he were kept as
a kind of memento of their once condition, rather than any thing else.
There was a pride in maintaining one who did nothing the whole day but
lounge about the offices and the court-yard, in his old ragged suit of
huntsman. And so, too, it impressed the country people, who seeing him,
believed that at any moment the ancient splendour of the house might
shine forth again, and Kerry, as of yore, ride out on his thoroughbred,
to make the valleys ring with music. He was, as it were, a kind of
staff, through which, at a day's notice, the whole regiment might be
mustered. It was in this spirit he lived, and moved, and spoke. He was
always going about looking after a "nice beast to carry the master," and
a "real bit of blood for Master Mark," and he would send a gossoon to
ask if Barry O'Brien of the bridge "heard tell of a fox in the cover
below the road." In fact, his preparations ever portended a speedy
resumption of the habits in which his youth and manhood were spent.

Such was the character who now, in the easy deshabille described,
descended into the court-yard with a great bunch of keys in his hand,
and led the way towards the stable.

"I put the little mare into the hack-stable, Mr. Lawler," said he,
"because the hunters is in training, and I didn't like to disturb them
with a strange beast."

"Hunters in training!" replied Lanty in astonishment. "Why, I thought he
had nothing but the grey mare with the black legs."

"And sure, if he hasn't," responded Kerry crankily, "couldn't he buy
them when he wants them."

"Oh, that's it," said the other, laughing to himself. "No doubt of it
Kerry. Money will do many a thing."

"Oh, it's wishing it I am for money! Bad luck to the peace or ease I
ever seen since they became fond of money. I remember the time it was,
'Kerry go down and bring this, or take that,' and devil a more about it;
and lashings of every thing there was. See now! if the horses could eat
pease pudding, and drink punch, they'd got it for askin'; but now it's
all for saving, and saving. And sure, what's the use of goold? God be
good to us, as I heard Father Luke say, he'd do as much for fifteen
shillings as for fifty pounds, av it was a poor boy wanted it."

"What nonsense are you talking, you old sinner, about saving. Why man,
they haven't got as much as they could bless themselves on, among them
all. You needn't be angry, Kerry. It's not Lanty Lawler you can humbug
that way. Is there an acre of the estate their own now? Not if every
perch of it made four, it wouldn't pay the money they owe."

"And if they do," rejoined Kerry indignantly, "who has a better right,
tell me that? Is it an O'Donoghue would be behind the rest of the
country - begorra, ye're bould to come up here and tell us that."

"I'm not telling you any thing of the kind - I'm saying that if they are
ruined entirely - "

"Arrah! don't provoke me. Take your baste and go, in God's name."

And so saying, Kerry, whose patience was fast ebbing, pushed wide
the stable-door, and pointed to the stall where Lanty's hackney was
standing.

"Bring out that grey mare, Master Kerry," said Lanty in a tone of easy
insolence, purposely assumed to provoke the old huntsman's anger,
"Bring her out here."

"And what for, would I bring her out?"

"May be I'll tell you afterwards," was the reply. "Just do as I say,
now."

"The devil a one o' me will touch the beast at your bidding; and what's
more, I'll not let yourself lay a finger on her."

"Be quiet, you old fool," said a deep voice behind him. He turned, and
there stood Mark O'Donoghue himself, pale and haggard after his night's
excess. "Be quiet, I say. The mare is his - let him have her."

"Blessed Virgin!" exclaimed Kerry, "here's the hunting season beginning,
and sorrow thing you'll have to put a saddle on, barrin' - barrin' - "

"Barring what?" interposed Lanty, with an insolent grin.

The young man flushed at the impertinence of the insinuation, but said
not a word for a few minutes, then suddenly exclaimed -

"Lanty, I have changed my mind; I'll keep the mare."

The horse-dealer started, and stared him full in the face -

"Why Mr. Mark, surely you're not in earnest? The beast is paid for - the
bargain all settled."

"I don't care for that. There's your money again. I'll keep the mare."

"Ay, but listen to reason. The mare is mine. She was so when you handed
me the luck-penny, and if I don't wish to part with her, you cannot
compel me."

"Can't I?" retorted Mark, with a jeering laugh; "can't I, faith? Will
you tell me what's to prevent it? Will you take the law of me? Is that
your threat?"

"Devil a one ever said I was that mean, before!" replied Lanty, with an
air of deeply-offended pride. "I never demeaned myself to the law, and
I'm fifteen years buying and selling horses in every county in Munster.
No, Mr. Mark, it is not that; but I'll just tell you the truth, The mare
is all as one as sold already; - there it is now, and that's the whole
secret."

"Sold! What do you mean? - that you had sold that mare before you ever
bought her?"

"To be sure I did," cried Lanty, assuming a forced look of easy
assurance he was very far from feeling at the moment. "There's nothing
more common in my trade. Not one of us buys a beast without knowing
where the next owner is to be had."

"And do you mean, sir," said Mark, as he eyed him with a steady stare,
"do you mean to tell me that you came down here, as you would to a petty
fanner's cabin, with your bank-notes, ready to take whatever you may
pitch your fancy on, sure and certain that our necessities must make us
willing chapmen for all you care to deal in - do you dare to say that you
have done this with _me?_"

For an instant Lanty was confounded. He could not utter a word, and
looked around him in the vain hope of aid from any other quarter, but
none was forthcoming. Kerry was the only unoccupied witness of the
scene, and his face beamed with ineffable satisfaction at the turn
matters had taken, and as he rubbed his hands he could scarcely control
his desire to laugh outright, at the lamentable figure of his late
antagonist.

"Let me say one word, Master Mark," said Lanty at length, and in a voice
subdued to its very softest key - "just a single word in your own ear,"
and with that he led the young man outside the door of the stable, and
whispered for some minutes, with the greatest earnestness, concluding in
a voice loud enough to be heard by Kerry -

"And after that, I'm sure I need say no more."

Mark made no answer, but leaned his back against the wall, and folded
his arms upon his breast.

"May I never if it is not the whole truth," said Lanty, with a most
eager and impassioned gesture; "and now I leave it all to yourself."

"Is he to take the mare?" asked Kerry, in anxious dread lest his enemy
might have carried the day.

"Yes," was the reply, in a deep hollow voice, as the speaker turned away
and left the stable.

While Lanty was engaged in placing his saddle on his new purchase, an



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 3 of 41)